Democracy Continues, Sri Lanka Style...
Plot to kill Head of Media Organisation
Sonali Samarasinghe, Sunday Leader, 1 January 2006
Shocking evidence in the possession of The Sunday Leader reveals
an insidious plot allegedly masterminded by a top politician, to
murder a well-known media mogul. The plan, hatched behind prison
walls with the aid of a network of mobile phones and underworld king
pins, comes at a time when the independent media in this country is
severely under threat.
Evidence in our possession suggests that an underworld cabal of some
four-five unsavoury characters were co-opted by an army deserter and
a serving army major to carry out the killing of the head of the
Maharaja Organisation for a sum of Rs. 120 million .
The Maharaja boss controls three of the most widely watched
television stations in the country -
MTV, Sirasa and Shakthi and arguably the country's most
influential radio stations - Sirasa FM, Yes FM and Shakthi FM. The
news of the murderous contract, bound to rock the media world, is
all the more disturbing due to the alleged involvement of a high
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The politician mentioned is none other than Prime Minister
Ratnasiri Wickremanayake, who upon hearing he had been identified as
the contractor was aghast and charged that it was a politician more
powerful than he, with connections to the army major who is reported
to have allegedly contracted the underworld gang leader to carry out
the murder. Wickremanayake even went so far as to tell his
confidants that when the army major was to be arrested in a police
crackdown on underworld figures during his tenure as public security
minister, political influence was brought to bear not to arrest the
major in question.
Wickremanayake believes a dirty game is afoot to target him for
someone else's foul deed, especially given his good relations with
the Sirasa media organisation.
Horror of the past
As we kick off the new year we cannot immediately forget the horror
of the old. Seared in our minds is the brutal murder of
better known as Taraki. Neither can the media forget the burning of
The Sunday Leader factory not long before the November 17
Presidential election and the constant threats under which the
independent media has to carry out its duty towards the public. All
these attacks came not long after verbal attacks were launched by
government politicos against media institutions and journalists in
It was just the other day jailed UNP National Organiser S.B.
Dissanayake charged that President Mahinda Rajapakse had personally
pledged to release him no sooner certain journalists critical of him
were imprisoned with the help of the courts.
The surest sign of a vibrant democracy is a free media. In that
respect this nation has been a
limping and cancerous pseudo democracy for a long time. Not two
months ago the entire nation witnessed the venom spewed out by the
likes of politicians such as Mervyn Silva who singled out the Sirasa
television station and its owner for his outbursts, even calling the
group para demalu who must go back to India.
Minister of Commerce, Jeyaraj Fernandopulle has excelled himself in
his vitriolic statements against the media, again naming this
particular media group, accusing it of breaking up the UPFA
government. He went so far as to link the owners of this media
organisation to LTTE Chief Velupillai Pirapaharan in an attempt to
whip up public animosity towards this organisation and its owners.
Even JVP Propaganda Secretary Wimal Weerawansa has been on the
offensive against the Sirasa organisation and its owners. These
verbal onslaughts reached a peak during the run up to the
presidential election compelling the Maharaja Organisation to make
written complaints to the Inspector General of Police Chandra
Fernando against Fernandopulle and Silva, copies of which are in our
Needless to say no action followed. President Mahinda Rajapakse
himself came out all guns firing when he made his policy statement
in parliament last month and was not above hitting at the private
media in his opening remarks.
This culture of media bashing is what has put the freedom of
expression under grave threat and appears ominous given the contract
to murder the head of one of the, if not the, largest media
organisation in this country.
Here's the full story.
Prisoner number X 3903 T.M.D.A. Ilangaratne was a 38-year-old man
serving sentences in 29 cases. He had attempted three jailbreaks for
which he was serving another six and a-half years. He was thus to be
released only on July 8, 2013. Due to his frequent attempts to
escape, Ilangaratne was a man who was being transferred from one
prison to another as punishment.
Not only that, prisoner number X3903 was also an informant for the
police and was used from time to time to gain information about the
underworld. While in the process of being transferred from Mahara to
Welikada prison last month, Ilangaratne was to communicate to his
police contact, that he was given a contract by one Major Niroshan
Fernando, an army deserter to kill the Sirasa-Maharaja boss. (The
name of the policeman and his station are withheld for security
The police officer immediately informed the prison authorities who
in turn decided to record the prisoner's statement. Ilangaratne
agreed, provided protection could be guaranteed, for himself and his
Accordingly, the superintendent of prisons was to record the
statement of Ilangaratne where he revealed he was asked to carry out
a contract killing of the Sirasa chief before the presidential
election by one major Niroshan Fernando, an army deserter who
allegedly acted as a hitman for the People's Alliance government and
one Major Lanka who was still serving in the army. Ilangaratne
alleged, Fernando told him there was nothing to worry about as the
orders came from a political bigwig, none other than Prime Minister
Ilangaratne had first met Niroshan in the Anuradhapura prison where
he too was serving a two-year jail term during the UNP regime in
2002. Hailing from Malkaduwawa, Kurunegala Niroshan also had a
residence in Kotte. His brother Neranjan was the chief jailor at the
Polonnaruwa prison. Even once Niroshan was released from prison on
appeal, he continued to visit Ilangaratne at the Anuradhapura
Ilangaratne however happened to speak to Niroshan regarding the
contract on a phone belonging to another inmate and member of the
underworld, one Thambirajah. Thambirajah who overheard parts of the
conversation regarding money then inquired about it from
Ilangaratne. Later Thambirajah too spoke many times to Niroshan
regarding the contract. He then conveyed this plan to another mafia
Ilangaratne also revealed to the prison authorities that Niroshan
had urged the inmates to keep the matter a secret and that he will
hand over the money once the deed is done.
Niroshan also asked Ilangaratne to escape from prison, collect a
number of underworld goons and commit the crime for which the
necessary logistical support including vehicles were to be provided.
Ilangaratne was to discuss the matter with not only prison inmate
Thambirajah but also with inmate Prince, a mafia boss. Thambirajah
meanwhile expressed eagerness to get involved in this contract
together with his underworld boss Prince.
This underworld outfit had many of its members inside the prisons
and out. Inside were Prince, Thambirajah, Jebba, Kelaniye Mangala an
army deserter, Sekara from Maligawatte, and Dinuk Perera who was
granted bail by the courts on the very day Ilangaratne's statement
was being recorded.
The contract was to be carried out by prison escapees and ex
inmates. That is Thambirajah, one Ahinsaka, one Jebba and Dinuk
Ilangaratne who is also an informant for the police had immediately
communicated the plot to his police contact who promised to
investigate this matter forthwith.
Spilt the beans
The police contact in turn alerted the prison authorities. In the
meantime Ilangaratne was being transported from Mahara to Welikada
prison on December 16, 2005 in order to face a disciplinary inquiry
over the illegal possession of a mobile phone, conducted at the
office of Rumi Marzook, the Commissioner General of Prisons, Prison
Headquarters. It was here that Ilangaratne was to spill the beans
regarding the plot.
To the credit of the prison authorities, no sooner than Marzook got
wind of the plot he immediately informed the Superintendent of
Prisons, Mahara and directed him to record the statement of inmate
Ilangaratne. Accordingly on December 18, 2005, the superintendent of
prisons, Mahara, recorded the oral statement of Ilangaratne.
However, unbeknownst to the prison authorities and to Ilangaratne, a
full electronic recording of his oral statement was also made. A
copy of this recording is now in the possession of The Sunday
What gives rise to suspicion and throws a shroud of mystery over the
matter is that the statement in fact recorded by the superintendent
of the Mahara Prison is incomplete and omits several key statements
made by Ilangaratne. Vital to the issue, he omits the name of Prime
Minister Ratnasiri Wickremanayake even though the tape recording
reveals Ilangaratne mentioning the involvement of the Prime Minister
on several occasions at one stage even stating he is 200 percent
sure the Prime Minister is involved. Ilangaratne also reiterates the
connection between the Prime Minister and Niroshan, another matter
which is carefully omitted in the written statement. (A transcript
of the tape recording is published elsewhere on these
pages).Ilangaratne claims Niroshan works for the Prime Minister, a
charge Wickremanayake vehemently denies.
Neither does the statement written down by the Mahara superintendent
mention the Rs. 12 million promised for the contract killing, the
name of Major Lanka the other person Ilangaratne alleges was
involved with Niroshan in the plot, the fact that inmate Thambirajah
informed one mafia boss Charles about the plot nor for that matter
Thambirajah's involvement in the whole issue. Nor does this
statement contain the names of the gangsters who were earmarked to
carry out the contract, namely Ahinsaka, Jebba, Dinuk Perera,
Shekera of Maligawatte and Mangala. Neither does the statement make
any reference to Ilangaratne informing his police contact about the
plot even though the tape recording clearly reveals he said all of
the above in his statement.
The Superintendent of the Mahara prison sent the written statement
recorded by him to the Commissioner General-Prisons, Rumy Marzook
with a covering letter. In his covering letter written in Sinhala he
states inter alia as follows:
That according to the prisoner's statement he had acquainted himself
with Niroshan Fernando while both were serving jail terms and that
after Niroshan was released from prison he received a telephone call
from him regarding a contract to kill the Sirasa- Maharaja owner.
That Ilangaratne had said he will think about it later. Ilangaratne
was to receive another phone call from Fernando subsequently, which
conversation was overheard by prison inmate in the A 3 division,
Request for money
It was also revealed that Niroshan is the younger brother of the
chief jailor of the Polonnaruwa prison, Niranjan. The covering
letter also states the prisoner had requested the Maharaja
Organisation to pay him some money in exchange for the information
he divulged. The superintendent thus states in his covering letter
that the fact Ilangaratne did not immediately inform the prison
authorities in Mahara of his telephone conversation regarding the
alleged plot is another reason for him to suspect that Ilangaratne
may have merely been looking to fleece the Maharaja Organisation.
The letter observes that due to a possible threat to his life after
these revelations Ilangaratne had requested a transfer to
Anuradhapura Prison. However the superintendent advises that since
the prisoner hails from that district it would be wiser to transfer
him to Bogambara or Badulla.
Deputy Minister informed
The very next day, December 19, 2005 Marzook was to dispatch the
statement made by Ilangaratne as taken down by superintendent of
prisons Mahara, and the superintendent's covering letter to the
Deputy Minister of Justice, Dilan Perera for necessary action.
However no action has yet been taken at least to have Niroshan
Fernando's statement recorded almost two weeks later, despite the
fact that both the Deputy Minister of Justice and the police chief
are well aware of the matter.
The truth or otherwise of these allegations can only be determined
if a full and fair inquiry is held.
President Rajapakse must now call for a full investigation into this
matter given that the President promised the dawn of a new culture
and pledged to root out the operation of underworld gangs and mafia
Surely the safety of not only the media but society at large cannot
be compromised by mafia gangs enjoying the patronage of politicians
who use them for various nefarious activities and finally canno
exctricate themselves from their clutches.
Ilangaratne's statement caught on hidden tape
Here we publish excerpts of a transcript of the taped recording of
Ilangaratne's statement which is in sharp variance to the 'official'
statement recorded by the superintendent of prisons, Mahara. Both
were recorded at the same time.
"Firstly I must have protection for my home. My family and children
must be protected. I need money to spend for my cases. If I receive
the money in a couple of months I could be out of prison. I will
have to leave the town I stay in and the country. As soon as I get
out they will know I gave the information. They can kill my wife and
children. I have to be in prison another six years. They have a lot
of underworld connections in this prison. They also have the same
political affiliations. So I could be harassed."
Question by the Prisons Commissioner. "Tell us whom you were
directed to kill?"
"A contract for 70 million to kill Sirasa Maharaja owner. This
contract was given to me by two army Majors. Niroshan Fernando and
Lanka. Niroshan first spoke about this with me. This contract was
given to Niroshan Fernando by a powerful politician. Please protect
me by transferring me to the Anuradhapura prison. There are no
underworld gangsters in that prison. I also need some money to look
after my wife and children. This contract was handed down by Prime
Minister Ratnasiri Wickremaenayake. I am 200 percent sure of this.
"Niroshan Fernando gave me this contract a few months ago. He said
for about six-seven underworld characters to escape from prison and
to kill the Sirasa Maharaja owner. That he will give 120 million and
the vehicles to carry out the deed. The phone I use inside the
prison belongs to another inmate Thambirajah. I later told him about
this contract. He then spoke many times to Niroshan Fernando. He
also informed Charles, a mafia boss. Niroshan too spoke on this
matter many times with Thambirajah. He said that he will give me the
necessary money to keep this a secret.
I know Niroshan Fernando because he was with me in the Anuradhapura
prisons. He was imprisoned during the UNP regime. Even after he was
released he came many times to meet me. I am certain Niroshan
Fernando said that this contract was given by a powerful politician
at that time - Ratnasiri Wickremanayake. Niroshan was born in
Kurunegala, Baudhaloka Mawatha, Malkaduwawa. He also has a house in
Kotte. I don't know the exact location. I was told to quickly get
out of prison with about four-five underworld gangsters and we will
be given everything we require. We were told to quickly finish this
"Consequently Thambirajah said he will undertake the contract
together with his mafia boss, Prince. They have people inside and
outside. The mafia members inside are Prince, Thambirajah, Jebba,
Kelaniye Mangala an army deserter, and Paathaale Sekera from
Maligawatte. Again today a person is being released on bail he is
Dinuk Perera. Behind all this is the mafia boss Prince.
"Besides Prince there is Niroshan Perera. They are having
discussions all the time with Thambirajah. Only Niroshan Perera and
Thambirajah know that I am aware of this plot. Even now Thambirajah
is in contact with me. He is in A3 division. He has mobile phones. I
informed about this to Jayasinghe of the special branch at Mirihana
police station. He said he will do something immediately to stop
"This contract was to be carried out by prison escapees and those
already released from prison. After the deed was carried out we were
to be handed over to the Justice Minister and after that we would
get some relief we were told. That is Thambirajah, Ahinsaka, Jebba
and Dinuk Perera.
"Niroshan Fernando also told me that when the government returns to
power he will ask for a pardon for me and get me released. Niroshan
at one time used to dig for treasure. While in the army camp he used
to be involved in crimes on behalf of the People's Alliance
government. In 2002 when Ranil Wickremesinghe became prime minister
he was sent to jail for two years on a charge in Polonnaruwa. Then
he appealed but later was removed from the army. The person called
Lanka is still in service. He is in a camp somewhere in the Jaffna
"I have been very close to Niroshan Fernando. Now he lives in
Kurunegala. In Kotte, with the minister, with Prime Minister
"I had Niroshan Fernando's number but during a case in Mahara prison
a week ago all my books were thrown away and all my numbers were in
them. But he can be found easily at his Kotte residence. Again he
has a younger brother who is the chief jailor at Polonnaruwa prison.
He is Niranjan and he stays at the Polonnaruwa prison. Niroshan did
not mention any other ministers involved in this. That one is the
person who is connected. I do not know about any other connections.
I do not know if Neranjan Fernando is aware of this contract or not.
"I am only saying that before too long this crime will be committed.
But I do not know where it will take place, but I know that somehow
it will happen.
"Finally the person who has undertaken this contract fully is
Niroshan Fernando. The crime is to be committed by underworld leader
Prince and his henchmen. Of his henchmen Thambirajah is his chief
henchman. He is even now in Welikada prison. He is the one who
undertakes all the contracts going around. He takes it and gives it
to that one. The other gangster is Ahinsaka and there is another one
called Wijeratne. He is in Kalutara prison. They are the ones who
take the outside contracts and hand them over.
"Also outside, is a person called Kelaniye Mangala. He was bailed
out recently by Prince and them. Sekara was also taken by Prince.
These are the people connected to this crime. There was also a
person called Danushka. He is the man who killed one Vishram in the
Hulftsdorp court house. He is also now in prison. Prince is now in
Kalutara prison. It is from inside that he controls all this through
mobile phones. He is the one who has undertaken all the contracts
"But it is Niroshan who gave this to me. I have not been told any
secrets before this. He gave me this one. That is because I have
been inside prison but I have made jail breaks three times.
Therefore I am treated as a special prisoner and receive punishment
accordingly. He knows that for something like this I can get people
from inside the prison.
"It is Ratnasiri Wickremanayake who is connected to this. Because he
is always talking about this I think this is very sure. He is also
asking why Ilangaratne is not doing this job, whether he has not
found the people, is he not doing it etc. etc.. It is only after
that Thambirajah came into the picture. I introduced Niroshan to
"I won't be able to keep my daughters in the house. Either the
Majors will attack or either from the army or the underworld they
will attack. In any event there are many major crimes in Colombo
perpetrated by the underworld. If Ratnasiri Wickremanayake tells the
police I am finished. I am only telling you because this is a major
Ilangaratne's statement as recorded by Supdt. of Mahara Prisons
Prisoner number - X 3903 - E.M.D.B. Ilangaratne on 2005.12.18 makes
the following statement at the main office of the Mahara Prison:
I am a Buddhist, and I am 38 years old. I have studied up to grade
three at Delgama College, Anuradhapura. I don't know to read Sinhala
letters. I know to speak Sinhala. I cannot read Sinhala books or
newspapers. I was first sentenced at the Narammala Magistrate Courts
on January 10, 1994 to pay a fine of Rs 1500 or a prison term of six
months for two cases.
Thereafter there are 19 cases against me at Kuliyapitiya, Hettipola,
Warakapola, Galgamuwa, Kekirawa courts. I pleaded guilty for the
cases. I received sentences ranging from six months to one year for
the cases. While in jail I escaped in 1994 while being transported
to Anuradhpura from Bogambara Prison. Again in 1996 I escaped from
prison officers at Galgamuwa Magistrate Court. On April 27, 1997, I
escaped from the Anuradhapura Prison along with LTTE prisoners by
breaking the walls. For the jailbreaks I received sentences ranging
from one year, two years and three and half years from the Prison
Courts. I am due to be pardoned in 2013.
Due to breaking out of jail I am kept in the maximum security
section and due to disciplinary reasons I have moved from various
prisons under prisoner exchange discussions. In 2003 I was moved
from Anuradhapura Prison to Mahara Prison. In April 2004, I was
moved to Welikada from Mahara. In Welikada I was kept in B 3
section. There, after a confrontation with Nawala Nihal I was moved
to Colombo Magazine Prison.
After four months I was moved back to Welikada to the V O section.
There I helped the chief jailor to take into custody cellular phones
and heroin from the section. Thereafter I was moved to the special A
3 section. Here members of organiszed crime gangs are kept. They
have cellular phones with them and they have handed them over to me
to hide sometimes. I have informed the chief jailor of the illegal
activities going on in the section.
In 2004 while on the way to Anuradhapura prison I met an army major
named Niroshan. He is a resident of Kurunegala. Thereafter he was
staying with me in the special section of the Bogambara Prison. He
was serving a two-year term and we were friends. During the latter
part of 2004, while I was in Special Section 3 of Welikada Prison I
kept the mobile phones of underworld members with me.
One day Niroshan phoned me, and said there was a contract to murder
Maharaja of Sirasa and whether we should take it. I said I have to
think about it. He said that there was nothing to worry about as
this was coming from a top politician, the phone went dead
thereafter. I cannot say for sure whether the person who spoke as
Niroshan was really Niroshan himself.
Niroshan is the younger brother of jailor Niranjan who is from
Malkaduwawatte, Kurunegala, he iscurrently at the Polonnaruwa
Prison. I noticed that Thambirajah who was in the A 3 section was
talking various things secretly. I don't know what he was talking
about. In January 2005 Niroshan spoke to me. Then asked me if
Thambirajah gave a message. He said that I was talking about
murdering the owner of Sirasa.
He did not talk to me after that. In June 2005, the mobile was
detected. I had to appear before the Prison Judicial Committee for
keeping a mobile. I am yet to receive a sentence for that.
Thereafter I was moved to Mahara Prison. At Mahara Prison I wanted
to inform the chief jailor about the plot to murder the owner of
Then when I was taken to the Welikada Prison to appear before the
Prison Judicial Committee, I was taken to meet the Commissioner of
Prisons. There I requested that I be provided security and for
security reasons to be moved to Anuradhapura Prison. I also asked
him to get me money from Sirasa owners for providing the information
and also for some money for my wife and children. I have only this
We are aware of a threat - Director
Group Director, Human Resources, Maharaja Organisation, Priantha
Serasinhe when contacted by The Sunday Leader said the organisation
was informed of the alleged plot. "We have been informed of a
possible threat and we are currently awaiting the outcome of an
investigation," he said.