Powerful Government Minister protects drug leader with the blessing of President.

Thusitha Chamara alias “Kudu Chamara” has been arrested by the Terrorist Investigations Division today at Bandaranaike International Airport (BIA) while he was trying to flee the country under a fake identity. The suspect is now being held and questioned. He was arrested on 20 June for the possession of 500g of heroin and was remanded. The suspect was admitted to the Mahara hospital due to an illness while in custody from where he escaped and was in the run.

By Nirmala Kannangara

Following the arrest of Don Nuwan Udaya Gunathilakealias Kudu Nuwan on Wednesday (August 20) at Meetotamulla for possessing 300 gm of heroin, members of the Kelaniya Pradeshiya Sabha (PS), whilst hailing the Colombo Crime Division (CCD) for the arrest, questioned how long the police would be able to keep him behind bars because of his close links to a powerful minister in the government.

Members of the Kelaniya PS who spoke on grounds of anonymity, alleged that the Police will not be able to keep Kudu Nuwan behind bars for so long as he is the key person who peddles the drug, ‘Ecstasy,’ into the country via the red carpet bypassing Sri Lanka Customs, from the Bandaranaike International Airport, Katunayake.

“Kudu Nuwan peddles ‘Ecstasy’ for the son of this powerful minister and supplies them to leading night clubs in Colombo and Hikkaduwa,” sources said.

Kudu Nuwan is not only accused of peddling drugs but also of being involved in underworld activities, robberies, instances of sexual assault, extorting money, and even murder.

“There are cases pending against him for murder, charges of sexual assaults, money extortion, drug peddling and underworld activities. With all these charges, he was given bail and was roaming freely as he is a personal bodyguard of this politician,” sources further alleged.

Kudu Nuwan, a resident of Silva Mawatha, Meetotamulla, is alleged to have committed a double murder in 2001 and was indicted by the Colombo High Court for the killing of K.P. Somalatha and her son, Sumith Kumara, in Wellampitiya.

It is alleged that this personal bodyguard of the politician had come with some others and had hacked the mother and her son to death following a dispute. Nuwan is also alleged to have attempted to murder H.A. Nilantha Kumara by hacking him with a sword on the same occasion.

 

Attack on Rupavahini Corporation

Kudu Nuwan was the only suspect taken into custody over the pandemonium that prevailed at the Sri Lanka Rupavahini Corporation (SLRC) on December 27, 2007. Although Bobma Saman, Kudu Anura, Malabe Saman, Grandpass Sanjeewa, Pas Chuti, Tissa and Lal Peiris aliasKudu Lal too were involved in the SLRC mayhem, and video footages showed the faces of all the underworld gang members who were at the SLRC that day, the police was accused for not arresting other underworld gangs but only Kudu Nuwan in that incident, SLRC employees said.

Kudu Nuwan was arrested for accompanying Minister Mervyn Silva and for assaulting SLRC’s news editor for not airing a defamatory speech made against MP Mangala Samaraweera during the opening of the Mahanama Bridge over the Nilwala Ganga in Matara.

However, SLRC employees who shed their differences in as far as party politics were concerned, had attacked both Silva and Kudu Nuwan for assaulting their news editor.

Subsequently, Silva was held hostage by the SLRC staff.

Minister Silva had stormed into the news room of the state-owned television station and had dragged T.M.G. Chandrasekara by his neck to the chairman’s office and had assaulted him.

Immediately, angry SLRC workers had prevented the minister from leaving the premises until he had tendered an apology.

SLFP General Secretary, Maithripala Sirisena, had condemned Minister Silva’s behaviour at the SLRC, and although a committee was appointed to look into the incident, disciplinary action was not taken against Silva; he was however, later, given a cabinet portfolio.

Meanwhile, sources attached to the UNP affiliated Jathika Sevaka Sangamaya (JSS), Rupavahini Branch, said it was Kudu Nuwan who had led the attack on certain SLRC employees so as to seek revenge for the humiliation Minister Silva had to undergo due to the live telecast over Rupavahini of the unsavoury incident.

“Instead of taking disciplinary action against the minister who had assaulted our news editor, the victim in the incident had been transferred to the Research Unit. We were also blamed for telecasting ‘live’ an unedited version of how Minister Silva and his goons were manhandled by SLRC staff, which our viewers happily watched, instead of airing the regular programmes.

Subsequent to our attack on Minister Silva and his goons, during which the minister and the goons were doused in paint and pelted with stones, as well as their vehicles also coming under attack, Kudu Nuwan and the gang went on to attack our staff members, not only physically but also traumatized them mentally,” sources said.

According to the sources, a senior producer, Lal Hemantha Mawalage was attacked by two armed men and had suffered cut injuries on his arm on January 25. Mawalage also received death threats on his mobile phone on March 4.

On January 29, an attempted attack on Duleep Dushantha by two armed men at his home was averted, and his mother was threatened with death for informing the authorities of the incident.

On February 28, 2008, the assistant director (News), Priyal Ranjith, was attacked by an unidentified armed gang at his home. On March 5, SLRC librarian, Ranjani Aluthge, was attacked with a razor blade while travelling in a public bus.

An unidentified gang assaulted Anurasiri Hettige with an iron rod around 7.45 a.m. on March 14 while he was on his way to office from his residence at Kotikawatta.

Hettige was hit on his head leading to severe injuries and was admitted to the Intensive Care Unit of the Colombo National Hospital.

Meanwhile employees of the Kelaniya Pradeshiya Sabha said how Kudu Nuwan was ‘rightly rewarded’ by Minister Mervyn Silva after the Rupavahini ordeal, by being given a stall to sell fish along the Kandy Road in Kiribathgoda.

“This was a reward to Kudu Nuwan for being with him at the time he was humiliated at SLRC,” sources further said.

 

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Singappuru Sarath and his deals

Sarath Edirisinghe alias Singappuru Sarath was the then Parliamentary Affairs secretary to a powerful minister. He was allegedly involved in many murders, extortions, prostitution and drug peddling. Although Singappuru Sarath was remanded for an alleged murder, he was later made a state witness and was granted bail within a few weeks.

Investigations further revealed how the former DIG Vass Gunawardena had told Singappuru Sarath that his (Singappuru Sarath’s) name was on the top of the list of drug traffickers who are to be eliminatred.

“Now it is clear that Singappuru Sarath was connected not only to drugs but in weapon trafficking as well. For a person to be on top of a list of notorious drug traffickers, would show how powerful he is, and unless he had the blessings of a powerful figure, how can he operate as a leading drug trafficker?” a high ranking police officer, who wished to remain anonymous, questioned.

According to him, had this been reported about any other person, the police would have taken prompt action to question the suspect, leading to his arrest as well.

“According to information provided, Vass Gunawardena had asked Singappuru Sarath to pay him Rs Three million but he had received only Rs.1.48 million. Who is this Singappuru Sarath and how could he engage in drug and firearm trafficking unless he is privileged to receive support from a ‘bigwig.’ This clearly shows that Minister Mervyn Silva was directly providing shelter to him to engage in this business. It is also questionable why the police had failed to question Singappuru Sarath or even Minister Silva,” the police officer said.

Singappuru Sarath was the fourth suspect in the Madawala murder case, and the first suspect, Rangana Perera who had killed Madawala, had told the CID that it was his mother’s brother – Singappuru Sarath, who had given him the weapon and had wanted Madawala murdered. According to Rangana, the weapon – a T-81/01 automatic machine gun was in the possession of Singappuru Sarath. Although the suspected killer had told Court that Singappuru Sarath was directly involved in the murder, by aiding and abetting, he was made a state witness and granted bail together with the fifth suspect, Saman Nishantha, another coordinating secretary.

Rangana has further told the CID that it was Singappuru Sarath who had bought him an air ticket to travel to Singapore the following day, and had also given US$ 1,000 for his expenses.

Meanwhile, according to the Police ‘B’ report submitted to the Mahara Magistrate’s Court, the two helmets that the motorcyclist and the suspected killer had been wearing at the time of committing the murder, had been found at the Samanala Restaurant in Kiribathgoda, which is owned by Singappuru Sarath.

The ‘B’ report further states that when the first suspect, Rangana, had wanted his uncle, Singappuru Sarath, to take both Rangana and the second suspect, Ashen Chathuranga – the motorcyclist – to a hiding place, it was Singappuru Sarath who had called the fifth suspect, Saman Nishantha, and had asked him to take them to Negombo.

According to Rangana, it was his father who had provided information to the suspected killer of the whereabouts of Madawala.

Meanwhile, the police officer said how the police force was demoralized when Singappuru Sarath and the fifth suspect were granted bail.

“The police officers had a tough time in arresting Singappuru Sarath and the rest of the gang, having had only crackers to eat for more than 48 hours. They did not leave any stone unturned to arrest the suspects. Unfortunately, Singappuru Sarath and the fifth suspect, although there being clear evidence of the murder, were granted bail within 54 days because of their alleged connections to one of the top CID officers who is connected to one of the senior legal officers in the Gampaha High Court,” sources said.

According to sources, although Singappuru Sarath had confirmed that the weapon used for the murder was given to him by his son, when the son was arrested and produced in the Mahara Court two weeks ago, he had said that the weapon did not belong to him.

“Then whose weapon was it? As there is evidence that Singappuru Sarath is into firearms smuggling, why can’t the police arrest him? Although such trafficking is carried out by these henchmen, the police know on whose orders drug and firearm trafficking, prostitution and extortions are being carried out. It is no secret as to who is providing these drugs to Hikkaduwa and other areas down south. Although the police have all the information, no one dares to arrest the gangsters as they are ‘blessed’ with political patronage,” sources further said.

They also spoke of how Singappuru Sarath had once extorted Rs. 7.5 million from the owner of the Royal Park Hotel when he was refurbishing the hotel.

“In fear, the Royal Park Hotel owner gave the money and when the Pradeshiya Sabha members made a complaint to the CID in this regard, they questioned the hotel owner while also obtaining the cheque numbers and other relevant details of the extortion. But up to now, no action had been taken against anyone who was involved,” they said.

When the owner of the Royal Park Hotel was contacted for a comment, he declined to do so.

“I don’t want to comment as I want to live in peace,” he said.

 

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Extortion and land grabs

Kelaniya Pradeshiya Sabha members meanwhile said how Kudu Nuwan, Kudu Lal, Soththi Chaminda, Kelaniye Niro, Kelaniye Maharaja and Eta Indika had extorted more than Rs 700 million from people, and added that none of the victims had come forward to make a statement against any of the extortion that had been carried out.

“These underworld thugs extorted money from the vendors who sold a few bundles of keera to make a living. This was how these gangsters made money and offered the same to their boss. When the Peliyagoda Fish Market was opened, Kudu Nuwan and the other gangsters had extorted money from the wholesale and retail fish traders,” Kelaniya PS members said.  These gangs are further accused of land rackets. Although the late gangster, Prince Ohlums, and Kudu Lal are accused for encroaching on a plot of land forcibly, and for selling it for Rs. 30 million, no action had been taken against them for the fraudulent act. Following the arrest of a haul of narcotics a few years ago in Kelaniya, the Police Narcotic Bureau had conducted a search to nab Kudu Lal. However, a politician is alleged to have helped the underworld kingpin to leave the country by escorting him to the airport in his official vehicle. But after Kudu Lal had left the country, the politician had attempted to grab the valuable assets that belonged to Lal, thus turning one-time partners in crime, to enemies.

Meanwhile, certain officers in the Kiribathgoda and Kelaniya Police are also accused of protecting underworld gangs.

“Just close to the Kelani Raja Maha Viharaya is a public bar owned by a political stooge, Ralahamy, which is also in close proximity to the Kelaniya Police Station. This is in violation of the law as it does not permit a public bar or a wine store to operate within a radius of 500 metres from a place of worship or a school. It has been alleged that even prostitutes were serving in this bar. Although the Kelaniya Police are well aware of this, they ignore the blatant violation of the law.

Another restaurant owned by the criminal gangster, Bhoothaya, is open all night with liquor and venison being sold openly while a gambling den owned by Booru Lokke operates on the new road in Hunupitiya, along with a brothel being run, with impunity. All these illicit places have the protection of this politician,” sources alleged.

They further explained how the underworld gangsters had forcibly built business stalls in an irrigation reservation in front of the Kiribathgoda Police Station, which was sold at Rs Five million, each, at the request of the politician. Even a senior police officer of the local police station had bought one of the stalls but once he was transferred to another station, the politician had re-sold the stall to another person.

“One of the coordinator’s of this politician was once arrested by the Grandpass Police when he had tried to extort money from a scrap iron businessman. Although the politician had attempted to get him released, the Officer in Charge (OIC) had refused to do so. As a result the OIC was transferred,” sources added.

Meanwhile, the Kelaniya PS members accused the Kiribathgoda Police of allowing Sarath Edirisinghe alias Singappuru Sarath, who was the then Parliamentary Affairs secretary to a minister, to sell liquor and venison at the Samanala Bar and Restaurant in Kiribathgoda which he owns and is an illegal business enterprise.

“Singappuru Sarath was the fourth suspect in the Madawala murder case and who later became a state witness, and was granted bail within a few weeks. Because of his alleged involvement in the Madawala murder, the Kelaniya PS did not renew the licence for the restaurant; however, he still operates the business. Although we have informed the police about the illegal business, the Kiribathgoda Police overlook the violation, and have allowed Singappuru Sarath to sell liquor and venison, and to conduct other illegal activities as well,” sources said.

 

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Charges of sexual assault

Kudu Nuwan was accused of sexually assaulting a young mother at BOSS, a nightclub on Flower Road, Colombo 7, in 2008.

Accompanied by some other underworld criminals, Kudu Nuwan had visited the nightclub and has allegedly raped a female employee. According to news reports, the night club management had been wary of lodging a complaint against the perpetrator in fear of future operations of the club being affected. It was also learnt that the Kollupitiya Police had been given orders against conducting any investigation to arrest Kudu Nuwan.

A frequent visitor to this nightclub, Kudu Nuwan, after raping the victim, had allegedly walked out of the club but the night club management unable to take any action for fear of any reprisal.

According to the victim, the night before she was raped by Kudu Nuwan, she was in charge of two rooms. While she was serving the guests she had seen Nuwan entering the nightclub with some others including another underworld gangster, Sudu Aiya. Before joining the nightclub she had worked at a garment factory for five years. She also has a teenage daughter, sources said.

It was around 2.45 the following morning while the victim was fast asleep that Kudu Nuwan had entered her room, and had dragged her to an adjoining room. He had thereafter closed the door and had placed a sofa against it to prevent the door from being opened from outside. Nuwan had then removed his pants and had demanded that she performs oral sex, which demand she had refused to comply with. Kudu Nuwan had then rubbed himself on her face and had raped her despite her attempts to get away from him.