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Friday, 29 April 2011

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Ian Wickramanayake:

Well known, powerful personality

Ian Wickramanayake, a well known, powerful personality amongst the legal and police circles, passed away on April 22, 2011. He hails from the illustrious Wickramanayake clan. He was well known to several police officers due to his lofty position as Director of Public Prosecutions, Bribery Commissioner, and many other posts which he held simultaneously during the period the late Felix Dias Bandaranayake was a Cabinet Minister.

Though I knew Ian for some time, my close association with him was during the aftermath of the 1971 JVP insurrection. The late Mrs. Sirimavo Bandaranaike appointed an Investigation Unit headed by the retired IGP Eleric Abeygoonewardena, and a team of police officers to investigate and bring to book the culprits and suspects who had been taken into custody by various police stations and the Army. This Unit commenced investigations to gather evidence to frame charges in a court of law. A few State Counsel from the Attorney-General’s Department too were drafted into this Unit.

To my recollection Ian Wickramanayake, Kenneth Seneviratne, Shanmuganathan and a few others were seconded to this Unit. They were also bestowed the rank of ASP’s, mostly to have statements of suspects recorded by them which could be accepted in a Court of Law, as recorded by police officers. Of the State Counsel seconded, Ian plunged into the investigations assisted by a few police officers, to question and record the statements of many suspects who were under custody in the CID and the Special Branch. Other State Counsel too assisted the Police in recording statements of suspects.

Ian had a brilliant memory and capacity to spend many hours with us questioning the suspects when statements were being recorded. His legal knowledge plus the knowledge of police investigations gave him an upper slot as a chief investigator. Ian had a team of police officers to Jaffna where the late Rohana Wijeweera was imprisoned. Having obtained the necessary approval Wijeweera was questioned and his statement was recorded. Wijeweera with intense questioning revealed vital information of the organization and the other members of the organization which helped to rope in other suspects and build up the evidence against the JVP insurrection.

Another instance was when some investigations were conducted against a Catholic priest who was a Sri Lankan, hailing from Jaffna, who bore the name of an Englishman. This case was discussed before the late Prime Minister at Temple Trees, where the then IGP, Ian and a few police officers were also present. The then IGP commenced briefing the Prime Minister about the case, claiming that the priest was a foreigner. Ian jumped up from his seat, interrupted the then IGP and rattled off the entire history of the priest and his involvement.

The other instance was when a Buddhist monk who was the Crown witness in the Trial-at-Bar Case, was giving evidence. We investigators felt that the Buddhist monk was going back on his statement. We discussed this with Ian and stated that the case was going to flop if we let the Buddhist monk to continue with his evidence. Having listened to us he telephoned the then Attorney General and requested an urgent meeting with him. The then Attorney General readily agreed and a few police officers, including myself, and Ian met the Attorney General and convinced him that the evidence of the Buddhist monk must be stopped forthwith and that we were in a position to produce one of the leading suspects as a witness who had made a confessional statement to us and who was prepared to give evidence for the Crown.

The then Attorney General agreed and Ian met the Minister the late Felix Dias Bandaranayake and obtained his consent to treat the accused as a Crown witness once the accused concluded his evidence for the Crown. Accordingly, the top JVP accused was called as a witness having stopped the evidence of the Buddhist priest, and this witness gave the court the necessary evidence to obtain a conviction against all the accused persons.

During this period the JVP was gunning for Ian and there was a definite plan to hurt him by kidnapping his only son who died subsequently. However, Ian was determined to continue the investigation with the Police. The final triumph of Ian was when he withstood the fiery cross examination by learned Counsel the late Senator S Nadesan QC and Bala Tampoe. Ian, to my recollection, was in the Witness Box for more than a month continuously being cross examined by both Counsel. Someone had written in the newspapers that Ian used to be well attired. Subject to correction, it was claimed that Ian wore 30 different suits and 30 different ties when he was in the Witness Box during the period he gave evidence.

I can boldly claim that no police officer or even State Counsel would have volunteered to get into the Witness Box at that time to give evidence at a Trial-at-Bar in respect of an investigation conducted by the Police. Ian had grit, egoism, brilliance and an unforgettable memory. It could be safely claimed that his contribution to the investigation aspect, his knowledge of the overall plot of the JVP and the evidence he gave were major contributory factors for the courts to find the accused persons guilty of the charges preferred against them.

During his tenure as Bribery Commissioner, he instilled fear in to the corrupt police officers, politicians, government servants and semi government organizations. He took upon himself the role of detective too. Once he jumped into a hotel and took into custody a chairman of a corporation and a female employee who were in a room in the hotel.

He had some affection towards the police officers and volunteered to help them whenever some of them had to face departmental or court cases. All the police officers who knew him are sure to miss him.

May his soul rest in peace.


‘My son the greatest’

Major Milroy Fernando, third Battalion Gajaba Regiment 50th birth anniversary:

You may have seen me in the grocery store or at the fish stall, waiting for the postman or picking up milk and paper. I may have been at work typing or sweeping, nursing or doctoring, or waiting on customers. But you can tell it’s me, I will be the one standing tall and proud.

You see while other children were going to work, college or loafing around, goofing off or just being kids, playing cricket or football, my child joined the world’s finest military.

My child has been serving this country all over the battle zone. Keeping peace, making peace and making me proud.

And then when our country, our way of life, our very democracy was threatened, my son was ready and eager to answer the call to conquer this evil plague that had been set upon us and the rest of the world.

Recently many parents have suffered the greatest loss any parent can face, and my heart shares their loss.

I was also filled with the deepest fear for the health and future of my son. Yet the desire to serve is what had charted my child’s life, and moulded the personal strength that simply amazed and humbled me. And that is why I am proud. That is why our country is the greatest. I could be any mother or father anywhere. But you can tell it’s me, I will be the one standing tall and proud.

May he attain Supreme Bliss of Nirvaana!


Elmo Fernando - a man of learning

Elmo Fernando of Kalutara is no more. We will never hear his sonorous voice again. We will never again listen to his erudite expositions of finer points in art and cinema. He would talk about the poetry of T S Eliot, lyrics of W B Yeats, abstruse poems of Ezra Pound. Then again he would talk about the novels of D H Lawrence, Stanylovski’s contribution to world drama. His discussions will go so far as Machado, Silone and Vallejo.

Next moment he would begin to talk about cinema. He would talk about Porter, Bergman, the film Battleship Btenkim, Ray of Ghatak. There was no end to our talking and it would go on to the deep of night until his beloved wife would step in and beckon him that it was high time to go to bed.

I think that the present day reading public might have forgotten the fact that few decades back Elmo’s criticisms of contemporary poetry, fiction and cinema adorned the literary columns of the Sunday Observer and the Daily News.

He used to write poetry and some of his poems appeared not only in the local press but also in prestigious magazines over the Continent. A collection of his poems were published few years back. Very few people will remember that Elmo had been critically discussing contemporary poetry, fiction and cinema over the western service of Sri Lanka Broadcasting Corporation, few decades back.

Elmo was poet, critic, broadcaster and literati. I do not like to introduce him as a media person as that term is hackneyed and has become a cliché today.

He had been a good teacher and his teaching carer started in Tissa Madhya Vidyalaya, Kalutara and ended up at Kelaniya University. The credit of starting the first ever cinema society in a school goes to him. That was the cinema society of Tissa Madhya Vidyalaya, Kalutara.

He was well versed in Western classics he never forgot about his Sinhala for he had studied Sinhala under the feet of that great oriental scholar, Beruwala Sri Nivasa Thera.

He had been a good sportsman and a thorough gentleman. He had played tennis from his school days until few years before his death. Very few people knew of his talents. Being a devout Buddhist, he led a quiet contented life and passed away serenely.


Gnanee Nanayakkara

When we remember her gentle eyes
Angel songs of laughter and smiles
Teardrops fall down my eyes
Now that we miss her kindly style

The special things she did for us
Thoughtfully we can never forget
A real granny she was to us
Brightened our lives a lot for us
Eyes of love with full happy tears
Golden daisies of sweeping eyelashes
Patient and tolerant she was to us
Worried and tired herself for us

A flower of Rose she was to us
But till in world death do apart us
We can never forget who was with us
The fairy grandmother you were to us

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