by Frederica Jansz
Rehan Wijeratne was the first to arrive at Apartment 15/03 at the JAIC Hilton on Saturday September 8. The time was around 6 p.m. The apartment had been rented for a day by his best friend and buddy Malaka Silva.
The two boys have told their friends that they had done so in order to watch the election results of the three provinces where polling had concluded that day – Wayamba, North Central and the Eastern Provinces.
Rehan had came in early to shower, change and await the arrival of Malaka who was expected to arrive together with five or six other friends.
While there Rehan has confided that he had received a call from former casino owner Nalin Fonseka. The latter owns an apartment at the JAIC Hilton situated on the 27th floor. Fonseka had buzzed him and asked, “I heard you are having a get-together why have I not been invited?” To which Rehan had replied, “We just came to watch the election results”. Fonseka had then asked Rehan to come up to his apartment.
The youngster obliged. Merely to go say, ‘Hi.’ Entering Fonseka’s penthouse like apartment he claims he noticed two unsavoury individuals appearing to stand guard at the appartment’s rear entrance near the kitchen. They appeared to be acting as bodyguards. However the two men were not in uniform.
Having greeted Nalin Fonseka, Rehan has confided that he spent a few minutes exchanging idle gossip before excusing himself to go back to apartment 15/03. Another individual and underworld character “Konde Chutti” was also present in Fonseka’s apartment at the time.
Konde Chutti previously was known to be underworld kingpin Nawala Nihal’s right-hand man. The late Nawala Nihal is a close relative of Fonseka.
When Rehan returned to the apartment Malaka Silva had already arrived with his friends. The time was around 7.30 p.m. They had then proceeded to watch the election results and had dinner.
The small party continued until the early hours of Sunday September 9. At around 3.30 a.m. the boys had left the apartment and entered the lobby of the JAIC Hilton on their way to the car park. In the lobby they had spotted the two men Rehan claims he had seen inside Nalin Fonseka’s apartment the previous night.
One of the men had allegedly approached Malaka and speaking in Sinhalese said, “Umbala me saray chande dinuwata eelanga saray dinnene ne,” (loosely translated meaning, “this time you guys may have won the election but you will not win the next time”).
Malaka had exchanged some words but when it looked like a heated argument was breaking out he had allegedly refused to respond further but walked out of the lobby into the car park area and climbed into the driving seat of his Range Rover vehicle.Rehan attempted to climb into the passenger front seat while their friends had tried getting into the back.
At which point, one of the men – later identified as a corporal in the Army had approached Malaka in the driving seat and grabbing him by the collar of his shirt and said, “Me saray umba ahapang Nalin inne ape patthay” (This time you may think otherwise but Nalin is on our side).
Malaka had attempted to shove him aside.
At which point some of his friends had yelled a warning, “Malaka! balapang mung weapon ekak adda,” (Malaka watch out! He has pulled out a weapon). The boys have since told friends that they had then heard the sound of a weapon loading.
They claim they got frightened that they were about to get shot at, by which time, according to Malaka and Rehan their friends had grappled with the two men who are now known to be serving army intelligence officers. A scuffle broke out and blows were exchanged. The pistol dropped to the floor and Malaka had yelled to his driver who was also present at the time to grab the weapon which the driver did.
Malaka claims he shouted to his driver to take the weapon to the police. The boys speedily left the scene and the driver had handed over the weapon together with the mobile phone of Major Chandana Pradeep to the Slave Island police.
Later, Major Chandana Pradeep lodged a complaint at the same police station accusing the boys of having stolen the gold chain he had been wearing around his neck at the time of the incident.
Police Spokesman Ajith Rohana confirmed that indeed the driver of Malaka Silva had handed over the weapon belonging to Major Chandana Pradeep and his mobile telephone to the Slave Island police the same morning.
SSP Ajith Rohana also confirmed that Major Chandana Pradeep too had initially lodged a complaint also with the Slave Island police that the boys had taken his weapon, mobile telephone and gold chain.
Later, however SSP Rohana said he had been told that the gold chain had been found inside the home of Major Pradeep. The police spokesman said Major Chandana Pradeep had identified himself as being from army intelligence and claimed to have been on duty at the JAIC Hilton the day of the incident.
Asked if the army officers had been at the apartment of Nalin Fonseka SSP Rohana said he did not know. Questioned if a statement had been recorded from Rehan Wijeratne and Malaka Silva the police spokesman replied in the negative asserting, “We are still looking for them”.
When told that as journalists we know where both boys are – that they were not in hiding but in their homes in Colombo he replied, “I am not involved in this case. I can only go by what the investigators have told me”.
Asked why Malaka Silva was not arrested when he visited the Kelaniya Raja Maha Viharaya in the company of his father Minister Mervyn Silva to pay respects to the Kapilavastu Relics SSP Ajith Rohana said, “He did so on Monday September 10, the day after this incident. It is true there were over 2,000 police officers on duty in Kelaniya that day. However none of them were aware of this incident or that Malaka was wanted. If you are wanted by the police only the Mount Lavinia or Ratmalana police can act. If you were to go to Kelaniya or Anuradhapura the police there cannot act unless an islandwide police alert is issued. In this case it was not. So the police were unaware despite the media reports”.
In the meantime Malaka and Rehan have insisted they have no idea how the army major got hurt. Admitting though, that he may have fallen to the ground in the ensuing scuffle and thus injured his head.
Later in the day that same morning, Nalin Fonseka had telephoned Rehan Wijeratne at around 11 a.m. and said, “Rehan malli api meka godin beragamu, avith mage athata weapon eke denna” (Rehan, let’s settle this amicably come and give me the weapon).
Fonseka had then added, “Malli may army eke inna aya. Ussas niladariek thamai maygollo mata dunne” (These are army men given to me by a high ranking officer in the army). Rehan says he has proof of this telephone call made by Fonseka to his mobile telephone.
Speaking to The Sunday Leader from his home in Colombo on Friday, Rehan Wijeratne said, “The only reason I am not making a statement is because of the ongoing police investigation. I believe the truth will always prevail. Which is why I am not absconding. If they want to arrest me they can do it”. Asked if police had visited his home he said they had not done so up to Friday September 14th.
He added, “My mother (Bharathi Wijeratne) has not contacted anyone. Not the President, nor the Defence Secretary. Nobody. She told me, Rehan, if you have done something wrong then you must face the consequences. If not, the truth will prevail”.
Acting spokesman for the military Brigadier J. V. Ravipriya said the Army is to carry out a military court of inquiry.
According to Brigadier Ravipriya, the military court of inquiry has been appointed in this case as the party concerned is subjected to military law. Asked who in the army will conduct the inquiry he said, “The names of those officers cannot be divulged for public consumption”.
Questioned on what exactly took place in the early hours of September 9 at the JAIC Hilton Brigadier Ravipriya said, “We do not have much information other than that there was an argument, then a quarrel and then the officers were assaulted after which Major Chandana Pradeep was treated for head wounds at the Colombo National Hospital before being transferred to the Narahenpita Military Hospital”.
Asked if the two officers had been present inside the apartment of Nalin Fonseka on the 27th floor of the JAIC Hilton Brigadier Ravipriya replied, “I do not know. However the two officers were on duty”.
Pressed to explain what exactly he meant by them being on duty he said, “I cannot be specific. They are army intelligence officers and they were working that night”. When we telephoned the JAIC Hilton and asked to speak with Nalin Fonseka at his apartment on the 27th floor the operator after checking came back on line and said, “Mr. Fonseka’s domestics say he is away – out of Colombo and cannot be contacted”. We left a message and a contact mobile telephone number but at the time of going to press Mr. Fonseka had not called.
Rehan Danushka Wijeratne is not the son of the late Mano Wijeratne. He is the son of Sujith Jayawickrema and Bharathi Wijeratne. Rehan studied at S. Thomas’ College Mount Lavinia and is a classmate of the President’s son Namal Rajapaksa.
Malaka Silva too was a classmate. Silva’s education career remains as chequered as his current behavior given that he is not just a school drop-out but a college drop-out too.
Rehan’s parents divorced when he was just three years old. He remained in the custody of his mother, having little contact with his biological Dad.
He subsequently adopted the name of his maternal grandfather Wijeratne.
His mother, Bharathi Wijeyratne (nee Wijeratne) is currently Sri Lanka’s Ambassador to Turkey. She is also Chairperson of the Ranjan Wijeratne Foundation. The late Ranjan Wijeratne was her Uncle. Her second marriage was to the late parliamentarian Mano Wijeratne.
The late General Ranjan Wijeratne was a defacto Commander-in-Chief of Sri Lanka’s Armed Forces during the reign of Southern terror in the late 80s. He was initially a Lt. Colonel but was posthumously promoted to the rank of General for annihilating JVP terror.
According to the website dedicated to the memory of the late Ranjan Wijeratne the Foundation was formed to carry on his vision for the “Motherland and her Armed Forces”. The Foundation, therefore lists its chief objectives as providing welfare, publicity and related activities towards the Armed Forces following the conclusion of Sri Lanka’s three decade long war.
It must indeed be ironical then that in this backdrop, Rehan stands accused of having been party to the physical assault of a military officer.
The Ranjan Wijeratne Foundation recently funded the book ‘Gota’s War’ authored by C. A. Chandraprema. Which is why, Rehan’s mother Bharathi, delivered the welcome address at a glitzy, politically studded function held on May 14 this year at the Grand Ballroom at Waters Edge to launch the book. C. A. Chandraprema confirmed that indeed Bharathi Wijeratne not only spearheaded but was in charge of raising funds for the book he authored. He said he could not however recall how much exactly the Foundation donated towards the final publication of the book.
Rehan and Malaka share a long term friendship. Both are 25 years old. The two young men clearly are “buddies” going by their pictures posing together on the beach and elsewhere on their Facebook pages.
That apart, both are employed at the Ministry of Public Relations and Public Affairs where the Minister is Mervyn Silva. Malaka is ‘Private Secretary’ to his Dad while Rehan reportedly had told family and friends that he functioned for a time as Mervyn Silva’s ‘Press Secretary’.
For how long he served in this position is not clear. Additionally, according to his Facebook page he states that he is working as a “Director” at Udekki Alankuda Beach in Kalpitiya.
Glen Terry, the owner of Udekki confirmed to The Sunday Leader that Rehan is a Director at his hotel. courtesy: The Sunday Leader