Informed sources reveal that the Inspector General of Police, the Presidential Secretariat, the Prime Minister’s office and the Ministry of Defence, Public Security, law and order were informed of the alleged crimes committed by the gang led by Champika as far back as June 2008.
Villagers state that if relevant authorities had taken action after the information was provided in this instance, Champika would not have been able to commit the crimes he had allegedly committed during the five years that followed.
In repeated letters to all authorities Lakshmi Jeheran, one of the victims had in detail specified the extent to which the Police had played subservience to Champika.
“The Deraniyagala Police did not take any action against the Pradeshiya Sabha Chairman and his associates. Using Political patronage he used youth in the area to commit a vast amount of crimes during this time including rape, robbery, and sale of drugs among many others. He uses the innocence of these people to continue with his crimes without any fear of consequences” she wrote.
She further wrote in her eight- page letter that the law never applied to him.
“The law never did anything against him because senior police officials are paid loads of money and given other valuable material goods by him” she alleged in a letter dated June 10, 2008.
In her letter, Jeheran stated how her house was burnt and bombed and subsequently how her husband and brother were remanded by the Deraniyagala Police OIC Tissa Gunathilake after they had suffered at the hands of the former PS Chairman.
“One day they brutally assaulted my husband and my brother and I called 119 to inform them of this immediately. I called the Deraniyagala Police as well because I wanted to rush these two to the hospital. OIC Tissa Gunathilake and another two Police officials came to my house in a jeep and took them saying that they would be taken to hospital” she wrote.
The horror for the family continues thereafter.
“OIC Tissa Gunathilake and another two men including Inspector Galapatha came to my house and took my husband and brother in the jeep. They said that they would be taken to hospital. But instead both were taken to the Deraniyagala Police station and were in remand for 19 days” she writes.
In the letter copied to all relevant authorities written on 10 June 2008, Jeheran states that once the two men were in remand, Champika and his gang of about 40 burnt her house and her paternal home with no sympathy.
“Even after that the Police did not do anything, the Senior Police officials were all working hand in glove with these criminals” she wrote.
The replies received from The Inspector General of Police, The Presidential Secretariat, and the Prime Minister’s office and the Ministry of Defence directing the relevant Police divisions to take action are also available.
Thus, the conclusion that all relevant authorities were made aware of the situation in Noori –Deraniyagala, and had confined thier attention to issuing “Directives to the Police”.
Udeshika Sirikumara, another victim of Champika told that she was forced to jump from her two-storey house while she was pregnant with her now three year old daughter.
“We suffered at the hands of these murderers. One day about 40 of them came home and burnt down the shop and my house which was adjoining it. I had to jump from the second floor of the building, when I was seven months pregnant” she said.
She also explained how repeated attempts to make a complaint at the Police station proved futile.
“OIC Tissa Gunathilake did not even take our complaints down, that was the extent to which he used Maheepala Herath’s political influence” she said tearfully.
The village comprises many victims of rape, gang rape, slavery and extortion among many other crimes, who are unwilling to speak out in fear of reprisal.
The victims who are speaking out are either victims who have nothing more to lose, or the ones brave enough to face the consequences of such revelation.
A female who could not speak from birth showed her left hand when inquired as to who the father of the child was. Villagers described how she was allegedly raped by ‘ Athakota’ previously. She has not married and continues to suffer as a result of the crime.
Other villagers who were allegedly raped or gang raped fear social consequences and want to bury their past.
“I used to hug my children when I heard screams, this happened very regularly. I could hear females scream; sometimes there were many men who sang songs when this was happening. They bring three wheelers and turn on loud music on other days. It was a party for them” a mother of two living below the alleged “rape centre” told us.
The alleged rapes had taken place in the village dispensary right above her house. The perpetrators had used the dispensary to satisfy their canal needs, out of which some of the stories were detailed previously.
Each and every villager we randomly spoke to, told us that Athakota was acting under the patronage of Chief Minister Maheepala Herath, his son Kanaka Herath and current Deputy Minister H.R Mithrapala.
“They came in Mithrapala’s black Pajero when they attacked our house the second time” Sirikumar told .
We learnt that the Kegalle SSP at the time was also in full knowledge of the situation since 2008, but had only confined his action to sending out ‘instructions’ and reports, after he was directed by officials to ‘take action’ subsequent to Jeherans letters.
Two victims who spoke detailed how they had informed all Police divisions in the area, with officials as high ranking as SSP’s being made aware of the situation in Noori.
we were told that Senior Police officers including Senior DIG Lalith Jayasinghe who was previously transferred from the Southern Province is said to have been aware of the heinous crimes committed by the gang.
“ They knew about it sir, we begged all of them for help but they didn’t do a thing. They all had Maheepala Herath’s influence so they didn’t do anything. We suffered all these years because of this with no place to go to. We are poor people, where else have we to go except the police station. All we could do was write letters and hope that we won’t be the next victim” villagers told in unison after the village gathering on Sunday.
The facts seem too far fetched to comprehend that the alleged acts, and the extent to which the subservience of the police stretches to, is in fact real, and took place in modern day Sri Lanka.
Many of the victims which include 300 families have fled the area due to the lack of any other option with all their pleas falling on deaf ears. Many others aren’t willing to speak of the horror story, but many feel relieved and are willing at least in small numbers to recall the injustice and terror.
The Chief incumbent priest of the village Sugathabimbarama Ven.Galapana Sumathipala Thera and the Kovil Kurukkal Sivasiri Thadevan bear witness to many of the alleged crimes. The Chief Priest detailed how he hid a person from the gang who they were hunting for his blood.
“I had to hide him, if not they would have killed him. I switched off all the lights and hid him.” he said.
When we spoke to the victim whose life was saved by the Chief Priest, he said that he spoke to every authority including the Chief Minister Maheepala Herath.
“Herath said he needed both Athakota and us, therefore he wanted us to look after ourselves (Mata Athakotawath one, umbalawath one- umbala degollo oya prashne beraganing)” he had allegedly said according to the victim who didn’t wish to be identified and is currently living in hiding while being employed at a state corporation.
The atrocities continued until the murder of Estate Superintendant Nihal Perera on July 5 2013, five years after the written complaints to all relevant authorities factually stating the crimes that were occurring at the behest of Anil Champika, the former Chairman of the Pradeshiya Sabha.
This was an ‘uncleared’ area – Ven. Galapana Sumathipala Nayaka Thero
“I said that Noori and Basnagala were uncleared areas referring to the areas which were under LTTE before the army liberated them”
The Chief Priest Ven. Galapana Sumathipala Nayaka Thero said the police were completely responsible for the complete breakdown of the law and order in the area.
“One day I protected a young man who ran into the temple fearing for his life. He was followed by gang members of former PS chairman Anil Champika. They were armed with knives and iron bars. They came and told me that the youth had attacked the PS chairman which was lie and called for his blood,” the monk said.
“I did not allow them to take the boy and I hid him because I did not want to allow them to kill him,’
At this instance I called the police station in the area and explained the situation that the aides of Champika were trying to kill this youth.
“One of the senior officers who picked the phone asked me whether they should come here,” the monk said describing the attitude of the police who were allegedly influenced by area politicians.
The Thera said that he was told that Champika had scolded him in public because he criticised the terror unleashed in the village.
“During a Bana sermon, I said that Noori and Basnagala were uncleared areas referring to the areas which were under LTTE before the army liberated them. Because I said this I was told that Champika had scolded me in public.”
Police themselves tarnished the image of their uniform – Rtd. Army Officer U. L. Chandrasena
“It is only because the STF is here that people are coming out like this without fear”
“The police are completely responsible for tarnishing the image of the uniform,” alleged U. L. Chandrasena, retired Sergeant Major attached to Sri Lanka Army.
Chandrasena, a manager of a private tea estate, is now bringing the villagers together to fight against the terror that engulfed the area and is working for justice for crimes allegedly committed during the “terror reign”
“The people in this area do not have any faith in the police or any regard for the police uniform,” he said.
“We have seen the policemen in uniform being punished and made to kneel down before this gang. A new policeman who did not know the situation had arrested some of these gang members for gambling and he was publicly punished.
“I saw for myself how a constable in uniform was held by his neck and had his head thrashed against the bonnet of the police vehicle, and how Atha Kota scolded the Inspector in utter filth,” the retired Army Officer said.
Atha Kota threatened the Inspector “You better know that you are here because of me,” He said the Police did not bother to even entertain a complaint against the alleged criminals nor had they reported such obstruction.
“If that had been done at that time, this situation would not have gone to such an extent. Imagine what the fate of ordinary villagers are if this was how uniformed Policemen worked and were treated,” he said.
“It is only because the STF is here that people are coming out like this without fear” he said insisting on a permanent STF base in the village.
Outsiders entering the village were attacked – Hindu priest Sivasiri Thandaven Selvaindhiran
“A large number of families whom I had conducted religious functions for, left the area in fear”
The Hindu priest Sivasiri Thandaven Selvaindhiran said the gang led by former Pradeshiya Sabha Chairman, prevented any outsiders from coming to the village even for a religious function or a wedding ceremony.
“When outsiders come for a function these people forcibly go there and attack, loot and assault them,” the priest said.
“Most of the people especially Tamils in the area do not hold any functions in the village as these thugs come and destroy them,” he said.
He also claimed that a large area of lands that belong to innocent Tamil estate workers had been forcibly taken by this gang and handed over to their supporters. “A large number of families whom I had conducted religious functions for, left the area in fear,” he claimed.
The family members of former Pradeshiya Sabha Chairman have allegedly opened an illicit liquor shop in close proximity to the Kovil and religious functions held in the Kovil were continually disturbed by drunkards.
“Every evening, drunkards shout here disturbing the devotees who come to the Kovil,” he said among many other ‘stories’.
Questionable conduct of the Senior DIG?
Informed sources questioned the summoning of Seethawaka Range ASP D.J. Athulathmudali to Ratnapura on Tuesday by Sabaragamuwa Province Senior DIG Lalith Jayasinghe. Sources said they suspected that moves were afoot to ‘cover up’ the ongoing investigations into the atrocities committed in Noori- Deraniyagala.
When contacted ASP Athulathmudali confirmed that a meeting was held but denied allegations of a cover up.
“I went to meet the Senior DIG for a service requirement and it has nothing to do with the ongoing investigations,” he said. Earlier it was reported that Senior DIG Lalith Jayasinghe had summoned six Police OICs for a meeting, a week after the killing of the Noori Estate Superintendant Nihal Perera.
At the meeting attended by the Chief Minister and local politicians, the Senior DIG had reportedly told his subordinates that the police were “duty bound to protect local politicians who are the government” . During the meeting which was called a week after the brutal murder of Nihal Perera, no mention was made regarding the murder according to sources.
Sources also claimed that the Senior DIG provided cover to many alleged crimes committed by local politicians in the area.
The entire village on Sunday signed a petition urging the President and Defence Secretary Gotabaya Rajapaksa to take action against the perpetrators. In the petition, the villagers referred to the political patronage provided by Chief Minister Maheepala Herath to Athakota.