by Mike Andree
Nihal Wickramasinghe or ‘Nawala Nihal’ had many other
aliases. But the most noted was the epithet ‘Godfather’. He was
similar to the Sicilian Mafia leader, Don Vito Corleone, one of
the Grand Conglomerate of American underworld leaders,
immortalized by Mario Puzo in his novel ‘The Godfather’. Don
Vito Corleone refused to deal in narcotics as he believed it was
immoral. He helped the poor and the needy with money and justice
in true Mafia style.
Nihal Wickramasinghe too did not deal in drugs. He gave to
the poor and the needy. He helped with girls to be given in
marriage with a dowry. Amongst many of his shady deals was one
that was linked to the legal system of this country. Many who
sought refuge in justice, but had to wait for years at the
mercy of shylocks in legal garb, sought refuge in the
‘Godfather’ Nawala Nihal to obtain what was their just due.
The Rent Act, which was introduced under the guise of
Socialism put the landlords at the mercy of their tenants. When
errant tenants refused to budge an inch from their abodes,
paying a paltry sum as rent, calculated and based on the
anti-development legislation, the local Godfather found in it a
The legal system of this country made it impossible for any
landlord to oust a tenant under the despicable Rent
Laws. Shanties and dilapidated houses were the order of the day
as the repair of these houses with the escalating cost of
materials would cost the landlord far more than he would earn as
rent as long as he lived. People hated the Courts and rent
litigation. Instead, they would turn to Nihal Wickramasinghe to
get back what was rightly their property. If the tenant was
obstinate, to the request of the Godfather, he would be pounced
upon by an unknown gang and assaulted brutally. He would quit
without a complaint to the Police.
The ‘Godfather’ lived in Welikada and the Welikada Police,
from the senior-most police officer down to the Constables, paid
homage to him. They frequented his abode and got a share of the
spoils he earned by these methods. Baddegana Sanjeewa was an
acolyte of Nawala Nihal.
It was during this time that a retired DIG, Mr. Tyrell
Gunatilake, who had inherited some property in the Welikada
area, saw some people trying to erect a fence over his property.
A large portion of his property had already been taken over by
the gang fencing it.
When the retired DIG walked into his property and questioned
the intruders, someone slapped him and he fell to the ground. He
was later identified as the Godfather. When some workers
informed the Welikada Police, one would have expected the
Welikada Police, which came under the Nugegoda Police
Division, to rush to the scene fully armed to arrest Nawala
Nihal or the ‘Godfather’ and produce him in Court.
Similar to the Mario Puzo novel, where corrupt
police officers and dishonest lawyers work hand in hand to
support the cause of crime, protect the underworld and share the
filthy lucre, none dared go to the rescue of one of the most
illustrious and celebrated investigators the Sri Lanka Police
had ever produced. A retired Police Officer, however famous he
was, was in a worst position than a retired politician.
The exploits of Nawala Nihal went on unabated. Pinnaduwa
Hewage Renuka Wasanthi became his mistress. The Welikada Police
and the Nugegoda Police Division protected them both. Renuka
Wasanthi had a five-star brothel at Nugegoda, which was
frequented by Police Officers and politicians. Many Senior
Police Officers, including very very senior officers frequented
this brothel and Renuka Wasanthi became their intimate friend.
When Nihal Wickramasinghe was later remanded, Renuka Wasanthi
visited him there. When the king of the underworld was in remand
it was an arduous task to feed him, as the food that was taken
should be sufficient to feed more than fifty remandees. They
were the people who bathed him, massaged him and gave him all
the comforts that he may not have found even in his own home.
During that time Nawala Nihal had decided to purchase a
property which he was getting for a song. Renuka Wasanthi
pleaded with him to have the property written in her name to
enable her to use her influence with SSP Udayapala and two other
Government politicians in order to drive away the squatters, who
were living on it for decades. She said she would promise
Udayapala and the two politicians a share of the land if they
helped to drive the squatters from the property.
Renuka Wasanthi said that once this task was accomplished the
property would be worth a hundred fold more than its present
value. Nawala Nihal agreed. His brother Morris Wickramasinghe
was informed to instruct his lawyers to write the property in
the name of Renuka Wasanthi. Then, quite unexpectedly Nawala
Nihal was released on bail. Renuka Wasanthi went into
hiding. Thereafter, with great effort, Renuka Wasanthi was
apprehended and told to write the property in the name of Nawala
Nihal. The property was worth millions.
Renuka Wasanthi tried to escape from the clutches of Nawala
Nihal and pleaded with Udayapala to protect her from him. It was
too late as Nawala Nihal was in business again and as Renuka
Wasanthi was avoiding him he became very suspicious of her. In
the meantime, she had killed her daughter’s boy friend Babu
When the Police, on the instruction of the Gangodawila
Magistrate, wanted to arrest Renuka Wasanthi, SSP Udayapala
protected her from being arrested.
Renuka Wasanthi went into hiding when Udayapala was arrested
Renuka wanted money for survival. Udayapla was in remand
fighting his own battle. She posed as a Recruiting Agent and
spread the message that she was able to send unemployed youth to
Japan for a fee of one million rupees each.
This information was picked up by the CID and the bait was
laid with five million rupees to trap her.
Renuka Wasanthi was careful. She sent her son to collect the
money. The sub-agent, who contacted her, said that she was
unwilling to give the money to a stranger. Renuka Wasanthi, who
was without cash and wanted money in order to go abroad by boat
and then go to a European country and claim refugee status,
decided to accept the five million rupees herself from the
She gave the sub-agent three places. When the sub-agent went
to the second place, she received a telephone call asking her to
go to McDonalds in Colpetty, which was not a scheduled meeting
place. Renuka Wasanthi appeared with her son and even
without the knowledge of the sub-agent the team from a
Investigating Company, which had been detailed to arrest Renuka
Wasanthi, followed them to McDonalds and the moment Wasanthi
arrived, they informed the CID. The CID sleuths were able to
arrest Renuka Wasanthi and her son with the weapons used for the
murder of Noel and Morris Wickremasinghe.
After her arrest, Renuka wasanthi confessed in her statement
that it was not a team that was detailed to annihilate the
underworld that abducted Nawala Nihal but it was her own team
that was responsible.
On legal instructions to facilitate the transfer of the
property to Renuka Wasanthi, with the Power of Attorney, which
was in the possession of Morris Wickramasinghe, the body of
Nawala Nihal should not be found, she said she was instructed.
The people must perceive that it as a kidnapping and not a
murder. She confessed that it was her gang with assistance of
the police that abducted Nihal, chopped off his right hand
chopped and threw him alive into a burning furnace of a
crematorium in the outskirts of Colombo. "Nihal got roasted
alive" she had boasted.
With these details of the abduction of the ‘Godfather’, which
had been carried out with absolute precision, the question that
lingers in the minds of the investigators is whether the three
murders, that of Nihal Wickramasinghe, Noel Wickramasinghe and
Morris Wickramasinghe, were committed with the knowledge of
Police Officers of higher rank than Udayapala. There are many
clues that have not been investigated, that not only Udayapala
but officers senior to him were involved in these murders in
order to grab the land which was worth millions of rupees.