4th November 2001

The Sunday Times on the Web















Sanjeewa's killing raises fears of violent polls war

By Chris Kamalendran
The sensational killing of the notorious (Presidential Security Division) PSD thug Dhanushka Perera alias Beddagana Sanjeewa took a political twist yesterday with evidence emerging that another underworld gang member closely working with a politician had travelled in the same vehicle.

The disclosure raised alarms of a deadly new dimension to the general election campaign with three deaths, more than 50 being injured and the number of election-related incidents of violence soaring beyond 250. 

Baddagana Sanjeewa providing presidential securityBaddagana Sanjeewa providing presidential security

The events gave rise to fears that the current campaign might plunge into the most violent in recent times.

Detectives probing Sanjeewa's killing told The Sunday Times evidence had emerged that an underworld operator had left from a location in Pitakotte just before the killing of Sanjeewa while he was driving his superluxury vehicle at a cross street off Pagoda road in Nugegoda on Friday night.

According to investigations, the killer had been travelling in the back seat of Sanjeewa's vehicle and had fired point blank from behind before getting away. Two others were also in the luxury Toyota jeep which is valued at about eight million rupees.

Police are looking for the killer and the other two but no significant progress had been made by yesterday afternoon.

According to detectives, Sanjeewa was talking to a female associate on his mobile phone when he was slain. The female friend on the phone had reportedly heard the gunshots and alerted Sanjeewa's friends who rushed to the scene and took him to the Kalubowila hospital.

This female associate was later identified as Vanessa Selvaratnam who emerged into the spotlight four years ago over the Casino killing of Papua New Guinea ruggerite Joel Pera in a case that also allegedly involved Minister Anuruddha Ratwatte's son Lohan.

Ms. Selvaratnam later appeared at the Kalubowila hospital where a magistrate held an inquiry on Sanjeewa's death. She was among those who identifed the body of Sanjeewa at the hospital morgue. The magistrate making inquiries into who would accept the body asked whether Venessa was legally married to Sanjeewa, but she said she was not officially married.

Thereafter Sanjeewa's father said he was taking over the body.

The detectives said that on searching the vehicle, they found a pistol apparently used by Sanjeewa, two passports, a cellular phone and some cash.

Sanjeewa has allegedly been involved in several headline-hitting cases, including the killing of a Sinhala tabloid editor Rohana Kumara, attacks on journalists and political opponents.

When attempts were made to arrest him on one occasion, PSD Chief Nihal Karunaratna had allegedly intervened to prevent it.

In the first major incident of the current campaign, UNP supporter Lionel Rodrigo died after being assaulted allegedly by a gang, including former minister and Gampaha strongman Reggie Ranatunga. Police on Friday moved into arrest Mr. Ranatunga who had warded himself in a private hospital. He has now been moved to the National Hospital Colombo where he is under the custody of prison officials and remanded until November 15.

But in an apparent show of defiance yesterday afternoon, PA supporters led by Provincial Councillor Prasanna Ranatunga, eldest son of Mr. Ranatunga, held a motor car procession through the Minuwangoda area.

They briefly stopped in front of UNP candidate Mahen Gunasekara's residence and fired a few shots into the air. 

While the strongarm tactics continue, the Rodrigo family is still in shock.

"My son had been returning from work when a group of UNP supporters had stopped him and wanted him to help in decorating the place. 

It was late in the night when I was told that Lionel had been injured in an attack," Lionel's father told The Sunday Times.

Mr. Rodrigo, the father of a five-year-old daughter, incidentally was employed as a driver at Ranatunga motors at Udugampola in which the Ranatunga family owns shares. He earlier worked as a driver in the CTB and took over the new job only six months ago.

According to eyewitnesses, around 10.30 p.m. they were decorating the roads in the Pethiyagoda area of Gampaha when persons in two vehicles came there and challenged them and wanted to know how they could decorate the area which they said was a PA stronghold.

The eyewitnesses who did not want to be named said that Mr. Ranatunga was among those allegedly involved in the attack and said Lionel had been hit with a pole.

"Almost all of us ran away when we found that they were attacking us severely. 

When we returned Lionel was bleeding and we had no way of taking him to hospital. It took one hour for us to get a vehicle and take him to hospital," he said.

Apparently, immediately before the attack on Mr. Rodrigo and others the same group including Mr. Ranatunga was involved in a separate attack on a group of UNP supporters. 

The parish priest of the church, Fr. Angelo Wijesinghe, was an eyewitness to the incident. 

Fr. Wijesinghe told The Sunday Times he heard screams and when he came out of the church he saw Mr. Ranatunga and some of his bodyguards assaulting a group of people decorating the area.

He walked up to the place and told them not to assault people, but in return the group had turned abusive and then left.

Two days later Mr. Ranatunga personally called over at the church and apologised to the priest about the incident, Fr. Wijesinghe said.

Urban Council member K. L. G. Perera was allegedly assaulted by the gang. Mr. Perera showed us the shirt he was wearing at the time of the alleged assault and it had a tell-tale mark of how he was trampled and attacked.

Another polls-related killing took place in Chilaw where a UNP supporter was killed allegedly by PA thugs though police are saying it was a personal vendetta over a woman.

In the clashes, at least 16 people were injured in two incidents in Ampara and Thalawa near Anuradhapura district where the PA held its inaugural rally on Friday.

In the Thalawa incident, the PA-controlled Pradeshiya Sabha chairman K.D. Siripala has been arrested over attacks where at least seven people were injured and properties damaged.

Little glitter in golden handshake 

By Tania Fernando
Inadequate EPF laws have resulted in the non-payment of EPF dues to staff of SriLankan Airlines who accepted the Voluntary Retirement Scheme (VRS) offered by the company.

At the time the airline offered its staff the VRS package it had indicated that they would be paid their EPF dues. However, according to Commissioner General of Labour Mahinda Madihahewa, the airline had failed to get permission from the department.

"We paid EPF dues to the airline staff at the time Emirates took over and retrenched some of the staff", Mr. Madihahewa said, adding that the airline has appealed to the minister, but no decision has been made.

The EPF law states that companies retrenching staff cannot pay EPF dues to such staff unless they are government organizations being privatised.

Airline sources said that though the staff who accepted the VRS left in July, after the attack at Katunayake, they are yet to receive their EPF dues.

They also said that some of the staff members are planning to seek legal advice regarding the matter. However, the company has assured them the monies will be paid, but no specific date has been given.

SriLankan Airlines is a private company now and as such without the amendment of the EPF laws its not possible to pay the EPF, Mr. Madihahewa said.

"It did not get approval from us before offering the package with EPF dues to its staff", he said.

He said the only time EPF dues will be paid after retrenchment is when a government organization is being privatized. 

Meanwhile, SriLankan Airlines spokesperson said the matter is being processed and the monies will be paid.

No to polythene, says SU

As at the last polls, the Sihala Urumaya has pledged to refrain from using polythene in its campaign for the December 5 general election.

The party said that it would stick to its policy of not using polythene for its campaigning and would request other parties also to follow suit.

On the day nominations closed the Colombo District Returning Officer had made a request from all parties to refrain from using polythene in their campaign, the Sihala Urumaya said. 

At a meeting of all the registered parties with the Elections Commissioner on Friday evening, a leaflet issued by an environmentalist requesting the parties to refrain from using polythene in their campaign was distributed to all parties and independent groups.

More News/Comment
Return to News/Comment
News/Comment Archives


Please send your comments and suggestions on this web site to
The Sunday Times or to Information Laboratories (Pvt.) Ltd.