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Monday, April 22, 2024

Thajudeen Investigation Reaches Point Of No Return

When former Rugby player Wasim Thajudeen’s body was exhumed in August this year, just seven days before a crucial Parliamentary election, some sections of the society thought it would be another ‘election gimmick.’

They believed the Police would not be able to probe into the incident in a free and fair manner, as the investigation involved the names of some VVIP sons and their alleged ‘relationships.’

They thought the CID would wash their hands off after some time in the absence of evidence – as it did with several high profile cases in the past.

Amidst myriad speculations, the investigation, which drew the attention of many sections of the country, slowly went on. The results were slow. But, the investigations were never handicapped.

The CID was never interfered by politicians over Thajudeen’s inquiry. Its Homicide Unit, one of the strongest units of the CID, was assigned with the task of unraveling the mystery surrounding the famous Rugby player’s death. The investigation never got carried away with rhetoric espoused by elements in the country’s political sphere. While some dubbed Thajudeen’s investigation as an act of political witch-hunt, some lashed out at the CID for soft-pedaling the investigation.

The CID however took its own time to proceed with the investigation. It only dealt with evidence, verifiable facts and other relevant reports. They completely distanced themselves from the ‘timelines’ of politicians who kept jumping into conclusions with regard to Thajudeen’s murder.

It was in this context that Dr. Ajith Tennakoon, Chief Consultant Judicial Medical Officer, Colombo, and head of the Institute of Forensic Medicine and Toxicology, Dr. Jean Perera, Senior Lecturer at the Department of Forensic Medicine and Toxicology at the Faculty of Medicine, University of Colombo and, Dr. S.P.A. Hewage, Additional Consultant Judicial Medical Officer, presented the JMO report on Thajudeen’s death to the Colombo Additional Magistrate last week. The JMO report, needless to say, was a major breakthrough in the 10 month long investigation.

With the JMO report many political analysts now believe that the investigation into former Rugby player Wasim Thajudeen’s death has reached the point of no return.

The verdict of the magisterial inquiry into Thajudeen’s case is due on December 10. In his verdict, the Magistrate will ‘officially’ determine whether Thajudeen’s death was a murder or the result of a fatal accident.

The JMO reports and the investigations carried out by the CID have already established Thajudeen’s death as a murder. The JMO’s report and the findings of the CID have already been presented before the court and they will play a vital role in shaping the final verdict of the case.

The remains of Wasim Thajudeen being exhumed in August this year.
The remains of Wasim Thajudeen being exhumed in August this year.

Giving a new twist to the controversy surrounding the matter, Cabinet Spokesman Minister Rajitha Senaratne dropped two bombshells on Sunday night when he said the CID had recovered some CCTV footage of Thajudeen’s killing and some VIP sons to appeared in the video. He made these remarks while speaking to reporters on the sidelines of a public meeting held in Beruwala in the Kalutara District – the Minister’s electorate.

“There were CCTV footage of Thajudeen leaving the CR&FC premises, kidnapping him, and beating him to death. CCTV footage also shows members of elite families of the country, taking part in the murder,” the minister said adding that it would be presented before court in the near future. However, the CID is yet to make a statement whether it has received any CCTV footage with regard to the incident – a crucial evidence in terms of identifying possible suspects of the case.

It was Minister Rajitha Senaratne who first confirmed that the CID had traced three ex-Presidential Security Division in connection with the Rugby player’s death. However, the CID is yet to ‘officially’ disclose anything on the matter as the Magistrate is yet to give his verdict.

Eye-witnesses give statements on Thajudeen ‘incident’

The CID, over the past eight months, gathered substantial evidence over the mysterious death of the Rugby player. According to highly placed Police sources, nearly 27 people, who were at the scene of ‘accident’ immediately after Thajudeen’s death, had given statements to the CID. Most of the eye-witnesses who gave statements to the Police kept mum about the matter over the past three years, assuming giving evidence to the Police on Thajudeen’s death would plunge them into trouble.

The CID also conducted inquiries to ascertain whether a jeep belonging to the Siriliya Saviya organization, headed by former First Lady Shiranthi Rajapaksa, had been used to abduct the Rugby player before his mysterious death. The CID received information that the ICRC had donated the vehicle to ‘Siriliya Saviya’, a charity focusing on rural women. A statement was recorded from a senior official of the organization to ascertain whether they actually donated a vehicle to the former First Lady’s charity organization.

It was widely reported in media that the CID had traced three ex-PSD officers over the investigation into Thajudeen’s death. In addition, suspicions were also directed at a Sri Lankan living in the United Kingdom. The CID also received information that the Sri Lankan living in the UK, a non-military perso, had fled the country with the support of a former diplomat who had strong links with the top echelons of the previous regime.

The former diplomat is a man with a chequered history. A few months ago, he was also charged in connection with a child abuse case involving a 14-year-old child who appeared in a news item on ITN, last December, against President Maithripala Sirisena without the consent of his parent. In the fabricated news item, which went on air as part of former President Rajapaksa’s campaign, the child claimed that Maithripala Sirisena, who was then the common candidate of the opposition, detained his mother. After seeing the news item, it was the child’s mother who lodged a Police complaint against its ‘producers’. It was later found out that the former diplomat was one of the ‘masterminds’ behind the slanderous campaign against the common candidate of the Opposition.

It was revealed during the trial that even an Interpol red notice had been issued against the former diplomat who was sent to London by the former President. During the Presidential election period last year, the former diplomat spent his time in Colombo, helping the election campaign of the former President. He based himself in an election office at Keppetipola Mawatha, run by several senior state officials in support of the former President.

Police have identified him as the party who helped one of the possible suspects of the Thajudeen investigation to flee the country.

Meanwhile, the JMO reports, presented to the court by three medical experts, showed that the Narahenpita Police station, which handled initial investigations into Thajudeen’s death, had misled the public, dubbing the incident as an accident.

It clearly indicated that the Narahenpita Police station had, wittingly or otherwise, painted a wrong picture about circumstances leading to the Rugby player’s death.

As the Police Department was heavily influenced under the watch of the previous rule, there is enough space to speculate that the investigations were ‘manipulated’ during the initial stages, probably according to the whims of powers that be!

Police report on ‘Accident’ near Shalika Ground

Police report made by the Narahenpita Police in May, 2012, describing the incident as an "accident"
Police report made by the Narahenpita Police in May, 2012, describing the incident as an “accident”

The ‘flawed’ investigation carried out by the Narahenpita Police station has compelled the Thajudeen family to go before the National Police Commission, seeking action against those who painted a wrong picture about the Rugby player’s death.

A source close to the Thajudeen family told the Daily News on Sunday that their lawyers would meet NPC members this week to discuss the matter.

The family will lodge complaints against the former OIC of the Narahenpita Police station and several senior Police officers who handled investigations into Thajudeen’s case, three years ago.

They would also seek action against a retired Senior DIG who had strong links with the top-notch members of the previous government, for allegedly manipulating the Police investigation.

A lawyer looking after the interests of the Thajudeen family told the Daily News on Sunday that the Narahenpita Police had created false report to deliberately mislead the public on the cause of the rugby player’s death.

It is possible to believe that Thajudeen’s issue will be a major topic among political circles in the coming days, especially with the outcome of the magisterial inquiry. Some politicians who were quite vociferous about Thajudeen’s death, are expected to visit the court premises on December 10, to hear the verdict.

It is hard to believe that ‘political pressure’ will be able to hinder investigations into Thajudeen’s death, at this point. A top government spokesman told the Daily News yesterday that both the President and the Prime Minister were determined to carry out a fair inquiry into the matter, irrespective of the stature and family connections of possible suspects. On the other hand, some senior members of the government have already made their position clear with regard to the investigations. There are solid reasons to believe that the government will be thrown into an extremely difficult situation if it fails to conclude investigations and apprehend ‘culprits’ – as promised during its Parliamentary election campaign, a few months ago.

When President Sirisena met the family members of Thajudeen soon before the Parliamentary election in August, he assured that no one would be able to interfere with investigations after the election. Thajudeen’s family had fears that the rugby player’s death would be used as a vote catching device and the investigations would come to a standstill after the election. At the same time, there were speculations that the investigation would hit a snag following a UPFA victory.

By Rasika Jayakodi



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