ISSN: 1391 - 0531
Sunday June 01, 2008
Vol. 42 - No 53

President’s PR officer to appear in court in Flower Road house case

By Asif Fuard

A public relations officer working for President Mahinda Rajapaksa has been directed to appear before the Colombo Magistrate’s Court tomorrow in a case involving a house belonging to the late Roshan Peiris, a journalist attached to The Sunday Times.

It is alleged, according to a complaint lodged with the Cinnamon Gardens Police by Suren Peiris, the late Mrs. Peiris’s son, that on May 23 an unknown person or persons had broken into Mrs. Peiris’s Flower Road, Colombo 7 residence and that goods worth Rs. 500,000 belonging to the late Mrs. Peiris had been stolen. The incident occurred 10 days after Mrs. Peiris’s demise, on May 13.

In the early hours of May 23, Mr. Suren Peiris received a call from a Flower Road resident and neighbour who said noises could be heard from his late mother’s home. The house had been unoccupied for some time. Mr. Peiris then made several calls to the police, on the “119” police emergency hotline.

When the police arrived at the Flower Road residence, they were confronted by a man who claimed to be the bodyguard of a member of parliament. The man said he had been instructed to guard the house. The police officers left the premises without conducting further enquiries.

Later that day, Mr. Peiris, an attorney-at-law by profession, accompanied by his legal apprentice, called at the Cinnamon Gardens police station to make a formal complaint. Having lodged a complaint, Mr. Peiris, in the company of a team of Cinnamon Gardens police officers, headed to his late mother’s Flower Road residence.

On arriving at the house, Mr. Peiris discovered that the lock on the main door lock had been broken and that his late mother’s name-board, which had been in place for the past 42 years, had disappeared. On entering the premises, Mr. Peiris and the police found six persons who claimed to be security guards deployed by their security services company to guard the house.

The guards, who were clad in body-fit shirts, tracksuit bottoms and rubber sandals, told the police that they were guarding the house on the instructions of Aruna Gunaratne. It is understood that Mr. Gunaratne is President Rajapaksa’s public relations officer for Matara.

Mr. Peiris, who claimed he had no idea what was going on, then informed the police that on May 22 (Thursday), the day before the alleged break-in, his wife had visited the Flower Road residence with a contractor to get an estimate for refurbishing the house.The police recorded statements from all six security guards.

The Cinnamon Gardens police contacted Anura Gunaratne and asked him to give a statement to the police. Mr. Gunaratne told the police that he was in Ampara and would be able to call at the Cinnamon Gardens police station on May 26 (Monday), at 3pm.

On Monday, May 26, at 3pm – the date and time fixed by Mr. Gunaratna – Mr. Peiris and a team of lawyers, led by President’s Counsel Desmond Fernando, were present at the Cinnamon Gardens police station.

The police, Mr. Peiris and his lawyers were kept waiting for nearly four-and-a-half hours. Throughout the afternoon and into the evening, the Cinnamon Gardens police attempted to contact Mr. Gunaratne. Each time the police called, Mr. Gunaratne would say he was “on his way, and would be at the station in 15 minutes”.

Finally, Mr. Gunaratne informed the Cinnamon Gardens police that he was going in search of a lawyer and would be able to come to the police station the next day, at 3pm. Meanwhile, the Cinnamon Gardens police had decided to forward the police file in regard to the case to the Attorney General’s Department.

The police have subsequently sealed the Flower Road premises and installed a 24-hour police guard outside the house. Chief Inspector S. Keerthipala, OIC for the Cinnamon Gardens police, told The Sunday Times that the two parties are to appear before the Colombo Magistrate’s Court tomorrow.

Chief Inspector Keerthipala said. “We are in the process of conducting preliminary inquiries. We also have a few more statements to record.”

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