Mulleriyawa incident: Conflicting evidence given by witnesses

By Manopriya Gunasekara

The magisterial inquiry into the death of Bharatha Lakshman Premachandra, former MP and Presidential Advisor on Trade Union Affairs, and three others ended on Friday with a range of eyewitnesses giving evidence.

The inquiry was held by Colombo Additional Magistrate Prasanna Alwis where 12 witnesses testified about the incident which took place at Walpola junction, Angoda on October 8 – the day of local body elections to 23 councils.

Excerpts of the evidence given by the main witnesses follow:
Saman Shantha Perera, driver of
Mr. Premachandra:
On October 8 I reported for work at Mr. Premachandra’s residence at Jawatta Road at 8.45 a.m. Mr. Premachandra left with me at 10.30 a.m and we first went to his ancestral home at Kolonnawa.
I was driving a red coloured Toyota Land Cruiser bearing the number KL - 4219. Besides Mr. Premachandra, two of the Ministerial Security Division (MSD) officers – Sgt. Gamini and Sgt. Priyantha - and Mr. Damitha Jayatillake who was a friend of Mr. Premachandra were in my vehicle.
Mr. Premachandra later voted in a booth close to his house. The two MSD officers were armed with pistols while I did not see any weapon with Mr. Premachandra. I was unarmed.

We toured several areas and came to Salmal Uyana when the former Chairman of the Kotikawatta–Mulleriyawa Pradeshiya Sabha wanted to speak to Mr. Premachandra. After he spoke I asked him what was the issue and he responded saying that Duminda Silva’s supporters were assaulting his supporters near the Rajasinha Vidyalaya. A few metres away a second call came from Mr. Prasanna Solangarachchi (a contestant backed by Mr. Premachandra for the Mulleriyawa–Kotikawatte PS election), and Mr. Premachandra who spoke to him told us that Mr. Solangarachchi’s wife was being assaulted by Duminda Silva.

As we approached the Walpola junction we noticed Duminda Silva coming with his convoy.
One of the Defender vehicles passed us and stopped. A sergeant dressed in a T-shirt, and attached to the Mirihana Police was in it. He was armed with a T-56 weapon. I knew him earlier as a police officer. There were others armed with T-56 weapons and I could identify them.

A second vehicle - a white Land Cruiser jeep stopped in front of our vehicle blocking our path. There were about 20 other vehicles following it. Duminda Silva, dressed a black T-shirt got off his vehicle. He was armed with a pistol. There were about a 100 of his supporters.

As Duminda Silva was coming closer to our vehicle Mr. Premachandra too got off his vehicle. The person following Duminda Silva was armed with a T-56 rifle while several others had weapons.
As Mr. Silva came closer he asked Mr. Premachandra “mokada” (what’s the problem?). Mr. Premachandra responded saying “monawada me karanne” (what are you doing). At this point Duminda Silva slapped Mr. Premachandra. Mr. Premachandra too slapped him in return. A tall dark person with Duminda Silva at this stage hit Mr. Premachandra. At this stage Mr. Premachandra started to fall and Duminda Silva fired at Mr. Premachandra and shouted out ‘wedithiyapan – wedithiyapan’ (shoot - shoot) . About 10 others with him opened fire. I took cover in my vehicle. Someone opened fire at me too, but the shot hit the windscreen. A police officer from Mirihana assigned to Duminda Silva armed with a T-56 weapon came closer to Mr. Premachandra and kept his weapon very close to him and opened fire continuously.

About seven feet away, I noticed that Duminda Silva too had fallen and he was bleeding. I did not see who shot him. I saw Damitha Jayatillake too fallen near Bharatha Lakshman while Sgt. Gamini was also seriously injured in his eye and I saw him holding his eye and limping towards Mr. Premachandra.
I tried to reverse my vehicle at this point when Duminda Silva’s vehicle brushed against my vehicle. I saw Duminda Silva’s supporters firing.

I thought Mr. Premachandra will survive and managed to get him into my vehicle with the support of some bystanders. As I was driving past the Angoda bus stand I saw the vehicles of (Superintendent of Police) Deshabandu Tennakoon and the Mulleriyawa OIC’s vehicles stopped at the end of the convoy of Duminda Silva. I also saw the OIC was standing near the jeep.

Just before this incident I saw the Mirihana SP Deshabandu Tennakoon travelling in his jeep and told Mr. Premachandra about it. We took Mr. Premachandra to the IDH in Angoda, but he was found to be dead. Later his body was transferred to the Police morgue in Colombo’.
He said he had made statements to the CID and a JMO.

Balasuriya Arachchige Chaminda, -
Driver of Duminda Silva
After I lost my job in the CEB I joined Mr. Duminda Silva as his driver in 2005. Though I later regained my job I continued to drive for him.

On October 8 I went to Mr. Duminda Silva’s house and prepared the vehicle – a white Land Cruiser bearing the number C-10 – 1041. It is an unregistered vehicle.
Around 6.45 a.m. we started off with Mr. Silva in the rear seat. I did not see any weapon with him. Usually a Defender vehicle goes ahead, but on that day the vehicle had gone on another assignment. However another black Defender vehicle with six of his bodyguards followed us. I did not see whether they had weapons.

Usually the MP has 11 security personnel and three police officers. All of them are in civvies.
We proceeded to the garden known as “Tamil Nadu”. I parked in a different location and was charging the cell phone of the MP.

Constable Hemantha had a T-56 weapon. The others were armed with pistols.
Around 3.30 p.m we left the location. We reached a polling booth near Rajasinha Vidyalaya. Mr. Duminda Silva got off and I heard some noises. He got in and we proceeded and we stopped near the Angoda junction. He got off and again I heard some noises. He returned to the vehicle and we proceeded. ‘After we had traveled about 75 metres I was told to stop the vehicle. At this point Mr. Bharatha Lakshman’s vehicle too came and stopped in front of our vehicle.

Mr. Duminda Silva got off the vehicle warning persons not to shoot at anybody. I did not see Mr. Silva having any weapon in his hand. I saw Mr. Silva and Mr. Bharatha Lakshman pointing fingers at each other and talking. I did not see Mr. Bharatha Lakshman having any weapon in his hand.

At this point I was preparing my vehicle to proceed towards Himbutana when I heard the sound of gunfire. I heard a commotion. I did not see either Mr. Duminda or Mr. Bharatha Lakshman firing.
I heard people shouting that Mr. Duminda has been shot. I was reversing my vehicle to pick up the MP when it collided with Mr. Bharatha Lakshman’s vehicle.

I noticed two persons carrying Mr. Bharatha Lakshman. They were firing in our direction.
Mr. Duminda was carried and brought into the Prado jeep. Thereafter as I was able to get my vehicle out Mr. Duminda was transferred into my vehicle.

At this point I saw SP Tennakoon of the Mirihana Division. He was about 150 metres away from the scene of the incident. Some suggested that Mr. Duminda be taken to the Angoda IDH, but I said it was better to take him to the Sri Jayewardenepura Hospital. We took him to the hospital around 4 p.m. He was put on to a trolley and I saw him munching chewing-gum.’

Manjula Prasad Hettiarachchi:
A bodyguard of Mr. Duminda Silva
I served as a Commando in the Army and later did not report to work. Through Mr. Duminda Silva I got my release from the Army. On this particular day we first went to the garden known as “Tamil Nadu”. We were given Rs. 20,000 to purchase buriyani. At that point I saw Galabada and also Chaminda.
Later in the evening we reached a polling booth. At this point Mr. Silva asked a woman as to whom she voted for. Later someone in the crowd said that it was Mr. Solangarachchi’s wife. Our group had an argument with a person there and later assaulted him. Mr. Silva got into his vehicle then got off again and told Ms. Solangaarachchi something. He was angry. Some of our supporters assaulted the women and the STF intervened to settle it.

As we proceeded a red coloured vehicle was coming from the opposite direction. Mr. Duminda’s vehicle stopped obstructing that vehicle. Mr. Bharatha Lakshman got off his vehicle and said “this is our area, how are you coming here”. Mr. Duminda responded saying something. When Mr. Bharatha Lakshman raised his hand and hit Mr. Duminda he hit him in return and Mr. Bharatha Lakshman fell down.
Mr. Duminda did not have a weapon his hand. There was a person with Mr. Bharatha Lakshman who had a pistol and I saw him pressing the trigger of the weapon. Some one shouted “Sir, got shot”. Galaboda, a former commando now with Mr. Duminda shot Mr. Bharatha Lakshman on his leg. Thereafter I saw Sarath whom I think was a former Army man using a T-56 rifle to shoot Mr. Bharatha Lakshman.
We took Mr. Duminda to hospital.

Frank Wijesinha: a resident of
Himbutana Lane, Angoda

I was at the junction at Himbutana Lane. I saw the vehicle of Mr. Bharatha Lakshman coming. I also saw Mr. Duminda Silva coming in a convoy and his vehicle obstructed the path of Mr. Bharatha Lakshman’s vehicle. I saw both of them getting off their vehicles and having an argument.
I saw Mr. Bharatha Lakshman pushing Mr. Silva and then Mr. Silva assaulting Mr.Bharatha Lakshman. As a result the latter fell down. I did not see Mr. Silva having a weapon with him. I saw about four others had weapons. The persons who came with Mr. Duminda were seen firing.
I saw Mr. Bharatha Lakshman being hit by a bullet and falling down and one person firing at him.’

Hashan Chanaka Amaradeva (24) –
A Personal Assistant of Mr. Premachandra –
Near the Angoda junction the vehicle of Mr. Bharatha Lakshman was obstructed by the vehicle of Mr. Silva. There were about 20 vehicles in the convoy. His supporters had about 20 T-56 weapons and about 10 to 15 pistols. There was a group of about a 100 people.

As Mr. Silva and Mr. Bharatha Lakshman met face to face, Mr. Silva slapped Mr. Bharatha Lakshman who fell down and Mr. Silva shouted out ‘wedithiyapan – wedithiyapan’ (shoot, shoot). I did not see who fired at Mr. Bharatha Lakshman, but Mr. Silva had a pistol in his hand. I saw Mr. Bharatha Lakshman and several others fallen down. The injured were rushed to the hospital.’

Based on the JMO reports the Additional Magistrate held that the deaths were caused due to injuries caused by shooting.
He said that Mr. Premachandra’s death was caused by multiple injuries caused by a shooting. The death of Dharshana Jayatillake was as a result of injuries caused to the chest and abdomen, the death of Mohammed Azim by hemorrhage due to injuries on the abdomen and chest and the death of Maniveil Kumarasamy by multiple injuries on the abdomen.

During the evidence Saman Shantha Perera, the driver of Mr. Premachandra said he observed Mr. Silva firing at Mr. Premachandra while Mr. Silva’s driver Balasuriya Arachchige Chaminda said he did not see either Mr. Premachandra or Mr. Silva firing.

Assistant Superintendent of Police Shani Abeysekara of the CID led the evidence of the witnesses.
At the Magisterial inquiry Attorneys Gamini Alwis, Madura Welgama, Dhammika Ratnayaka, Bandara Ekanayaka and Ajith Pathirana watched the interest of all four deceased. In addition Attorneys Anushka Amaratunga and Sumith Kelaart watched the interest of the deceased Damitha Jayatillake.

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