Several Welikada Prison Officials involved in 2012 massacre – A list given by Gotha?

Several Welikada Prison Officials involved in 2012 massacre

“Who watch him lest himself should rob the prison of its prey,” questions Oscar Wilde in The Ballad of Reading Gaol. The trio of former Magazine Prison, Superintendent Emil Ranjan Lamahewage, Welikada Prison Warden, M. Nimal Shantha and Prison Superintendent (since July 2014) and at the time of the Welikada Prison massacre a Jailor attached to the Intelligence and Security Division of the Prison (the Prison’s Police) Indika Sampath, were the operational masterminds behind the butchery of 27 prisoners on 09 and 10, November 2012, an eyewitness of the State, a Senior Prison official confirmed.

 BY Ruwan Laknath Jayakody and Kavindya Chris Thomas

“Who watch him lest himself should rob the prison of its prey,” questions Oscar Wilde in The Ballad of Reading Gaol. The trio of former Magazine Prison, Superintendent Emil Ranjan Lamahewage, Welikada Prison Warden, M. Nimal Shantha and Prison Superintendent (since July 2014) and at the time of the Welikada Prison massacre a Jailor attached to the Intelligence and Security Division of the Prison (the Prison’s Police) Indika Sampath, were the operational masterminds behind the butchery of 27 prisoners on 09 and 10, November 2012, an eyewitness of the State, a Senior Prison official confirmed.

Of the 11 prisoners who died inside the Prison, a total of three Fundamental Rights cases have been filed in Courts and three petitions have been lodged at the Human Rights Commission of Sri Lanka (HRCSL) against a Police Narcotics Bureau Officer called Rangajeewa, one case has been filed against former Defence Secretary Gotabaya Rajapaksa by a parent of one of the slain and a parent of one of the murdered has lodged a plaint at the HRCSL against Lamahewage.
Lamahewage and Nimal Shantha had met at their homes, planned, discussed and orchestrated it in their quarters, said a Chief Jailor who wished to remain anonymous, adding that Lamahewage’s younger brother in the Army too had come on 09 and 10, dressed in civvies.
Former Commissioner General of Prisons P.W. Kodippili who was in his office inside the Welikada Prison, Deputy Commissioners and Prison Superintendents, all present at the time when the events unfolded, did not utter a word against the slaughter, he added.
“I knew when the Army and the Special Task Force (STF) eight man teams (several) came pushing cupboards out of the way and barging through doors that people were going to die and head were going to roll. None of these prisoners have done any good to the society. These prisoners may deserve the death sentence but the manner in which they were killed was wrong. I have told all this, to the Committee of Inquiry into the Prison Incident 2012 (C.I.P.I). Everyone is now against me because I am testifying against them. From 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. I gave evidence for two days before the C.I.P.I. I have all the details including the numbers of the 28 firearms’ (Type 56 assault rifles) taken from the armoury which was under me,” he remarked.

An eight-man team is one of the basic fighting elements in an Army, comprised of members who have different skills like for an example in fighting and in the use of heavy weaponry.
They were looking to kill a prisoner called Mohamed Shiyam because Gotabaya Rajapaksa had asked for Shiyam’s house in Cinnamon Garden and he had declined despite Gotabaya Rajapaksa having told him to file an appeal in Court after which Shiyam was to have been set free, subsequent to which Shiyam would have to give his house to Gotabaya Rajapaksa, the Official explained. Shiyam is presently in the Mahara Prison.

The Scene of the Crime
“I went for lunch at 1.30 p.m. on 09, November. I had had only two handfuls to eat when I was informed that there was something going on and when I went to the entrance gate they, the STF were there on both sides holding weapons. This was at about 1.40 p.m. I asked who they were and why they had come. They said around 700 had gone in. Forcibly led by Indika Sampath, they had already started searching the L Hall. I asked as to why I had not been consulted. I then asked for a senior Officer. None of them spoke to me. I had no reason to aid them in their search. When queried from the Prison Superintendent, he told me that there was no issue. Then, three of us went to the office and had tea. I told the Prison Superintendent not to go to the side where they were. Ten minutes passed. Then they had gone to the Chapel Ward stating that all the “Wedakarayas (the bigwig criminals)” were there.

When I went, one Muslim Prison Police Officer attached to the Maligawatte Police whom the prisoners called IP Nana said that he had been assaulted. He said that he too was a Police Officer and that it was no problem if we, the Prison officials had hit him but that this was unacceptable.

Another Police Officer of ours too had been assaulted. When I went there the President’s Security Division was there and I asked them what they had to say about not allowing our Officers to do their duty. They stated that they could not do anything but that they had obtained and received permission to come to look for the prisoners they were looking for. They did not say who had given permission and neither did they have anything in writing. I never thought such things would happen. They cannot come in this manner to a department. They cannot question prisoners or anyone in this manner.

Then, prisoners including Warnakulasuriya Palihakkarage Ajith Fernando involved in the Rita John Manoharan rape and murder all said that they did not want to be searched by persons from outside and that if we wanted we could search but if those from outside came they would not allow them to do so and that they would kill them and eat them alive. I told the Army and the STF to go but they said they would not go. I then told that I would tell the Prison Superintendent. They then started using tear gas even inside closed cells. Normally, tear gas is fired to make people flee.

Sri Lankan Defence Ministry Secretary Gotabaya Rajapaksa (C) rides in a jeep with three forces commanders during a Victory Day parade rehearsal in Colombo on May 17, 2013.
Sri Lankan Defence Ministry Secretary Gotabaya Rajapaksa (C) rides in a jeep with three forces commanders during a Victory Day parade rehearsal in Colombo on May 17, 2013.

I vomited several times. My skin felt stingy. Luckily it rained heavily. I shouted at them in filth. A set of prisoners were near the L Hall. The prisoners started throwing rocks, stones and bricks. One hit the wall near me. Even though they stopped throwing once I neared, there was no way to stop this. If they did not fire teargas and had withdrawn, none of this would have happened. After the initial round of tear gas, the STF went outside. Those from outside were the ones who deliberately incited this.

Two prisoners got hit by bullets and the bodies were later placed on top of my office table. Then the prisoners broke the armoury and got on the roof. They went to the dispensary and took drugs after which they became real madmen. They went to the canteen and drank the aerated water bottles. They broke the armoury because the STF shot at the inside while on the outside. None of the prisoners started out having firearms. I inspected the area near the temple with a torch thinking that at least 30 would be dead. Not one was dead. After that the prisoners slept after taking pills. There was one prisoner near the temple holding a T 56 assault rifle. He was shooting at the sky. I gave him a thundering slap and demanded that the weapon be handed over. He gave the weapon and ran. If anyone wanted to runaway they could have easily done so from the other side. I collected some weapons while some were returned. The H Ward, the L Hall and the M Ward were all closed and in others only about 10 or 12 prisoners remained outside. Twice I sent people outside in three wheelers with instructions to not be shot at, nothing happened to them.

Where were the weapons in the three-wheeler they are alleged to have used to shoot from the two side openings in the three-wheeler? While the shooting was going on one prisoner, a bus conductor from Anuradhapura who was taking a call got shot. Two got killed while trying to escape. There was a lot of collateral damage.

The STF killed the prisoners they wanted to kill. All the people they killed were prisoners who had filed cases against those who had ordered their death. They killed all those named in the list. I overheard a conversation between those in the Army – “Gota ge list eka (This is Gotabaya Rajapaksa’s list)”. Some prisoners escaped death by being informed in advance of the Army’s arrival. A lot of the Army is in the underworld.”

Former political prisoner and eyewitness who testified before the C.I.P.I Sudesh Nandimal said that there was another boy who was a drug addict, he was the one who had driven the getaway vehicle in the case of the killing of two monks at the Kotte Rajamaha Viharaya, he was only assaulted and then let go of, after stating “Umba wedak nehe (You are useless to us).” There was a person in Army fatigues called Ranawala, who was also involved, Nandimal added.

Not a riot…
“Wait a minute, wait a minute. If I have a firearm or a weapon on me would you come two feet close to me and shoot?” The senior Prison Official queried.
When the Army officers and the STF personnel attacked the inmates in remand custody, fired tear gas inside cells, they immediately came out of the wards out into the prison grounds. The inmates and the Prison Officials who remained behind came out since it was impossible to stay inside with the tear gas. The main gates were closed. Then only was the armoury broken into. Mostly T-56 firearms that were broken out of the armoury were taken up by the inmates.

Later on after things relatively calmed down the firearms were collected again and according to the State Official who was present for the entire incident he himself had collected all the firearms that were broken out.
According to him that evening there were 28 firearms that were missing from the armoury which he had found and collected from the inmates who had taken them. He had then returned the weapons back to the armoury.

However, he stressed that four out of these 28 weapons that were returned to the armoury were found near bodies of the dead inmates after the Army’s onslaught into the Prison.

“How could the weapons that I returned end up near the inmates?,” he queried. “The weapons were taken back and placed near the inmates who were killed to stage that they had used the firearms, giving the Army a reason to shoot and kill. I recognized the firearms as I had already made a list of the missing firearms and it was then that it occurred to me that the Army had broken into the armoury and had taken the weapons to stage the murder of the inmates.”

To cement these allegations there is photographic evidence of the incident. There were inmates and other officials who took photos of the bodies. One set of the photos show bodies of the inmates; most of them who died due to head injuries caused by bullets. One can see soldiers standing near the bodies and no weapons can be seen near the bodies. However, there is another set of photos which portray the bodies with several weapons lying around. According to the State Official who revealed these details the firearms were staged to create something that never happened.

“The manner in which blood splatter patterns had sprayed on the walls was also different. The initial inquiry into the deaths suggested that the inmates had died due to gunshot wounds fired from a close proximity. The blood splatter patterns which were on the wall were at a mid level point suggesting that the victims before dying were made to kneel down when shots were fired at a point blank range again suggesting that they were executed and terminated with extreme prejudice.”

The State Official said that he had photographic evidence as well as details of the firearms that he collected alongside their registration numbers.
“How could they have shot the inmates at a point blank range if they were armed? Even the inmates who were taking an injured convict to the hospital in a three-wheeler that day did not have any firearms. The official statement was that they came out of the scene shooting at the Army Officers who were outside. This was not a riot. It was an absolute bloodbath and massacre.”

The Kill List
All roads lead to one destination. All fingers point at the same people.
Accusations run from the likes of the Rangajeewa and up as high as Gotabaya Rajapaksa. The State Official who will remain anonymous has said that their involvement in this culling or selective slaughter was not a Prison unrest as outlined in the official statements; but a carefully orchestrated annihilation of people.

“Yes, they were prisoners. And yes, they were incarcerated because they had committed crimes of various degrees. But where is the justice of slaughtering them as if they were animals?,” he questioned.
Twenty seven inmates were killed that evening. Out of this 11 died inside the Prison and 16 died in hospital. And according to the State Official most of the deceased or rather executed inmates had some sort of connection to Rangajeewa who was present with the Army inside the Prison when things went downhill. Eyewitness testimonies record that he was wearing a yellow coloured t-shirt.

The State Official provided a list of names and details of the deceased inmates. The details regarding their incarceration may be the reason behind them being murdered as they are undoubtedly connected to the aforementioned Rangajeewa of the Narcotics.

A. Jothipala a.k.a. Kapila (C L – 17877) had filed a Fundamental Rights case at the courts against Rangajeewa prior to the incarceration. “Kapila was in the drug business. He was made to kneel and shot because he had stated that he preferred to be shot than assaulted. I saw Kapila being taken away. When I was walking with another officer to the storage, Kapila’s body was lying on the side of the road.”

K. Malinda Nimendra Pelpola a.k.a. Marlon (C L – 19844), who is the husband of actress Anusha Sonali had taken up firearms during the incident after the armoury was broken into. He had also picked a fight with an Army Official who initially came to search the Wards with the STF. Later on his body was recovered among others with bullet wounds. Marlon was slapped by the said Army Officer. Marlon too in turn had slapped the Army Officer. “I will not say anything about Marlon’s death. He was going about here and there with a weapon and he even attempted to shoot me. Marlon tried to send me out of the Prison in order to set fire to the Accounts Branch which contained all the details of prisoners, files of Officers, dockets belonging to the Welfare, chargesheets and computers.”

Former Basnayake Nilame of the Vapikaramaya Temple in Galgamuwa in the Kurunegala District Pathirage Harsha Manjushri Manikeerthi Perera a.k.a. Manjushri (R 662) was incarcerated for the murder of two Buddhist monks with a sword. He was also killed during the riot. “Manjushri was found when the Chapel Ward was searched. His arm was broken. He had fallen from the floor of the building he was in. Though not directly, I heard them asking around and looking for who was involved in the killing of two monks at the Kotte Rajamaha Viharaya.”
It was later that the bodies of Marlon, Kapila and Manjushri were piled and dumped in one place.

A weapon was planted near E. Thushara Chandana a.k.a. Kalu Thushara (R 4230)’s body along with another three near those who were killed.

Nirmala Atapattu (R 2350) filed a Fundamental Rights case against Rangajeewa at the Courts. He alleged that Rangajeewa had planted narcotics in his possession prior to his arrest. Atapattu’s father had lodged a complaint at the HRCSL against Gotabaya Rajapaksa and against Rangajeewa. Rangajeewa had called several times ordering the case to be called off.

E. Thushara Chandana a.k.a. Kalu Thushara (R 4230) had brought in a stock of gold alongside some heroin from abroad and was arrested for possession. Although he was incarcerated the arresting Officer, Rangajeewa, had not returned the gold that was taken during the apprehension. Thushara had then filed a complaint against Rangajeewa. The gold had not been produced before Court. His body was among the executed. There are eyewitnesses who say that they saw him being shot after being assaulted in front of Rangajeewa during the incident. He had filed a case at the HRCSL against Rangajeewa.

R. Susantha Perera a.k.a Maalu Susantha (R 1087) who was brought in for a burglary also had a Court case complaint and a HRCSL case against Rangajeewa.

Mohamed Wije Rohana a.k.a. Gundu (C O – 14427) who was involved in drugs also had an issue with Rangajeewa. Once he had taken an incriminating photo of him to which the officer had opposed. Then Wije Rohana’s mother had testified against Rangajeewa for an assault and murder that had taken place in the Magazine Watte. Wije Rohana had called his parents during the incident and had said that they were being killed off one by one.
Devamullage Malikn Sameera Perera a.k.a. Konda Amila (C Q – 21517) was convicted for aiding and abetting in a crime. He was brought into the Prison two days prior to the incident.

His mother Jayasinha Arachchige Malani lodged a complaint at the HRCSL against Lamahewage. “He was shot while in the three-wheeler. Konda Amila knows nothing. He was punished and penalized for possessing a phone in Prison which may have been planted. Because of this he got involved in a verbal spat with the Prison Superintendent Lamahewage and a case was put against him while in remand at the Magazine in Welikada. He had shouted at the Superintendent and the incensed Superintendent had singled him out to be shot.”
A.M. Tissa Kumara (C M – 31136) was brought in for possessing illegal firearms.

T.H. Lester de Silva (C K – 4733) was killed by sniper fire in front of another Prison Guard whilst having a conversation.
M. Salalhudeen Mohamed. Aswerdeen (C Q – 21463) was one of the collateral deaths amongst many others. He was sleeping in the Kitchen Ward when a deflecting bullet, which could have been from a sniper, had hit him and caused his death.

Sixteen including Don Jayantha Pushpakumara (Remand 762), Ramanadan Balaperuma (Remand 1816), Asitha Sanjeewa Dissanayake (Convict Q – 16606), Diluk Sanjeewa Rajapakse (Convict Q – 20701), Sameera Malith Wijesingha (Remand 2403), Sanjeewa/Samantha Fernando (Remand 2019), D.M. Sugath Kumara (Remand 2631), R.A. Janaka Lasantha (Convict Q – 14436), W.T. Asanka Udayakumara (Remand 2768), Liyanarachchige Anura (Convict Q – 21646), Sambu Prasanna de Silva (Remand 604), W.A. Sarath Wijesuriya (Remand 2501), Rathnaweera Patabandige Leslie (Convict Q – 21298), S.P. Thilak Hemachandra a.k.a. P.A. Priyantha (Convict Q – 34159) and Wellage Lalantha Wijesiri (Convict Q – 20041), all died in hospital.
“Major Manamendra Dissanayake who was inside on charges of giving information to the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam against former Deputy Chief of Staff of the Sri Lanka Army Lieutenant General Parami Sugandika Bandara Kulatunga, was hiding upstairs in the L Hall
They took in another person thinking that he was Dissanayake and sent him back. Dissanayake refused to get into the armoured car.”
There was another prisoner going by the alias Ukku who was also killed.
The Yahapalana Govt’s Response
It was Former Associate Justice of the Supreme Court of the United States Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr. who once informed an overzealous young man who found himself in a courtroom that, “This is a Court of Law, not a Court of Justice.”

The C.I.P.I led by retired High Court Judge Nimal Nambuwasam has recommended that steps be taken to initiate fresh criminal investigations, to be conducted by a special team of investigators under the direct command of the Inspector General of Police (IGP), into the matters that have not been taken into consideration with a special focus on alleged violations corresponding to torture and matters that constitutes an offence under Section 162 of the Penal Code (offence in relation to the conduct of a public servant).

Make payments of compensation to the families of the deceased persons and those who were injured in the incident; compensation will be paid only for the people who did not take part in violent activities, the C.I.P.I recommended.

Review unreasonable sentences imposed on the inmates relating to the incident with the view of granting them redress in view of the fact that inmates alone could not be held responsible for the commission of mischief to Prison’s property, the C.I.P.I recommended.

Ensure protection of witnesses who appeared before the C.I.P.I, as some Prison Officers who did, voiced their concern in relation to fear and apprehension since some of the comments are disclosures made against their senior Officers, the C.I.P.I recommended.

Recognize active engagement of Prison staff to subdue and control the situation that prevailed during the aftermath of the search operation with payment of monetary rewards and promotions to next rank as arduous efforts by all officers must be recognized and duly rewarded in the form of monetary rewards as considered appropriate by Prison authorities because some officers have contributed courageously under trying circumstances, the C.I.P.I recommended.
United Nations
The A/HRC/25/23 annual report of the Office of the United Nations (UN) High Commissioner for Human Rights and the report of the UN Secretary-General promoting reconciliation and accountability in Sri Lanka, presented as agenda item two at the Human Rights Council’s 25th session in 24, February 2014, under C., extrajudicial, summary and arbitrary killings, under 24., noted that, ‘On 12, November 2012, the Ministry of Rehabilitation and Prison Reforms appointed a committee to inquire into events in the Welikada Prison on 9, November 2012, when STF personnel conducted a search operation and Army personnel subsequently intervened to control a riot; at least 27 inmates were killed and 43 injured. The committee handed over its report to the Ministry of Rehabilitation and Prison Reforms on 15, January 2014, but it has not been published. According to media reports, it concludes that the prisoners shot each other.’
“I did not tell a word to the Committee appointed by the previous government under former President Mahinda Rajapaksa. I said I did not remember.”
The Prison’s Officials who stayed behind
The only ones present on 09 night and 10, November 2012, inside the Prison were Class I Jailor P.K.W. Kudabandara, Class II Jailor Chanaka Weerasinghe, Warden B.M. Karunaratne, Warden A.N. Dabare, Warden T.S. Welagedara, Warden S.A.D. Udayashantha, Warden M.L.R.E. Fonseka, Warden O.M. Munidasa, Professional Advisor/Consultant W.A. Upul, Store Keeper P.R. De Silva, Overseer S. Sarana Ranjana, Dispenser W.D. Wimalaratne, Warden H.G. Wijesinghe, Warden A.N. Chandrasekara, Warden M. Nimal Shantha, Overseer D.D.N. Pushpakumara, Warden G.N. Samaranayake, Warden K.L. Wimal Shantha, Warden G.H.H. Eranga, Warden G.V.N.C. Gunawardena and Overseer T.A. Punchinilame.
Well over 150 Prison Officials should have been there including the ones who reported to work at 5.30 p.m. on 09 who would have had to wait till early dawn on 10, he said, adding that one Prison Official named Chaminda Perera had been wounded after a stone had hit him and had subsequently been hospitalized.

Of the closing up to 182 officers who were supposed to be in Prison, only 21 remained. The others had fled. They were all supposed to be on duty.

“When I informed my higher Officers including Prison Superintendent Gamini Jayasinghe to intervene, they did not and instead ordered me to wait where I was.”
Nandimal remarked that when there was nothing left to do, violating laws, he himself had given a call to Jayasinghe who had told him and the others with him to wait with Kudabandara and to not go anywhere.
“When Kalu Thushara, was being shot, Kodippili was there. ‘Sir, do not kill me. I have two daughters,’ Thushara shouted. Kodippili just laughed and said that it was the end of Kalu Thushara too – “Kalu Thusharath ewarai”. Jayasinghe on the other hand when contacted was in mortal fear at the time. Those outside knew that these prisoners would be killed. All those who fled have received promotions,” the Prison Official observed.

Fleeing can be construed as aiding and abetting in the crime, both, directly and indirectly or as professional negligence.

Of his time in one of Siberia’s penal labour camps, Russian novelist Fyodor Dostoyevsky wrote that “The degree of civilization in a society can be judged by entering its prisons.” It is highly doubtful that civility was what was being extended to the prisoners and inflicted by the State’s protectors of public order including the despotic Mahinda Rajapaksa, the trigger happy thug Gotabaya Rajapaksa, Rangajeewa, Indika Sampath, Lamahewage, Nimal Shantha, former Minister of Rehabilitation and Prison Reforms Chandrasiri Gajadeera, Kodippili and Ranawala. That their choice was violence and that they actively chose it is exemplified by this exercise in pure, brutally banal evil and sickening wickedness. By bandying the term riot or calling the State’s or then government’s slaying of prisoners a quelling of disquietude, and thereby contriving the punishing act of killing to have been within the confines of the law is to only affirm in light of the material evidence that has come to light through material witnesses, both dead and alive, what the senior Prison official who testified is quoted as saying, “To kill whom they wanted, they killed those they did not want. This was to give the impression of a riot.” With the exception of two prisoners, none of those boarded in Welikada despite the ample opportunities to do so, had attempted to escape the caged world hospitality of the Welikada Prison.

The Right to Information has now been enshrined within the 19th Amendment to the Constitution. We demand that Executive President Maithripala Sirisena and the predominantly United National Party Cabinet shadow government led by Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe immediately release the C.I.P.I report. Minister of Justice Wijeyadasa Rajapaksha and IGP N.K. Illangakoon too must work in this regard. Regarding the inquests into the deaths, an open verdict has been given. Mohamed Wije Rohana, whose body was found riddled with bullets, contains wounds symptomatic of those caused by gunfire at close, point-blank range, to the head and thus, the exhumation of Wije Rohana’s body could reveal that he was indeed shot and killed, execution style, a matter regarding which, the senior Prison official said he was “Seeyata (100%) Daahak (1,000%) sure.” We demand that his body be exhumed as his parents too have consented to this. A Magistrate can order this.

The Savage of Aldous Huxley’s Brave New World nodded, frowning. “You got rid of them. Yes, that’s just like you. Getting rid of everything unpleasant instead of learning to put up with it.”

Despite being contacted several times by Ceylon Today, Gotabaya Rajapaksa was not available for a comment.

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