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Rajagiriya accident: Cell phone belongs to Minister Patali Ranawaka

The Welikada Police yesterday informed Colombo Additional Magistrate (Traffic) Chandana Kalansuriya that investigations into the cell phone used in connection with the accident in which two youths suffered injuries at Rajagiriya in late February this year, have proved that the cell phone found in the offending vehicle belongs to Minister Patali Ranawaka.

The cell phone bearing number 0716826067 which belongs to Minister Ranawaka had been clearly recorded by signal towers abutting the route by which the jeep was allegedly driven by the minister concerned.

When the case pertaining to the causing of injuries to two youths Sandeep Sampath and Manula Minsuka Abeysundera on 29 February was taken for hearing yesterday, the Police submitted a progress report to Court concerning inquiries into the incident.
ASP Priyadarshana Herath of the Welikada Police Division told Court "Two investigations related to this particular incident were held directly under my supervision. The Welikada OIC was tasked with conducting inquiries into the accident while the inquiries related to the driver of the Minister's jeep was conducted by the Padukka OIC. The case inquiry reports have already been submitted to Court."


Welikada Police OIC Sudath Asmadale told Court, "As per the Court order on 30 March, further investigations were conducted. Already three attempts were made to get a statement recorded from Sandeep who is currently under treatment at the Ragama Hospital. However, due to the critical medical condition of the patient it has still not been possible to get any statement from him. A statement was however recorded from the Director of the Ragama Hospital on 8 April concerning the patient's medical condition. The Hospital Director in his statement has said that though there is no threat to the patient's life, the patient is still not in a stable enough condition to make such a statement. He has stated that the patient is able to speak but is still weak and that tubes once inserted into his stomach through which he was fed have also been removed. But, as the patient is currently not in a frame of mind to speak at length or even discuss the incident , we intend to record a statement from him in due course. Also all cell phone records from Minister Patali Ranawaka who is alleged to have driven the vehicle which had caused the accident were obtained from the relevant cell phone companies. As per the Court order, records from six cell phone companies were sought. However, four cell phone companies insisted that they have not provided any cell phone facilities to the
minister concerned. The Mobitel Company had provided the minister five cell phones out of which one had been disconnected on 11 January 2011. The Dialog Company has provided the Minister concerned with four cell phones with one connection being disconnected on 11 July 2011. The signal tower records of cell phone used by the Minister were obtained by the Police without any hindrance to the minister's privacy and these records are only related to the time period related directly to the incident. One cell phone bearing number 0716826067 had been taken away by his driver Thusitha Kelum Kumara at the time of the accident. This particular cell phone has been used by the minister as his main mobile phone at public outings. Related to this incident, details were obtained concerning three other phones used by the minister from the Secretary General of Parliament.

Out of those three phones two were fixed lines and one cell phone had been disconnected on 7 July 2015. Also CCTV camera footage was obtained from 24 establishments within a close circumference of the route where the accident took place. Statements were recorded from the managers and owners of each of those 24 companies. Also CCTV camera footage was obtained on CDs from five of those firms. Those copies show that a vehicle with two large headlights was moving on that road. However, it is difficult to identify the person who is behind the wheel of that vehicle or its number plate. The five CDs with the CCTV camera footage are hereby submitted to Court. We request Court to order the computer division of the Moratuwa University to submit a report containing the zoomed pictures on the CCTV camera footage. Furthermore, CCTV cameras fixed at the Borella junction were also studied by the Police. However, we have been told that CCTV camera footage gets automatically deleted within five days. Statements were recorded with great difficulty from eight suspects related to this incident. We asked them whether there was any pressure or threat exerted on them against giving evidence in the case. One witness, Umesh Ranganath Udaya Kumara, told us that he had been threatened twice on cell phone 0778643978, and that those phone conversations had been recorded by him. Further investigations were conducted concerning the jeep involved in the accident. According to the report filed by the Motor Traffic Controller the motor cycle involved in the accident could not have been driven on a main road. That is supposed to be a motor cycle which is used for sports events. Inquiries are conducted to decipher whether the engine number of the motor cycle had been changed."


Speaking on behalf of the aggrieved party in the case Counsel Rasika de Silva, Kalpani Gunasekera and Nuwan Jayawardene told Court that "The police have clearly carried out inquiries in a manner that is partial or biased in favour of the Minister concerned. If the motor cycle is not legally permitted in the roads its riders would have fled the scene immediately. But, nothing of the sort happened. It was they who lodged a complaint to the Police regarding the accident. Would they have done such a thing if they were riding a motor cycle that has been banned from being ridden on normal roads? The Police are claiming that the cell phone belongs to the minister and that it was used for public events by him. The Police have said that the cell phone had been given by the Minister to his driver. But, this driver does not belong to the Minister's permanent staff. That driver is from another Ministry. However, there's been no inquiry into that. There is no inquiry into the driving of vehicle belonging to a Minister without a running chart after 10 in the night."


Magistrate – Is the public telephone a fixed line or a cell phone?
Police – It is a cell phone.
Magistrate – What is the cell phone number?
Police – 0716826067
Counsel Nuwan Jayawardene – From that cell phone number, the Police have supposedly called a senior officer in the Police at the very moment the accident took place. This accident occurred at Rajagiriya. From that place, it is only 50 metres to the Welikada Police station. However, they had gone to the Borella Police station which is situated
2 kilometres further. If minister Ranawaka was the defendant in this case this driver would have been released. What this particular driver should do is to support the aggrieved party in this case. This driver is today in the dock for no fault of his. It is the minister instead who should be in it. There is clear evidence that this accident was caused by Minister Ranawaka. When the accident took place, the jeep was clearly driven by the minister concerned. It is he (minister) who has tried to distort the facts. Hence we request the Court to name the Minister concerned as one of the suspects in this case. The Police could easily arrest the Minister as one of the suspects and produce him in Court. The Police also said that the CCTV footage gets deleted within five days. Then how could justice be meted out if a suspect flees to a faraway place after having committed a crime? Therefore we urge all the CCTV camera footage to be sent to the Moratuwa University computer division for verification. It is crystal clear that the Minister after having caused the accident fled the scene. The motorcycle is not one that is deemed as illegal to be driven on normal roads. It has been authorized by the Ministry of Defence and it can be driven on any main road. We urge the Court to inquire from the Police as to why they are reluctant to arrest the real suspect in this case who is the minister concerned and to hand over further investigations to the CID.


ASP Priyadarshana Herath – The President, PM or Ministers do not carry cell phones. All of their cell phones are in the possession of their security officers or drivers. All of the six cell phones used by the Minister were in possession of his security officers or drivers.


Counsel Nuwan Jayawardene – Then was it the driver in the dock today who had called the IGP?
ASP Herath – We are unbiased and independent. The aggrieved party should help the Police. There are three factions in this incident. We do not know which faction the aggrieved party is representing?
Welikada OIC – We have done our utmost in this investigation. The only thing that is left to be done is a DNA test. If that is the requirement then that too could be done.
Padukka OIC – 16 independent witnesses' statements were recorded related to this accident, while 15 Police witnesses were also recorded. On the day of the accident statements from all Police officers at the main gate to the OIC of the Borella Police were also recorded.


Counsel Maithree Guneratna appearing for driver Dilum Thusitha Kumara – The aggrieved party has started to show undue concern towards my client all of a sudden. The first statement was given by the witnesses at 12.30 a.m. At the time the story was yet to be aired by the media. However, later everything changed. If a charge sheet is produced against us then we are for closing this case as early as possible. The aggrieved party is using the law to achieve vested interests. We urge that they not be allowed to use the Court to achieve their vested interests by misleading Court. We also request the Court to release our jeep.
Counsel Nuwan Jayawardene – The aggrieved party is not here to mislead the Court and we have not done anything of the sort implied by the Counsel. My client is still recovering in hospital and for us this is not just another case. The person who had committed the accident had fled the scene and instead someone else has been produced on his behalf. If the real suspect is arrested, then the person who is in the dock can be released.


Counsel Guneratna – No legal action could be filed either against my client or any other person.
Magistrate's Order –The main issue in this case revolves round the CCTV camera footage. The Police are hereby ordered to submit the camera footage to the Moratuwa University and seek a detailed report regarding the driver of the jeep, its other occupants, identify the make and model of the jeep and its number plate etc. Once those reports are received, Court will decide whether to name Minister Ranawaka as one of the suspects in the case. The jeep involved in the accident is hereby released on a bond of Rs. 5 million and the motor cycle on a bond of
Rs 500,000. The jeep is released to the route manager of the Ministry of Power and Renewable Energy. The Police are ordered to seek CCTV camera footage report ASAP.
The case was postponed to 15 June.
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