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17th October 1999

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Butcher of Aluthgama knows no mercy

Father brought a packet of chips but slain child was in pit

By Chris Kamalendran

imageSeventeen year old Nuwan Silva, the evilmind in the Alutgama kidnap and murder case of an eight year old child had the ambition to become a gang boss and impress his former girl friend who had broken off her relationship with him.

Nuwan, whose father had been killed in a gang war a few years back and lost his mother, was living with his grandparents in a house two doors away from the house of the victim, Sadeepa Lakshan at Kaluwamodara.

'I wanted to become rich overnight, buy a trail-motor cycle, buy an automatic weapon and impress my former girl friend who broke up our affair three years ago', he often told his friends.

The evilmind of the brutal killing and the victim's family were closely known to each other. Nuwan sought employment at a shop owned by Sadeepa's father, Jayantha Silva (49), a wealthy businessman in the Alutgama area.

Mr. Silva turned down the request knowing that Nuwan was involved in robberies and was taking drugs. After he was refused a job Nuwan had sought the businessman's assistance to travel abroad for foreign employment and he was allowed to use the fax machine to send faxes.

Nuwan and Mr. Silva's sons usually played cricket in the backyard of the house and there was nothing suspicious about the youth.image

'On the day of the incident my son had gone to school- Holy Cross Kalutara-and my wife was about to leave to collect three other children who were boarded in Colombo and used to spending the weekend at home. Sadeepa came home and was left with my brother-in-law', Mr Silva still in shock and grief told 'The Sunday Times'.

'The first call was received at 2.20 pm at my home and my brother-in-law had said I was in the shop. Twenty minutes later I received a call. The caller said that he had abducted my son and was demanding a ransom of Rs. 2.5 million to release him', Mr. Silva said.

Mr.Silva had crossed checked with his brother-in-law and found that Sadeepa had left home saying that he was going to play a game of cricket.

Mr. Silva rushed back home and found that his son had gone missing and soon returned to the shop expecting another call. He waited patiently and the next call came at 5.30 p.m.

'At this point the caller started negotiating. I asked for more time to collect the money. He told me not to inform the Police. I pleaded with him to look after my son well. He assured me that my son will be looked after well and said he will be calling in the night to give instructions on how to pay the ransom', Mr. Silva said.

'The whole night I stayed at the shop, but no calls came through. The next call was on the following day to my house at 8.20 a.m. I told the man demanding the ransom that I have managed to collect 1.7 million rupees which includes foreign currency, but he refused to accept the amount and demanded the full ransom', Mr. Silva said.

Mr. Silva had sought more time to collect the money as it was the weekend and he could not withdraw money from the bank.

'The next call was on Sunday at noon. The man called me and I told him that I had got the money and was ready to pay it at any place. He promised to call me again and give instructions', he said.

By this time the family had panicked but had still not sought any police assistance fearing that the child's life would be in danger.

'The next call came at 6.30 p.m. and the caller said I should come at 9 pm. to the vicinity of the turtle hatchery as Kosgoda. I was told to travel on my own and to bring my cellular phone. He also wanted me to keep my restaurant open, disconnect my phone at home and see that no one in the house gets out', he said.

Mr. Silva drove his double cab to the appointed place. While driving, his phone rang five times and the caller had given him instructions to answer the phone only when it rings five times.

'The caller told me to go near the hatchery and as I neared the place I realised that a business friend's house was near the area. I wanted to avoid his place fearing it would endanger the transaction. I drove further away, but found that the phone signals were getting weak and so I returned to the original place agreed on', he said.

Meanwhile the caller had made inquiries from the shop since the cellular phone was not responding.

'When I returned to the shop I received another call telling me to leave the money at a Telecom phone booth about 150 yards from the Alutgama police station. I was also told to leave the cellular phone behind with the money, but I told him that I wanted the phone. He agreed, but said I should switch off the phone', he said.

What Mr. Silva was unaware of was that his movements were being watched by Nuwan who was calling him from another private phone booth on the opposite side of the road.

Mr. Silva was assured that his child would be returned soon after the money is left behind and he returns home.

Mr. Silva rushed back home with a packet of chips for his child as he knew that it was a favourite of Sadeepa.

Before rushing home he had told the security guards of his shop to inform the police that the ransom money has been left at a telephone booth. Incidentally this was the first time the police were being officially informed about the kidnapping, although one of Mr. Silva's uncles had alerted other senior police officers earlier. Police had been following the events in a discreet manner.

'Half an hour passed, but the son had not returned. Instead the police arrived and made inquiries to find out whether my son had been released. Police had then rushed to the phone booth and found that the money had been taken away', Mr. Silva said.

Meanwhile the police had alerted other police stations in the area and stepped up their checks.

All persons and vehicles including traffic on the Galle road were being checked.

Two policemen who were part of the team carrying out the checks had spotted a young boy riding a cycle. He was stopped and questioned. Policemen had felt suspicious and questioned him further and threatened to assault him. The young boy had then shouted out 'Gahanda epa kappan salli tika dennam' (do not assault me I will give the ransom money back).

It was Nuwan, the evilmind, who had been arrested.

He had hidden the money on the beach and was riding back home when he was arrested.

The next question the police were trying solve was where was the child who had been kidnapped.

Initially Nuwan had claimed that the child was being held at various places, but finally he said the child was being held at his home. They took the suspect to his house and were told that the boy was in the room and when they found that the boy was not in the room they had questioned him and were finally told that the boy was in the lavatory pit.

The worst had happened. Mr. Silva's family, only two doors away, had finally come to know Sadeep's fate.

Police investigations revealed that Nuwan had strangled the boy soon after he was abducted and even the first telephone call to the father had been given after the child had been dumped in the pit.


That other kidnap in '83

At Sadeepa's funeral were another couple who had been victims of a kidnap case which shocked the whole country 16 years back.

They were the parents of Saman Kumara, a 14 year old school boy of C.W.W.Kannangara Mawatha, Matugama who was kidnapped and killed for a ransom of Rs. 250,000.

The parents of Saman Kumara and his elder brother recalled the incident with horror.

'Saman Kumara (14) left home for school as usual at 7.30 am on 5th April '83, but never returned home. The same evening his elder brother, C. Tillakaratna who is running the family business at Matugama town started to search for the boy. He received a letter on 8th April, 1983 which stated that his brother Saman had been kidnapped and if he was wanted back alive, a ransom of Rs. 200,00 had to be paid.

Saman's brother did not panic but informed the police immediately. Police started grilling suspects, but they did not get any clue. Then on 9th April, police arrested a person who posted a letter at Matugama post office to Saman's brother.

That letter stated that they needed Rs. 250,000 as ransom and money mentioned a place in Kalawana where the money should be kept. On the next day the police kept the money that was given to them at Kapatiyagoda in Kalawana and were able to arrest the second suspect.

Later the police found Kumara's body on a hill at Panthiya in Matugama.

What is painful is that the first accused, Dharmaratne, calls over at his home at Matugama every six months under a scheme where prisoners are allowed to visit their homes.

"We have seen this convict in the village. It is painful" Tillakaratna told 'The Sunday Times'.

A prison officer confirmed that the convict is allowed to visit his home since the death sentence has now been turned into a life term. After a term of 15 years has been served, a Board considers whether 'home leave' should be granted a convict every six months.

Accordingly the convict has been allowed to visit his home every six months.

Saman's parents have called upon the government to introduce and implement the death penalty for those involved in such crimes.


A top cop in fetters

'I am an honest police officer with no powers,' says DIG Crimes

By Frederica Jansz

Collusion with the un-derworld, drug barons, bribery, corruption, lack of supervision of junior officers by seniors were among the main causes for the deteriorating law and order situation, says Sri Lanka's highest ranking crime buster.image

"I am an honest cop with no powers. Some corrupt police officers continue to function with no disciplinary action being taken against them," H M G B Kotakadeniya, Senior DIG (Crime & Crime Intelligence), told The Sunday Times in an interview.

"Today, if one has a revolver you can walk into any bank or jewellery shop and get away with the loot," he said. He claimed that "there are no strong men in the upper rungs of the police force who are committed to work with honesty, integrity and without fear or favour."

Excerpts:

Q: How do you view the present escalation in crime and its connection to drugs and the underworld?

A: It has been recognized that drugs and liquor have a direct bearing on crime in this country. Even the President has recognized this and has appointed a special task force to handle the problem of drug abuse and illicit liquor. Strict instructions have been given to the police to go all out and curb this menace. Written directives have also been given by the President to politicians urging them not to interfere with the police. This is known by all police officers. However I am sorry to say that despite such presidential efforts, certain police officers continue to trot out the excuse that they are hindered in their work due to political influence and do not go all out to curb crime.

Q: So at present there is no political interference within the police force?

A: Political interference may still be prevalent but the police need not take notice of that. The President has given the Police a mandate to work without hindrance in our drive against illicit liquor and drugs. But unfortunately there are some officers who are either weak-kneed or who regard that this directive has been detrimental to their interests. These police officers have to be dealt with. It appears that such police officers do not even take notice of directives sent by Police Headquarters.

Q: Can you name these police officers or give examples?

A: No. Illicit liquor is still being brewed on a large scale. The President herself in her directive says that she will assess the performance of a police officer not by the number of detections or offences but by the degree and availability of drugs and illicit liquor. But despite all this it is a big problem and there have been instances when politicians have invaded police stations and taken suspects out of remands. The police should never have allowed this to happen being aware of the Presidents directive. As far as the underworld is concerned the victims do not make complaints to the police because they believe if they complain to the police it will boomerang on them. Some underworld members have the power to telephone and summon various people to their bungalows.

Q: Do members of the underworld also summon police officers?

A: Yes, those who are in their clutches can be summoned in this manner.

Q: As a senior DIG, what action have you taken against such incidents?

A: I cannot take any action because I don't have any powers. I can only pass on the directives of the police department, lay down the strategy and ask those police officers to implement them. But if they don't implement them I do not have the authority to take action. For example there is an order by the President that we should have a special unit at Police Headquarters. But that order has never been implemented. If there was such a squad at Police Headquarters then in the event area police fail this unit can go out and take over. But that special unit has not been established.

Q: So who has the authority to reprimand errant police officers?

A: The Inspector General of Police.

Q: With regard to the Aluthgama case where a child has been brutally killed what information do you have?

A: It has not yet been conclusively established what the reason was. But that's not the issue here. The fact that a child has been brutally murdered signifies the deterioration of moral values. Even a drug addict would not think of murdering a child to get money. This proves that the general law and order situation has deteriorated. The people are not scared of the law.

Q: How effective has the police been in handling this case?

A: The police have done their part after the event and arrested some suspects. It is now left to the courts to punish them if proved guilty. What is important is for the police to prevent such incidents from occurring in the future. Of course, if a man by design wants to kill a child who is habitually visiting his house there is no way the police can prevent such a crime. But now parents must realize that their children are in danger of being attacked by various maniacs. Sex maniacs as well as people who will kidnap and kill children for money.

Q: So you are admitting that at present there is a complete breakdown of law and order in society?

A: Lawlessness is rampant though I cannot say there is a complete breakdown. But we have to stem the tide. My warning to parents is not to allow any child to move about without being entrusted to a particular adult in whom they have confidence.

Q: What action is the police taking against underworld gangs?

A: Recently the IGP appointed committees to tackle this problem. But it depends on the dedication of the officers who are selected. Unfortunately there is a lot of disillusionment in the police because in the past, several OICs who have been dedicated and done work against the underworld have been transferred without any reasons given. Recently the OIC of the Vice Squad in Kandy has been transferred. The DIG Kandy has protested against this transfer. This shows the police officer concerned was transferred without even the DIG being consulted. So although we are conducting a campaign against crime when good officers are removed in this manner it is demoralizing and disappointing for other members of the police force. And so these officers justifiably feel that the mafia and drug kingpins have some influence here at police headquarters.

Q: How true is this allegation?

A: There is sufficient possible reasons to believe so. We need to put this right. I cannot put it right.This is something the IGP has to do.

Q: But isn't it a terrible state of affairs when you as a senior DIG say you cannot put things right, or make a change as it were? Is your function then as DIG Crime merely administrative?

A: Yes. What I do is lay down the strategy and instruct area police to implement those policies. If they don't, I do not have the power to even take them to task and make a change. On the other hand several officers who are said to be corrupt, and have a very ignominious reputation still persist in their jobs. It is left to the IGP to take note of this and make the change. I cannot be held responsible.

Q: In a recent television interview on TNL why did you fail to defend two of your colleagues Mr. Dharmadasa and DIG Western Province (South) H A J S K Wickramaratne - when allegations were levelled against them?

A: There was no question of defending them. Certain allegations against these two officers were mentioned. I cannot defend any police officer without knowing for certain that the allegation is false. What I said was if there are specific allegations against these two police officers, we are prepared to investigate and take action. Without referring the inquiry to us I cannot vouch for the veracity or falsity of the allegation. As a responsible officer I cannot deny or confirm allegations when they were not specific. That was the best I could have said.

Q: The other controversy over this TV interview is that you appeared on it in violation of a police circular. Do you think you were within your rights to agree to such an interview without the IGP's permission?

A: Yes, I believe I was well within my rights to do so, otherwise I would not have gone.

The media have a right to interview me and I have an obligation to answer their questions.

The circular is intended to prevent irresponsible police officers from going before the media and making utterances that are detrimental to the Department and to prevent officers from speaking on sensitive issues. Crime is not a sensitive issue. It is an issue where the day-to-day life of the people are constantly coming into contact with. Moreover crime is the area in which I have been asked by the IGP to look after. When I have to answer a question in the public interest I should have the discretion to do so.

Q: But doesn't this circular apply to all police officers and not just those who are irresponsible as you say?

A: One needs to go by the spirit of the law. A circular is formulated with certain specific objectives in mind. Also a circular has to be reasonable, practical and pragmatic. The objective of the circular as far as I know is to prevent irresponsible officers from speaking irresponsibly and on policy matters. Crime is not a policy issue.

Q: Have you submitted your explanation to the IGP?

A: He has asked me and as the Head of the Department I have to obey his commands. Asking an officer to submit an explanation is not a censure on the officer.

Q: At the most what disciplinary action do you think can be taken against your recent action?

A: It will be a disciplinary inquiry. The IGP cannot sack me. I am answerable to the Public Service Commission in the event of disciplinary action being taken.

Q: Are you shadow boxing the IGP?

A: No. The draft calling for my explanation was not done by the IGP but at the instigation of two other DIGs. That's very obvious from the communication issued by the Police Department.

Q: A year ago, in an interview with me, you voiced almost the same concerns you have voiced today. Isn't this a serious indictment on the police force that incidents of violent crime have escalated and that the police do not appear to have yet managed to prevent such crimes from taking place?

A: That is because if a strategy fails there is no point in making adjustments in it. That strategy must be changed altogether. Now because there is public agitation we employ a few more officers, give them a couple of bikes and say now you tackle the problem. But this strategy will not work. If the regional DIGs have failed then Police Headquarters must be able to take over with the backing of a strong unit.

Q: Why isn't this happening now?

A: That's a matter the IGP has to decide. I have made such recommendations I hope he will one day accept them.

Q: Why has he not accepted and acted on such recommendations yet?

A: There are certain vested interests to prevent such recommendations from coming into effect.

Q: So you are fighting a losing battle then?

A: I will never give up the battle.

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