Six men came in a black Pajero driven by Punchi Nilame — Witness

Ratnapura Divaina: Indigalla Mudiyanselage Ananda Gunasekera, an employee of District office of Ratnapura Sri Lanka Freedom Party in his evidence before Ratnapura High Court Judge No. 2 K. T. Wickramasiri hearing the Threema Vitharana murder case said six men came in a black Pajero jeep carrying guns, got out of the jeep and assaulted Threema Vitharana, Banduwardhena and Ranjith Perera. Then they were bundled into the jeep. The jeep was driven by Punchi Nilame.

The case had been filed against Ratnapura District Parliamentarian Susantha Punchinilame under 13 charges allegedly that Padmasiri Threema Vitharana, Ranjith Perera and Don Banduwardena were kidnapped and murdered on October 22, 1988 in Ratnapura.

The witness answering questions raised by State Counsel Addl. Solicitor General Riyanzie Arsakularatne further said I am the chief clerk of Sri Lanka Freedom Party office at Ratnapura. In addition I work as the Co-ordinating Secretary to Mrs. Surangani Ellawela. I work in that office since 1965. The office is located on the Church Road, Ratnapura.

I witnessed something in this incident. At that time I was on my way to office along the road to the Ratnapura CTB bus stand. A black colour Pajero jeep stopped near the bridge. I looked at them. The jeep was driven by the MP Punchinilame who is well known to me. Then about 6-8 persons got down from the jeep carrying guns. Thereafter I saw the assaulting with fire arms on Threema Vitharana, Ranjith Perera and Banduwardena, bundled into the jeep. The jeep was reversed and drove towards Colombo. The jeep was driven by Susantha Punchi Nilame.

I can’t remember the number of persons out of 8 who were in the jeep, identified by me. But I have seen they were moving with this gentlemen. Even I knew some persons names then but now I can’t remember. The jeep Mr. Susantha Punchi Nilame drove was the one he frequently used. To my knowledge Threema Vitharana was a medical student of Colombo Medical College. I can’t remember what was he doing with Ranjith Perera. Banduwardena engaged in business. Additionally, he said that he was studying for engineering exam. All three were SLFP supporters.

The accused resided then at Hatangama. It was one mile from the Chief Minister’s residence at Ratnapura. Even they travelled towards Colombo from Senluk Junction and they could go to Hatangama.

I went to office and informed Ratnapura SSP Sirisena Herath by telephone about the incident. I also informed HQI Dayasekera, Nanda Ellawela, Ratnapura Mayor Mahinda Ratnatilleke and several others.

I did not make an entry at the police. But when I stated the incident to SSP on the same night he noted it down. But I made a statement to the police on the next day morning, 23.10.1988.

Thereafter I did not see the three persons kidnapped. After 3-4 days of the incident a report appeared in ‘Divaina’ that 3 burnt bodies of youths were lying near Wellawaya-Koslanda road. I phoned up police Superintendent and told him that I have a suspect. They would be these three.

I visited the spot with a large crowd including Nanda Ellawela and Mahinda Ratnatilleke, who was the then Ratnapura Mayor. He was an SLFP member and later joined the UNP.

First we went to Wellawaya police and then to the Malattawa Cemetery where the bodies were buried. They were exhumed in front of a Magistrate. They had been wrapped in 3 polythene covers. I identified bodies and thereafter inspected by a medical officer of the JMO office, Wellawaya.

I made statements in this regard to the special investigation unit, Ratnapura police and Wellawaya police. Also I gave evidence at the Magistrate Court Colombo. Although Susantha Punchinilame was well known to me, he did not ask about this because we had political clashes then.

At this point counsel for the accused U. R. de Silva commenced cross-examination.

The witness said it was true that the three dead helped us politically but I did not complain to the police because I was afraid to do so in the political atmosphere that existed then.