by C.A. Chandraprema
Last week Harsha Bandara Tilakasiri a former personal staff member and valet to minister Champika Ranawaka made a formal complaint to the Chairman of the Sri Lanka Medical Council, Professor Carlo Fonseka, alleging that he had been given treatment against his will at the Angoda mental hospital for a mental illness that he never had. The translation of the letter he submitted to the Medical Council goes as follows:
Nikitha Harsha Tilakasiri Bandara
No: 81 Moratuwa Road
8 February 2017
Sri Lanka Medical Council
No: 31 Norris Canal Road
Complaint into misconduct by a medical professional
I was an executive chef at Water’s Edge Hotel and functioned as a cook and personal assistant to Minister Patali Champika Ranawaka. I lived in the minister’s official residence at Wijerama Mawatha. Following differences that emerged with the minister, I was admitted to the Angoda mental hospital. The purpose of this was to label me as a mental patient if at some point I decided to reveal what I knew about him.
I had no mental illness but I was forcibly given medicine and administered electric shocks. This treatment was administered on the instructions of Dr Jayan Mendis. I suffered tremendous discomfort by being treated with electric shocks for a mental illness that I never had.
By administering treatment that has subsequent side effects to person who had no illness, at the behest of Minister Patali Champika Ranawaka, the above mentioned medical professional has committed an act of medical misconduct and has acted contrary to medical ethics.
I request that a formal inquiry be conducted into the act of medical misconduct committed by Dr Jayan Mendis.
Sgd. Nikitha Harsha Tilakasiri Bandara
This may have been one of the strangest complaints ever received by the Medical Council. Some weeks ago, when we took this matter up in this column, our position was that the Sri Lanka Medical Council should look into this complaint of a person being treated forcibly at the Angoda Mental Hospital. The altercation over a Korean woman that Harsha Bandara Tilakasiri says took place between him and Minister Champika Ranawaka may be considered scandalous by puritanical types but is of little interest to the ordinary public. However the issue of a person with no mental illness being forcibly treated at a mental hospital certainly is.
Namal Rajapaksa’s comments
Last week, lawyer and NGO activist Namal Rajapaksa (not to be confused with the former President’s son.) speaking to the media outside the headquarters of the CID in Colombo, explained that certain politicians have started making various allegations against ministers and ministry officials by using a mental patient. He stated that this individual had taken treatment for severe mental illness from several mental hospitals and that he had tried to commit suicide. On this occasion ministry officials had taken him to the Mulleriyawa Mental Hhospital and that this individual had taken treatment there on several earlier occasions. He stated that we are now seeing the lowest form of politics using a mentally unsound person.
Lawyer Rajapaksa stated that a complaint has been made to this effect to the CID and that he had come to inquire into the progress of the investigation into this matter. He said that the police investigation had revealed so far that that this individual had been taken to the mental hospital by his brother on several occasions and that he had been advised to continuously take treatment. He stated that this individual suffers from severe depression and that he has a tendency to imagine things and hallucinate and make various statements. He stated that Sri Lankan politics has become bankrupt to the extent of using a mentally deranged person to hurl mud at politicians. He stated that this individual had served in the house of Minister Patali Champika Ranawaka for some time and that without showing any gratitude for the favours done for him he is now acting according to instructions given by people who had fallen out with Ranawaka.
Rajapaksa said that this individual is suffering from a very serious mental illness (ithamathma darunu lesa manasika rogayakin pelena pudgalayek) and that he says various things he imagines and that this individual had mentioned a woman but that this woman herself had made a statement saying that there was no such thing. Lawyer Rajapaksa said that he had been admitted to the Angoda mental hospital by his brother and that this person is trying to make out that the treatment given to him had been dictated by ministry officials and that nothing of the sort had happened. He said that this individual had been given electric shocks as part of his treatment and that even this was being made use of for political purposes.
Lawyer Rajapaksa said that this individual is now hallucinating even more because he has not been taking the treatment that he has to take continuously. He said that this person is making various statements under the influence of certain individuals but if anything comes to light, a mentally ill person is unable to give evidence in a court of law and he is considered to be of a similar metal capacity to an under-aged person. Rajapaksa stated that if an individual like this is influenced and made to make various statements, legal action can be taken against such parties.
What Harsha and Lankendra say
This writer spoke to Harsha Bandara Tilakasiri to get certain matters clarified. One of the most important things that needed to be clarified was whether he had received treatment for any mental disorders from Angoda or elsewhere from Dr Jayan Mendis or any other person. Tilakasiri says that he had never seen Dr Mendis before and that he had seen him for the first time only at the Angoda mental hospital when he was taken there forcibly. Tilakasiri had not taken treatment for mental problems from Angoda hospital or from any private hospital. However at the height of the alleged tug of war between him and Minister Ranawaka over the Korean lady around March-April 2016, he had difficulty sleeping due to stress, and had been recommended pills to induce sleep by a general practitioner in Piliyandala.
Being prescribed sleeping pills cannot be described as a mental disorder. Speaking to our collague Dilanthi Jayamanne of The Island Dr. Jayan Mendis said he had treated Thilakasiri ‘previously’ in a private hospital and there had been a lapse in follow-up sessions as the patient had not visited him for treatment. However Tilakasiri denies that he had ever taken treatment from Dr Mendis before he was taken forcibly to Angoda. Tilakasiri explains that after he was given ‘leave’ from his captivity in Angoda to stay at home and report to the hospital once a week, he had privately channeled Dr Mendis once, to get a letter from him formally discharging him from hospital as recounted below.
After having left Minister Ranawaka’s house he had gone back to his own home in Piliyandala but had not told his father or his brother Lankendra or any other member of his family that he had fallen out with Champika Ranawaka because that would have scared them. About two days after he had left Ranawaka, the latter’s driver Pradeep Alwis had suggested to him that they get together at the house of a mutual friend in Ratmalana for a drink. Harsha had agreed because he had known Pradeep Alwis for a long time and considered him a friend. They had then taken a drink and before turning in for the night Tilakasiri says that he took the sleeping pill that he now customarily took every night but that it had reacted with the alcohol and he had been taken to the Kalubowila hospital in a state of extreme intoxication. They had induced vomiting and after he had recovered in a few hours he had gone right back to his friend’s house and unable to sleep, had continued drinking till morning.
At about 10.00 am Champika’s team had come to the house and wanted him to come with them to see the minister which he had refused to do. At this point, they had given Harsha Tilakasiri’s brother Lankendra Tilakasiri a phone call and told him that Harsha was ill without specifying what the illness was, and that he had to be admitted to hospital and that they needed him to come over immediately. Lankendra had told the people at home that Harsha was ill and that he needed to be hospitalized and that he was going to attend to it. Lankendra told this writer that he had not been informed by Harsha that he had fallen out with the minister. Of the persons who had been present, Lankendra says that he knew Pradeep Alwis but that he did not know Chandana Ranasinghe, the UDA official. However Lankendra did not have any suspicions at this stage because Harsha had been with Minister Ranawaka for nearly 20 years and he did not think these people would wish Harsha ill.
They had then bundled Harsha Tilakasiri into a vehicle and had gone straight to the Angoda mental hospital. At the hospital, a junior doctor had admitted him and the papers had been signed by Chandana Ranasinghe of the UDA and Lankendra Tilakasiri who had also been asked to sign. Even at the time of admission Harsha had been groggy after drinking. After Harsha Tilakasiri had been admitted to Angoda, Lankendra received a call from home wanting to know what was happening. On learning that Harsha had been admitted to the Angoda mental hospital, their mother and Harsha’s 13-year old son had become hysterical and wanted him brought home immediately. On the day that he was admitted to Angoda, Lankendra had stayed by his bedside. From the next day onwards it had been Pradeep Alwis who had stayed by his bedside.
It was only days after Harsha was admitted to Angoda that Lankendra had got to know that Harsha had fallen out with Champika. It had been Pradeep Alwis who had first told Lankendra that there was ‘a small problem’ between the minister and Harsha. From the day after Harsha had been admitted to Angoda, there had been strict restrictions on visitors seeing Harsha. In fact the next day when Lankendra Tilakasiri and his father had gone to see Harsha, they had not been allowed to see him. At this point, Lankendra had phoned Chandana Ranasinghe and told him that they were not allowed to see Harsha. (Details of this recorded phone conversation are given below.) Despite the phone call to Ranasinghe, Lankendra and his father were not allowed inside until Pradeep Alwis arrived and took them inside.
Journalist Shantha Wijesuriya who had tried to see Harsha on two occasions had not been allowed to see him during the entire duration of his stay at Angoda. On the third day, Harsha had been given electro convulsive treatment and it was only after that that Dr Jayan Mendis had come to see him. Electro-convulsive treatment had been given to him under anaesthesia. He had been at the hospital for 28 days and had then been given ‘leave’ to stay at home and to report to the hospital once a week. After some time, Tilakasiri had privately channeled Dr Jayan Mendis and obtained a letter from him recommending his discharge from hospital.
Incriminating recorded evidence
These are things that we thought only happened in Hollywood blockbusters like ‘One Flew Over the Cukoo’s Nest’ starring Jack Nicholson and ‘Shutter Island’ starring Leonardo DiCaprio. Every person reading this article should access the following videos and voice clips over the internet and examine the statements made.
1. The original Vlog by journalist Darshana Handungoda which broke this story about Harsha Bandara Tilakasiri to the world. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RLC7YGJb1Oo
2. Video of the subsequent press conference given by Harsha Bandara Tilakasiri on 29 December 2016. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4XO_b7fhfbY
3. Comments made by lawyer and NGO activist Namal Rajapaksa outside the CID headquarters last week. https://youtu.be/EUerOTplawY
4. Comments made by Champika Ranawaka on the allegations made against him by Harsha Bandara Tilakasiri. https://youtu.be/JFD2Qgt4CX8
5. Comments made by Dr Jayan Mendis on this matter. https://youtu.be/qqrs2cYYeCA
6. Comments made by Chandana Ranasinghe of the UDA. https://youtu.be/S01hhh9INjM
7. Voice clip by police spokesman Ruwan Gunasekera. https://youtu.be/fIe3_j9fL6Y
8. Recorded telephone conversation between Lankendra Tilakasiri the brother of Harsha Bandara Tilakasiri and UDA official Chandana Ranasinghe. https://youtu.be/3fAlhrX3TYw
These videos and voice clips provide irrefutable proof that something is chillingly amiss in this whole sordid episode. Ranawaka refers to an ‘ummtatakaya’ (madman) in the above mentioned video which is obviously a reference to Harsha Tilakasiri. This begs the question how a madman served on his personal staff and lived in his own house for more than 16 years. Almost as if to answer this natural question, Champika states that he was not aware of this individual’s madness. Then Champika states that this individual made use of his proximity to him as a minister to do certain ‘wrong things’ and that he sacked this individual. This begs the question how a person who is not of sound mind can use his proximity to a minister to engage in shady activities.
It will be noted that lawyer Namal Rajapaksa (see video clip above) also described Tilakasiri as a person suffering from not one but several mental disorders and that he even has a tendency to hallucinate. How could such an individual serve on the personal staff of a minister for as long as 16 years and even function as his personal valet? The most important question is if Tilakasiri was sacked from his personal staff as Minister Ranawaka is shown saying very clearly in the above video, what business did members of his staff have to take Tilakasiri to Angoda and have him admitted to the mental hospital? It was Pradeep Alwis described as Champika’s driver who had been at his bedside during his stay in hospital.
If one listens to the voice clip of Dr Jayan Mendis he explains that patients don’t come to Angoda of their own free will and that mental patients don’t know that they are ill and need treatment and it is often family members or friends who have them treated. That certainly is true but in this case, a person who had been sacked by Champika is brought by a UDA official and others including Champika’s driver to be treated at Angoda. If Tilakasiri had left Champika’s service or been sacked as Champika himself says, members of the ministerial staff had no business taking Tilakasiri to Angoda for treatment. Even if they thought Tilakasiri needed treatment, they should have informed Tilakasiri’s family and left it to the family to take Tilakasiri to Angoda.
The recorded phone conversation between Lankendra Tilakasiri and UDA official Chandana Ranasinghe will be of great interest to the Sri Lanka Medical Council. In this voice clip Lankendra Tilakasiri is heard complaining to Chandana Ranasinghe that he was not allowed to see his brother at the hospital. Ranasinghe says that it was he who gave instructions to the hospital not to allow anyone to see Harsha Tilakasiri because there was a rumour that some journalists were trying to meet him. Ranasinghe then asks Lankendra Tilakasiri to give him a list of family members who will be allowed to see Harsha Tilakasiri. This clearly indicates that it was the UDA official Chandana Ranasinghe who was in charge of Harsha Tilakasiri and not his family members.
The Medical Council should ascertain since when officials of the Urban Development Authority were able to give orders restricting access to patients at the Angoda mental hospital. Even though Lawyer Namal Rajapaksa said that Tilakasiri had been admitted to Angoda by his brother, this recorded phone conversation proves otherwise and establishes that Lankendra Tilakasiri was only a passive party when it came to admitting Harsha to the mental hospital. Even at the point of admitting Harsha to Angoda, Lankendra had not known of the split between Champika and Harsha Tilakasiri. This phone conversation also proves that it was one Alwis who was looking after (or guarding) Harsha Tilakasiri in hospital. This is an obvious reference to Pradeep Alwis who is described as Champika’s driver.
The Sri Lanka Medical Council and also the GMOA should look into this matter. A hospital should be a place where nothing other than medical considerations are applied to patients. The Angoda hospital especially is a place where as Dr Jayan Mendis says, patients are often brought against their will. In such a place, there should be safeguards that prevent people from being brought there by interested parties and with connivance from within are either declared insane or stigmatized as someone who had taken treatment from the Angoda ‘lunatic asylum’. That there was connivance from within the Angoda mental hospital in this case is clear by the way a UDA official was able to issue instructions to the hospital authorities to prevent anyone, even family members, from seeing a patient.
The duty of the SLMC and GMOA
Furthermore, we have to ask the question at what point is electro convulsive therapy administered to a patient? Even to a layman it would seem obvious that a patient would need to be kept under observation and given other kinds of medication for quite a while before being administered electro convulsive therapy. But electro convulsive therapy was administered to Harsha Tilakasiri on the third day after his admission to Angoda. Does that sound right? We seem to be looking at one of the worst violations of medical ethics that has ever come to light in this country.
What just about takes the cake is the statement made by the police spokesman Ruwan Gunasekera on this matter. He states in the voice clip mentioned above that an individual called A.R.P.Tilakasiri (Harsha’s father) had made a complaint to the Piliyandala police on 21 November 2017 that his son Harsha Bandara Tilakasiri had been abducted and threatened and that the Piliyandala police had thoroughly investigated the matter. Gunasekera said that according to this investigation the person who is alleged to have been abducted Harsha Bandara Tilakasiri had been admitted to ward No: 5 of the Mulleriyawa Mental Hospital from 10.09.2016 to 18.10.2016 on account of a mental illness and that no abduction had taken place.
Ruwan Gunasekera went on to say that the brother of Harsha Bandara Tilakasiri one Lankeshwara is also ‘aware’ that Harsha is receiving treatment at the Angoda mental hospital. The police spokesman also said that a statement has been recorded from the medical specialist in charge of ward No: 5 and that it has been confirmed that no abduction had taken place. Gunasekera also said that their investigation revealed that treatment had not been given to Harsha Bandara forcibly. The police spokesman concluded by saying that the statements recorded confirm that this person Harsha Bandara Tilakasiri had even been taking sleeping pills owing to the stress that he was suffering from and that Harsha Bandara too had admitted to taking sleeping pills. So the police spokesman also seems to have been at pains to confirm the point that both Champika Ranawaka and lawyer Namal Rajapaksa were labouring.
We can see from the video and voice clips given above, that Champika Ranawaka, lawyer Namal Rajapaksa and the police spokesman Ruwan Gunasekera all seem very keen to label Harsha Bandara Tilakasiri as a person of unsound mind by virtue of the fact that he had received treatment at the Angoda mental hospital. But it was Champika’s subordinates that forcibly took Harsha Tilakasiri to Angoda. The intent behind that seems painfully apparent. The attitude of the police spokesman is not surprising at all because this is a police that bends the law. But in the interests of the integrity of the medical profession, the Sri Lanka Medical Council and the GMOA should look into this matter very carefully and impartially.