Sanjeewa's killing raises fears of violent polls
By Chris Kamalendran
The sensational killing of the notorious (Presidential Security Division)
PSD thug Dhanushka Perera alias Beddagana Sanjeewa took a political twist
yesterday with evidence emerging that another underworld gang member closely
working with a politician had travelled in the same vehicle.
The disclosure raised alarms of a deadly new dimension to the general
election campaign with three deaths, more than 50 being injured and the
number of election-related incidents of violence soaring beyond 250.
Sanjeewa providing presidential security
The events gave rise to fears that the current campaign might plunge
into the most violent in recent times.
Detectives probing Sanjeewa's killing told The Sunday Times evidence
had emerged that an underworld operator had left from a location in Pitakotte
just before the killing of Sanjeewa while he was driving his superluxury
vehicle at a cross street off Pagoda road in Nugegoda on Friday night.
According to investigations, the killer had been travelling in the back
seat of Sanjeewa's vehicle and had fired point blank from behind before
getting away. Two others were also in the luxury Toyota jeep which is valued
at about eight million rupees.
Police are looking for the killer and the other two but no significant
progress had been made by yesterday
According to detectives, Sanjeewa was talking to a female associate
on his mobile phone when he was slain. The female friend on the phone had
reportedly heard the gunshots and alerted Sanjeewa's friends who rushed
to the scene and took him to the Kalubowila hospital.
This female associate was later identified as Vanessa Selvaratnam who
emerged into the spotlight four years ago over the Casino killing of Papua
New Guinea ruggerite Joel Pera in a case that also allegedly involved Minister
Anuruddha Ratwatte's son Lohan.
Ms. Selvaratnam later appeared at the Kalubowila hospital where a magistrate
held an inquiry on Sanjeewa's death. She was among those who identifed
the body of Sanjeewa at the hospital morgue. The magistrate making inquiries
into who would accept the body asked whether Venessa was legally married
to Sanjeewa, but she said she was not officially married.
Thereafter Sanjeewa's father said he was taking over the body.
The detectives said that on searching the vehicle, they found a pistol
apparently used by Sanjeewa, two passports, a cellular phone and some cash.
Sanjeewa has allegedly been involved in several headline-hitting cases,
including the killing of a Sinhala tabloid editor Rohana Kumara, attacks
on journalists and political opponents.
When attempts were made to arrest him on one occasion, PSD Chief Nihal
Karunaratna had allegedly intervened to prevent it.
In the first major incident of the current campaign, UNP supporter Lionel
Rodrigo died after being assaulted allegedly by a gang, including former
minister and Gampaha strongman Reggie Ranatunga. Police on Friday moved
into arrest Mr. Ranatunga who had warded himself in a private hospital.
He has now been moved to the National Hospital Colombo where he is under
the custody of prison officials and remanded until November 15.
But in an apparent show of defiance yesterday afternoon, PA supporters
led by Provincial Councillor Prasanna Ranatunga, eldest son of Mr. Ranatunga,
held a motor car procession through the Minuwangoda area.
They briefly stopped in front of UNP candidate Mahen Gunasekara's residence
and fired a few shots into the air.
While the strongarm tactics continue, the Rodrigo family is still in
"My son had been returning from work when a group of UNP supporters
had stopped him and wanted him to help in decorating the place.
It was late in the night when I was told that Lionel had been injured
in an attack," Lionel's father told The Sunday Times.
Mr. Rodrigo, the father of a five-year-old daughter, incidentally was
employed as a driver at Ranatunga motors at Udugampola in which the Ranatunga
family owns shares. He earlier worked as a driver in the CTB and took over
the new job only six months ago.
According to eyewitnesses, around 10.30 p.m. they were decorating the
roads in the Pethiyagoda area of Gampaha when persons in two vehicles came
there and challenged them and wanted to know how they could decorate the
area which they said was a PA stronghold.
The eyewitnesses who did not want to be named said that Mr. Ranatunga
was among those allegedly involved in the attack and said Lionel had been
hit with a pole.
"Almost all of us ran away when we found that they were attacking us
When we returned Lionel was bleeding and we had no way of taking him
to hospital. It took one hour for us to get a vehicle and take him to hospital,"
Apparently, immediately before the attack on Mr. Rodrigo and others
the same group including Mr. Ranatunga was involved in a separate attack
on a group of UNP supporters.
The parish priest of the church, Fr. Angelo Wijesinghe, was an eyewitness
to the incident.
Fr. Wijesinghe told The Sunday Times he heard screams and when he came
out of the church he saw Mr. Ranatunga and some of his bodyguards assaulting
a group of people decorating the area.
He walked up to the place and told them not to assault people, but in
return the group had turned abusive and then left.
Two days later Mr. Ranatunga personally called over at the church and
apologised to the priest about the incident, Fr. Wijesinghe said.
Urban Council member K. L. G. Perera was allegedly assaulted by the
gang. Mr. Perera showed us the shirt he was wearing at the time of the
alleged assault and it had a tell-tale mark of how he was trampled and
Another polls-related killing took place in Chilaw where a UNP supporter
was killed allegedly by PA thugs though police are saying it was a personal
vendetta over a woman.
In the clashes, at least 16 people were injured in two incidents in
Ampara and Thalawa near Anuradhapura district where the PA held its inaugural
rally on Friday.
In the Thalawa incident, the PA-controlled Pradeshiya Sabha chairman
K.D. Siripala has been arrested over attacks where at least seven people
were injured and properties damaged.
Little glitter in golden handshake
By Tania Fernando
Inadequate EPF laws have resulted in the non-payment of EPF dues to staff
of SriLankan Airlines who accepted the Voluntary Retirement Scheme (VRS)
offered by the company.
At the time the airline offered its staff the VRS package it had indicated
that they would be paid their EPF dues. However, according to Commissioner
General of Labour Mahinda Madihahewa, the airline had failed to get permission
from the department.
"We paid EPF dues to the airline staff at the time Emirates took over
and retrenched some of the staff", Mr. Madihahewa said, adding that the
airline has appealed to the minister, but no decision has been made.
The EPF law states that companies retrenching staff cannot pay EPF dues
to such staff unless they are government organizations being privatised.
Airline sources said that though the staff who accepted the VRS left
in July, after the attack at Katunayake, they are yet to receive their
They also said that some of the staff members are planning to seek legal
advice regarding the matter. However, the company has assured them the
monies will be paid, but no specific date has been given.
SriLankan Airlines is a private company now and as such without the
amendment of the EPF laws its not possible to pay the EPF, Mr. Madihahewa
"It did not get approval from us before offering the package with EPF
dues to its staff", he said.
He said the only time EPF dues will be paid after retrenchment is when
a government organization is being privatized.
Meanwhile, SriLankan Airlines spokesperson said the matter is being
processed and the monies will be paid.
No to polythene, says SU
As at the last polls, the Sihala Urumaya has pledged to refrain from using
polythene in its campaign for the December 5 general election.
The party said that it would stick to its policy of not using polythene
for its campaigning and would request other parties also to follow suit.
On the day nominations closed the Colombo District Returning Officer
had made a request from all parties to refrain from using polythene in
their campaign, the Sihala Urumaya said.
At a meeting of all the registered parties with the Elections Commissioner
on Friday evening, a leaflet issued by an environmentalist requesting the
parties to refrain from using polythene in their campaign was distributed
to all parties and independent groups.