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Ulterior motives behind Vass' detention

2013 Jun 29

by Ishara Ratnakara


Ajith Pathirana, Senior Counsel for former DIG, Vass Gunawardena, who is in remand custody in connection with the murder of Mohamed Shyam, said there was no independent evidence against his client.


He said there were some people, who believed the former DIG was the most ruthless criminal in the country. However, he does not represent the entire Police Department; he is just one of the officers in the department.
 The case on the murder of Mohamed Shyam was taken up for hearing on Tuesday (25) in the presence of Colombo Additional Magistrate, A.M. Sahabdeen.


A team of lawyers, led by Attorney-at-Law Anuja Premaratne, is representing Gunawardena.
OIC of the CID’s Special Investigations Unit, Ranjith Munasinghe, appearing on behalf of the prosecution with ASP Shani Abeysekera, presenting a progress report of the investigations to date, said: “Former DIG Vass Gunawardena, who is the third suspect in the case, has been produced in Court by the Prisons officials. There are six more suspects in remand custody, still under interrogation. A Sri Lanka Navy diver was instructed to locate the mobile phone that had been thrown into a canal by one of the suspects. The Navy diver found parts of the mobile phone, which belonged to the murdered businessman. From statements made by Shahul Hameed during interrogation, the CID had been informed the mobile phone belonging to the victim had been thrown in a canal by the suspect, Fouzdeen. I also request the statement made by Gamini Sarathchandra, who is in remand custody, to the Magsitrate, be permitted to be used in the ongoing investigation.


“The pick-up truck, which was reportedly used in the killing, WP PC 4876, and the white van, which belongs to the CID, had been handed over to the Government Analyst with the permission of the Court.'


The CID sleuths also produced in Court, the two pistols which were said to be allocated and used for the security of the former DIG on 16 May 2013, following a personal request.  Addressing the Court further, Counsel Ajith Pathirana said: “The suspects had been detained under the Prevention of Terrorism Act (PTA) without a valid reason. It is patently clear there are ulterior motives behind his detention. Statements made by three of the suspects had been recorded. Their statements were recorded when they were in police custody. That is a regrettable matter. Some of the confidential statements, which were made by the suspects, had been published in a well-known newspaper, which is grossly unfair by the accused. Vass Gunawardena is an officer who had eliminated the underworld and who, in the past, had taken a large number of criminals into custody.  The murder took place around a month ago and there had been only some parts of a mobile phone, which had been found in a canal, and there is no other evidence, at all, in this case. Even a report on the mobile phone had not been obtained.


'Now there is an attempt to take Gunawardena’s son into custody. There are efforts being made to record statements from one his domestics, with the aim of attempting to draw his son into the case as well. This is a grave injustice to a senior police officer who had committed himself to upholding law and order in the country. He is a chronic diabetic patient and has high blood pressure. Therefore, I appeal that he be given medical treatment. I also appeal that the contents of the report, which the CID had filed be verified and confirmed.”


Attorney Ajith Siriwardena, who appeared on behalf of the victim’s family, said: “The aggrieved party is pleased with the manner in which the CID is conducting investigations, which are proceeding well. According to the report released by the CID on 10 June, some suspects have not been arrested as yet. Is there some pressure against the arrest of those suspects? I would like to bring that point as well to the attention of the Court. This case is bound to generate much public attention. The Attorney General has been giving advice with regard to the case. While the Attorney General’s Department is being the represented, the Attorney General has not appeared in Court with regard to the case.


“No one had seen the murder being committed, and the case is being conducted on circumstantial evidence. I also appeal the advice of the Attorney General be sought as the case proceeds.”


Attorney Ajith Pathirana: “The CID had also asked for a copy of the statement, which had been made by the suspect, Gamini Sarathchandra, who is in police custody in the Magistrate’s Court. The Chief Investigations Officer in this case is the Court. There is no need for the presence of the Attorney General, at all, in this case, and we have no legal mandate to request the  Attorney General to be present when the case is called.”   
ASP Shani Abeysekera of the CID: “We received the advice of the Attorney General yesterday, as well.”
Attorney Ajith Pathirana: “The aggrieved party does not have confidence in ASP Shani Abeysekera, either.”
ASP Shani Abeysekera: “I too do not have confidence in you.”
Attorney Ajith Pathirana:  “We have confidence in ASP Shani Abeysekera, but it is the aggrieved party that does not have confidence in him.”


ASP Shani  Abeysekera: “It is important  that we  get a statement from the third suspect, former DIG Vass Gunawardena.”
Attorney Anuja Premaratne: “Are you trying to get his statement while he is in prison?”   
ASP Shani  Abeysekera: “There is no need for a suspect who is in remand prison to be brought to the police station to record a statement. He is in prison, in 115-4.”
Attorney Ajith Pathirana: “I request the statement, which had been handed over to the Magistrate, not be handed over to the CID.”


Additional Magistrate:  “I will deny the request to hand over the relevant report to the CID. I will also not issue an order for the Attorney General to be present in Court. I am also ordering that the suspect be remanded till 9 July. The case will be called again on 9 July.”

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