The rise and fall of a ‘crime kingpin’
By Sandaruwan Palihena
The Nation/ 03 Oct 2010
Sri Lanka Police struck off another name from their list of `most wanted criminals’ when serial killer and drug trafficker Damatagoda Kamal was killed in a confrontation with Hanwella Police recently.
Kamal Dammalarachchi alias Dematagoda Kamal, 39, the underworld gangster, who led a charmed life, out of the reach of the long arm of the law met his ‘Waterloo’ when he was nabbed at his hideout at Diddeniya, Hanwella.
Kamal, who was brazenly carrying out his underworld activity, mostly operated a heroin distribution network that extended from Dematagoda to the deep south, thanks to the patronage extended by corrupt politicians and some bad eggs from police itself, had gone into hiding when he began to feel the heat of the recently set up anti-crime unit of the STF.
Criminals are made, not born, they say, which means individuals do not become criminals by design but by accident. How Kamal became a criminal too conforms to this general rule.
Kamal enters the underworld
Kamal’s family had been living in a shack put up on a block of land belonging to a coir mill owner called Ranji at Gnanawimala Road, Dematagoda.
The landlord wanted to eject the family from the land, but the family defiantly stood pat.
He sought a court injunction to eject the unwelcome tenants without success.
Young Kamal was his obstacle and he decided to use a `hit gang’ to kill Kamal.
Kamal, meanwhile, learnt that `Kohumole Mudalali’- his landlord had given the `contract’ to kill him to Prasanna, Nilupul and Prabhath of Wanathamulla. Swinging into action before `hit gang’ could reach him; Kamal shot dead the `Kohumole Mudalali’ in Dematagoda itself.
Kamal then fled the Dematagoda area and threw in his lot with the underworld gang led by Moratuwe Saman of which Panadure Saranapala was a member. Now a ‘full-fledged’ underworld gangster, Kamal began to pursue a criminal career as a `sidekick’ of underworld kingpins like Sujith Gunasekera and Junda. Kamal, however, fell into the `dragnet’ thrown by police. On being found guilty of killing his landlord Ranji, Kamal was handed a six month- jail term.
Kamal walks out of prison
While in jail, Kamal had planned to have his own `gangland’ and once out free, he built up his gang and some of his recruits were army deserters. And he was set for organised crime. Flush with lucre, gained through drug peddling, contract killings and extortion, Kamal decided to lose no time in gunning down the gangsters contracted by Ranji Mudalali to kill him. Kamal’s gang first shot dead Prabhath Samantha Kumara whom they abducted in Borella on November 17, 2001. They killed Prasanna Sampath in Borella on December 1, 2001. Fifteen days later the gang targeted Nipuna Sanjeewa and Rohitha Jayalath at Baseline Road, Dematagoda.
Following these revenge killings, Dematagoda Kamal’s gang turned hit-men for blood money. According to police, among the `jobs’ carried out by the Kamal gang are the abduction and `involuntary’ disappearance of a person named Palitha at Wasala Road, Dehiwela in January 2002, killing of a person named `Pala’ at the Kalubowila bridge on February 4, 2002, killing of a person named Jayatissa at Bodhiwatta on March 4, 2002, and killing of a person named Upananda near the Zoological Gardens.
Following the initial killing spree, Kamal’s gang got embroiled in a war with the Olcott gang as some of Kamal gang’s victims had been `sidekicks’ of Olcott. By this time, six army deserters and seven leading underworld figures had made up Kamal’s gang.
Kamal had soon become a millionaire thanks to his flourishing drug business and he had held his sway over the `drug domain’ extending from Dematagoda up to Devinuwara. Kamal was closely associated with Panadure Saranapala’s gang and Ratgama Vidura’s gang in their criminal activity. Dematagoda Kamal’s gang regularly collected `Kappam’ money from night clubs, restaurants and hotels. Kamal had also acquired three hotels in Hikkaduwa and Panadura using strong arm tactics.
In the meantime, another underworld gang led by a person named Chamil Ajith joined forces with Kamal’s gang which was now carrying out a roaring drug business in Dematagoda, Wanathamulla, Borella, Matara, Hikkaduwa and Devinuwara. By this time, the Olcott’s gang too had become an active player in drug business and rivalry over this led to a series of clashes between the two gangs.
An ASP becomes an accessory
While the drug business was growing in scale the local drug barons who enjoyed the support of corrupt high police officials developed links with the international drug mafia. Certain excise officials `well looked after’ by Kamal looked the other way when drug peddling was being done before their own eyes. A police report said an ASP who had served his stint in the South actively supported Kamal’s drug business.
Illicit affair led to killing of three
An illicit love affair that Kamal had with a woman, according to police, led to the killing of three people including the owner of a piece of land in the Fairfield Gardens in Borella following a dispute that had arisen over a land ownership. Police reports say that the owner of the land in question had asked two women running a brothel on this land to quit the place. Kamal had taken the side of the two women as he was having an illicit love affair with the daughter of one of the two women. Kamal had first demanded Rs.2.5 million from the land owner. When the land owner refused to pay the money extorted, Kamal had killed him and the two other members of the family and later took over the ownership of the land. Kamal’s wife and his three children lived in his Dematagoda house. When he was released from remand jail, he would often live in this house.
Security cameras fixed to house
When he was living in the Dematagoda while on bail, a high police official friendly with him had sent policemen in uniform to install four security cameras in his house.
Kamal, according to police, killed Galle Municipal Council opposition leader Nishantha Seneviratne for blood money in 2005.
He was the author of the double murder at the Dehiwela Urban Council. Gintota Nihal, Kolonnawe Neville, and Dematagoda Dasun too were allegedly murdered at Kamal’s behest. He was going on his killing spree and committing other crimes thanks to the free reign ensured by Police and political patronage.
STF puts Kamal on the run
With the anti-crime unit of the STF taking on the city underworld, fear-stricken Kamal went on the dodge. Kamal had been paying occasional visits to a house he owned in Dematagoda, but Police sleuths surprisingly failed to trap him there.
Kamal, meanwhile, worked hard to ensure the election of a politician from Kegalle.
He saw the writing on the wall, when he heard about the killing of the Muslim underworld kingpin Faaji by the STF. After the election, a friendly politician made it a point to take Kamal in his own vehicle to be produced in courts. Although Kamal surrendered to courts in connection with a series of murders, his gang had left no evidence incriminating him.
Kamal later spent about six months in remand jail. He had told his mates that he felt it safer in remand than outside.
Politician calls at remand jail
Kamal was in jitters when he was released from remand last year.
He knew he was not safe because the STF was eliminating the underworld figures one by one. He again sought the protection of the Kegalle politician who readily responded by calling at the remand jail with two vehicles.
Kamal had been maintaining ties with several politicians in the Colombo district as well.
Released from remand on bail, Kamal took up residence in a posh house in Diddeniya, Hanwella, he had bought for a mistress although he paid occasional visits to his Dematagoda residence.
His mistress was a woman from Vanatha. He visited several places like Borella and Kataragama while holing up in this hideout. Dematagoda Kamal was not at his Diddeniya residence when Hanwella Police ringed it following a tip off received by the SSP Office at Nugegoda that there was a firearm hidden on the ceiling of the house. Kamal, who was returning from his Dematagoda house fully confident that none knew of his identity, probably had a rude shock when the policemen pounced on him and arrested him.
Under interrogation, he had revealed that there was a cache of heroin, hand bombs and firearms buried under a plantain tree in the garden. According to police, they had to shoot Kamal injuring him fatally when he tried to lob at the hand bomb unearthed from the spot.
Police have identified 42 underworld gangs who are a threat to the law and order of the country. Now that the war on the hardcore criminals is to be relentlessly pursued, the day may not be far off when the much feared `underworld’ is a thing of the past.