All the President's Men - Presidential Security Division (PSD)
What hit list?
@ Sunday Leader / 5th March 2000
In an exclusive interview with The Sunday Leader, Director of the Presidential Security Division, ASP Nihal Karunaratne denies the charges that have been levelled against the PSD from time to time but says the PSD takes full responsibility for the security breach at the Town Hall rally where President Kumaratunga was injured. Karunaratne insisted the PSD does not have a hit list but refused to comment on why photographers covering the UNP rally on July 15 last year were manhandled by the PSD
By Roy Denish
SL: How did you come to join the Presidential Security Division?
NK: When President Kumaratunga was the chief minister of the western province, I was the chief inspector of her police security contingent. When she became the prime minister too I was assigned to her security and later when she became the president, I was assigned as the director of her security division. (I was promoted to the rank of ASP during President D. B. Wijetunge’s tenure, during the UNP period).
SL: The PSD has an image of being similar to the Gestapo of the period of Hitler during the Nazi Germany regime. What is your view?
NK: I don’t agree with you. The PSD is doing what it should do. See, when we searched the parliament complex, the newspapers and political parties made a big "ha ho." How could we search the parliament without permission? On Friday I was told by the president that she will be going to the parliament to deliver the budget speech and we immediately sought the assistance of the secretary general of the parliament to search the complex and since it was the weekend, we thought of searching the place on Monday, prior to the president’s arrival. We did our duty and that also with permission, so how could people draw a parallel between the PSD and the Gestapo?
SL: Prior to joining Chandrika Kumaratunga’s security contingent in 1994, during President Ranasinghe Premadasa’s regime you served in the Bureau of Special Operations (BSO) under Deputy Inspector General Premadasa Udugampola. At that time, the BSO had an image like that of the Gestapo. Do you see any difference between the PSD and BSO?
NK: Yes! The BSO was established to carry out raids on illicit liquor dens, illegal whorehouses and unlicensed gaming centres. It was similar to a vice squad, but PSD operations are completely different. Our prime duty is to provide security to the president of this country.
SL: Is it not true that Joseph Fonseka of casino fame was the person who recommended you to join Chandrika Kumaratunga’s security contingent prior to 1994?
NK: No; as I have stated, I was with her right from the time she became chief minister.
SL: Is it not true your salary was paid by Joseph Fonseka?
NK: Who said?
SL: Our information says.
NK: You are wrong; I hate those in casino business.
SL. What is your opinion of DIG Udugampola as a police officer?
NK: Well.... he is a straightforward officer.
SL: Anything else about him?
NK: He is a very good officer.
SL: What connections do you have with the Fonsekas and those running casinos?
NK: Yes! Nothing. You see, I hate drinking, gambling and womanising, I don’t even smoke. So I don’t have any connections with anybody. I am just a simple police officer drawing a government salary.
SL: It is widely believed that the PSD has been collecting money from casinos and that the Silver Slipper was torched just after the presidential elections and during the curfew hours, since the owner refused to pay money?
NK: It is not true!
SL: Torching of the Silver Slipper casino occurred in the high security zone and in close proximity to Temple Trees. As PSD chief, have you made any inquiries?
NK: First of all, the incident did not occur in the high security zone. The HSZ is only upto the Liberty Junction southwards from Temple Trees. On the other side it spreads up to Galle Face. It is a matter for the police of the area.
SL: Media Minister Mangala Samaraweera has acknowledged the fact that PSD officers attacked media personnel during a UNP rally on July 15 last year. Why did you do that?
NK: I don’t like to comment.
SL: Why Not?
NK: You see, there is an inquiry going on, so I don’t like to comment.
SL: Do you regret the attack on media personnel?
NK: No comment.
SL: What was the cause for the security lapse at Town Hall?
NK: I will let you know.
SL: As the director of the PSD do you feel responsible for the lapse? If not you, who is responsible?
NK: Oh... I am responsible, on the whole it was a serious security lapse by the PSD. We are at fault. The PSD is totally, totally responsible for the blast. But we were able to save many lives because we were prepared for emergency evacuation on that day. Investigations are going on... so let’s wait for the final report, but however, the responsibility lies on the PSD for the lapse.
SL: Is it correct that PA parliamentarians brought the supporters without being checked?
NK: No comment (refuses to say anything further. (His cellular phone rings, he tells the caller, I will tell the Chairman,’ and hangs up).
SL: Has Vithanage Morris Amarasinghe alias Baddegana Sanjeewa been interdicted following the arrest of underworld figures from his residence at Kotte?
NK: Who told you that he is interdicted?
NK: No! he is not interdicted.
SL: Why wasn’t he arrested?
NK: On what grounds?
SL: There were underworld figures at his house.
NK: No! All wrong. This is what happened. On that particular day (I can’t remember the day) I was travelling from Kalutara to Colombo. Somewhere near Wellawatte, I received a call on my cellular phone. It was Sanjeewa. He said, "Sir some unidentified men in civil and police uniforms have surrounded my house and I am scared." I immediately called my superior officers, informed them and went to my office. From office I telephoned Mirihana OIC, sorry... HQI, and told him to get to Sanjeewa’s house and I followed in the same direction with some other PSD officers. There was an IP from Peliyagoda police station. I asked him what is this all about. He replied that on information that Sanjeewa is in possession of illegal weapons they had come to search the house. And he further said that there were no weapons found and they were taking a domestic aide and two girls on suspicion and (they) will be released after their statements were recorded. I personally went to Sanjeewa’s house; one reason was that he is working under me and I have to help my subordinates, the other reason; only five or six days ago a hand grenade was thrown at his house and several parked vehicles were fired upon. There were no underworld figures at his residence or illegal weapons. I visited the house since he is my subordinate and I did this after informing the DIG and the duty officer. You see we also have a DO (duty officer).
SL: But there was concrete evidence to say that there were underworld figures at Sanjeewa’s house.
NK: It is not true. There weren’t any underworld figures nor illegal weapons.
SL: What was Sanjeewa’s qualification to join the PSD? How come he was taken to the PSD?
NK: Sanjeewa joined the police as Reserve Police Constable (RPC) and he worked his way through to be drafted to join the PSD and now he is a sergeant. To join the police as RPC you will have to pass the eighth standard, which he has. Now the police service is not like those days; those days you should have the NIB clearance but with the north and east war, you don’t need the NIB clearance and especially for a RPC.
SL: In your view should the police have arrested Sanjeewa or at least questioned him?
NK: Yes, Peliyagoda police recorded his statement.
SL: Sanjeewa is closely connected to underworld gang leaders but he is with the PSD.
NK: I don’t know whether he has connections but he is certainly under investigation.
SL: You visiting the scene proves that you have close links with the activity of Sanjeewa?
NK: Yes, he is working under me and he is scared after some people threw a hand grenade at his residence. Won’t you seek assistance of your bosses if you have any threats?
SL: Why are you trying to protect the underworld gang leaders?
NK: Me, I don’t protect; neither do I know them.
SL: Aren’t you guilty of attempting to obstruct justice? And why weren’t you arrested or questioned?
NK: I did not do anything to be arrested or questioned.
SL: When Free Media Movement (FMM) convenor Waruna Karunatilleke came to cover President Chandrika Kumaratunga’s swearing-in ceremony at Temple Trees on December 22 last year, you, in the presence of other journalists openly said that The Sunday Leader Editor Lasantha Wickrematunge was number one in your hit list, second was the Ravaya editor Victor Ivan and Karunatilleke was third. Are they still on your hit list?
NK: It’s lies.
SL: There are witnesses.
NK: Lies. I never said a thing like that.
SL: Did you make a similar threat to Victor Ivan on the phone in response to a story published stating that you will reply him in a language that he understands?
NK: No, I did not threaten him, I phoned him over a story, which said PSD officers forcibly removed bodies from the hospital. When I phoned him he said that he did not know such a story had appeared. I told him, "You are the editor of the newspaper, so how could stories be published without you passing them?" He asked me to send a letter to correct the mistake. I told him since the damage is done, there is no meaning and hung up. You see Victor Ivan and me are friends and that I threatened him is lies.
SL: PSD stands accused of killing Satana editor Rohana Kumara.
NK: No truth in it at all.
SL: Does the PSD have any role to play in the up-coming cricket board elections?
NK: No, it is an independent body.
SL: But you and your officers were there last year, which led to ugly scenes.
NK: I went there because I have a duty. I have to provide security.
SL: To whom?
NK: Clifford Ratwatte.
SL: You are employed to provide security only to the president of this country; that is only to President Chandrika Kumaratunga but not to her uncle Clifford Ratwatte?
NK: No, under the law, the PSD has to provide security to the president and her immediate family members. And we went to the BCCSL headquarters after his son phoned us and also with the approval of DIG Sivaratnam who is the present DIG of Ratnapura division. I went there to provide security for Ratwatte and after seeing him home I went to prepare for a meeting in which the president was to participate. All our moves were notified to DIG Sivaratnam who was inside the BCCSL headquarters.
SL: Are you going to repeat the same?
NK: No no... no... we are out of it...
SL: Media reports say that there is a special training camp for PSD. Is it necessary?
NK: Yes! There is one. We need that to provide training to the ...odd policemen and soldiers in the PSD.
SL: How safe are you?
NK: I don’t have enemies, if not I will not live in this isolated area, away from Colombo. I am happy the way I am.
SL: Is it true the PSD had a hit list in which names of Kumar Ponnambalam and some other businessmen were included?
NK: What hit list?
SL: A hit list see... those to be killed.
NK: We don’t have anything of that sort.
SL: Then what sort do you have?
NK: No list at all.
SL: Isn’t it correct to say that you receive money and gifts from certain businessmen?
NK: For what?
SL: Maybe for the favours.
NK: What favours?
SL: You know the kind of favours.
NK: No, I don’t grant any favours nor get any favours done nor accept money or gifts.[/quote]
Lies and deception by the PSD exposed
By Vimukthi Yapa
Vithanage Morris Amarasinghe alias Baddegana Sanjeewa must be a happy man, because despite his alleged links with an underworld gang, he has a job at the Presidential Security Division (PSD) and has an officer’ to protect him and utter falsehoods on his behalf.
The officer, Nihal Karunaratne may be just another ordinary superintendent of police according the police headquarters records, but today, he manages a force of 1,700 policemen and soldiers who guard the president of the country and also allegedly manipulates and sidetracks those investigating the PSD’s nefarious activities.
Last week two Sunday newspapers carried prominent interviews of the invisible’ Karunaratne. The Sunday Leader carried a full-page interview and the state-owned The Sunday Observer carried Karunaratne’s interview titled "Killing is not our job" - ironical indeed since it is a fact that should need no reiteration.
Karunaratne may have wanted the catchy headline to clear the public’s doubts and portray himself as a duty-conscious officer of the Sri Lankan police in The Sunday Observer. But the same newspaper in its front page carried an article linking the LTTE with the assassination of All Ceylon Tamil Congress Leader Kumar Ponnambalam. It is a well-known fact that Ponnambalam enjoyed good rapport with the LTTE.
Many theories surfaced after Karunaratne showed willingness to grant interviews. One such is that Karunaratne is expected to call it quits as a policeman and join the Sri Lankan Airlines as a chief security officer. Thus, a good rapport with the newspapers is vital.
To The Sunday Leader question, that there were underworld figures at Baddegana Sanjeewa’s house which prompted the Peliyagoda police team to raid the place, Karunaratne replied that the story was incorrect and that only two domestic aides were arrested on suspicion and no illegal weapons were found at Sanjeewa’s house. That was his official position.
But the fact is that four underworld gang leaders were arrested, produced before a magistrate and remanded. The four men now in police remand custody are Nihal Patrick alias Chutti, wanted in connection with the murders at the Colombo National Hospital and Ja-ela and Kithsiri Pradeep Silva, alias Captain’ Ranjith,’ wanted in conncection with murders of two persons named Pieris and Anura Digayu. The other two persons arrested from Sanjeewa’s residence were Sarath Priyantha, another underworld kingpin, and Sana alias Shantha.
Captain’ Ranjith,’ according to police records, is a Mafia-styled contract killer. While being wanted in connection with several murders he is also in the wanted list by the army for desertion.
According to police sources, Ranjith was a firearms expert who killed, extorted, abducted and staged highway robberies in and around the Katunayake area. He was also alleged to have master-minded operations to swindle money from those returning from West Asian countries, mostly women. Ranjith is also believed to have a hand in the recent potato war’ between two trading groups in the Pettah.
The arrests are recorded at the Peliyagoda police station, and police headquarters had also been notified of the arrest. These two men were arrested after Inspector General of Police Lucky Kodituwakku ordered Inspector of Police Samudrajeewa to raid Sanjeewa’s house during which Karunaratne allegedly obstructed the Peliyagoda police team from carrying out its duty.
Karunaratne however, in the interviews went on record saying that no such persons were arrested from Baddegana Sanjeewa’s house.
According to a policeman attached to the Peliyagoda police station who was with the police party (for obvious reasons, The Sunday Leader will refrain from naming the officer), on the day of the raid, IP Samudrajeewa had his weapon tucked in the holster and never had the gun trained at Karunaratne as claimed by Karunaratne in The Sunday Observer interview.
Karunaratne told The Sunday Observer that "no criminal was arrested from the house at Baddegana and I did not prevent the police party from arresting the domestic help and two friends. These three were released by the police after questioning them."
But the police officer from Peliyagoda said that no domestic aides were questioned; only the four criminals. He also said that before the police entered the residence, Karunaratne used abusive language and ordered them to leave the place.
Karunaratne was also backed by the Mirihana police station’s headquarters inspector (HQI) who allegedly asked IP Samudrajeewa to leave the place without "poking his fingers in unwanted work." But so far, no action had been taken against Karunaratne or the Mirihana HQI by police headquarters.
The philosopher Plato once said, "the rulers of the state are the only ones who should have the privilege of lying. Either at home or abroad, they may be allowed to lie for the good of the state." But here in Sri Lanka, not only do the rulers lie, but also their subordinates, with the truth staring them in the face.
Ironically, police headquarters has not taken action in connection with the incident. One wonders why.
A policeman’s duty is to safeguard society from vice and crime and not to stick his neck out to save the skin of a politician (or a person providing security to a politician) beyond the call of duty. When Bandula (Show) Wickremasinghe was solving the mysterious abduction of Aitken Spence Director G. C. Wickremasinghe, the IGP called a news conference to boast as to how quickly the crime was solved. But when it comes to a policeman interfering with the law, he has withdrawn completely - maybe he does not want to get his fingers burnt. Karunaratne even denied knowing the Fonsekas of casino fame. On reading those comments, the former Secretary to the Prime Minister, Hemasiri Fernando, was shocked and had told friends, he personally took Karunaratne to Chandrika Kumaratunga (Hemasiri Fernando was the son-in-law of Joseph Fonseka, now deceased). He had also confirmed payments made for the security contingent of Kumaratunga which used to be collected by Minister S. B. Dissanayake’s wife, Tamara.
While this was going on, in a bizarre twist of events at police headquarters, it is believed that IP Samudrajeewa who raided the house of Baddegana Sanjeewa was summoned to the dreaded criminal investigation department (CID) on the fourth floor of the police headquarters to record a statement on a complaint that he was attempting to bring disrepute to the elite’ presidential security division (PSD). His statement was recorded on the basis that he was attempting to tarnish the good’ image of the PSD.
In another bizarre twist, IP Samudrajeewa has now been removed from the investigations and the case has been taken over by the CID. It means the case will probably end up like the Joel Pera murder case.
Meanwhile in pursuance of their underhand activities, Jayatissa Tennakoon, whose name transpired in the Channel Nine case, set up a secret office for officials of the defence ministry as well as for those serving with the PSD. The secret place is located at the first floor of the Tower Building, Bambalapitiya - a stone’s throw from the Bambalapitiya police station. The Tower Building comes under the purview of the Urban Development Authority (UDA). It is known to be haunted by Baddegana Sanjeewa and his aides.
Permission to park the defence ministry official vehicles was sought by Jayatissa Tennakoon. Before that a letter dated October 21 from the manager of the building requests the engineer/supervisor to allow certain defence ministry officers to occupy the apartment 01 B.
Apartment IB of the Tower building will be occupied by the defence ministry from 21-10-99. These officers will be coming to the building in vehicle No 300/6376.
Tennekoon, a man with a record of several cheating cases against him is the person who sought to clear the name of Sanath Gunatilleke in the Channel 9 case by speaking of a concocted conspiracy theory. On December 2 Jayatissa Tennakoon sought permission from the manager of the building for the parking of vehicles.
251/1 Tower Building, Station Road, Colombo-4.
Could you please grant me permission for the entrance of the following number of vehicles.
Vehicle numbers: CC-110-95, 56-8185, 300-6376.
In response to the letter, the manager has scribbled a note to the engineer/supervisor authorising this facility.
At present the apartment is occupied by defence ministry officials who are frequently visited by PSD personnel including Baddegana Sanjeewa.
The police must act to shut down the facility that is functioning as an office/residential complex, and prevent the PSD from haunting the place. The question is why the defence ministry has located such unsavoury elements in the heart of the city. What is their mission? is the million dollar question
PSD Chief arrested in hospital
By Ranga Sirilal and J.A.L. Jayasinghe
@ DM / Wednesday April 03, 2002
The controversy surrounding one of Sri Lanka's most powerful and influential police officers took a dramatic turn yesterday when the CID stormed into a Colombo private hospital to arrest Presidential Security Division Chief Nihal Karunaratne.
The CID's Senior Superintendent Sisira Mendis told the Daily Mirror that ASP Karunaratne - the heavily criticised chief body guard of President Chandrika Kumaratunga -would be questioned and produced before the Kandy magistrate. He said the questioning would cover not only the Mathurata incidents but also the killings of Kumar Ponnambalam, Beddegana Sanjeewa and Rohana Kumara.
The CID team led by a detective ASP moved in after Kandy's Additional Magistrate Pradeep Hettiarachchi issued a warrant for the arrest of ASP Karunaratne as he was not present in court when the Mathurata case was taken up for hearing. The PSD Director had earlier been released on bail in this case where he is accused of threatening a police officer who had arrested some other PSD men in connection with an alleged plot to kill Minister S.B. Dissanayake.
After he was bailed out ASP Karunaratne had submitted medical certificates when the court held hearings on two earlier occasions.
But yesterday the Additional Magistrate decided to get tough after CID ASP Ravi Vaidyalankara charged that the PSD Chief was avoiding courts deliberately. Lawyer Wijaya Wickremaratne who appeared for the PSD Chief told the Magistrate that DIG Upul Illangakoon of the PSD would submit a medical certificate from the Nawaloka hospital in Colombo.
But Magistrate Hettiarachchi said the medical certificate issued by the Nawaloka Hospital had been dated April 1 and was forwarded to him yesterday.
He said there were suspicions about the Medical Certificate and he had to issue an arrest warrant because the PSD Chief had been charged with a very serious offence.
Yesterday evening the PSD Chief was reported to be in hospital under prison guard. But when Fort Magistrate Priyantha Fernando visited the hospital he was told that the PSD Chief had been moved to the Intensive Care Unit.
Earlier when the CID team had moved into arrest the PSD Chief in the hospital room his wife was present along with three PSD men and five others.
Special ladder for PSD boss
By Tania Fernando
@ Sunday Times / Sunday, April 7, 2002
As Presidential Security Division director Nihal Karunaratne has been placed under prison guard at the National Hospital, shocking details about his promotion to the rank of Superintendent of Police without necessary qualifications have stirred another controversy.
It is learnt that the controversial chief bodyguard of President Chandrika Kumaratunga has been promoted as an SP though he did no sit the Efficiency Bar Examination (EBE). he was promoted with special cabinet approval, apparently overriding regulations of the police service and the Public Service Commission.
Mr. Karunaratne was promoted as an SP in March 2000 after the then PA cabinet on March 1, 2000 approved the promotion on condition that he should pass the EBE within one year of the appointment. But in April, another cabinet memorandum was presented by President Kumaratunga in her capacity as the Defence Minister, seeking the approval of the cabinet to nullify the March 1 cabinet decision and promote Mr. Karunaratne on a permanent basis with effect from March 1, 2000, not subject to any stipulation on the EBE.
The normal procedure would have been for him to sit the EBE conducted by the Public Service Commission. Justifying the request for exemption, the President said in the cabinet memorandum: "I am firmly of the opinion that the denial of the required leave for him to study and prepare for the Efficiency Bar Examination was unfair and deserves to be compensated. In fact the call on duty of this nature deprived him this essential facility.
His colleagues on the other hand, had no such impediment. Hence this situation should not stand in the way of his promotion; a promotion which he richly deserves."
The memorandum also said the case should not be treated as a precedent.
The President also claimed that on numerous occasions Mr. Karunaratne had requested for leave, but the DIG/PSD had to refuse such leave continuously because of the ongoing commitments. "I am personally aware that on several occasions when the DIG/PSD spoke to me about this matter, I was myself at a loss whether to grant his request," the President said.
Prior to the April cabinet memorandum, the then Defence Secretary Chandrananda de Silva on March 22, 2000 wrote to the Secretary of the Public Service Commission, stating that the President had granted special approval for the promotion of Mr. Karunaratne and sought the PSC approval for promotion on assurance that the PSD chief would sit the exam within one year.
"It was also decided that this appointment is made on account of special circumstances which are personal to Mr. Karunaratne by the nature of his duties. It should not be considered a precedent," the letter said. Then came the April cabinet decision to grant the promotion, exempting Mr. Karunaratne from sitting the exam.
On May 9, 2000, the PSC secretary informed the Defence Secretary that as per the decision of the Cabinet, Mr. Karunaratne had been promoted as an SP with effect from March 1 without having to sit for the examination.
Mr. Karunaratne is under arrest in connection with charges related to the Mathurata assassination attempt on Minister S. B. Dissanayake during the December election campaign.