Firebrand UNP politician Palitha Range Bandara yesterday charged that his house was set on fire and destroyed because he was spearheading a campaign to expose a “king’s palace” being built in Deniyaya.
In an interview with The Sunday Times, the policeman-turned-Puttalam-district parliamentarian also charged that the police were making little or no effort to arrest the culprits though they knew who they were.
|Mr. Range Bandara inspecting the damage to his residence
“The goons who took part in the arson attack are roaming freely. The police are aware of their identities and whereabouts, but they won’t arrest them. One suspect who suffered burn injuries during the attack is hiding in a house at Arachikattuwa,” Mr. Range Bandara said.
He said he visited the south not only to take part in election campaign work and but also to check on reports on the so-called king’s palace -- also known as the ‘Beverly Estate’ in Deniyaya
“My actions would have irritated certain quarters and prompted the arson attack on my Anamaduwa private residence on Sunday night,” he said.
Claiming that the damage caused to the house exceeded Rs. 10 million, Mr. Range Bandara alleged that the Fire Brigade did not turn up at the scene though his supporters called them several times on the emergency number. “I was helpless. I was in Deniyaya. I told my supporters to use buckets of water to douse the fire.”
He also said UNP leader Ranil Wickremesinghe and deputy leader Karu Jayasuriya visited the scene and assured that the party would pursue the matter till justice was done. The visiting UNP leaders together with Mr. Range Bandara and his supporters held a Satyagraha outside the fire-damaged house. Some of Mr. Range-Bandara’s supporters went to the Aiyanayake temple and broke coconuts invoking divine punishment on the perpetrators.
Explaining what prompted the opposition UNP to launch the Deniyaya walk aimed at finding what the party called “the truth about the construction”, Mr. Range Bandara said it was a challenge Youth Affairs Minister Pavithra Wanniarachchi threw at the opposition in Parliament recently that prompted the UNP to undertake the march, which, however, ended in a clash.
|UNP leaders at the Satyagraha outside Mr. Range Bandara’s fire- damaged househouse
“Minister Wanniarachchi said the construction work was related to a kovil and vowed to quit parliament if she was proved otherwise. As responsible opposition MPs, we felt we must check on the minister’s claim and decided to go to the construction site in Deniyaya on October 04.
“But what we found there was a mansion being built and well-paved gardens with flowers in full bloom. We also saw a helicopter pad, But we did not see any signs of a kovil being built,” Mr. Range Bandara said.
He alleged that the multi-million-rupee mansion on a 200-acre estate was being built for a close relative of President Mahinda Rajapaksa.
Mr. Range Bandara said the march led by UNP General Secretary Tissa Attanayake, parliamentarian Sagala Ratnayake, him and others was disrupted by goons, some of whom were drunk.
“We refused to budge and told them that we were marching on a public road and not trespassing into anyone’s private property. But they were not in a mood to listen to us.
“This led to a heated stand-off between the mob and the marchers. They prevented us from leaving the area.” Mr. Range Bandara said adding that Justice Minister Dilan Perera and several media people were present when it all happened.
The UNP politician said that on the road to the “Deniyaya Palace”, they saw a bridge that earlier had iron sheets had been fully repaired.
He said when they proceeded along the road, they found piles of stones being placed apparently in a bid to stop the march.
Mr. Range Bandara said that he then got into a motorcycle and proceeded to see whether the marchers and their vehicles could proceed and this journey led him to see for himself the “huge house” that was being built.
“I was met by one Thusitha Ranawaka, who introduced himself as the owner of the house. He asked me to come inside for a cup of tea, but I turned down the invitation saying that the rest of the marchers were still coming,” he said.
Mr. Bandara said he later learnt that a mob had come and blocked the road with lorries parked across. The UNP’s Anamaduwa stalwart charged that Minister Dilan Perera brought the group that assaulted the marchers.
Mr. Perera, however, denied the charge, saying he went there to sort out the dispute when he heard of the standoff. He also said that the march was aimed at slinging mud at Preisdent Rjajapaksa’s brother-in-law.
Mr. Range Bandara said they tried to lodge a complaint with the Deniyaya Police but the officers on duty refused to entertain it. “So we filed a complaint at the police headquarters, but so far no action has been taken,” Mr. Range Bandara said.