Police Sub-Inspector Sugath Mohan Mendis yesterday alleged that officers of the Colombo Crime Division (CCD) had threatened to arrest him unless he made a false statement that former Criminal Investigation Department (CID) Director Shani Abeysekara had fabricated evidence against murder convict Vaas Gunawardena by planting firearms prior to a raid.
Mendis says he was arrested for refusing to make such a false statement. The allegation was made in the Gampaha Magistrate Court yesterday, before Magistrate Manjula Karunaratne, when Mendis was produced before court on charges of assisting Abeysekara to plant false evidence against Gunawardena. Mendis was arrested by the CCD yesterday evening when he visited the division in Dematagoda to provide a statement.
While investigating the May 2013 murder of Bambalapitiya businessman Mohomed Shiyam, the CID had in 2014 recovered a stash of weapons at a pig farm in Kalagedihena, Gampaha. The owner of the farm and three of former DIG Vaas Gunawardena’s security officers and aides in 2014 made sworn statements before the Colombo Additional Magistrate that the weapons belonged to Vaas Gunawardena and were hidden on the pig farm at his request.
Subsequent Police investigations revealed that three of the recovered weapons including two shotguns had been illegally issued to Vaas Gunawardena from the Kurunegala police station. At the conclusion of the trial-at-bar for the murder of Shiyam, Gunawardena made a dock statement justifying his ownership of the weapons, claiming that he had secured them during the war against the LTTE when he served in operational areas.
Gunawardena was convicted of the murder and sentenced to death in November 2015. In June 2020, the owner of the pig farm and the former DIG’s aides gave statements to the Police seeking to recant their previous sworn testimony.
They claimed that neither they nor Vaas Gunawardena had anything to do with the weapons found on the pig farm in 2014, and instead alleged that Abeysekara had brought the weapons and planted them in order to falsely implicate the then-DIG, according to the Police. It is on this basis that the CCD launched an investigation and arrested Abeysekara last Friday at his home in Narahenpita.
Mendis’ attorney Chaminda Athukorala told the Gampaha Magistrate that when his client was questioned on Monday by ASP Neville De Soysa and an IP identified as “Nishantha”, the officers told him that he would be released and protected on the condition that he gave a false claim that he had witnessed Abeysekara planting the weapons on the pig farm, and helped to exonerate Vaas Gunawardena.
Athukorala made an application to allow Mendis himself to make a sworn statement to the Magistrate complaining of the incident. Magistrate Karunaratne consented to the application and recorded a sworn statement from Mendis under Section 127 of the Criminal Procedure Code. Mendis and Abseysekara have both been remanded until Friday, 7 August.