SRI LANKAS FORMER KING MAKER, CRICKET BOARD BOSS AND TELECOM CHAIRMAN THILANGA SUMATHIPALA CONVICTED FOR A TWO YEARS JAIL TERM AFTER A LONG DRAWN OUT CASE
By Walter Jayawardhana
Sri Lankas former Cricket Board Chairman, former Chairman of the island nations biggest Company ,Sri Lanka Telecom and well known king-maker Thilanga Sumathipala was sentenced to two years rigorous imprisonment on the charges of aiding and abetting a criminal implicated in 28 murders to obtain a forged passport to travel to London and watch a World Cricket Championship match .
Minutes after the conviction his lawyers said the verdict will be appealed against and he was out on bail. Once Sumathipala, whose family made a fortune on bookies, changed parties , from former President Chandrika Bandaranaikes Peoples Alliance to the Ranil Wickremesinghe led United National Party that resulted in Wickremesinghe becoming the Prime Minister.
Hong Kongs Asiaweek magazine writing about his immense political
power in Sri Lanka then said, Thilanga is known as the backroom
king-maker of Sri Lankan politics, and it was his switch from President
Chandrika Kumaratunga's People's Alliance to Prime Minister Ranil
Wickremasinghe's United National Party that delivered the PM-ship
for Ranil, and the telecom gig for Thilanga.
The magistrate Ajith Anavaratne fined him 50, 000 rupees in addition to the prison term. The magistrate said the case has been proved beyond reasonable doubt that Sumathipala who even once had strong ambitions of becoming the ICC Chairman, the boss of the World Cricket body , had committed the crime of obtaining the forged passport for Dhammika Amerasinghe , a notorious underworld figure.
The case which started in the year 2003 was revealing the dark side of Sri Lankas cricket during Sumathipalas time and the intriguing connections between Sri Lankas moneyed and politically powerful class with the island nations lethal underworld.
He had been in remand prison for a long period , accused of abetting Dhammika Amarasinghe, described as the islands most notorious standover man who's implicated in 28 murders. Thilanga was accused of helping Dhammika get a forged passport to travel to London for the 1999 World Cup.
Before Dhammika Amerasinghe was shot dead quite an interesting thing happened. On December 8 2003, he was discharged by an acting magistrate.
It happened to be a Poya day, a Buddhist holy day, and the prosecution were not present. A group of lawyers objected and signed a petition to the chief justice charging Sumathipala's lawyers - one of them the president of the Sri Lanka Bar Association - with gross misconduct. On December 10, a magistrate's court overturned the discharge and issued Sumathipala with a summons. On January 1 2004, the Criminal Investigation Department obtained a warrant to search the cricket board's headquarters for evidence.
After the verdict was delivered the counsel informed court that an
appeal would be lodged. Sumathipala was granted Rs. 10,000 cash bail
and two surety bails each Rs. 100,000. Thilangas brother Jagath
Sumathipala and brother-in-law Anura Gunadasa signed as the two sureties.
But the magistrate said due to the seriousness of the sentence no
suspended sentence was possible and imposed a sentence of two years
rigorous imprisonment with the fine.
A powerful team of Defense lawyers consisting of Gamini Marapana
PC, Rienzie Arsekularatne PC, Dr. Harsha Cabral PC with Attorneys-at-law
Sri Kantha, Naveen Marapana and Wasantha Batagoda appeared for Thilanga
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