Nawala Nihal was cremated alive
Was Udayapala acting under orders?
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 booming business.

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 Suranga. 

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 and remanded. 

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 sub-agent. 

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.


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