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The King Maker & the Errand Boy
Excerpts from the Concluding Address
by Counsel for the 5th Accused,
makes his Submissions,
"No sooner had counsel for Somarama concluded his address than Mr. Satyendra, the tall and youthful counsel for Newton Perera, was on his feet. He had throughout the trial conducted his defence with skill and devotion to his client's cause.
" Gentlemen of the Jury, " he said, " you have had no easy function to perform ever since the commencement of this long trial, namely, to follow closely and with uninterrupted attention the evidence of the several witnesses called by the prosecution and by the defence. Your most difficult task, however, still lies ahead, and that is to evaluate the evidence that you have heard, marshal it, analyze it and bring in a verdict based on that evidence. Many views have been and will be placed before you, but the ultimate responsibility of deciding on the facts of the case rests entirely with you. You will bring your own independent minds to bear on the evidence and will yourselves decide which items of evidence to accept and which to reject.
" In a civilized country a citizen enjoys the unique privilege of being tried, not by the State, not by a special individual appointed for the purpose, but by seven of his peers, people like himself, who alone could find him guilty or innocent. Yours, gentlemen, is therefore a great responsibility. But you should not let the weight of that responsibility weigh you down. I am confident that you will not abdicate your conscience, that you will not allow yourselves to be influenced by what you may have heard outside this Court or read in newspapers, and that you will confine yourselves to the evidence before you, testing it in the light of your own experience.
" Gentlemen, let me take a simple example from everyday life. How often one finds some article missing in one's home. How often is some poor servant suspected and questioned for hours, only to discover that the article has been mislaid somewhere in the house. We cannot approach the accused in the dock with initial suspicion. An accused is entitled to the presumption of innocence, and the fact that he stands in the dock should not weigh against him. The presumption of innocence is not a mere slogan shouted by defence counsel; it is not a magic word; it is a living doctrine. It is a substantial safeguard which the law in its wisdom has provided. Just before he wound up his address, Mr. Weeramantry, counsel for Somarama, reminded you of the Dreyfus Case 1, where an innocent man was condemned and it was discovered, though too late, that he was really guiltless. The presumption of innocence provides an important safeguard against such possibilities. "
Turning to the charge against his client and the evidence led to support it, counsel continued:
" Gentlemen of the jury, the charge against my client is that he agreed to commit or to abet the commission of the murder of the late Mr. Bandaranaike. To establish this charge, it is essential for the Crown to prove that Newton Perera did certain acts with the knowledge that they formed part of a common plan to kill Mr. Bandaranaike. The Crown has also to prove that he was party to an agreement to kill. I submit, gentlemen, that there is no direct evidence led by the prosecution to prove that my client was party to any such agreement.
" The prosecution asks you to infer from certain items of evidence that it has adduced that there was such an agreement. But an inference that Newton may have known of the alleged plot is insufficient. You are in duty bound, gentlemen of the jury, to acquit him unless the prosecution can satisfy you that the inescapable inference that must be drawn from the evidence is that he was party to the alleged plot.
" Gentlemen of the jury, I shall now invite you to examine the evidence of Carolis Amarasinghe, the crown witness. I submit that, far from divulging all the facts within his knowledge, he was deliberately withholding facts from you. He spoke of two incidents alleged to have taken place about one and a half months before September 25th, 1959. On one occasion, he says that Buddharakkitha sent Newton to procure some bullets. On the other, Newton is supposed to have gone to Amarasinghe's house in a police car and later set out with Buddharakkitha, Jayawardena and Somarama for shooting practice. But when questioned by the police, he said nothing about the bullets or the shooting practice. He was silent on these matters even when questioned a second time.
I submit, gentlemen, that the only reason why Amarasinghe did not mention to the police that Newton set out with Buddharakkitha for shooting practice is that he was not speaking the truth on this matter. His evidence bears the stamp of fabrication. Within a week of making a statement to the Magistrate, he was busy discussing the possibility of a conditional pardon. With a view to becoming a crown witness and in order to keep himself out of the picture, he had drawn on his imagination and invented the shooting practice story, but yet withheld the story of the bullets for six months through fear that he would implicate himself.
Here then is a witness, gentlemen, who fabricates evidence and withholds evidence as it suits his purpose. If, as Amarasinghe said, my client had come to his house in a police car, that car could easily have been traced, because, when police cars are used, their mileage has to be recorded and all details of trips made have to be entered in the relevant police register.
" Peter Jayakody, the driver of the private car in which my client went to Amarasinghe's house on August 14th, had made a statement to the police and had given evidence in the lower Court. He was however not called as a witness for the prosecution because he contradicted Amarasinghe's story. But I have called him as a witness and his evidence, as you see, corroborates the evidence of my client.
" I do not know, gentlemen of the jury, whether Amarasinghe was a conspirator or not. We are not here to try Amarasinghe, but, when a man gets into the witness box and says that certain things happened, it is your duty to decide whether in fact they did.
" Gentlemen, you will have to approach Amarasinghe's evidence from two angles. He was either a conspirator or he was not. If he was a conspirator, his story about the shooting practice expedition could not be true, because then there would have been no necessity for him to inquire where his co-conspirators were going and for Buddharakkitha to have invited him to join the expedition. If, however, Amarasinghe was not a conspirator, the conversation between him and Buddharakkitha would not have taken place, because it was hardly likely that conspirators would share their secrets with outsiders in this fashion. Therefore, on either hypothesis, Amarasinghe was not speaking the truth.
" Gentlemen of the jury, I shall now deal with the evidence of Ossie Corea, Lionel Goonetilleke and Inspector Seneviratne. My client's evidence was that he told Corea that the revolver he wanted was for Buddharakkitha. Corea denied this and said that, when, after the shooting of the Prime Minister, he went to Newton to retrieve his revolver, he learnt for the first time that it was with Buddharakkitha. My client, however, asserts that Corea never met him after the assassination. In fact, gentlemen, Corea had no need to, as he knew very well that the revolver was with Buddharakkitha. But assuming that they did meet, is it at all likely that Newton, if he were in the conspiracy, would have told Corea that the revolver was with a fellow conspirator ? This is the last thing he would have said. But if he did say such a thing, does it not show that he was completely innocent of any conspiracy ?
" Goonetilleke had been a good friend of Corea's for 20 years. Corea, whom he described as a good-natured playboy who could be troublesome when roused, always went to Goonetilleke when in difficulty. It was my client, gentlemen, who first threw light on the identity of the revolver that was used to shoot the Prime Minister, but a drama has been enacted in this Court for your benefit by Corea, Goonetilleke and Inspector Seneviratne to prove that is was Ossie Corea and not Newton Perera who did so.
" There is, gentlemen, a link between these three witnesses. Goonetilleke says that he asked Corea to recover the revolver from Newton. Corea says that he went to Newton on Goonetilleke's advice and it was then that he learnt that the revolver was with Buddharakkitha. Goonetilleke says that, when Corea told him where the revolver was, he asked him to try once again to recover it. Corea later told him that he was unable to do so as it was not with Buddharakkitha. But, gentlemen, Corea does not tell us how he found that out.
" Lionel Goonetilleke says that it was when Corea informed him that the revolver was not with Buddharakkitha that he remarked, ' It is your revolver that has been used to shoot the Prime Minister '. Goonetilleke also says that he singled out Inspector Seneviratne as the officer to whom he should give information because he trusted him. He, however, requested Seneviratne to see that he was kept out of the witness box.
" Goonetilleke, if he were to be believed, had all the evidence in his possession long before any of these accused were even arrested. This ex-superintendent of police had solved the Bandaranaike case on his own. However, from the 10th to the 23rd of October, he had taken no steps whatsoever to communicate with the police. Why did he not do so, gentlemen ? He puts it down to his dislike of publicity. This retired superintendent, with all his experience in the police force, was publicity shy and so, having solved one of the biggest cases in the Island himself, chose not to enlighten the police, It was only on October 23rd, after the 1st, 2nd and 5th accused had all been arrested, that he did so.
" It is my submission, gentlemen of the jury, that on October 23rd, Lionel Goonetilleke had become aware that my client, who had already been arrested on October 21st, had made a statement to the effect that he had got the revolver for Buddharakkitha from Corea. That was why Goonetilleke telephoned Inspector Seneviratne on the 23rd. If Newton had not spoken of the revolver, do you think, gentlemen, that either Goonetilleke or Corea would have come forward to volunteer information about it ? Had it not been for Newton Perera, the Bandaranaike Assassination Case may not have progressed much further and you may not have been sitting here today in judgment over five of your fellow men.
" It is a strange fact that the man, whose revolver was used to shoot the Prime Minister, took no steps at all to bring his suspicions to the notice of the police until after Newton's statement. Although Newton was the first to give information to the police on the identity of the revolver, an insidious attempt has been made by Ossie Corea and Lionel Goonetilleke to make out that they were the first informants.
" Goonetilleke denied knowledge of Newton's statement of October 22rd and so did Inspector Seneviratne. Could you possibly believe, gentlemen, that Inspector Seneviratne, a member of the team of investigators, was unaware on October 22nd that Newton had made a statement about the revolver and that the first intimation he had as to its ownership was on the following day when he went to see Goonetilleke ? This is all a drama enacted by Goonetilleke, Corea and Seneviratne to show that Corea had independently decided to go to the C.I.D., when his visit was really motivated by the knowledge that my client had already thrown light on the ownership of the murder weapon.
" Another noteworthy feature is that Corea and Goonetilleke were always together and always acted in concert. When Goonetilleke made a statement to the police on November 4th, Corea did so too. Again, when Goonetilleke made a statement on November 11th, Corea did likewise. The two of them even lunched together on days they attended Court. They are undoubtedly the veritable twins of this case.
" According to the evidence of Inspector Seneviratne, he recorded no statement from Goonetilleke when he went to see him on October 23rd. Is this not most strange, gentlemen of the jury ? If it had been you or I, a statement would have been recorded straightaway. Inspector Seneviratne has said that on that day Goonetilleke told him of how he had discovered a revolver under the carpet of Corea's car. Seneviratne has further said that he conveyed to A.S.P. Iyer what Goonetilleke had told him. Then why was it that Iyer, that hundred per cent scrupulous Iyer, did not immediately question Corea about his gun ?
" There is another aspect of the evidence of these twins. Corea said in this Court that he had surrendered all his firearms to Newton on August 10th, just after the Kimbulapitiya murder. But he had not mentioned a word about this in the statements he had made to the police. My submission, gentlemen, is that Corea was lying. Is it not more likely that on August 10th he gave all his firearms to Lionel Goonetilleke, his bosom friend for 20 years.
" Gentlemen of the jury, you will recall very vividly the very cagey answers given by Corea when questioned on the revolver by defence counsel. Examining the evidence of Corea and Goonetilleke in the light of your own experience of men and matters, gentlemen of the jury, can you possibly regard them as truthful witnesses ?
" Gentlemen of the jury, my client made a grave decision when he decided to step into the witness box and face cross-examination. It is not easy for a man facing a charge of conspiracy to murder to get into the witness box and give evidence. But here was an innocent man fighting for his life, and it was his very innocence that prompted him to take the witness stand and state the truth. Various suggestions were made across the bar table of some kind of shady deal which resulted in Newton being called into the witness box.
Learned counsel for the 1st and 2nd accused asked him, ' Are you giving this evidence to save your miserable skin ? ' Gentlemen, the skin of my client is not the issue in this case. It is wrong for counsel to suggest that he faced cross-examination and went through a long ordeal because, in some mysterious way, he was going to receive a pardon from the Government.
It is easy to make suggestions, but on what material are these suggestions based ? Are they not unwarranted attacks on my client, made only in order to prejudice him ? It is for you to consider, gentlemen, why these suggestions were made. If you were an innocent man to whom such suggestions were made, what would your reaction be ?...
Counsel then dwelt in detail on the evidence of his client and continued: " Gentlemen of the jury, my client is not on trial for dealing in unlicensed firearms. He has already been punished for that. His career in the police force has been blasted and he has been on remand for nearly two years. You have to consider the charge against him and, if you have any reasonable doubt as to his guilt, you must give him the benefit of that doubt and acquit him.
" When examining the conduct of my client, you must project your minds into the pastï¿½into the period prior to the assassination, when the political monks were all-powerful and Rev. Buddharakkitha was the most powerful of them all. It is in evidence in this case that, after the General Elections of 1956, almost every member of the Cabinet owed his position to some extent to Buddharakkitha. He had great influence in the political world and was a man of such public importance that he was recognized wherever he went. He was not a mere Buddhist monk. He was a man of great wealth and a king-maker.
" The relationship between Buddharakkitha and Newton Perera was not one of equals. It was natural that a small man like Newton would wish to enjoy the patronage of a big and influential man like Buddharakkitha and would be ready to do little favours for the big man, in the hope that he would in return be granted a favour or two when necessary. Therefore, gentlemen, when you view the evidence, you will not view it from the remoteness of Himalayan peaks, but in the context of the relationship between my client and the great high priest.
" My client, gentlemen of the jury, had no reason whatsoever to get involved in a conspiracy to kill the Prime Minister. He was not a politician, nor a teacher, nor a Buddhist monk. When he found a revolver for Buddharakkitha, he did not dream that it would be used for killing anyone, let alone the Prime Minister. The evidence shows that monks in temples were known to possess revolvers. There were many influential people in the country who were in possession of weapons without licences. Buddharakkitha was a man in such a position that Newton would not have liked to incur his displeasure. Newton has given a clue as to why he had obliged Buddharakkitha on many occasions. Asked why he had done so, he said, ' Because he was Mapitigama Buddharakkitha Thero '. That in a nutshell, gentlemen, is the answerï¿½because he was Mapitigama Buddharakkitha Thero, the great political leader, the king-maker.
" When B. W. Perera, Superintendent of Police (Crime), gave bullets to Nawaloka Mudalali, he surely did not think that they were to be used for the purpose of killing someone. If the superintendent could have given bullets to Nawaloka, one could understand Newton giving a revolver to Buddharakkitha. Of course, this was an absolutely wrong thing for a police officer to do, but that is a different matter altogether.
" Buddharakkitha had no reason to tell Newton why he required the revolver. Is it not more likely that he did not disclose why he wanted the revolver to Newton, who was merely an inspector of police being used as the means of procuring a revolver and bullets. Where was the common link to prove that Newton was a member of a conspiracy to kill the Prime Minister ? My client, gentlemen of the jury, was an unfortunate victim of a situation. He was a mere tool, whose usefulness was that he could procure a revolver and ammunition.
" There is no evidence that my client had been in touch with any of the other alleged conspirators between August 15th and September 25th. And after September 25th what was his reaction,gentlemen ? That of an innocent man. The bullets found in his car on the day of his arrest had no connection with the guns produced in the case or with the shooting of the Prime Minister. If they had anything to do with the conspiracy or if he had any guilty knowledge, why did he let the cartridges lie in the glove compartment of his car even after September 25th ?
" Gentlemen of the jury, I thank you for your very patient hearing. Quite apart from the question of reasonable doubt which I have already referred to, I am confident that you will find that all the circumstances point to my client's innocence and that you will acquit him and send him back to his wife and seven children, a sadder but wiser man. "
The King Maker & the Errand Boy - Ceylon Daily Mirror Report, 25 April 1961
Mr. N. Satyendra, counsel for Newton Perera, the fifth accused in the Bandaranaike shooting case told the special English - speaking jury yesterday that in considering his client's evidence they should project their minds to an era in Ceylon when:
It would not do, Mr. Satyendra said to consider Newton Perera's evidence in vacuo.
"What was that era?" Mr. Satyendra asked.
"What about Inspector Newton Perera? His people had been dayakayas of the Kelaniya temple and he himself knew Buddharakkita as a boy. During the efflux of time one man becomes a humble sub-inspector of police while the other climbed higher up to become one of the most powerful politicians of the country.
Newton Perera joined the police force as a constable. He was transferred from one outstation to another. In 1945 he became a sergeant and two years later he married a nurse. During that time he did not go to Kelaniya often. He lost touch with his schoolboy acquaintance, Buddharakkita Thera. In 1953 he was transferred to Colombo as a newly promoted sub-inspector. He was pre-occupied with his own affairs and had not enough time for other work.
Then, sometime in 1957, he began to take an interest in the affairs of the Kelaniya temple. His mother and elders of his village told him it was time the younger generation became dayakayas. He started taking an interest in the temple and in that way he came into contact again with Buddharakkita Thera.
So far as Inspector Newton Perera was concerned what was his relationship with Mapitigama Buddharakkita Thera? The inspector was not a man of wealth. He was not interested in discussing politics with Buddharakkita Thera. He did not seek appointment to the Board of Indigenous Medicine.
It is all very well to speak today of the chief incumbent of Kelaniya Raja Maha Vihare, of the first precept of the Buddha - that Inspector Newton Perera should have been put on guard when a Buddhist priest wanted a gun. . But what is the evidence of Kelanitilaka Gunawardena ? During the dispute for the chief incumbency between Sangharakkita Thera and Buddharakkita Thera feelings ran so high that it became necessary to establish a police station in the very premises of Kelaniya temple ï¿½ one of the most sacred places in the islands for Buddhists.
It is in that light you must consider the evidence in this case and assess the testimony of Inspector Newton Perera. You cannot consider his evidence in vacuo. It is useless in our inquiry into this case to consider the first precept and the finer points of Buddhist philosophy. You heard it said by Saranankara Thera that when he saw a revolver in the hands of Somarama Thera he cracked a joke and asked him why he wanted such a weapon. Somarama Thera replied he wanted it for his protection. The other monk accepted the explanation. He was not shocked. Not surprised. That was the era - the era of the political bhikku.
The relationship between Mapitigama Buddharakkita Thera and Inspector Newton Perera was not that of equals, though they had known each other other in their boyhood.
With the efflux of time one became very powerful and very wealthy. The other was a mere sub inspector of police. This was the position when they met after a time lag of several years and it was not surprising that Inspector Newton Perera should try to to cash in on his acquaintance with the powerful Thera. Mr. Satyendra said.
Does it not happen so often in this country that little men do favours for big men so that the big men may in turn pass on some of the crumbs to them? Inspector Newton Perera, Mr. Satyendra said, was a victim of what is a common fault among many Ceylonese - doing favours for big people without asking questions.
"I urge that the jury should not consider my client's evidence in the context of some ideal state that should exist in Ceylon. They should take the facts of life as they were."
When some time in July, 1959, Mapitigama Buddharakkita Thera, the 'great political leader', came to Inspector Newton Perera's flat and asked him for a revolver, my client would have thought the Thera required it for his protection. In the context of the times it was not shocking for a monk to possess a revolver. And, it was also in keeping with the times that a little man should do favours for a big man in order that he may have his patronage.
"That. was the nature of the relationship that existed between Inspector Newton Perera and Buddharakkhita Thera. It was not that Newton Perera was a political associate of Buddharakkita Thera. Newton Perera was utilised by Buddharakkita Thera for the purpose of obtaining a revolver and the matter ended there. There was no reason why Newton Perera should have suspected Buddharakkita Thera of planning to shoot somebody.
Buddharakkita Thera was quite confident that if he asked Newton Perera to get him cartridges, to get him a revolver, he would oblige without daring to ask questions. The Thera regarded Newton Perera more or less as an errand boy. The inspector was not aware of the political conflict between Buddharakkita Thera and the Prime Minister.
When Buddharakkita Thera sent for him he went openly, in uniform. Is that the behaviour of a conspirator? When Buddharak kite Thera asked Newton Perera to procure some cartridges the relationship between them was such that the latter could not have said: 'You don't tell me these things. I can't do it.'
"When Newton Perera initiated Buddharakkita Thera on the way of the gun he would have known of no conspiracy. After all, in wanting a gun that would fire Buddharakkita Thera was behaving naturally. There is no reason at all why the 1st accused would have told Inspector Newton Perera that he wanted the revolver and the cartridges to kill the Prime Minister.
"Inspector Perera, had no motive whatever to kill the Prime Minister. He was not a businessman, or a champion of ayurveda. A sub-inspector of policeï¿½what is the compelling motive that made him conspire to kill the Prime Minister of a country? He had none. He was a victim of what is a common fault among many Ceylonese - of doing favours for big people without asking questions.
Mr. Satyendra said that Buddharakkita Thera regarded Newton Perera more or less as an errand boy. He uitlised him to procure a revolver and cartridges. What Newton Perera did was unlawful and for that he would be amply punished. His career in the police has been blasted. The matter at issue however was whether when procuring the cartridges and the revolver Inspecter Newton Perera knew they would be used to kill the Prime Minister. My submission was that he did not. His relationship with Budharakkita Thera was such that when he asked him a favour he dared not ask questions.
"Inspector Perera, is going to be amply punished for this fault, for getting an unlicensed firearm. His career in the police force has been blasted. But that is not the matter in issue. When Newton Perera got Buddharakkita Thera the cartridges did he know they would be used to kill Solomon West Ridgeway Dias Bandaranaike? Was he a part of the conspiracy to murder the Priome Minister? It is on this matter that you must be convinced - convinced beyond reasonable doubt."