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Who is Negombo’s Godfather?

26 August 2014 07:01 pm - 2     - {{hitsCtrl.values.hits}}

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Negombo, a city well-known as a traditional hot spot for tourists, has now become a battle ground for two area politicians of the ruling United People’s Freedom Alliance (UPFA). Throwing allegations of heroin smuggling, extortion, prostitution and thuggery at each other, Deputy Fisheries Minister Sarath Gunaratne and Western Provincial Minister Nimal Lanza take turns highlighting the others faults and tell us why they are more popular among the voters.


Q There have been reports that a relative of a politician is ruling Negombo. Is that you?

No, that is not me. I sent a detailed letter regarding this to the Secretary of the Ministry of Law and Order. I am opposed to any sort of wrongdoing and malpractices. I have used pistols against those who tried to terrorize innocent people. But I have never done any harm to those who are innocent.

Q Have you heard about ransom demands that have been taking place in the Negombo area?

This has not started recently. It has been happening for years and was reported in the media as well. I have kept the government
informed about such happenings but what I don’t understand is why nothing has been done about it. People are alleging that persons in the higher echelons of power are supporting these wrongdoings. I have even taken these issues up with the religious leaders in the Negombo area. There is a strong opposition to these acts in Negombo, but people are scared because of certain individuals involved. There is a particular area which is like the fort of this political stooge. Some people refer to him as the ‘Godfather.’


"I have informed the party hierarchy and the security units about it Heroin smuggling to Negombo. We have a CID in this country, we have special units to fight this kind of crime so they should take some action"



Q It seems that you are the organiser for Negombo for the namesake and someone else has the power over Negombo?

I too see this at times. I had some political issues recently. Even our own party has been divided. But now I have realised with whom the people are. A large number of people have rallied around me.
I don’t know if the police are also involved with what is happening in Negombo. People are simply disgusted with the situation. I don’t know why it has not stopped yet.

Q  Most people now associate Negombo with drugs and ganja. That is not good for your image, isn’t it? Haven’t you brought this to the attention of the party officials?


Yes, it is very regrettable. I have informed the party hierarchy and the security units about it. We have a CID in this country, we have special units to fight this kind of crime so they should take some action. These things are happening in plain sight. It is not enough to jail some poor man; some action should be taken against the people running these operations.
An area in Negombo has been taken over by certain persons. They have put up illegal constructions in this area. It has become a fort of the politicians’ relatives. A swimming pool has been constructed recently and rented out. If I don’t say these things in public, in the end I will be the one accused of doing such things.

Q So isn’t there a police force in Negombo?

I have no idea. I fear that these people are aided by the highest ranking politicians in the country because they throw around the names of people we should all respect. So the police must be afraid to take any action against them as well.

Q There are musical shows being held on the Negombo Beach. Who gets part of the revenue? Is it the Negombo Urban Council or some political goons?

The income doesn’t go to the Urban Council. This is raising major issues and unanswered questions. Some of the politicians have become millionaires now. Those who used to travel around on bicycles are now swimming in money. This is because they have managed to crush those who are loyal to the party and have risen to the top by hook or by crook. This is not happening not only in Negombo; this is taking place everywhere.

Q  Who has the authority to issue parking tickets in the vehicle parks situated in the Negombo area?

I don’t know who holds that authority, but people complain that they cannot even run a simple errand without paying money for parking.
Urban Councillors were very silent in the past. I met them after the PC elections. I told the mayor that politics means that you are doing a service to the people, and I requested him to look into these illegal practices and inform Defence Secretary Gotabaya Rajapaksa about it so that we can make Negombo City a beautiful place to live in once again. The President has allocated a huge sum of money to beautify the Negombo Lagoon which is a project that is progressing well. I saw the destruction done to the lagoon with my own eyes. People are afraid to come forward because they believe that there is no point in telling their woes to officials and the police.

Q Is taking over land by force the latest racket to hit Negombo?

People are afraid that a certain group of people will claim ownership of the Negombo Beach. I have questioned the authorities and the police about this matter.

Q Do you know that there are brothels in Negombo being run under the guise of Ayurvedic Spas?

This comes under the directive of the police. I don’t know who the police are afraid of. Even recently such a place opened up and I informed the Kochchikade police. The owners of these places were the ‘Godfathers’.

Q Are you afraid of these new politicians?

No, they cannot terrorise me. I am ready to confront anyone who is involved in misdeeds using terror tactics. If they were from the opposition I am ready to face them, but I don’t want to use pistols against people from my own party. I don’t know why the party officials are not looking into these complaints.

Q What will happen to Negombo if these things don’t stop?

If this continues Negombo will become a drug capital. The younger generation will have to face the brunt of this. People will soon take to the streets if this continues.




 

A series of articles had appeared in the media recently highlighting several illegal acts that were being committed in Negombo. Replying to our queries the deputy minister of fisheries and a prominent politico of Negombo, Sarath Kumara Guneratne, claimed that these were the acts of the Godfather. In our quest to identify who this Godfather was, we were directed to raise this issue with Western Provincial Council Minister Nimal Lanza. The interview we had with WPC Minister Nimal Lanza appears below.


 

Q  When did you enter politics ?


I entered politics in 1993. In 1993 I contested the Municipal Council election in Negombo. I came second in the preferential list and when Ananda Munasinghe, the former mayor became an MP in 2000, I was appointed in his place. When the UNP was in power in 2001 I was the opposition leader. I obtained the highest number of preferential votes in the island and was made a minister in the council. This trend continued and in 2014 I again obtained the second highest preference votes and presently I continue to perform as a Provincial Council Minister.

Q  Why weren’t you given a post by the party you represent?

I am the organiser for the Gampaha District

Q  There is a charge that extortion is rampant in Negombo. Why have you been given the nickname ‘Godfather of Negombo’?

I am a novice in the world of politics. The people of Negombo knows about me. It was I who converted Negombo City from a stinking mess into a beautiful city we could be proud of. As a result the people have placed their trust in me and my preference votes have increased from a mere 4000 into hundreds of thousands. When we heard about the name Godfather we got scared and also felt ashamed.


"It was proved beyond doubt that I am not engaged in any unlawful activities. It was a great strength to me as the President would never have visited me if I was a drug dealer."



Q  There has been much talk about cases of extortion being rampant in Negombo, who is behind this?

Tourists usually prefer to stay in Negombo which is ideally suited to their needs whether it be for business or pleasure. Negombo is the place that I love. If anyone is involved in extortion, action should be taken to arrest them. As I am not the organiser for Negombo that responsibility belongs to someone else. If any illegal activities are taking place here I am not responsible for them. The organizer for Negombo should be held responsible, and if he knows who the culprits are he should take steps to bring them to justice.

Q  Are you aware that it is a relative of yours that issues tickets at vehicle parks in the Negombo City?

I can answer that if you tell me which vehicle park.

Q  Who takes the income from the fish market?

Negombo is referred to as “Little Rome”. From ancient times a portion of the income earned by the fishermen goes to the churches in the area. These lands also belong to the churches. The income from the markets are collected and handled according to a set procedure. These activities are not relevant to me.

Q  Who is handling the parking tickets for vehicles that come to the beach parks?

It is the same answer. The municipal council has given this process out on lease. Every year tenders are called for the purpose. About 65% of the population in Negombo are my supporters. Somebody needs to manage it.

Q  Aren’t you aware that the number of massage clinics and brothels are increasing in Negombo?

I do not agree. Negombo is a tourist destination. There are reputed hotels here that run Ayurvedic Spas as part of their services. If there are any illicit places we would assist the police in their efforts to raid these places. I can prove that there are several guest houses being run by the Son-in- Law of the organiser for Negombo, and that his son is engaged in the hotel business. I am not involved in these types of businesses.

Q  Your name is foremost among the politicians who are said to be involved in the drug business, what do you say to this?

This is also vicious innuendo that is being spread by the same organiser. He instigated the STF to conduct a raid at my place, claiming that there were butted vehicles in my compound. Thereafter around 180 men from the STF raided my house and also visited nine of my properties. The following day the media spokesperson speaking on behalf of the IGP denied that the STF visited my house in search of drugs. As they could not find a single butted vehicle at my residence they apologised for their actions. The matter had ended there, but these opportunistic politicians have been exploring various avenues to destroy me as the increase in my popularity had become a big burden for them. I am not engaged in anything illegal.

Q  An STF squad would not dare to enter your premises without a directive from their superiors. Are you saying that the STF came to your home at the request of this politico?

I cannot say that on whose request they came. But a grave injustice was done to me and the police apologised to me for this. Anyway, I suspect that this was an act of someone who wants to destroy the image that I had built and also an attempt to subject me to mental stress.

Q  The following day the President also visited you. Did he come to apologise to you?

No, there was nothing for him to apologise for. The President too felt that someone had tried to weaken me mentally. I was happy that with the visit of President Rajapaksa. It was proved beyond doubt that I am not engaged in any unlawful activities. It was a great strength to me as the President would never have visited me if I was a drug dealer.

Q When there is a conflict taking place between you and the organizer for Negombo how do you expect to develop the area?

The people here are not fools, they are aware about what I have done for Negombo. Today it boasts of the most beautiful bus stand in Sri Lanka. All the roads in Negombo are in this shape because of my efforts. I love Negombo, the people know it. The party organizer has not done anything for Negombo. I challenge him to show what he has done to develop Negombo from the beginning of the eighties. His supporters are destroying the Negombo Lagoon. Extortion in Negombo is thriving under his watch. Several hotels in Negombo have been forcibly acquired by his henchmen. A valuable land belonging to the State in Negombo has been sold but the money is being kept as ransom by his henchmen. I say these things without any fear for my safety.

Q  How did you find 90 million rupees to spend for the Provincial Council Elections?

This is another canard. If I had so much money I would never had used it for elections.The hotel owners of Negombo, businessmen, and my well wishers assisted me. They put up posters, cut outs etc.

Q  Then how much did you spent on it?

I did not spend more than Rs. 15 million on it. That is all the money spent by my supporters.
I did not spend even five cents on this campaign.

Q  During your election campaign didn’t you make use of vehicles with garage numbers?

No, during my campaign I held around 16 meetings daily. My vehicle is always followed by other vehicles, I have no time to look behind and see what vehicles are following me. It is only when the media highlights this that am able to see how many supporters are following me. No sooner that I get into the vehicle it moves forward at a fast pace leaving us no time to see who is following behind.

Q  The release of the final vote count during the recently concluded Provincial Council polls in some electorates in Gamapaha were delayed, supposedly because some politicos had fraudulently marked preference votes in their favour. What do you have to say to these allegations?

Under the present electoral system there is no room for such things to occur. Those who cannot accept defeat are making such charges. State officials discharged their duties in the proper manner.

Q If, as you claim, a politician of the area is involved in unlawful activities in Negombo, why has the police not acted to arrest him?

Illegal sand mining and many more wrong doings in Negombo have been highlighted by the media. However, as these activities are going on with   political patronage some businessmen are unwilling to complain to the police. I have complained to the Bribery Commissioner about the land acquired by the government. I challenge the organiser to come forward if there is any charge to be brought against me.

Q   Ganja usage is also spreading in Negombo in addition to drugs. What do you have to say about this?

This is a scenario all over the country. There were raids conducted in many parts of the island but not in Negombo . If such things occur in Negombo we are there to put a stop to it. If the so-called organiser cannot stop them, it is better for his own good to ask someone to replace him. If I am given the chance I will turn it into a paradise.

Q Even the taxi drivers who operate in Katunayake are tired of the animosity that exists between you and this organiser as they say it is effecting their business. What do you have to say about this?

His actions have done a great disservice to taxi operators in this area. He fully controls the Taxi service in this area. From his counter more taxis are given permission to operate. If you ask the taxi operators who is behind this racket they would disclose his name. There is a lot of intimidation taking place and as a result more than 700 taxi operators are effected. The organisers who blame us were away from the country during the LTTE terror era. Now they have returned and have become billionaires overnight. How can the son own hotels in Negombo and the son-in- law own so many guest houses? Who sells arrack in Negombo? I do not own wine shops and people know whose wine shop is kept open even after 09.00 pm.

Q  So is he the enemy that you fear the most?

No, I do not see him as an enemy. He is well known as the one who conspires. I am not like him. hatever he says to the newspapers he immediately forgets when he sees me and greets me with a broad smile. He does not say anything in my presence.

Q Are you going to contest the parliamentary elections in the future?

That is a matter that has upset these people. After being in a slumber for four years they had suddenly awakened to hurl abuse at me. I repeat my challenge to him to prove to the country if he had done anything for Negombo. Everybody knows of the taxi counter he runs at the air port.

Q In closing what do you have to say to the people in Negombo?

Beautifying Negombo and developing it is hundred percent my responsibility. I am the one who did so much for Negombo. No one would poke his hands into it. The organiser is now on his way out. He cannot muster even 25000 votes. I challenge him to contest against me and obtain 50% of my preference votes. I also challenge him to come for an open debate with me.
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  • Ananda Wednesday, 27 August 2014 02:31 PM

    Good exposition

    Talking Nut Wednesday, 27 August 2014 03:52 AM

    Who is the GOD SON?


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