Former Deputy Minister of Defence, Anuruddha Ratwatte, while denying any involvement in the Pallethalawinna murders, told the Trial-at -Bar, Presided by Justices Sunil Rajapakse and Deepali Wijesundera, that fierce rivalry between two Muslim candidates, contesting the Kandy District, led to the deaths of ten young Muslim men on December 5, 2001. In giving affirmed evidence yesterday, he blamed Sri Lanka Muslim Congress (SLMC) candidate Rauf Hakeem for the violence in the Kandy District, telling Court that Hakeem and UNP candidates Haleem and Cader were fighting to secure majorities.
He said that as a victorious candidate Hakeem had entered into a pact with the Government, UNF on stringent conditions that secured him an important portfolio. He said that the SLMC had in 2000 too, made similar demands and laid conditions to the People`s Alliance (PA) Government, as a coalition partner, conditions that were fulfilled - resulting in important portfolios.
He said that for days preceding the election, logs had been placed across roads and tyres were burned in the areas where there were a majority of Muslims.
`Feelings were running high in rival camps and there was also intelligence that a `Jihad` was in the making and a number of people had come in from Trincomalee`
His evidence was led by Wijeydasa Rajapakse PC.
Gen Ratwatte described Brigadier Hulangamuwa, one of the prosecution witnesses, as one of the worst cowards he had ever met. Hulangamuwa would always find an excuse not to visit Army Camps in the North and East and that he had been dishonourably discharged from the Army by the UNP government before 1994. He was, however, reinstated by the People`s Alliance who decided to give the soldier another chance. Hulangamuwa was made Secretary to the Deputy Minister of Defence and was responsible for Ratwatte`s personal security.
Since the war resumed and the LTTE were engaging suicide bombers to target politicians and leading Service personnel, the General said he was advised to have personal security at all times. Intelligence had revealed that two women suicide bombers were living near his home and planning to assassinate him. He had been advised to strengthen his team of security officers. At the meeting held in this regard, Hulangamuwa had claimed that reinforcement was impossible and witness had accepted that position.
He denied ever picking particular army, air force, police or navy officers to serve as his personal bodyguards and knowing any of the men, supposedly assigned to him. He also said that he saw the fourth accused for the first time at the Teldeniya Courts.
General Ratwatte said that he and his family had experienced fear when he saw his youngest son come home in bloodstained clothes after the Bo Gaha Raja Mahaviharaya was bombed.
`We thought he was injured but later learned that he had been instrumental in dispatching the injured to hospital.`
`I then demanded that my two sons bring their families and stay at the Mahaiyawa House and they did not leave the house even to cast their votes. I forbade them to`. The third, Mahen, was in Colombo, where he was to vote.
Mr Ratwatte then described SP Kulasiri Udugampola as a man who was involved in the disappearances of young men and women in 1988 and 1989. He said that SP Udugampola was instrumental in the conspiracy to blame Mr Ratwatte for the deaths of the ten Muslim young men.
President Kumaratunga had informed him of soldiers from the Kotmale Camp being out of bounds and causing undue tension at polling booths. Witness said he immediately ordered the police to inquire and forbade these men from leaving the Kotmale area.
He said that he had since he heard of the Pallethalawinna murders instructed the IGP to send CID officers to enquire.
Gen. Ratwatte will be cross examined by the Prosecution today.