Justice Killed
By Chris Kamalendran and Mahangu Weerasinghe
Failure of the Police to provide adequate protection to judges was highlighted and allegations of manipulation of evidence surfaced as the investigation into the killing of High Court Judge Sarath Ambepitiya and his MSD guard continued yesterday.

The Police log book at the residence of the judge had been removed soon after the incident and returned later, allegedly after it was tampered with, the investigators were told.

The family members of the slain judge told Colombo Crime Division investigators led by SSP Sarath Lugoda that protection given to them was inadequate and on certain days Police officers assigned to guard the residence did not turn up.

SSP Lugoda told The Sunday Times that they had questioned the driver of the cab in which the assassins had arrived. According to the driver, the assassin had booked the cab from Maradana, saying they had to go to Moratuwa. After getting into the vehicle, the killers had asked him to go to Sarana Road in Colombo 7 where the judge lived. The SSP said the killers were drunk and one of them had even vomited before they arrived at the judge's residence. The cab driver had told the Police that the killers had waited for half an hour near the judge's residence till he arrived. Besides the CCD team, four more Police teams have been assigned by IGP Chandra Fernando to track down the killers. Stringent security measures for judges were discussed at a high level meeting mid this year after an intruder attempted to molest a female High Court judge. Former IGP Indra de Silva and Bar Association representatives were among those who attended the meeting, presided by Justice Minister John Seneviratne. Among the measures discussed were providing full security to judges and establishing a unit similar to the MSD or PSD to protect judges.

Two months back High Court judges and District Court judges had met at Mr. Ambepitiya's chambers where they had discussed security measures. The meeting was attended by an Assistant Superintendent of Police and the OIC for Keselwatte. They also discussed security measures within the courts complex. Mr. Ambeypitiya had left courts at about 3.25 p.m. and had just reached home where he was shot. He had stepped out from the front seat of the car and was reaching out for some of his belongings from the back seat when the attackers opened fire killing him on the spot. His bodyguard, IP R.A. Upali had been shot from behind. His body lay sprawled on the ground and the boot remained open. IP Upali took two shots from a 9 mm weapon. The vehicle, a white Mazda van, 253 - 0882, was found opposite the Elvitigala Flats in Narahenpita at about 5.45 p.m.

Mrs. Ambepitiya charged that Police had taken far too long to arrive at the scene. "They took over half an hour to get here. When they did come they gave a feeble excuse for their delay saying they thought they were looking for the house of Minister Sarath Amunugama," said a tearful Mrs. Ambepitiya.

A senior judge told The Sunday Times that judges were not given adequate protection. "The government needs to take steps to give better protection to the judiciary so that they can carry out their duties to the best of their abilities."

Mr. Ambepitiya who had celebrated his 58th birthday the day before had joined his wife and 13-year-old son on a visit to the Kelaniya temple to mark the event. Judge Ambepitiya, an old boy of Royal College joined the judiciary 27 years ago and served in many parts of the island as a Magistrate. He later became Chief Magistrate, Colombo and Additional District Judge, Colombo. His first posting as a High Court Judge was in Galle after which he was appointed as a High Court Judge in Colombo. As one of the most senior Judges of the High Court, Mr. Ambepitiya was expected to be promoted to the Court of Appeal shortly. The Sunday Times learns that the judge was thus clearing up his stack of cases, and that many had been fixed for judgment in the next few weeks.

He was due to sit in the Trial-at-Bar due to commence sittings on the Mirrussuvil massacre where nine soldiers were charged for the killing of eight civilians.

Assassins dash IP's retirement plans
By Sachithra Mahendra
The slain High Court judge's body guard, who was acting as the driver on that fateful day, was planning to retire on February 15 next year following his 55th birthday, said his grieving wife yesterday.

Ministerial Security Division Inspector Upali Bandara was shot dead along with High Court Judge Sarath Ambepitiya on Friday. Upali Bandara's wife Tilaka Kumari told The Sunday Times that her husband had been a vegetarian and a teetotaller for the last five years and wanted to devote himself to religious activities after retirement.

"His first obligation was to his job and next to religion. He took leave at least once a week to visit a monastery in Kosgama, introduced to him by Judge Ambepitiya. He did not miss a single Poya day. He was planning to get ordained after all our daughters are married," Tilaka Kumari said.

According to Mrs. Kumari, Inspector Bandara used to wake up every morning at 3.00 am to meditate for two hours before starting the day. He had a separate abode built recently at the Kosgama monastery, she added.

The shocked parents, wife and three daughters of the deceased were awaiting the arrival of the body. Two elder daughters of Mr. Bandara were married, while the youngest was engaged.

"My husband was not the usual driver to Judge Ambepitiya but was the bodyguard. The judge's wife or a friend of his used to drive the car most of the time. Unfortunately on this fateful day he happened to drive the car", Mrs. Kumari said.

"At least a couple of guards in the car to watch the surroundings would have prevented this tragedy. I asked him to stay at home that day as he looked unusually tired. But he was too loyal to his duties", Mrs. Kumari lamented. Mr. Bandara counts a service of 24 years with the Police.

UNP condemns killings
Condemning the killing of High Court Judge Sarath Ambepitiya, the UNP has appealed to the President to "pay serious attention" and "ensure that the basic needs of the community, at least in respect of life and limb, are fulfilled by the Government".

While extending its sympathy to the wife and family of the slain judge and of the Ministerial Security Division officer R.A. Upali, the UNP said the fate of the respected judge showed society's collective calamity.

The UNP further stated that for the first time in Lanka's history a judge had been assassinated, and regretted that a Judicial Officer administering justice with honour and according to his conscience had fallen victim to an assassin's bullet.

This represented a collapse of the judicial system, where Judges could no longer perform their official duties in an atmosphere free of fear and intimidation. It was regrettable that judges, when presiding over dangerous trials, were compelled to consider the effects of their verdicts on their own safety, the UNP stated.

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