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Police and political Horror & Terror

30 July 2013 03:58 am - 5     - {{hitsCtrl.values.hits}}


Susitha R.Fernando, Hafeel Farisz and Darshana Sanjeewa reporting from Noori Deraniyagala

This is indeed not a storyline for a movie. Nor are they notes for a piece of fiction we intend to publish in the future. It is rather a horror story, a story of terror, a story of fear, a story about the extent and depth to which subservience stretches to, a story about the callous disregard for human dignity supported and encouraged by those in power and looked on and hushed up by the Police - the only place where the poor go to seek justice. It is indeed a horror story that needs to be heard first hand because it is beyond imagination that terror to the extent that existed in Deraniyagala and specifically Noori was in fact a reality. That people suffered for over a decade due to the brutal atrocities of a gang with political backing, atrocities that went to the extent of a gang operating a “rape centre”, and a torture chamber with no regard to consequences, is a tad bit ‘unreal’ in modern-day Sri Lanka.

"Accordingly he became an ardent supporter of both the Chief Minister of the Sabaragamuwa Province Maheepala Herath and current Deputy Minister of Livestock and Community H.R. Mithrapala before falling out with the latter and sticking on to the former"

Noori, a scenic village situated 14 km off Deraniyagala is a three-hour drive from Colombo. It is by no means “remote” nor is it a village that is ‘cut off’ from the external world. The roads to the village and beyond it are developed and so is the infrastructure. Noori however is famous for its tea. The Noori Estate however was the focal point of the village. Noori tea is considered to be among the best in the world. The village comprises schools, a temple and a kovil with both genres of economic strata- the middle class and the poor class mingling with each other as is common in the entire country

"a gang with political backing, atrocities that went to the extent of the gang operating a “rape centre”, and a torture chamber with no regard to consequences, is a tad bit ‘unreal’ in modern-day Sri Lanka."

The terror unleashed was however common to all. The majority poor  Tamils worked as slaves of the alleged criminals while the middle classes were forced to part with their belongings including houses they had built, as and when they were ‘asked to’.

Atha Kota also known as Anil Champika Wijesinghe, the former Chairman of the Deraniyagala Pradeshiya Sabha was recognised as a ‘leader’ due to his thuggery. Having lost one of his arms after falling off a swing when he was six years old, Wijesinghe gradually built a group of ‘gangsters’ who aided and abetted him.
His entire family were the main providers of ‘Kasippu’(moonshine) to the area. The rise in profits earned through the sale of illicit liquor that increased concurrently with power ‘Atha kota’ graduated into political thuggery.

Accordingly he said to have become an ardent supporter of both the Chief Minister of the Sabaragamuwa Province Maheepala Herath and current Deputy Minister of Livestock and Community H.R. Mithrapala before falling out with the latter and sticking on to the former.

All villagers who randomly spoke to the Daily Mirror maintained throughout that Wijesinghe’s alleged terror reign was both passively and actively supported by Herath and his son, current Member of Parliament Kanaka Herath.

The extent of the ‘connections’ are a story for another day. So is the ‘support; rendered by the police to their ‘political masters’.

The villagers, until the intervention of the Special Task Force, consequent to the brutal murder of the Estate Superintendent Nihal Perera, constantly lived in fear.
“We would not even think of Atha kota alone in a room where there was no light. That was the extent of their terror” they told us.

Perera stood his ground against them and ultimately paid the price for it. Atha kota and his gang with no fear of repercussions looted the estate’s wealth for years and Perera stood up against it. All estate superintendents who were on duty in the estate previously also paid subservience to the terror- not out of choice but due to the lack of an alternative.

Perera was one of the four remaining planters who worked with the British and was appointed as superintendent in January 2013.

From there on he took it upon himself to ensure the safety of the estate, the workers and the village as a whole.

“He was like a god to us, and there was a ray of hope when he stood up against these people” H.D. Keethirathne a villager said.

“He wouldn’t give in to them; he was a man of the old generation and was a wealth of knowledge. He taught us everything that we needed to learn and he tried to make peace with the gangsters and the people” Sumudu Nilanka the supervisor of the factory said.

A month before the brutal murder, Atha kota and his gang served their ‘first notice’ by way of brutally assaulting him.

“They thought he would leave the place after that but he didn’t. He came back to work” he said.

The police who were notified and had been repeatedly notified by villagers for over a decade turned a blind eye as was the norm.

A month later, Perera was chopped, stabbed, and assaulted while he was doing his morning rounds by a gang led by a relative of Atha kota.

“A worker came and told me that they were stabbing him and I ran down. All we could do was watch, he was on the floor and they were brutally assaulting him. He kept asking them ‘why are you doing this to me? I didn’t do you’ll any wrong but they continued with the beating” Sumudu recalls.

The two security personnel given by the company to Perera were also assaulted and were thereafter dragged into the jeep used by Perera. The criminals had snatched off the phones of the supervisor and his superior before they drove off with the bleeding trio.

“They were alive when they dragged them into the jeep and then they took off. Most of them got into the vehicle.”
Accordingly Perera and the two security officers were stripped naked and takearound town. Villagers said that the criminals had paraded the naked and bleeding superintendent.

“This is what we did to him” they had screamed.

Sanjay Waidyathilake a senior officer of the factory said around half an hour later they heard that the vehicle was brought to the estate.

“We ran to the bungalow and the Superintendent was at the back of the jeep naked and bleeding. He asked us for water, we lifted him and put him on to a bed. We were frightened for our lives too and we delayed in taking him to the hospital because we thought they might attack us if we went in the same vehicle. We went to the town to look for a vehicle and no one was willing to give us a vehicle because they also feared reprisal” Sanjay said.

However, they had decided to brave all fears and take the injured to hospital.

“He was bleeding from his mouth and leg, we were later told that his mouth was cut with a pair of scissors by the barber in town” they said.
“The Police knew this - they worked hand in glove with these people. Even after he was assaulted the first time they did nothing.  Even when this happened we called them and they did nothing,” they said.

The death provided the catalyst for the interference of the Special Task Force who immediately arrested the situation.

“With his death we were given life. After the Special Task Force (STF) came in everything was brought under control. We had no faith in anything, all of us just lived in ultimate fear until they came in. we have to thank the gods for this. We want a camp of the STF here for at least five years as we don’t have any faith in the Police” U. Padmakumara said.

The stories are only a tiny spec of what actually took place over the decade. Many still live in fear of a return of Atha kota. Many also fear that the Chief Minister, his associates, or the Police would one day come after them for speaking out.

Victims of rape aren’t willing to give details fearing social consequences, and victims of torture fear a return to the dark ages. However, they have hope that justice would prevail although all hope is lost in the system as whole.

“I only asked god for this, we had no hope because all of these people worked together. The entire Police divisions in the region were aware of this, and it wasn’t confined to the Deraniyagala Police” the villagers said.

I don’t know them;  Maheepala

When contacted Sabaragamuwa Chief Minister Maheepala Herath on the serious allegations madeagainst him by the pubic in Basnagala, Dodawathta, Punchi Dodawathta- Noori denied that he had any connection with former Deraniyagala Pradeshiya Sabha chairman Anil Champika.  
  “I don’t know these people,” he said.

Referring to the brutal murder of Estate Superintendent Nihal Perera, the Chief Minister Herath said that when this incident took place he was out of the country and he did not know anything about the murder.
He also refused to comment any further. 

"I was out of the country when murder took place"


OIC Thissa Gunathilake never even took our complaints

I resisted these criminals and they came to my house and burnt it down. They burnt our shop down and to this day we have not been able to rise up from that.

One day they came to my house and shot at my parents, the bullet holes are still there to be seen. We couldn’t do anything because the Police were working with them. I only ask God for justice and for these people never to return to this place again. Everybody knows that this man used Maheepala Herath’s influence to continue with his crimes. All these criminals used his influence and continued with their terror. The Police just turned a blind eye for all these years, how would they do that without political influence. OIC Thissa Gunathilake never even took down our complaints. The Police did not do a single thing to stop this terror.


Because I refused to send my sister ...

They broke my legs and hands and tied me to a tree for an entire night because I refused to send my sister. She is 24 years old and they wanted me to bring her, I told them I can’t and they came and brutally beat me up with poles and tied me naked to a tree for an entire night.

They are powerful people sir; they are not scared of anything. What’s the point in going to the police? They would call Atha Kota and tell him that we complained or would put us in jail instead.
He has got me to pluck tea for days like a slave without paying a red cent. I couldn’t stand up to these things and the only thing I stood up to was when they wanted me to send my sister. I know what they would have done to her if I took her, how could a brother do that?

They wanted to kill my son

“They came and burnt two of our houses because I stood against them. My ailing mother was bedridden but they just threw her out to the garden and even took the mattress she was sleeping and set it on fire. They demolished two of our houses.

Before this they assaulted me and my brother mercilessly near the Deraniyagala town.

Thereafter they wanted to kill my son and the only reason his life was saved was because the Chief Priest of the village hid him. If not they would have killed him too. He still doesn’t come to the village because he is frightened and is living in Meepe. They had the backing of Politicians which is why the Police continued to support them. The Police imprisoned me and my brother after I we were assaulted. OIC Thissa Gunathilake said he was taking me to the hospital and instead remanded me,”they alleged.

"If not they would have killed him too"

He said he will rape me

“For a few days when I walked home after school one of Athakota’s accomplices kept telling me that he wanted me. He said he will rape me. I came and told my mother because I know how these people are. I have seen how they behave.

My mother told me to stay at home because they feared that I would be raped like so many others. We don’t want these people back” she alleged.

I hid my daughter for 2 months...

“I know how these people are, they have for years terrorised us through torture and so I kept her hidden at home. We were terrified. I stopped her from going to school for two months because I know how they are when they want women. I told myself that if they ever step into my house I would kill them and protect my daughter.

We don’t want them back sir, please make sure that none of them are brought back. We are poor people and we want to live in peace earning our day to day living. They all had the backing of Maheepala Herath and they used it to do what they did all these years” she alleged.

"We don’t want them back sir, please make sure that none of them are brought back."

Rapes and public punishments

The alleged raping of women and public punishment for those who protested or spoke against were held under the reign of former PS chairman, Anil Champika in Basnagala, the village which covered the Noori tea Estate.
 In 2011, R. A. Kumari, (name changed to protect identity of the victim)
a married woman who was then 34-years of-age and was working for the tea factory was allegedly raped by the former PC chairman who later mercilessly assaulted her, stripped her when she visited his house to complain to his wife.
“As I was coming after work, Anil Champika who was at the junction with about 10 of his aides threaten me to come with him.
I refused and hurried home. But he along with another aide followed me in a cab and forced me to get in to the vehicle,” Kumari told us in tears.
“I was terrified and shouted but they took me to an isolated house in the area and raped me,” she said shivering with fear. “Thereafter he threatened me to not to tell anyone about what happened. But I was so angry and one day went to his house with my husband to complaint about this to his wife,” she cried as her 11-year-old daughter was standing nearby and looking at us confused.
“As we were there Anil Champika’s wife phoned him and I was told that we were asked to wait until he comes home,” she said with a voice trembling with terror.
“As Anil Champika was speeding there his wife pleaded with my husband to hide behind the house as the situation would worsen if he sees him (husband). As soon as Champika got out of the vehicle he shouted in filth and started to beat me mercilessly. He made me strip and kicked me and beat me with a pole,” Kumari wailed.
I never went to a police or made any complaint anywhere because I knew nothing would happen, she said.

" He made me stripped and kicked me and beat me with a pole,"

Three of my Children were killed by these murderers

“Three of my Children were killed by these murderers. The first one was Ganesh, he was deaf. They took this boy as a slave and got him to work under Atha Kota. Then they murdered him sir. They didn’t need a reason to murder anyone, they just did it. We know these people and they murder for no reason. They covered up this murder also by saying that he died after a log had fallen on him, the Police also worked hand in glove with them and to this day I don’t even have a death certificate.

Thereafter they took my second son, Mannu. Mannu was very angry about the alleged murder of his brother at the hands of Athakota. One day Athakota had wanted Mannu to bring some kasippu (moonshine) and after he drank my son had asked him why he killed Ganesh.

Athakota had got angry and his gangsters had brutally assaulted my son and then cut his hair and beard and killed him. They just dumped him on the roadside and went Sir. The Police came and they covered it up to look like he was knocked down by a bus

After that my daughter and I lived here with her two daughters and husband. Somehow  these murderers incited her husband by telling him that she has an illicit affair with somebody sir and she was also killed. She was first made to swallow pieces of glass and because she resisted they hit her on lower anatomy with a rice pounder and killed her.

Now I only have my grandchildren and I’m only living for them. I have no money at all sir. . My next resort will be a bottle of poison” she said.

"They first made her swallow glasses and then because she resisted they hit her on lower

  Comments - 5

  • Rodger Williams Wednesday, 31 July 2013 10:29 AM

    Here we observe the most blatant and deeply troubling state this land of ours has decended to. Never in my life of being Sri Lankan have I witnessed this kind of barbaric behaviour. When citizens of a country is treated in this manner, denied justice and the powers that be, stand in obscene denial, then the end has truly come.

    Moonshiner Wednesday, 31 July 2013 10:35 AM

    If all this is true and your version in Print is not news-mongering
    the very top Public Officer concerned should resign. Will he?

    srinath.gunaratne Wednesday, 31 July 2013 11:09 AM

    What kind of country is this?

    sunil21 Wednesday, 31 July 2013 11:09 AM

    exactly happening here is what happed under Prabagaran in north
    any one can use king's namea nd can do any thing

    Kalu Malli Thursday, 01 August 2013 10:43 AM

    The Bana Repuclic of Rajapakistan....where anything goes. Thuggery and terror starts right from the top to the very bottom.

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