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Udatalawinna mass murder : Large weapons haul, fleet of vehicles found at Ratwatte's residence - Major Athulathmudali

by Kumar Wethasinghe

Major Aruna Athulathmudali former Town Commandant of Kandy revealed before the Trial at Bar hearing the Udatalawinna mass murder case that the fourth accused told him of large haul of firearms, bullets, grenades in addition to a large fleet of vehicles remained as a standby at the first accused Gen. Anuruddha Ratwatte's Mahaiyawa residence, during cross-examination.

The Bench comprised High Court Judges Eric Basnayake (President), Deepali Wijesundara and Sunil Rajapaksa.

The 4th accused Lt. Wijeratne was adviced to maintain the dignity of the uniform when the fourth accused related to him that there were large stocks of T 56 firearms grenades and ammunition, in addition to a fleet of over one hundred vehicles stand by at the Mahiyawa residence of the first accused Gen. Anuruddha Ratwatte, said Major Aruna Athulathmudali former Town Commandant of Kandy under cross-examination by Defence Counsel Anil Silva.

The witness further answered that he first met the fourth accused Lt. Wijeratne at the Sinha Regiment officers mess on 1.12.01. He could not remember whether he had said this in his statement made to the police. What his police statement contained were the replies made to the questions put to him by the police.

The police had questioned you as to what instructions you gave the fourth accused. Then what did you say?

A - To follow the instructions of the army commander and to maintain the dignity of the uniform.

Counsel: Your reply to police was, "No occasion arose for me to give instructions to him". That was with regard to Lt. Wijeratne's official duties what I told him was a general advice.

He said he was not aware of the PA's Akurana rally held on December 1, 2001. Asked why he failed to tell police what the fourth accused revealed about the illegal firearm stocks etc. at the first accused's residence, the witness said police did not questioned him on that.

When the defence suggested to the witness that on the morning of 01.12.01, the fourth accused, had left the mess by 7.45 a.m. to escort the first accused. The witness refuted the suggestion and maintained that the fourth accused was present at the mess at 9 a.m.

The Defence further suggested that the witness was giving false evidence maliciously and the witness refuted the suggestion saying that he had no reason to utter falsehoods maliciously in a matter involving an official incident.

He also refuted the defence suggestion that the CID gave hints of the proceedings of this case to other witnesses.

On 3.3.2001, when he telephoned Brigadier Tammita, several staff officers were there and they could vouch for the incident. He denied the allegation that he was lying trying to corroborate Brigadier Tammita's evidence with falsehood.

Witness further said that on 05.12.01 he did not meet Captain Hasshim who had left the army. On the General Election day the witness had gone to Wattegama police and thereafter to the Panwila police.

He had given instructions to put up road blockades near the Kandy Kachcheri following a request by SSP/Asoka Ratnaweera. The time must have been around 5 p.m. The ballot boxes arrived at about 4.30 p.m. The barriers were put up thereafter.

He said he did not check whether the barriers were put up because in the Army when an order is made it is done.

On hearing about the Udatalawinna incidents, he visited the scene. It was getting dark and the time was nearly 6.45 or 7 p.m. He remembered the colour of the van as blue. It was a shocking site. The passengers killed were in a pool of blood. The van was tilted after crashing into a light post. At the time he was concerned about the victims and did not pay much attention to the colour of the van.

He also remembered the blood stained red seat.

There were people watching at a distance. He had not seen any police officer there. However, on the other side of the level-crossing nearby there was a police jeep parked.

The witness had immediately rushed back to report the matter to Brigadier Tammita.

Court: Why didn't you deploy security there? We don't unless the SSP makes a request.

The movement orders usually specified the nature of the assignment. Internal security and VIP security were two different functions in the army. The VIP security may wear civvies provided the Army Commander grants permission.

Finally, the defence put to the witness (a) That he did not meet the fourth accused on the 01.12.01. (b) Nobody went to Katugastota to receive fourth accused and the platoon. (c) That the witness did not meet Lt. Wijeratne on 3.12.01. (d) That on 5.12.01 witness did not visit Udatalawinna. (e) That Brigadier Tammita did not tell the witness. (f) That on 5.12.01, witness did not go to Wattegama police.

The witness refuted all the suggestions. Under re-examination, the witness said when Lt. Wijeratne said he had to follow the instructions of civilians (General Ratwatte's sons) he did report the matter to the Brigadier.

He said when the police asked whose instructions Lt. Wijeratne followed, he had replied Gen. Ratwatte's.

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