State Minister Ajith P. Perera told Court that he witnessed an Assistant Superintendent of Police and the Headquarters Inspector of the Hambantota Police, standing and laughing while thugs accosted a group of United National Party MPs on a visit to the Hambantota port in 2014.
The minister was giving evidence in the case filed in the Hambantota High Court (HC) over criminal intimidation of UNP MPs, then in the Opposition, during a field visit. State Minister Perera told Judge Thamara Tennakoon he feared for his life at the time of the incident which was politically motivated.
He said he and the other MPs visited the port and the Mattala airport after obtaining permission from project officials.In evidence led by Deputy Solicitor General Dileepa Pieris, the Minister said an organised group who had assembled obstructed them, abused them in filthy language, and threatened them with death, while they were coming out of the airport.
The Minister said they did not anticipate such a situation in a high security zone. “One man grabbed me by the arm and squeezed it extremely hard,” he added. He said he realised they were facing a political reaction and the MPs then got into their bus and went to the port.
He said that during their visit to the Hambantota port, a gang blocked the road, preventing them from returning to their bus. “At this point, the gang leader stepped forward and introduced himself as Eraj, who he later recognised as the Mayor of Hambantota,” Minister Perera recalled.
As the MPs were leaving in their bus, the gang led by Eraj Fernando, who was brandishing a pistol, chased after their bus, the Minister told court. Observing that a police jeep was following the bus, MPs Eran Wickramaratne and Nalin Jayamaha alighted from the bus and attempted to stop the police jeep. “However, the jeep sped away without coming to our aid,” the minister said.
Realising they could not expect any assistance in Hambantota, the MPs later lodged a complaint with Police Headquarters, Mr Perera said.
At the conclusion of the Minister’s evidence, video footage of the incident obtained from media institutions, was shown to court, corroborating the witness’s statements.
The plastic pistol taken into custody from the possession of Eraj Fernando, was also shown to court. The witness, though said the defendant wielded a real pistol. Premasiri Paranamana alias ‘Paththakka Some,’ Tuwan Ramazan alias ‘Bandagiriye Tuwan,’ Mahamadakalapuwage Madhusha Nilan, Bindu Sri Warnasinghe and Eraj Ravindra Fernando have been served 29 indictments over the incident and have pleaded “Not guilty” to the charges.
U.R. De Silva P.C. appeared for the accused.