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Reactivating the gallows

Firoze SAMEER DN Wed Oct 21 2009

The death sentence was implemented for over 130 years during the British rule in Ceylon, past Independence upto May 9, 1958, on which date it was suspended by Prime Minister S.W.R.D. Bandaranaike.

It was reintroduced on December 2, 1959 with retrospective effect which afforded law enforcement to hang Ven. Somarama Thera on July 6, 1962 for his crime of shooting premier SWRDB on September 25, 1959. President J.R. Jayewardene's Government of July 1977 suspended it once again. The last execution that of D.J. Siripala alias Maru Sira was conducted on June 23, 1976.


During Ranil Wickremesinghe's premiership between December 2001 and April 2004, Interior Minister John Amaratunga tried but failed to implement the death penalty for rape, conspiracy to murder and murder, and drug trafficking. At that time they were preparing Ricardo Bradley Keegal for execution with the usual crew cut and white outfit. Ricardo and a Chinese national called Sheik were sentenced to death sometime in 1985 for the murder of Tony Martin.

Reactivating the gallows will decidedly serve as a corollary to President Mahinda Rajapaksa's tremendous success in having wiped out terrorism followed closely by a sustained process of cleansing the Augean stables of crime. Justice Minister Milinda Moragoda's prudent move appears timely.

Horrendous crimes

Reminiscent are some horrendous crimes during our time. The barbaric gang rape and murder of Indian beauty queen Rita John Manoharan on that Mutwal coastline, October 11, 1998. The brutal gang rape and massacre of the six-member family of Withanage Lalanadasa, 56, at Hokandara in February 1999. The senseless murders of the Hamer family on May 7, 2003: Franklyn, 78, his son Dieter, 33, and daughter Daisy Anne, 29, at Frazer Avenue in Dehiwala. The gory clubbing, strangulation and throat slitting of Mallika Yatawara, 60, in Kurunegala last June... the list is long.

Contract killing

The spate of contract killings include the shooting of Colombo High Court Judge Sarath Ambepitiya and his bodyguard, Chief Inspector RA Upali of the MSD, on November 19, 2004; the perpetrators now languish in Death Row. The blatant strangulation of millionaire Bhanumathi Visvanathan in the presence of her gagged and tied-up domestics at Ettampolawatte Road in Hendala, March 1991, the killers never being caught, is another tragedy.

Alan Shelton Anderson, now sporting an aluminium crutch, admittedly served in Death Row for 22-years. While recounting some of his erstwhile antics, I saw no remorse or regret in this onetime killer's steely but smiling eyes set in a leathery face of torment. His last job was the heist at the L'Etoile Jewellery & Gem Merchants and gruesome murder of its proprietor, A.L. Mohamed, in the heart of Colombo Fort, September 23, 1970, high noon. On February 16, 1974, the High Court, presided by Justice Colin Thome, sentenced to death Anderson, then 44, and Elmo Rodrigo, 22, while George M.E. Jansen and I. Yasa Abeykoon were slapped with seven years' rigorous imprisonment.

Serious threat

Such dastardly acts of crime pose an extremely serious threat to society at large. A cause for concern in ensuring criminals, especially contract killers, are jettisoned from society in protecting the public. How safe will the next generation of adults and children walk on the highway?


Strong checks and balances provide for recommendations by the Attorney-general, the trial judge, the Minister of Justice and eventual ratification by President in the implementation of the death penalty, to doubly ensure innocent folk are saved from climbing the gibbet.

John Douglas

John Douglas, the model for Thomas Harris' Jack Crawford in The Silence of the Lambs, served the FBI for 25 years. Apart from his masterpiece 'Crime Classification Manual', this expert who has had extensive exposure to the criminal mind, in his first book, Mindhunter, states, "Quite clearly, some types of killers are much more likely to repeat their crimes than others. But for the violent sexually based serial killers, I find myself agreeing with Dr Park Dietz that, 'it's hard to imagine any circumstance under which they should be released to the public again.'"


Ms Du-Yimin from the Zhejiang province and Si-Chaxian defrauded investors of over U$125-million, which "seriously damaged the country's financial regulatory order and social stability," the Chinese Supreme People's Court ruled.

Li -Peiying, the former head of the state-firm which owns Beijing airport, was convicted on corruption charges - bribery and embezzlement - amounting to some U$16-million. All of them were recently executed.


As at April 1, 2008, in the US the Death Penalty is authorized by 37 or almost 75 percent of the States, the Federal Government, and the US Military. The Oklahoma bomber Timothy Mc Veigh, 33, killed 168-people, April 19, 1995; he was executed by lethal injection, June 11, 2001. The genial-looking Ted Bundy, a serial sex-killer was sentenced to death on July 31, 1979, and eventually executed in the electric chair in Florida, January 24, 1989. This psychopath admitted, falsely or otherwise, to having hailed from a good Christian family but blamed his addiction to pornographic violence, which he said he found rooted in every diehard criminal in prison, which led to his criminal behavior.

Death Row

Sometime in May 2005 we had over 70 convicts in Death Row. Now we see that figure catapult to 273, an increase by 300 percent. The terrible physical and mental trauma suffered so tragically by rape and murder victims is in itself a cause for the government of the day to protect its innocent citizens from creatures of crime.

Arguably, law enforcement could perhaps monitor the number of hangings against the trend in crime and numbers being sentenced to death over a period to determine a correlation. In the meantime, the protracted process of educating society to prevent such calamities could probably get underway.


In January, 2005 STC General Trading procured 20 metres of the hangman's ropes for the gallows from a supplier in Pakistan, and passed them to the present Justice Ministry Secretary Suhada Gamlath, subject to testing by the Prisons Department in keeping with technical specifications submitted by the Industrial Technology Institute (ITI).

The ropes are ready while the hangman hangs about idly in the welfare unit of the Prison Officers' Association, perhaps nonchalantly awaiting his call for action.


SWRD Bandaranaike - The assassination aspect

Daily News Magazine Sat-26.09.09. p13

years ago - assassination of SWRD:

The shots that shook the world

It was on the morning of Friday September 25, 1959-50 years ago - that the fourth Prime Minister of Sri Lanka Solomon West Ridgeway Dias Bandaranaike, was brutally gunned down at his Rosmead Place residence in Colombo, by a fanatic, saffron-robed Buddhist monk.

In his younger days. Pictures courtesy ANCL

Having resigned my permanent, pensionable and secure job in the Posts and Telecommunications Department after 7 1/2 years of service, in August 1959, I became a "Stringer" reporter for the now defunct "Times of Ceylon" group of newspapers. Earlier, I was freelancing for the "Times", since 1953.

On that fateful Friday morning, I was carrying one-year old Lakshan Amarasinghe, my next door neighbour, to show him the two pups littered by my Alsatian dog. As I was showing him the pups in the back verandah of my Moor Road house at Wellawatte, the telephone rang. Donovan Moldrich, News Editor of the "Times of Ceylon" was on line and he asked me to "Come to office right away as something tragic has happened."

Mr. and Mrs. Bandaranaike

He did not spell out what it was, but I noticed the time was 10.20 a.m. I went next door and left Lakshan and I got dressed up and as I was about to step out of my house, I heard Lakshan's father Alfred Amarasinghe returning home in his car, shouting to my father, (reading the morning "Ceylon Daily News" seated in an easy chair on the front verandah) that "the Prime Minister has been shot and wounded."

When I reached the gate, the phone rang again and I returned to answer it. It was Felix Gunawardena Editor of the "Sunday Times" asking me to proceed direct to the General Hospital, Colombo where the Prime Minister had been brought, after an assassination attempt.

I went direct to the hospital and I saw a truck-load of Police getting off and positioning themselves at various strategic points in the vicinity. I moved around and saw two of my colleagues veteran reporters K. Nadarajah who was also working for the "Indian Express" and M. K. Pillai also correspondent for the "Times of India" there. I also spotted E. C. B. Wijesinghe working for the Reuters news agency there. I reached there at 11.10 a.m. and was with them until 2.30 p.m. when another veteran journalist/colleague Shelton Liyanage (Fernando) also working for the "Statesman" Calcutta, came to relieve me.

At the time I left, the Prime Minister was still in the operating theatre. The Emergency operation was performed by Dr. M. V. P. Peries, Dr. P. R. Anthonis and Dr. Noel Bartholomeusz and lasted a little over five hours.

Earlier, the Governor General Sir Oliver Goonetilleke who was swearing-in the Italian Ambassador Count Paolo di Michelis di Sloughhello, stopped the ceremony and rushed to Rosmead place.

Taking his dog for the Dog Show

Dr. N. M. Perera and Philip Gunawardena who were in the House of Representatives (Parliament) went to the PMs residence on hearing about the shooting. A message had also been sent from Queen's House (Governor General's official residence) to Parliament to continue with its meeting. W. Dahanayake had suggested that Parliament be adjourned but Dr. Perera said that "there was no need to panic."

At the time of the shooting incident, there were many people as usual, waiting to meet the Prime Minister in the verandah of his house. Among them were two saffron-robed men.

After meeting one of them and bowing to him in reverence, Mr. Bandaranaike turned towards the second monk. While bowing, the second monk suddenly pulled out a .45 revolver from under his yellow robes and shot at the PM at pointblank range.

Mr. Bandaranaike turned and ran into the house and in the process, three shots hit him in the hand and abdomen, whilst two hit the glass pane of a nearby door and a flower pot in the verandah.

The people who were waiting to meet the PM, immediately set upon the man in saffron robe and mauled him mercilessly. A Policeman on sentry duty there, also shot at the Buddhist monk and wounded him on the thigh and arrested him. The Governor - General declared a State of Emergency throughout the island at 11 a.m. and the Army, Navy and Air Force units including volunteers were mobilized to suppress any civil commotion.

When I reached office the "Times" which had already put out two editions about the shooting incident, put out its third edition giving more details of that day's assassination attempt.

Around 5 p.m., I left in a taxi with "Sunday Times" feature writer Samson Abeygunawardena to meet Dr. Gamini Corea at his Horton Place, Colombo, residence. The entrances to Rosmead place as well as the adjoining Barnes Place and Horton Place which were guarded by armed Police, were closed to all vehicular traffic. We got off the taxi and walked about 200 yards and met Dr. Corea and collected an article on "Ceylon's Population problem" for the "Sunday Times" National Forum Column.

After that, we proceeded to 5th Lane, Kollupitiya and met Dr. L. O. de Silva at his clinic, where there was a large number of patients.

The doctor was biting into a sandwich which he told us was his late lunch. He said he was in the operating theatre and the surgery "lasted a little over five hours".

He also told us "The first 24 hours after the operation was very crucial."

When I returned to office at about 7.15 p.m., many of my colleagues were also there. I was then directed by Mr. Moldrich to be at the General Hospital the following (Saturday 26th September 1959) day at 6 a.m. When I reached the hospital at 5.40 a.m., my colleagues Nadarajah, Liyanage and Pillai were already there keeping vigil, for any new developments about the PM.

Shortly after that Saturday morning, Shelton came hurriedly down the hospital corridor and signalled me to grab the telephone in the solitary booth in the hospital vicinity, before anyone else gets hold of it. As he approached me he grimaced indicating that it was all finished. Shelton took the receiver from me and phoned through to Moldrich that the PM has passed away.

When I reached the Times news room at 9.25 a.m., the first edition of the Saturday "Times of Ceylon" was already out. The headline read "The Prime Minister is dead."

A few hours after the operation the previous day, the PM had joked with the doctors and nurses around his bedside.

He had asked one of the Nurses "How am I doing?" She replied "You are doing fine, Sir". "Yes I am an old man and have undergone a five hour stomach operation but I still have guts," the PM declared.

The Buddhist monk who carried out the assassination was Talduwe Somarama Thera, an Eye specialist and a visiting lecturer at the College of Indigenous Medicine Borella and also of the Amaravihare, Obeysekere Town.

The official Bulletin on his death stated "The condition of the Prime Minister suddenly took a turn for the worse about 7 a.m. There was a sudden alteration of the action of the heart and his condition deteriorated very rapidly. He passed off peacefully about 8 'O' clock."

Sgd. Dr. P. R. Anthonis, Dr. T. D. H. Perera and Dr. M. J. A. Sandrasagara.

A verdict of homicide was recorded by the City Coroner J. N. C. Tiruchelvam, J. P. U. M. at the inquest. He said "death was due to shock and haemorrhage resulting from multiple injuries to the thoracic and abdominal organs."

The Prime Minister's funeral was held on Wednesday 30th September 1959, where his body was entombed into a vault at his ancestral Horagolla Walauwa.

SWRD Bandaranaike - The assassination aspect - Part-2
Daily News Mon-28.09.09. p9

50th death anniversary was on September 26, 2009

The 1st and 2nd accused were sentenced to death. They were both defended by an English silk, Phineas Quass.

However, the Court of Criminal Appeal presided by Chief Justice Hema H. Basnayake with - Justices MC Sansoni, HNG Fernando, OBE, N. Sinnetamby and LB de Silva, altered the sentences to life imprisonment, having accepted the argument of senior counsel Guy Wikramanayake, QC, that the Act which re-introduced the death penalty for murder did not in specific terms re-introduce such penalty for conspiracy to commit murder.

SWRD Bandaranaike

The 3rd accused Anura de Silva was found not guilty by a unanimous verdict of the Jury: he was defended by Kenneth Shinya assisted by K. Ratnesar. The 4th accused Somarama, was sentenced to death. Somarama, then 48-years old, was hanged at Welikada Prison by the State executioner Lewis Singho and his assistant Subatheris Appu on July 6, 1962: a time when the Army-Police Coup conspirators of January 27, 1962 were being held in detention. Ven. Somarama was defended by Lucien G. Weeramantry, who later published the book, Assassination of a Prime Minister (Geneva, 1969). Mr. (later Sir) Dingle Foot QC, appeared on an honorary basis for Ven. Somarama, at the final appeal before the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council.

The 5th accused, Inspector of Police Newton Perera, escaped the gibbet by a Jury verdict of 5-to-2 in his favour: he was defended by N. Satyendra, son of the brilliant Senator S Nadesan, QC, assisted by A. Mahesan.


The prosecution team was led by a lawyer from the unofficial bar, George E. Chitty, QC, specially retained by the Attorney General and he was assisted by Crown Counsel Ananda Pereira and LBT Premaratne (later QC). Such arrangement resulted in Deputy Solicitor-General ACM Ameer (later QC) resigning his post in protest since he had led evidence in the lower court. Ameer was later appointed Attorney General by the Dudley Senanayake Government of 1965-70.


The 1st accused died of a heart ailment aged 46-years after having served time at Welikada prison for 71/2-years of his sentence. The Dudley Senanayake Government on

May 7, 1966 had commuted the sentences of the 1st and 2nd accused to 20-years. According to former Deputy Commissioner of Welikade Prison RJN Jordan, the 1st accused used to neglect his health by over-eating.

The 2nd accused served for 171/2-years and was released on August 4, 1977, 14-days after the JR Jayewardene Government’s landslide victory at the hustings.

The 2nd accused was not ‘lucky’ to have benefited by the concession granted five years earlier when a Justice Ministry order on April 6, 1972 under Emergency Regulations provided for prisoners who were sentenced to over 10-years’ imprisonment and who had served for over five years to be released.

Bandaranaike Assassination Commission

On June 28, 1963 the Bandaranaike Assassination Commission was appointed by the Governor-General William Gopallawa, MBE, under the provisions of the Commissions of Enquiry Act to probe on the political aspects of the assassination and to report on ten specific terms of reference.

The Commission, which acted as a judicial tribunal and could exercise judicial power, was chaired by Justice TS Fernando with two foreign judges, viz. Justice Adel Younis, Judge of the Court of Cassation of the UAR, and Justice GC Mills-Odoi, Judge of the Court of Appeal of Ghana.

Services of the Crown lawyers - AC Alles, Solicitor-General and Crown counsel, RS Wanasundera and RI Obeysekera were sought in aiding the Commission to identify persons whose conduct required examination vis-à-vis the terms of reference appearing in the warrant.

Justice Alles later published The Assassination of a Prime Minister in Vol. III (Colombo, 1979/New York, Vantage Press, Inc., 1986) of his Famous Criminal Cases of Sri Lanka series.

Notices were issued by the Commission on the following persons: (1) W. Dahanayake, Prime Minister of Ceylon from September 26, 1959 to March 19, 1960. (2)Lionel Goonetilleke, former assistant superintendent of Police, CID. (3) Ossie Corea, businessman.

(4) FR (Dickie) de Zoysa, landed proprietor and businessman. (5) Mrs. Vimala Wijewardene, former Cabinet Minister. (6) Sidney de Zoysa, former deputy Inspector-General of Police.

The findings of the Commission in Sessional Paper III of 1965, published on April 30, 1964 made an adverse report only in the case of Ms. VimalaWijewardene. Ms. Wijewardene had been dismissed from the position of Minister of Local Government and Housing by Prime Minister Dr. W. Dahanayake on October 20, 1959. She was arrested by the Police on November 19, 1959 as being suspected of complicity in the assassination and was included in the list as the 6th accused when plaint was filed in the Magistrate’s Court on November 26,1959.

It is arguable if the evidence which the Commission accepted had been placed at the non-summary inquiry which ended its sittings on July 15, 1960 Vimala Wijewardene might have been indicted as an accused at the trial. It should be noted almost four months prior to the conclusion of the non-summary inquiry, on March 19, 1960 Dudley Senanayake won the general elections and became Prime Minister for the third time.

September 26

September 26, is also significant in that in 1947, the swearing-in of the DS Senanayake’s famous 14-member Cabinet, of which SWRD Bandaranaike was a Minister and leader of the House, took place on that day.

The day is also significant in that former Fisheries Minister in the JR Jayewardene Government, S de S Jayasinghe, OBE, JP, brother of the feared Aratchirala who was a great friend of Ossie Corea, suddenly died in 1977.

In 1988, on this day, gunmen in Kuliyapitiya at the height of the JVP crisis assassinated Rehabilitation and Reconstruction Minister Lionel Jayatillake. Incidentally, the man Ossie Corea died at the Co-operative Hospital on October 17, 1976 after entering hospital precisely three weeks earlier on September 26.

(The writer is the author of dOSSIEr COREA: A Portfolio on Crime, short-listed by the Gratiaen Committee, 1998)


SWRD BANDARANAIKE - The assassination aspect

Saturday, September 26 2009, marks the 50th death anniversary of Prime Minister SWRD Bandaranaike, who died at the General Hospital on a Saturday morning at about 07.45-Hrs.


The six shots fired by the Ven. Talduwa Somarama Thera of the College of Ayurvedic Medicine with a .455 Webly Mark VI revolver at the prime minister in his unofficial residence, Tintagel at No. 65 Rosmead Place in Colombo-7, on Fri.-Sep.-25, 1959, about

The clothes he was wearing at the time of his death

09.45Hrs, fatally injured the PM and seriously injured a teacher called Gunaratne in the neck amongst a throng of about forty persons.

It was later established that the murder weapon came from an unlicensed armoury of five firearms, which belonged to Ossie Corea, a tavern renter at Dagonna in the Negombo District, and who was also the personal security officer to the Minister of Finance Stanley de Zoysa, MP.


The deep-seated conspiracy finally blew sky-high, when it was established at the subsequent Supreme Court trial that the 1st and 2nd accused, the Ven. Buddharakkitha thera, High priest of the Kelaniya Raja Maha Vihare, and HP Jayewardena, conspired to assassinate the prime minister in view of their disappointment, inter alia, in not being able to push through their business ventures with the assistance of the government.

Notable was their failure in May-1958, to secure the bid, at great financial loss to them, for the carriage of rice from Burma (now Myanmar) to Ceylon (now Sri Lanka), on behalf of the Food Department, through their new company, the Colombo Shipping Lines Ltd, which had been floated with the expert guidance of Major JR Baptis, a former director of the Government-sponsored Ceylon Shipping Lines Ltd.

Also, the prime minister had not taken seriously the scurrilous pamphlet relating to Buddharakkiktha and Mrs Vimala Wijewardene, his minister of Health.

Ossie & Lionel:

The hatchet man, Somarama, harboured no grudge with the prime minister.

Suspicion fell on Ossie Corea as the enforcer, since he was bald-headed during the time of the assassination.

However, Corea, who was a former temporary Excise inspector, and his

protégé former ASP-CID Lionel (Gompa) Goonetilleke, who lived opposite to Tintagel, appeared as strong prosecution witnesses at the trial.

Police Investigation:

Amongst the crack team of police officers investigating the Bandaranaike murder, were included DIG-CID DCT Pate, SP Rajasooriya, ASP SSIK Iyer, IP Abeywardena, IP AM Seneviratne and IP Tyrell Goonetilleke, who later on rose to the rank of DIG.


The Bandaranaike Assassination trial commenced on 22-Feb.-1961 presided by Justice TS Fernando, QC, CBE, with a seven member jury whose foreman was DWL Lieversz, Snr.

The trial concluded almost three months later on 12-May.



Honouring Arthur V. Dias by Edward Gunawardena, ex-DIG

Daily News Sat.-08.08.09: p7.

Honouring Arthur V. Dias

Jak tree should have been named the National Tree:

The Daily News feature writers Nalin Fernando and Firoze Sameer deserve to be complimented by readers for their excellent well researched article (July 31) on that great patriot of yore Arthur V. Dias. Of all his pioneering, courageous initiatives, the campaign to plant a million jak trees was indeed the most noble concept. Had this effort been relentlessly pursued, today it would be having a significant beneficial impact not only supplementing healthy food requirements but more importantly the environment.

Arthur V. Dias

But by the wanton destruction of Jak trees accelerated particularly by the timber requirements of the construction boom of the past three decades a great disservice has been done to the memory of this great son of Lanka.

The rapid fragmentation of land for building purposes has had a devastating effect on jak as well as other trees. Notwithstanding all the laws that have been enacted by well meaning governments Jak trees keep on vanishing. In most urban areas of the country, Jak trees and even coconut trees have become a rarity. It is not far from the truth to state that many schoolchildren in Colombo have not seen a jak tree!

When a Jak tree can easily be grown in a homegarden and its wonderful shade and fruits enjoyed, lazy urban lifestyles are driving housewives to stand round pavement jak vendors to buy a polythene bagful of cleaned and shredded tender or mature jak. When bought by the gramme and cooked and consumed as a mere accompanying curry they probably do not realize the potential jak has as a substitute for the rice of the common man.

The proliferation of residential buildings in cities and the suburbs with limited space for trees has led to the emergence of individuals and even communities with no love for trees. There are even anti-social petty minded individuals who curse the winds if the leaf of a neighbour's falls on their concrete, treeless and even grassless outer areas. It was this mental degradation resulting in a condition that psychiatrics described as an "aversion to greenery" that prompted Singapore to introduce legislation to make it compulsory to grow trees round houses.

This unique, less apparent human factor would also have presented obstacles to the Jak planting campaign of Arthur V. Dias. Singaporeans who for generations had grown up in 'concrete jungles' initially found it difficult to adjust to a green environment with falling leaves, twigs and fruits. This natural fall out of a green environment came to be considered a nuisance.

Such cranky individuals exist in Sri Lanka too. About 25 to 30 years ago when I was DIG Metropolitan, I received a petition against the Cinnamon Gardens Police that the latter had refused to entertain a complaint. When I recorded the statement of the aggrieved party he said that when he drove out of his residence rotting mangoes that had fallen off a tree of a neighbour on to the road were polluting the wheels of his new car! I asked this man who was an educated professional," what if you run over cow dung or the sh--of a dog-- you will want to change the wheels of your car." I had to explain to this stupid man that the police were well within the law to refuse to entertain trivial complaints.

Another major sociological obstacle to Arthur V. Dias's efforts to popularize jak was the 'brown Sahib' dominated ruling class of the time who used only silver cutlery and Johnson's crockery. To this class, which exists even today eating jak was 'infra dig' it is a fact that seldom or never is jak served at our State banquets or even at wedding functions in star class hotels. The country needs another V. Dias to give a start.

Jak tree is one tree that fully deserves to be protected to the utmost. Its fruit can be consumed tender, mature or ripe. Our forefathers even dehydrated the pulp (Atu Kos) and preserved it to be eaten during the off season. The value of a jak tree as a 'buth gaha' overwhelmingly outweighs its timber value.

The Na Tree's (Iron wood tree) tender leaves often glamourized in classical Sinhala poetry led to its fame and recognition. But unlike the highly versatile jak, Na has limited uses. Because of its thick foliage that provides shade and the unique redness of its tender leaves it had been planted as an ornamental tree in the Walawwas of yore eg. Batadola and Weke in the Gampaha District and in cemeteries eg. Borella Kanatte. It is surprising indeed that adequate importance had not been given to the life sustaining jak tree when naming a "National Tree".


Arthur Dias - A Man for all Seasons by Nalin Fernando and Firoze Sameer

Daily News Fri.-31.07.09: p-8.

Arthur Dias - A man for all seasons

Death anniversaries of two nationally recognized personalities fall on July 31: They are the mighty Maha Mudaliyar Sir Don Solomon Dias Bandaranaike, KCMG, of Attanagalla; and the benevolent but bold Arthur Vincent Dias of Panadura.

The Don produced three national leaders - SWRDB, Sirimavo and Chandrika - and tends to be forgotten since his demise in 1946. Arthur Dias is oft-remembered since his passing away in 1960 for his pioneering campaign of giving the nation food to ingest as well as food for thought and initiating another pioneering campaign to plant a million jak trees. He earned the endearing sobriquet of Kos Mama or Kos Ata Mama.

Arthur Dias

Arthur Dias pioneered his tree-planting campaign for jak fruit (artocarpus heterophyllus) in 1918. He imported a special strain of jak seedlings from Johore in Malaya. He established a small office in his home to organise and distribute jak and papaw seedlings and plants free of charge to the public. The catch phrase in this campaign was that "jak was good for food and wood."

Apart from promoting the planting of jak, which he called the Buth Gaha (rice-tree), he encouraged the propagation of fruit trees which included papaw (carica papaya), mango (mangifera), sapota or sapodilla (manilkara zapota), durian (durio), golden apple or ambarella (spondias dulcis) and lovi (flacourtia-inermis). Sachets comprising seeds of these fruit trees were distributed free of charge to the public.

Arthur Dias was born on 10 February, 1886, to wealthy parents: P. Jeremias Dias and Selestina Rodrigo; a prominent family in Panadura who earned their fortune from the popular and lucrative arrack-renting trade augmented by the income from a large acreage of rubber.

Arthur Dias received his nursery education at St John's College, Panadura, now Cyril Jansz Vidyalaya, and completed his secondary education at St Thomas' College, Mt Lavinia.

He conducted himself different from his rich and rambunctious father. (Jeremias Dias was an ardent Buddhist and gave freely of his money earned as an arrack renter towards his religious cause.

It is said that Arthur Dias being no hypocrite preferred to remain silent with folded palms while others repeated the fifth precept while observing pansil.)

The thoughtful and quiet young man curtailed his studies soon after leaving St Thomas' and took over managing the family business and trade since the death of his father in 1902. He became an accomplished rubber planter and businessman but was never enamoured by the riches that were accumulating from the arrack trade.

Family involvement

It is said that it was the family involvement in the arrack trade which made him turn to temperance early in life after witnessing the horrors of what drink did to man especially during the celebrations after a successful bid by the family for a profitable tavern.

The sprawling family home in Panadura became "open house" for all and sundry and the celebrations went on until the supply of free booze ran out which saw many of the visitors lying around in a stupor or behaving in an unruly manner to be bodily thrown out by their indulgent host. All this was too much for the sensitive young man who was already involved in national interests and intent on following in the footsteps of persons like Anagarika Dharmapala, Walisinghe Harischandra, C.A. Hewavitharana, F.R. and D.S. Senanayake while receiving from them the inspiration to serve the country and nation.

Simple life

Similar to his mentors, Arthur Dias opted for a simple life notwithstanding his enormous riches, which he doled out generously for philanthropy. He donned the white banian and cloth in preference to fashionable western attire.

He was instrumental in the regeneration of the model village of Heenatiyana, where simple living and self-help were the driving force. He pioneered writing and signing cheques in Sinhala, and was the first planter to correspond exclusively in Sinhala. In 1912, Arthur Dias was one of the pioneers to join Don Spater Senanayake in the Hapitigama Korale in Negombo to launch the Temperance Movement which encouraged the closure of taverns in townships and villages with the intention of breeding a just society, to foster peace and harmony amongst all communities.

Richard Salgado and Dr. Marcus Fernando amongst others were also temperance workers.

The core principle of the movement discouraged the consumption of liquor, smoking and cattle-slaughter. Soon after February 4, 1948, he wrote the following curt note to his close friend, the D.S. Senanayake, PC, after his suggestion that no liquor be served at the official Independence day celebrations was rejected by the Prime Minister: "I am not satisfied with the way things are going on after Independence. Our culture has found no place in the administration. I am a sad man.

Let this be the parting of the ways. You go your way and I go mine," This note was reportedly written in blood, unwillingly lanced from his finger, by his family physician, Dr C. Wilmot Dias. The spat between two close friends was short-lived. In 1915, the infamous Sinhala-Muslim riots rocked the country and Arthur Dias was imprisoned by the British government.

The others jailed were his elder brother Harry, brothers-in-law Richard and Walter Salgado, Dr WA de Silva, brothers DC, FR and DS Senanayake, C. Batuwantudawe, George E. de Silva, AE Goonesinghe, DB (later Sir Baron) Jayatileka, Dr CA Hewavitarne, John Silva, Piyadasa Sirisena, Edwin Wijeyeratne (later Sir Edwin), and several other Buddhist leaders whom the British mistakenly thought supported the 1915 riots. Arthur Dias and others were sentenced to death after a court martial hearing.

The family retained Advocate Eardley Norton, renowned as the Lion of the Madras Bar, from India, who got him off the hook.

The death sentence was eventually commuted to one of life imprisonment. Later, the new Governor Sir John Anderson, GCMG, KCB, who replaced Sir Robert Chalmers, GCB (later Lord Chalmers) released him after his mother paid a fine of Rs. 100,000.

After his release, Arthur Dias made a beeline to the village of Medamaha-Nuwara where Sri Wickrama Rajasinghe was arrested by the British. He built a commemorative pillar on the spot and pledged that he would thenceforth dedicate himself to the emancipation of Ceylon from the British yoke.

Arthur Dias was by this time the epitome of the patriot, planter, pioneer temperance worker, national hero, philanthropist, and ardent supporter of the government's Grow More Food Campaign.


*Arthur Dias reportedly declined a knighthood from Governor Sir Andrew Caldecott, GCMG, CBE, during his tenure from 1937-1944.

*In Oct-1957, at age-71, we read his type-written letter to Premier S.W.R.D. Bandaranaike, politely declining a seat in the Senate, offered over the telephone, owing to "feeble old age."

*Author of Three Prime Ministers of Ceylon, J.L. Fernando, in an article in the Ceylon Daily News of August 01, 1960 recalls a conversation with the Minister of Home Affairs Sir Oliver Goonetilleke, who stated "with pride that at least a million jak trees in our country owed their existence then to Arthur Dias."

*Arthur Dias was the first and sole private citizen to receive a special concession from the Minister of Communications, Sir John Kotelawala to use the OHMS frank for his Grow More Jak Campaign by which he had reportedly posted some sixteen million jak seeds and plants, with leaflets containing instructions and letters of encouragement, to town and village folk.

*Arthur's indefatigable mother, Selestina Dias, a widow since 1902, founded Visakha Vidyalaya, then called Buddhist Girls' College on January 16, 1917 in a house called Firs at Turret Road in Colpetty.

* The first Board of Governors of the school, comprised DB (later Sir Baron) Jayatileka, DS Senanayake, Arthur V. Dias, Sir Susantha de Fonseka, CM Dias and Lady Evadne de Silva, wife to Sir Ernest. The school shifted to Vajira Road in Bambalapitiya on November 21, 1927 with the governor's wife lady Herbert Stanley giving it a new name, Visakha College.

* Selestina Dias also established the Sirikandula Buddhist Educational Trust, and the Jeremias Dias Educational and Charitable Fund.

She was later conferred an MBE in the King's honours list.

* When Ananda College was in dire need of funds, Arthur Dias extended his support by writing a cheque for Rs. 20,000, and thereafter raised Rs 10,000 each from FR Senanayake, Dr WA De Silva, Domingo Dias. He was also instrumental in building the Edmund Wilson Science Library to enable Ananda College to gain Grade-1 status.

* In July, 1971, in order to assist the Help Ananda Fund, Arthur Dias urged rubber growers in the Kalutara district to donate a day's collection.

* In 1926 under the aegis of the founder of Nalanda College, P. D. S. Kularatne, its first principal Dr G.P. Malalasekera organized the famous Nalanda Flower Day campaign to boost the Building Extension Fund.

It was ably supported by Arthur Dias resulting in the construction of a new storied building. Arthur also assisted Dharmaraja and Dharmasoka colleges.


Arthur Dias married Grace Salgado, and they had nine children: His five daughters were Mallika, wife to Prof. Gerald Cooray, Lalani wife to V.C. Jayasuriya, Srimathi, wife to B.R. de Silva, Nerupamal, wife to N. de Fonseka and Anoma, wife to Rukman Amarasuriya. His four sons; were Upali, Nanda, Chandra and Dr. Padma.

Except for Nerupa and Nanda and Dr Padma's wife, Kusum all others have passed away.


Arthur Dias died at his home, Edmund Niwasa in Panadura on July 31, 1960 at the age 74. He was a man who upheld national freedom, national dignity, national dress and national food. He was a man who lived a simple and austere life inspired by the tenets of Buddhism. A man who believed and lived the Sinhala adage, "example is better than precept."

A one-rupee postage stamp was released by the government postal department in his honour on his 26th death anniversary in 1986.



That massacre upon massacre

By Firoze Sameer

Sunday Times July 27, 2008

“We shall have to repent in this generation, not so much for the evil deeds of the wicked people, but for the appalling silence of the good people.” – Dr Martin Luther King.


A slew of eminent authors have dealt with 1983’s Black July: T. D. S. A. Dissanayaka in “Agony of Sri Lanka” (1984); Sinha Ratnatunga in “Politics of Terrorism: The Sri Lankan Experience” (1988); Narayan Swamy in “Tigers of Lanka” (1994); V. P. Vittachi in “Sri Lanka – What Went Wrong?” (1995); Professor Rajan Hoole (University Teachers for Human Rights) in “Sri Lanka: The Arrogance of Power: Myths, Decadence and Murder.”


The public commotion going on in Borella that Sunday evening, on July 24, 1983, was heard by inmates of Welikada Prison. On July 25, prisoners condemned to death had access to newspapers that carried the report on the ambush of Four-Four Bravo patrol, led by Lieut. Vaas Gunawardena, in which 13 of 15 soldiers were ambushed and killed in Jaffna on the night of Saturday, July 23.

The chapel at Welikada prison is built in the shape of a cross, comprising wings A3, B3, C3 and D3 on the ground floor. Entry to each wing is through iron doors in their respective corridors. Guards are posted in each wing to man the locked cells abutting the corridors. Two guards are stationed in the lobby in the spacious heart of the cross. There are a total of 16 guards.


In July 1983, there were 23 detainees held under the Prevention of Terrorism Act (PTA). TELO mandarins Kuttimani, Thangathurai, Jegan and three others, who had appealed against their death sentences following the Neervely bank robbery in 1981, were in one cell in B3; 28 Tamils detained under the PTA were in cells at C3; another 29 Tamil youths taken on suspicion and due for release were in D3; and, in A3, were dangerous criminals, including would-be escapees, mostly Sinhalese, notable among them being the Alitalia aircraft skyjacker, Sepala Ekanayake, convicted after his aborted attempt in 1982.


The upper levels, from which the lobby was visible from the galleries, housed some 800 ordinary convicts. The Youthful Offenders Building (YOB), a distance away, housed nine professionals: Doctors S. A. Tharmalingam (TELF), S. Rajasundaram (sec./Gandhiyam) and Jeyakularajah; Fathers Singarayar and Sinnarasa; Rev. Jeyatilekarajah; Jaffna University don M. Nithyananthan, “Suthanthiran” editor Kovai Mahesan (TELF), and architect Arulanandam David (president/Gandhiyam).



On Monday, July 25, at 2pm, curfew was declared. Some 400 prisoners broke out from their cells and rushed into the lobby. Some 25 attackers reportedly caused carnage amidst screams in B3 and D3. Acting Commissioner C. T. Jansz and his staff tried to restrain the mob, but failed to quell the riot. In the corridors of B3 and D3, all 35 inmates lay battered, dying and many dead. Kuttimani’s eyes were reportedly gouged out. The prisoners in A3 continued to remain locked inside their cells.

An unidentified Sinhalese jail guard in charge of C3 reportedly told the inmates that “If they are to get you, it will have to be over my dead body.” He hid the cell door keys in the toilet, and, when the attackers arrived, stretched his arms, and faced the mob, forcing it to retreat. Douglas Devananda, Manikkathasan, Paranthan Rajan, Panagoda Maheswaran were in C3.


According to Professor Hoole, Lieut. Mahinda Hathrusinghe, of the 4th Artillery in charge of the platoon guarding Welikada Prison, on receiving a call from Mr. Jansz for help, rushed to the chapel section with seven soldiers armed with SLRs, and claimed: “The crowd upon seeing us dropped their weapons and started running upstairs.”


Mr. Jansz dashed to the Borella police station, only to hear that the station was short-staffed. He next visited Senior DIG Sunderalingam in Gregory’s Road, who was preparing to leave for the Security Council meeting. When Mr. Jansz returned to Welikada Prison, he saw Borella police personnel ambling outside the prison precincts. They were “reluctant to enter, as it was guarded by army personnel”, in contravention of the Prisons Ordinance, which requires that the police be called in at any sign of trouble.


Jailor Rogers Jayasekere, President J. R. Jayewardene’s supporter in Kelaniya, allegedly played from behind the scenes while the killings were in progress, while jailor Samitharatne alias Samitha Rathgama and location officer Palitha’s roles were apparently tenuous on that fateful day.


Lieut. Hathurusinghe would not allow the truck containing 35 bodies to leave the prison precints for the Accident Service until he received approval from the top. Over the telephone, the major in charge of the unit told him that “permission for such removal would have to be granted by the secretary to the Ministry of Defence”, who was Col. C. A. Dharmapala, who was present at the Security Council meeting at Army Headquarters, chaired by President J. R. Jayewardene. Mr. Jansz then visited the General Hospital and met with hospital director Dr. Lucian Jayasuriya to make arrangements to admit the injured.


Mr. Jansz then telephoned the Army Commander Major General (later General) Tissa Weeratunga from DIG Ernest Perera’s office, seeking permission to release the truck. The general told Mr. Jansz to convey his “no objections” to the army platoon commander. However, Mr. Jansz suggested the general issue instructions to his staff. Mr. Jansz then called on IGP Rudra Rajasingham and DIG Sunderalingam, who appeared to be helpless.When Mr. Jansz returned to Welikada Prison, he saw the truck parked in the compound and learned that “35 bodies in the truck were heaped for removal”, and that the prison doctor, Dr. Perimpanayagam, had examined the victims at the gate, after a lapse of about an hour, and pronounced them all dead.


Suriya Wickremasinghe, civil rights activist and daughter of Dr. S. A. Wickremasinghe, notes: “… We know from eyewitnesses, and which appears likely from the inquest evidence, that the bodies were attacked again on the floor of the lobby to make sure they were dead. They were dragged into the compound and attacked there. They were thrown into the truck, and according to some eyewitness accounts, the sound of bodies being attacked even inside the truck could be heard. Indeed, according to one of our witnesses, one young prisoner (Kanapathipillai Mylvaganam, 19 years, 5 feet, 1 inch), who had succeeded in hiding, was actually killed in the compound by a jailor.” She also notes the fact that there were some 17 jailors in Welikada prison at the time of the masssacre, but only one jail guard, locked in B3, testified.



The JMO, Dr. M. S. L. Salgado, was facing difficulties to procure from the police the magistrate’s order to perform a post-mortem examination on the 35 bodies. Colombo chief magistrate Keerthi Srilal Wijewardene, followed a protracted process to issue one, vis-à-vis implications in Emergency Regulation 15A of 18.07.83 of the gazette extraordinary made by J. R. Jayewardene, under the Public Security Ordinance, which allowed any gazetted police officer not below the rank of ASP or any authorised officer, with the approval of the secretary to the Ministry of Defence, to take possession and disposal of any dead body without reference to any other legal provision.



Secretary to the Ministry of Justice, Mervyn Wijesinghe, DSG Tilak Marapone and Senior State Counsel C. R. de Silva assisted the court on July 26 at 4.20pm. Despite the fact that a lawyer could have represented the victims, if one had applied to the Attorney General’s department, no such person emerged to do so.

Prisoner Kandiah Rajendran (alias Robert), who was in a nearby cell and witnessed what had happened in the lobby, gave a statement, which was recorded by Suriya Wickremasinghe. Rajendran was killed in the second prison massacre.


The Sinhala radio announcement on the night of the 25th was heard by the C3 prisoners from the jailor’s room close by. The magistrate observed that “none of those prisoners who could be eyewitnesses … have volunteered to give evidence …”

SP Leo de Silva complied with the request made on July 26 at 3 p.m. by Thambapillai (Panagoda) Maheswaran, Paranthan Rajan and Douglas Devananda to transfer the 28 detainees in C3. On July 27, at 1 a.m., the prisoners were transferred to the YOB, but housed three each in one cell and four in one cell, despite their request to be housed all together. The nine professionals in the YOB were transferred to the dormitory upstairs.


The inquest was concluded in the early hours of July 27, after the post-mortem reports were in, but the bodies were not handed over to the next of kin. The magistrate considered an application by Inspector H. Y. (Hyde) de Silva for possession of the bodies, under ER15A, while DSG Marapone, presumably representing the AG, had no objection, notwithstanding authorisation reportedly being required by the secretary to the Ministry of Defence, instead of the AG. The bodies were wrapped in white sheets and disposed of at Kanatte Cemetery, Borella, shortly before dawn, where they were dumped into a large pit and burnt.

Tiger Friday: July 27


The temporary transfer of prisoners to the YOB, with the approval of the secretary, Ministry of Justice and on the directions of the chief magistrate, proved a failure. A query made to former Deputy Commissioner of Prisons, R. J. N. Jordan, evoked the response: “Why were they not transferred to the safety of the Magazine prison? The 1962 coup defendants were housed over there in absolute safety.” This was subject to receiving direct orders from the detaining authority, who was the then Deputy Minister of Defence T. B. Werapitiya, whom Mr. Jansz tried hard to contact, but failed.


Mr. Jansz shared his fears with the secretary, Ministry of Justice, that morning that a second attack was imminent. Mr. Jansz, was present at the Security Council meeting in the afternoon, where President J. R. Jayewardene had advised him to liaise with Brigadier Mano Madawela to transfer the remaining prisoners to the Batticaloa prison. According to Sinha Ratnatunga (page 30), “… President Jayewardene wanted the rest of the prisoners sent immediately to the Jaffna prisons, but Ministers Lalith Athulathmudali and Ranil Wickremesinghe opposed it, saying that the Sinhalese would become further infuriated over such a decision. When a compromise was suggested, Negombo, close to the International Airport, the President opposed it, saying there would be a repeat performance there.”

The second massacre


On Mr. Jansz’s return to Welikada Prison, he discovered that a second massacre had occurred at around 4p.m., when curfew had just begun, and that 17 of the 28 suspects formerly housed in C3 had died, with one professional, Rajasunderam. In all, 53 of the 72, or 74 percent, of the PTA detainees were dead. The SP, his two ASPs and two jailors were reportedly absent that day. Commissioner J. P. Delgoda returned to the country that night after attending an overseas conference.

The same participants of the first inquest attended the second inquest, held on July 28 at 1 p.m., assisted by ASP Packeer of the CDB. The inquest ended on July 29 at 12.05 a.m. Chief jailor W. M. Karunaratne testified that he had, via the prison intelligence system, learned of a proposed “mass jail break by prisoners”, and had conveyed the news to Mr. Jansz that morning.


Prisons overseer Don Alfred had approached wing A3 at 4 p.m. to serve the night meal. He found the cell doors open and the prisoners ambling inside the corridor. On opening the iron door, he was overpowered by the prisoners. They, with about 300 other prisoners armed with poles, axes, crowbars, iron bars with sharp points and a saw (all seized from the woodshed, as in the first massacre), then ran towards the YOB. Dr. Rajasundaram, who approached the mob in an attempt to reason with them, lost his life. Dr. Tharmalingam, who was in his seventies, urged the defenders to fight back and save the rest of the professionals.


Suriya Wickremasinghe noted that not a single prison officer was able to identify a single rioter, and that an identification parade was never held following both prison massacres.


Major (later Colonel) Sunil Peiris and his commando team of 12 arrived in two jeeps within less than 20 minutes of Mr. Jansz’s call to Army Headquarters, and were deployed into action. Prisoner-skyjacker Sepala Ekanayake was reportedly the first to enter the YOB. Ekanayake displayed an object he was carrying in his hand, and said to the approaching Major Peiris: “Sir, kohomada vede?” The major was horrified (in his words, it was “like the head of John the Baptist on a charger”), who then smashed his fist into Ekayanake’s face and felled him. The commandos fired into the air, and at two attackers, and entered the YOB, also firing tear gas.


Major Sunil Peiris moved the Tamil prisoners out of Welikada that very night; bringing out Mrs. Nithyanandan, a graduate from a US university, from the female ward, and her husband, who was in YOB, and transporting all 20 to the Galle Face Green late that night and putting them into two buses bound for the Katunayake airbase, from where they were airlifted to Batticaloa prison. In September 1983, all escaped, except Fr. Singarayer, who opted to face trial, and Dr. Tharmalingam, who was too old to leave.


Two-and-a-half decades on, the echoes of screams reverberate between the drab walls of Welikada’s chapel and the Youth Offenders Building. Words by the English writer Thomas Hardy come to mind: “While much is too strange to be believed, nothing is too strange to have happened.”

Sunday Times July 20, 2008

Hollywood plots Hitler thriller


By Firoze Sameer


The day is Thursday, July 20, 1944, the time 12.42 hours, and the place the Nazi nerve centre, the Wolfsschanze (Wolf’s Lair), in Rastenberg, East Prussia. The scene is a military conference. The room is filled with black-suited SS officers standing around as the chief of operations of the army high command, General Adolf Heusinger, reads a report on the central Russian front. Chairing the conference is Adolf Hitler, and with him are 23 other Nazi officers.


A time bomb explodes from below the table, killing four. The blast is the culmination of Operation Valkyrie, organised by a group of army officers. Hilter survives.

Director Bryan Singer and his team are presently working on a Hollywood film based on the World War II incident. The United Artists’ US$100 million production, titled “Valkyrie”, is slated for release on February 13, 2009. Shooting commenced at the Bendlerblock memorial in Germany last July. The official trailer is now on YouTube. Tom Cruise acts as the key instigator of the revolt, Colonel Claus Schenk Count Stauffenberg, chief-of-staff to Col-Gen. Erich Fromm (Tom Wilkinson), commander of the reserve or home army.


Tom Cruise as Col. Claus Von Stauffenberg. (Pic courtesy

The plot to assassinate Adolf Hitler is well documented in a number of books, including British historian Alan Bullock’s “Hitler” (1952); John Wheeler-Bennett’s “The Nemesis of Power” (1953); Constantine Fitzgibbon’s “The Shirt of Nessus” (1955); William Shirer’s “The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich” (1960); Jacques Delarue’s “The Gestapo” (1962); and Roger Manvell and Heinrich Fraenkel’s “The July Plot” (1964), and the brilliant 822-page “Inside the Third Reich” (1970), by Hitler’s armaments minister Albert Speer.


A Roman Catholic aristocrat, Col. Stauffenberg arrives at the Rastenberg conference attired in a field-grey Wehrmacht uniform, glittering with an array of medals, including the Iron Cross 1st Class, the Wound Badge and the German Cross, both in gold. He cuts a remarkable figure: he is wearing a black eye-patch, the result of a war incident in Tunisia, on April 7, 1943, when his staff car was riddled with fire from low-flying aircraft, causing him to lose his right hand and arm, two fingers of his left hand and his left eye, with injuries to his left ear and knee.


The colonel walks into the room carrying a briefcase containing a time bomb. Depending on what side you were on, Stauffenberg’s act was either heroic or high treason. When Marcus Brutus delivered the coup de grâce in the assassination of Roman dictator Julius Cæsar, he said he was doing so not because he loved Cæsar less, but because he loved Rome more. Every German officer had to pledge a personal oath of loyalty to Adolf Hitler.


Hitler’s early victories saw the Third Reich taking control of almost the whole of Europe, sections of Scandinavia, the Balkans and North Africa. It was during Hitler’s advance on Russia, when the German army had almost reached Moscow, that the tide turned.


Following the failed plot to kill Hitler, Col. Stauffenberg and three other officers faced a summary court martial decreed by Gen. Friedrich Fromm. They were shot that very evening, on July 21, 1944, in the courtyard of the Bendlerstrasse by a firing squad of 10 men commanded by a lieutenant. Fromm turned the tables on the conspirators when the putsch misfired. But it did not save his neck. He finally faced a firing squad on March 19, 1945.


Those who fell with Stauffenberg that evening were his adjutant, Lieut. Werner von Haeften; Col. Gen Freidrich Olbricht (played by actor Bill Nighy); head of the supply section of the reserve army, and his chief-of-staff, Col. Mertz von Quirnheim (Christian Berkel). Gen. Ludwig Beck (Terence Stamp), who was Franz Halder’s predecessor as chief of the army general staff, was given the option of shooting himself, which he failed in doing twice. He was dispatched by a sergeant.


Major Otto Ernst Remer and SS Obersturmbannfuehrer (Lieut. Col.) Otto Skorzeny, both holders of the Knight’s Cross with oak leaves, were key bulwarks against the conspirators and contributed indefatigably towards quashing the coup.


Major Remer (Thomas Kretschmann), who commanded the guard battalion inside Berlin, was ordered by Lieut-Gen. Paul von Hase, commandant of Berlin, who was a conspirator, to throw a cordon around the ministry buildings in the Wilhelmstrasse and the SS security offices. However, Remer was confused and referred to propaganda minister Dr Joseph Goebbels, who put through Remer on a priority call to Hitler. The Fuehrer directly instructed Major Remer to quell the coup, promoting him two grades to full colonel.


Shirer writes: “On July 24, the Nazi salute was made compulsory in place of the old military salute ‘as a sign of the Army’s unshakeable allegiance to the Fuehrer and of the closest unity between Army and Party’.” View Col. Remer was made major-general and given command of the legendary Panzer Führer-Begleit division.


Lieut.-Col. Skorzeny, famous for rescuing Mussolini in a daring operation in September 1943, was hauled out of his sleeping berth on the night-express to Vienna when it stopped at Lichterfeld, where repeated announcements went over the tannoy for him to immediately report to Berlin on the instructions of SS Brigadefuehrer (Maj-Gen.) Walther Schellenberg, the number two man in the SD. Skorzeny’s company entered the Bendlestrasse and took control from within, while Remer’s detachment isolated the entire block.


Former Afrika Korps commander Field Marshal Erwin Rommel’s role in the conspiracy was revealed after the war. Although the “Desert Fox” was privy to the plot, he favoured arresting rather than killing Hitler. Rommel’s last posting was as commandant of Army Group B amongst five other army groups spread out in northern France in defence of the D-Day operation. Rommel’s staff car was strafed on July 17 and he sustained major head injuries. On October 14, 1944, Rommel was given the option of suicide by poison, followed by a state funeral with full military honours, instead of facing treason in the People’s Court. Rommel chose suicide.

Field Marshal Guenther von Kluge was replaced by Field Marshal Walther Model as the army group commander in France, and was recalled to Berlin. On his way by car near Verdun, Kluge (who, like Fromm, switched sides on learning of Hitler’s escape), probably guessed the game was up and committed suicide by poison.


Col. Gen Heinrich von Stuelpnagel, the military governor of France, moved to arrest all SS and SD personnel in Paris. SS Obergruppenfuehrer (Gen.) Karl Oberg and his deputy, SS Obersturmbanfuehrer (Lieut-Col.) Dr Helmuth Knochen, with their troops were later released after the coup had gone awry. Recalled to Berlin, Steulpnagel, shot himself at Verdun during a car journey, only to blind himself in both eyes. He and Lieut. Col. Caesar von Hofacker, who served on his staff, were sentenced to death and hanged.


Shirer states the Gestapo recorded 7,000 arrests, and another source some 4,980 deaths, but the figure is thought to be much higher.

The SS, its intelligence unit the SD, the Gestapo, and a series of departments fell under the umbrella of the Reichssicherheitshauptamt or RSHA (Reich Security Main Office), headed by SS Obergruppenfuehrer (Gen.) Dr Ernst Kaltenbrunner. He was placed in charge of the Special Commission of July 20 by Hitler (David Bamber) and Himmler (Matthias Freihof), now Commander in Charge of the reserve army, and conducted extensive investigations and interrogations to round up even those remotely connected with the attempt.


According to Manvell and Fraenkel, Hitler appointed a military court of honour led by field marshals Wilhelm Keitel, Gerd von Rundstedt and Col. Gen Heinz Guderian, who replaced Gen. Kurt Zeitzler as chief of the general staff, “to dismiss from the Army all officers remotely concerned in the putsch”. The conspirators were tried by Roland Freisler in his People’s Court as civilians and hanged, instead of facing a firing squad. Notable was the acquittal of Rommel’s chief of staff Maj-Gen. Dr Hans Speidel, a conspirator.


The architect of the conspiracy, Maj-Gen. Henning von Trescow (Kenneth Branagh), chief-of-staff in the central army group, Eastern Front, walking on no-man’s land towards the Russian Forces, exploded a hand grenade and died.

Trescow’s last words to von Schlabrendorff were: “God once promised Abraham to spare Sodom should there be found 10 just men in the city. He will, I hope, spare Germany because of the thing that we have done, and not destroy her … Whoever joined the resistance movement put on the shirt of Nessus. The worth of a man is certain only if he is prepared to sacrifice his life for his convictions.”



26.May.2008: Continuing the WWII Saga (Sequel to Ravi Perera’s piece on 10.05.08) (Daily News, p-15).

Continuing the WWII saga

Ravi Perera's interesting account in the Daily News of May 10 (Saturday) of the Allied defeat at Dunkirk in Northern France in 1940 prompts me to add a postscript on some of the kudos and consequences faced by Adolf Hitler's top field commanders in their victories and failures in the Western and Eastern theatres of war.

The Western Front: Consequent upon the success of that blitzkreig recounted by Ravi Perera in which almost all Europe was overrun by the Germans, one is inevitably reminded of Adolf Hitler's Reichstag speech on the evening of July 19, 1940.

In that landmark speech, Hitler made his final peace offer to Britain, arguably the highpoint of his chequered career, having issued Directive No. 16 three days earlier seeking to prepare for a landing operation in England by mid-August, to be launched as Operation Sea Lion.

American historian, William L. Shirer in his 1,436-page masterpiece The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich (1960) at p-904 writes a footnote thus: "There was a colourful scene and one unprecedented in German history when Hitler suddenly broke off his speech in the middle to award field-marshals' batons to twelve Generals and a special king-size one to Goering, who was given the newly created rank of Reich Marshal of the Greater German Reich, which put him above all the others.

He was also awarded the Grand Cross of the Iron Cross, the only one given during the entire war. ...Nine Army Generals were promoted to field-marshal: Brauchitsch, Keitel, Rundstedt, Bock, Leeb, List, Kluge, Witzleben and Reichenau; and three Luftwaffe officers: Milch, Kesselring and Sperrle." Franz Halder, Chief of the Army General Staff, was passed over in only being promoted one grade from General to Colonel-General (Generalobersten).

The sequel to Dunkirk was evidently Operation Overlord, the massive Allied invasion of Europe on June 6, 1944 globally known as D-Day, and fought tenaciously on Normandy's beaches in Utah, Omaha, Gold, Juno and Sword.

The title of author Cornelius Ryan's book, The Longest Day, was reportedly picked from a quote by Field Marshal Erwin Rommel, who foreboded the first twenty four hours of the impending invasion on the North-Western regions of France. Daryl F Zanuck's 1962-movie of the same title is now legion.

The Eastern Front: Notwithstanding the German-Soviet non-aggression pact entered into days before WWII began, it was ironical the two dictators, Marshal Josef Stalin and Adolf Hitler, reportedly never met.

However, almost sixteen months into the pact, the Fuehrer issued Top Secret Directive No.21 dated Dec-18, 1940, referring to the proposed attack on Russia, to be launched on May-15 as Operation Barbarossa.

As fate would have it, a coup in Belgrade caused Hitler to make a catastrophic decision to raze Yugoslavia and also subdue Greece, and thereby postpone the Russian campaign which effectively began on June-22. The loss of those four vital weeks changed the course of history.

Almost six months later, the tide turned against the Wehrmacht, and December 6, 1941 was considered as a fateful turning point in the history of the Third Reich. In the Eastern Front, amidst sub-zero temperatures, Hitler retired some top commanders in late 1941/early1942.

They included field marshals Brauchitsch, von Runstedt, von Bock, von Leeb, von Reichenau who died of a stroke. Also Colonel-General Heinz Guderian the panzer corps genius. Lieut. Gen. Udet of the Luftwaffe had shot himself to death on November 17, 1941. Shirer states that, "Moreover, some thirty-five corps and divisional commanders were replaced during the winter retreat."

Worst case scenarios on the Eastern Front were depicted where Colonel-General Erich Hoepner, a brilliant tank commander of the 4th Armoured Group within sight of Moscow from the north, pushed back. He was dismissed, stripped of his rank and forbidden to wear a uniform. Gen. Hoepner, a member of the July 20 plot, was tried and executed in August 1944 as recounted in-depth in The July Plot by Roger Manvell and Heinrich Fraenkel (1964).

General Hans Count von Sponeck, Ritterkreuz holder for the airborne landings in The Hague in 1940, pulled back one division of his corps in the Crimea on December 29, 1941, after Russian troops landed by sea behind his lines.

He was stripped of his rank and imprisoned, court-martialed and at the insistence of Hitler, sentenced to death. He was executed after the July 1944 plot to kill Hitler in which he was not involved.

A contrast is seen on the fates of two field marshals: Friedrich Paulus and the monocled Walter Model, Hitler's Fireman. Paulus surrendered his ill-fated 6th Army at Stalingrad to the Russians one day after the Fuehrer promoted him field marshal on January 30, 1943, while Model, on April 21, 1945 when his Army Group B got isolated in the Ruhr pocket, shot himself in the head.

Summary: Field Marshal Erich Von Manstein, considered as the most brilliant Field Commander in WWII, testifying at Nuremberg, as recounted by Shirer on page-1078, told the tribunal that, "Of seventeen field marshals ten were sent home during the war, and three lost their lives as a result of July 20, 1944 (the abortive plot to assassinate Hitler: a Hollywood movie titled Valkyrie starring Tom Cruise is scheduled for release in 2009). Only one field-marshal managed to get through the war and keep his position.

Of thirty-six full Generals (Generalobersten) eighteen were sent home and five died as a result of July 20 or were dishonourably discharged.

Only three full Generals survived the war in their positions."

25.May.2008: He lit a flame that thrilled audiences through the ages:

Ian Fleming Birth Centenary: 28.05.08

(Sunday Times Plus, p-4).

He lit a flame that thrilled audiences through the ages

By Firoze Sameer

Sometime in 1964, Savoy cinema in Colombo screened the first James Bond movie Dr No, with Sean Connery aiming that .25 Beretta fitted with a silencer; the sexy Ursula Andress in that inevitable white bikini with side-strapped dagger emerging like a phoenix from the Caribbean sea.

Ian Fleming, the
creator of the world’s most famous secret agent, James Bond, would have been 100 years old on May 28

We were then grade ten students at Royal College Colombo. Connery in the plush casino answering a beaut across the green baize, “Bond, James Bond,” while lighting one of his Morland Specials with a gunmetal Ronson against that famous theme, made an indelible impact in a bizarre way on our sensitive psyches. We switched from reading Chase to Fleming’s Bond books. Although we did not know it then, Ian Fleming had died in the same year on August 12.

The navy blue worsted suit, white sea island cotton shirt, black hand-woven silk tie, dark blue socks into black moccasins, 7.65mm Walther PPK in a Burns Martin shoulder holster, oxidized cigarette case; glass of dry Martini shaken but not stirred, the solid portrayal of the hero macho-man, all had some amazing impact on our imagination in that bygone era, where imitation in its variant forms became somewhat of a fashion.

The Royal Mail reportedly marked Ian Lancaster Fleming’s birth centenary that falls on May 28, 2008 by issuing six stamps on January 8 and featuring different editions of six of his most famous novels: Casino Royale, Dr No, Goldfinger, Diamonds are Forever, For Your Eyes Only and From Russia with Love. Planned celebrations in Britain include the worldwide publication of Devil May Care, the brand new Bond novel by Sebastian Faulks, and a major exhibition celebrating Fleming's life at the Imperial War Museum in London.

Fleming wrote 21 James Bond stories comprising a dozen full length novels plus eight short stories, plus a five-page mood-piece 007 in New York, between Jan-52 and his demise in Aug-64. Kingsley Amis (later Sir/CBE) continued the series with Colonel Sun in 1968, John Gardner with 14-novels between 1981 and 1995, and six by Raymond Benson from 1997 to 2002. Christopher Wood did two novelisations during 1977-79, while Garner and Benson made three each.

Fleming did four non-fiction works, delving into fourteen thrilling cities of the world; the diamond-smuggling trade; a children’s book; the stillborn State of Excitement on Kuwait, and one-and-a-half pages on the Greek Syndicate ‘dealer’ Zographos. LIFE Magazine of 17.03.61 reported Fleming’s fifth opus, From Russia, With Love, in JFK’s list of ten best novels, a copy of which Jacqueline Kennedy presented to CIA director Allen Dulles.

A junior partner at Rowe and Pitman, a solid firm of stockbrokers in London, Fleming did a weekly stint as ATTICUS in the Sunday Times, and served as foreign manager at the Kemsley Group of Newspapers. He had broken stints at Eton and Sandhurst, and then came under the tutelage of Forbes and Phyllis Dennis in Kitzbuhel, Austria. Failing to join the Foreign Service, he moved to Reuters and covered a famous spy trial in Russia in March 1933.

The original Bond girl: Ursula Andress in a scene from Dr. No

During WW2, Fleming served as a lieutenant in the Special Branch in the Royal Naval Volunteer Reserve, and was recruited as PA to the Director of Naval Intelligence, Rear (later Vice) Admiral John Godfrey. Fleming began to closely track the career of Hitler’s indefatigable commando, SS-Sturmbannführer (Lieut-Col.) Otto Skorzeny after Crete fell to the Nazis in May-41. Skorzeny, amongst some daring exploits, rescued Mussolini imprisoned in the Gran Sasso mountain in central Italy, in a blitz-like operation in July-43, literally stunning Europe.

Elder brother Peter Fleming a barrister, attended Eton and Oxford and served with the Grenadier Guards. The brothers were commissioned by Maj. Gen. Sir Colin Gubbins, the prime mover of SOE, to set up the secret Auxiliary Units. In 1945, while Peter returned home as a colonel with an OBE, Ian, came back as a naval commander only with Denmark’s Commander’s Cross of the Order of Dannebrog. However, Peter’s acclaimed literary works, which sprang from his extensive global travels, were later outshone by Ian’s global popularity.

Ian’s father, Major Valentine Fleming, MP, DSO, was killed in action in WW1 20.05.1917, prompting Winston Churchill to write his Obit in The Times. Ian’s son, Caspar, died of a drug overdose at age 23 on 02.10.75, and his wife Lady Rothermere of cancer in July-81.

Goldeneye was Ian’s 14-acre plush retreat on the Jamaican North Shore. In these pleasant seafront precincts he completed Casino Royale on his old Imperial typewriter in January 1952. Thereafter, in every successive year he produced a novel within eight weeks on a brand new U.S. gold-plated typewriter, clocking 2,000-words a day, putting in an hour’s work in the evening, finishing off with some 70,000-words, while Britain froze in winter.

Sean Connery (later Sir/Kt) established the Bond image featuring in seven movies continued with an equal number by Roger Moore (later Sir/KBE) with George Lazenby featuring only in On Her Majesty’s Secret Service. Timothy Dalton featured in two, Pierce Brosnan in four and Daniel Craig in the last two, Casino Royale (2006) and Quantum of Solace budgeted at U$230-million due for release 31-Oct-08.

A total box office raking of U$4.4bn (U$11.1bn inflation-adjusted) against a budget of U$1.1 billion cover the 22-movies already made. The non-EON-film Casino Royale (1967) and Never Say Never Again (1983) clocked a combined box office of U$204.4 million (U$ 605.7 million inflation-adjusted) against a budget of U$48 million.

The Bond cult will decidedly burn out with the passage of time as seen in various other fancies which have thrilled readers and audiences all over the world.

Nevertheless, let’s think about and thank Ian Fleming who in some small way brought about a significant and sustained impact and thrill in the imaginative lives of generations across the world over the last five decades.


10.May.2008: May 10, 1940: Decisive Day in WWII by Ravi Perera (Daily News, Op-Ed: p-5).

May 10, 1940

Decisive day in World War II


“A perfect modern battle plan is like nothing so much as a score for an orchestral composition, where the various arms and units are the instruments, and the tasks they perform are their respective musical phrases.

Every individual unit must, make its entry precisely at the proper moment, and play its part in the general harmony” Lieutenant-General Sir John Monash, Commander Australian Corps, 1918

When the German Army burst in to Poland on the first day of September 1939 it became evident to the world that before their anxious eyes was unfolding a superlative performance by an army, which had adopted a completely new approach to warfare.

On that day Hitler unleashed his highly trained and motivated soldiers on a relatively inferior but brave Polish Army, with orders that they bring the enemy to heel within the shortest possible time. The real threat to his designs was in the Western front where he faced the formidable French and allied armies.

German attack

The German Army attacking Poland was a couple of million strong and were organised in to several armies. Driving the newly created Panzer divisions into Poland along their long border the Germans were soon in the rear areas of the massed Polish forces thus compelling the Poles to fight on all sides, a hopeless situation for a large army.

Until then it was not thought possible to handle huge armies on such rapid manoeuvres, a feat the Germans achieved that September. This mobility of the attacking forces decided the issue within days, once again proving the vaunted military skills of the Teutons.

The final result was never in doubt, the only question being the length of time the Poles could hold on for in the face of the severe punishment meted out to them.

The Panzer divisions, which had rapidly moved over the flat countryside of Poland, were relentlessly attacking the rear areas hampering the attempts of the Polish army to regroup. The German air force mercilessly bombed the desperate defenders pinning them down. By the 28th of September the battle was virtually over.

Centuries before, Roman legions patrolling the dark uncharted northern forests of Europe became aware of the fierce and robust tribes that inhabited those parts, eventually coming to dread them.

Through the succeeding years as the Germans gradually evolved in to a powerful nation they acquitted themselves very well indeed, becoming leaders in science, technology, literature, philosophy and even music.

But in 1914 in an act confirming an atavistic militarism they ignited the First World War, which engulfed the whole of Europe for four long years.

The powerful cannons of that conflict blew away for good the existing order, which at the time seemed to be everlasting. Only the massive intervention of the Americans tilted the balance against the formidable German army. The universal disorder that followed the unprecedented blood bath led to the creation of both the Communist government in Russia as well as Adolf Hitler in Germany.

The triumph

The quick triumph against the Poles in 1939 highlighted the menace that this capable race, rearmed and belligerent, now posed. Armoured Divisions, capable of rapid mobility and carrying formidable firepower were going to be the cutting edge of their mighty sword.

The thrusting Armour would be ably supported by the devastating air power of the Luftwaffe and deadly accurate artillery.

Like in the earlier war, this formidable military machine could depend on the brilliant leadership provided by its outstanding General Staff. And above all, the German soldier, capable, strong, disciplined and brave was ready to answer the call to arms.

Having vanquished Poland, Hitler had to then deal with France, and the supporting British forces in the West. In training and capability these forces were perhaps on par with the Germans while in equipment even stronger, though not effectively distributed or utilized as the Germans. However in spirit and commitment, as events would reveal, they were far below the Germans.

Most of the German General Staff officers involved in the planning of the impending attack on the Western front had experienced their baptism of fire in the First World War as junior officers.

Despite their recent success in Poland, with methods evolved in the intervening twenty-five years, they were powerfully influenced by that gigantic struggle of their youth when they fought in the muddy plains of Western Europe.

France, an advanced nation with a powerful army was not with Poland. They argued that the way to bring her down was to launch a powerful attack through the low-countries, Holland and Belgium, by passing the Maginot Line, and seizing a large area of the Channel coast.

The plan envisaged destroying the large enemy formations in northern France, including the British forces based there, and eventually making it untenable for the remaining French forces to resist.

Some among the senior planners however were dissatisfied with the limited scope of the plan offered by the army high command. They were of the opinion that the enemy’s potential strengths was the very reason why the Germans should deliver a fatal blow before those strengths could be mobilized and brought to bear on the battlefield.

Manstein, a relatively junior officer then, wrote with chilling professionalism of the proposed plan “I found it humiliating, to say the least, that our generation could not do nothing better than repeat an old recipe, even when this was the product of a man like Schlieffen.

What could possibly be achieved by turning up a war plan our opponents had already rehearsed with us once before and against whose repetition they were bound to have taken full precaution?”

A daring plan

They suggested instead a more daring plan, which envisaged a major offensive through the difficult terrain of the Ardennes. The proponents of this plan argued that the French least expected an attack here and if an initial impetus could be gained there she could be fatally wounded.

When the Germans emerged in France out of the Ardennes forest, while splitting the French forces in two, they would be in the rear of the French forces facing the low-countries for the expected attack there.

To overcome the geographical challenges the Ardennes forest posed they proposed utilizing newly acquired capabilities of the army, including tracked vehicles, predominantly the proven Panzers.

Famed Tank commanders like General Guderian saw the exciting possibilities this somewhat unorthodox idea presented, while the much respected Colonel General Von Rundstedt who was in the highest ranks of the army whole heartedly endorsed it.

It is a testimony to the selfless professionalism and the cold rationality of the German Army that an audacious plan suggested by only a minority of officers came to be endorsed over the former plan, which had been proposed by the hierarchy. Hitler, the evil genius, very open to new ideas in such matters, also became an ardent enthusiast.

The stage was now set for one of the most swift and decisive military victories of the modern era.

While the resourceful German Army was preparing for the attack purposefully, the French side was remarkably complacent. The Chief of her army was the 68-year-old General Maurice Gamelin who epitomized the axiom that no man is in a hurry to conclude that the skills and knowledge he has devoted a lifetime to acquire are obsolete.

He did not think that air power would play a significant role in modern warfare and belittled the importance of radio communication refusing to have a radio in his headquarters fearing it might reveal its location to the enemy. When questioned about the length of time he took to communicate his orders to the frontlines, Gamelin’s casual answer was forty-eight hours.

Had Gamelin an inkling of the catastrophic defeat ahead for France he would not have been that nonchalant. While the French commander was finding comfort in wishful thinking, the Wehrmacht was planning in secrecy a campaign of unprecedented velocity against Gamelin’s weakest flank.

France defeated

The German attack was to be led by the powerful Panzer divisions closely supported by a tireless Luftwaffe. Unlike the French the Germans fully embraced modern technology, using radio communication to coordinate and direct the attack.

Gamelin’s failure to appreciate the huge potential of the air force proved to be just as disastrous as his decision to disperse his armoured strength mostly in an infantry support role, thus leaving the task of countering the powerful thrusts of the German Panzer divisions to formations organized in the mode of the earlier war.

The Wehrmacht on the other hand was determined to cut through France in one strong drive, which would leave the enemy it in a hopeless situation. Much thought was given to the composition of the Panzer divisions and the tactics of the advance.

The number of Panzers in the establishment, the supporting artillery, the infantry component and the all important engineers attached to a divisions were decided primarily on the need for maximum speed and logistical coherence.

Nothing was to interfere with the speed of the advance. When serious resistance was encountered, more often the infantry was sent in to deal with it, while the Panzers kept moving forward to a pre-determined schedule.

The determination of the Germans to gain a decisive ascendancy in the narrow attack frontage of the Ardennes can be assessed from the galaxy of high calibre officers who held command in this sector. Led by Colonel General Rundstedt they included Generals Guderian, Kleist, Reinhardt, Hoth and Rommel.

The attack, which began on May 10, 1940, had achieved most of its goals by the 27th by which day the British had begun evacuating their forces from Dunkirk. The German army in little more than two weeks had more or less defeated France, a major world power at the time.

In comparison, in the First World War despite their super human efforts, the Germans could not take Paris, ending that mighty battle in a bloody and muddy stalemate after four years of fighting.

Having defeated France Hitler was the master of mainland Europe. He had to now decide on invading Britain or to go East to settle the issue with the despised Slavic nation of Russia once and for all. After a half hearted effort at subduing the proud island across the narrow English Channel he turned East, irrevocably, starting the epic struggle that was to determine the fate of the Third Reich.

30.Jun.2007:  JonBenet Ramsey – A Heartbreaking Tragedy.

A review on The Death of Innocence: The Untold Story of JonBenet’s

Murder and How its Exploitation Compromised the Pursuit of Truth by

John and Patsy Ramsey (U.S., Thomas Nelson, Inc., Mar-2000. ISBN 0-7852-6816-2:

Hardcover 396pp) [Daily News, p-23 (Book Reviews)].


JonBenet Ramsey - a heartbreaking tragedy

The Death of Innocence: The Untold Story of JonBenet’s Murder and How its Exploitation Compromised the Pursuit of Truth

Authors: John and Patsy Ramsey

(U.S., Thomas Nelson, Inc., Mar-2000)

Review: Firoze SAMEER

CRIME: The hardcover decidedly serves as a strong panacea to parents who have lost a sibling by murder.

Two murders of children, committed specially during Christmas in the last two decades, are worthy of note: Dec-26, 1996, a cause celebre in the U.S. Six-year old beaut, JonBenet Ramsey, in her home in Boulder, Colorado. Dec-24, 1986. Eleven-year old Ryan Emerson Pereira in a backwater called Kandana in Greater Colombo, Sri Lanka.

Sustained investigations by the Boulder Police Department (BPD), FBI, the DA’s office, and top-flight private investigators (PIHs) are still in progress in the first instance. The Sri Lanka Police Department, CDB, CID or the AG’s department doesn’t demonstrably appear to have pursued on the killer in the latter.

JonBenet hailed from the developed U.S. Born to an upper class family; her father, John, was CEO of Access Graphics, a computer software company churning a turnover of some US$ 1- billion.

Ryan came from developing Sri Lanka. Born to a lower middle-brow Eurasian family whose breadwinner, Brian, was a retired RCyAF officer allegedly receiving a modest pension.

JonBenet was known publicly, participating at pageants, two of them being national events. Ryan had no opportunity to achieve such fame. But they shared a common denominator: They were, amongst many similar cases, two innocent children done to death.


Dec-24, 1986, 2000-Hrs: Ryan, known affectionately as Gilly Boy, born Aug-14, 1975, was afflicted with nasal fibroid. Doctors attempted on more than one occasion to operate but were forced to suspend surgery owing to the boy turning blue.

Son of Brian and Anne Pereira, Ryan belonged to a Burgher family of 3-boys and 3-girls. Ryan reportedly left that night with his eldest brother Dexter Fabian from his aunt’s home in Hendala, and travelled by bus.

He disembarked at Kandana junction, while Dexter continued toward Negombo to attend a shindig. Ryan had Rs. 150 loose change in his pocket, carried some cake, a Moulinex grinder, bonbons and some other little stuff to his 3-bedroom home owned by his parents.

On Christmas Day, they found his body partly hidden in a gunny bag under a culvert between Kandana and Ragama railway stations.

Probably the killer had clamped Gilly Boy’s mouth to prevent a scream, thereby suffocating the boy.

The now defunct Weekend once featured this crime which remains unsolved todate, in spite of an allegedly malicious neighbour suspiciously decamping shortly after the crime. There was hardly a whimper in Sri Lanka.

Dec-25, 1996, 2200 Hrs: Christmas night: The unknown subject or UNSUB in FBI parlance, crept in to the 15-bedroom Tudor-style home of John and Patsy Ramsey in Boulder Colorado, while the Ramsey family was dining at the Whites’ in the neighbourhood.

The UNSUB came equipped with a Taser brand stun gun, black duct tape and cord, and wrote a 3-page ransom note using Patsy’s notepad paper and a black felt-tipped marking pen available in the house.

The Ramseys with children Burke, 9, JonBenet, 6, returned home about 10-pm and went to bed. The evil deed was perpetrated thenceforth until 5.52-am at which time a BPD dispatcher received a 911 emergency call by a frantic Patricia Ann Ramsey who found her daughter missing.

JonBenet, born Aug-06, 1990, was professionally garroted with cord and a broken paint-brush handle belonging to Patsy. Her mouth was duct-taped, her hands ligatured with slip-knots, and the right side of her skull showed an 8-inch fracture in an overkill.

Her body, found in the basement, showed two distinctive red spots 3 1/2-centimetres apart suggesting the use of a stun gun.

The postmortem revealed the cause of death as asphyxia by strangulation associated with craniocerebral trauma. The murder shook America.

FBI, BPD and the DA

From the very outset, the ill-equipped BPD, misdirected its line of action in suspecting one or both parents. Linda Arndt, the first officer to arrive at the crime scene, suspected John Ramsey while detective Steve Thomas’s suspicions fell on Patsy.

At BPD, the lead investigator, the commander of the detective division, the department chief, and Steve Thomas heading the investigations, all reportedly had hardly any or no homicide experience, while the lead investigator and Thomas had been detectives for no more than a year.

Thomas’s book, Inside the Ramsey Murder Investigation,(Apr-2000) feebly attempts to point a finger at Patsy, who with John effectively challenged him at the Larry King live show on May-31, 2000. Also, Boulder County District Attorney’s Office DA Alex Hunter and the BPD were continually at loggerheads.

BPD refused help from the Denver police department which investigates some 100 murders a year as against BPD’s one or two.

BPD also failed to request the varied services of the FBI in the early stages of the crime, making a significant difference in the investigation.

Of the 18,000 police jurisdictions in the U.S. many were expected to be similar to BPD with limited experience and knowledge in having to solve such horrendous crimes.

Lou Smit

Mary Keenan-Lacy succeeded Hunter as DA in 2002, resulting in a recall of homicide detective Lou Smit “to find the truth about JonBenet’s death,” but Lou expects the BPD to make a breakthrough. Lou, now 67, has an ongoing website He keeps a picture of JonBenet in his wallet.

The DA’s office hired Lou in mid-March 1997. Called out of retirement from the El Paso County Sheriff’s Dept, Lou had solved 90% of some 200 homicides he investigated during his 32-year career. Detectives Ollie Gray and John San Augustin assist him since 1999.

Lou cracked the case of Heather Dawn Church, a little girl who had been murdered in Colorado Springs, after it lay dormant for 4-years!

Smit’s famous letter of resignation to Hunter on Sep-20, 1998 ended with the statement, “Shoes, shoes, the victim’s shoes, who will stand in the victim’s shoes....” Lou had determined that the parents were not guilty. Ex-FBI sleuth John Douglas would state after meeting Lou, “I would hate to have that guy on my tail if I was a bad guy.”

John Douglas

Hired by John Ramsey’s attorneys in early Jan-1997 to investigate the murder, John Douglas (Mind had worked on over 5,000 homicide cases including some of the most heinous murders.

e profile the Unabomber years before he was captured, as well as predicted Atlanta’s serial child murderer before Wayne Williams was caught and convicted.

Douglas, 25-years in the FBI, retired 1995, inspired author Thomas Harris’s Special Agent Jack Crawford in his Hannibal Lecter novels. Silence of the Lambs director Jonathan Demme described him as “...a brilliant man.... (who) knows more about serial killers than anybody in the word.”

Douglas holds a doctorate in psychology. Author of several books on real life crime, Douglas co-authored The Cases that Haunt Us, and concludes the parents were not guilty vis-a-vis contrary views of the tabloid media and public.

He described the UNSUB as someone known to the Ramseys, a person who had been in their house and who had a personal grudge against John, and that the murderer remains a “certain breed of cat, a high-risk type of offender.”

Ramsey Family

John Ramsey’s daughter Elizabeth or Beth, 22, by his first marriage to Cindy, while being driven by her friend Matt on Jan-8, 1992, was broadsided by a truck, killing Matt on the spot and Beth at the Loyola Medical Center to which she was airlifted.

That was the first trauma of the Ramsey family. Almost a lustrum later, JonBenet’s murder irrevocably broke their spirit.

A grand jury which sat on this case from mid-Sep-1998 for over a year, pondering on some of the 30,000-pages of data from the case files, and reportedly heard many witnesses, eventually did not file charges.

A onetime Miss West Virginia and journalism major a West Virginia University, Patsy, 49, had Stage-IV ovarian cancer. She passed on June-24, 2006, and was buried beside her baby, JonBenet, and Beth at St James Cemetery in Atlanta.

Gilly Boy’s dad, Brian, was afflicted with diabetes and walked with an artificial foot, continually pining for his son. A six-foot strapper, he died some years ago, and was buried beside his boy at Kapuwatte General Cemetery in Rilaulla, Kandana.

John and Patsy’s message for the killer is: “Patsy and I and our families want you to know that we will be after you until we find you. The pursuit will not stop. Every morning when you wake up, you will know that this may be your last day of freedom. Beware.

"The person who looks at you strangely, or who seems to be following you, could be your captor. Eventually you will be identified. Trust us. It will happen.” and a tip line solicit help from the public.


School teacher John Michael Karr’s confession, arrest and flight from Bangkok to the U.S. in Aug-2006 fell flat.

His DNA didn’t match with those found in JonBent’s underwear and fingernails. Karr’s extensive email correspondence with Colorado University journalism professor, Michael Tracy, had evoked strong suspicion.

In one we see a US$ 100,000 reward backed by a slew of investigating authorities amidst high technology forensics, fingerprinting, profiling, DNA, polygraph testing, extensive website analyses, pursuing every lead upto date. The other was hardly heard of, probably its file closed and stashed in some place forgotten!.

(2) 25.July.2007: Fascinating Book on Sensational Trial: Review by Sir Christopher Ondaatje,

Courtesy The Sri Lankan Anchorman, Toronto Canada, June, 2007. (Daily News: p-41)



Picture shows the strangled body of Mrs. Sathasivam

By Sir Christopher Ondaatje

Special to: The Sri Lankan ANCHORMAN

Mahadeva Sathasivam was certainly one of the finest cricketers ever produced by the island of Ceylon. Educated at Wesley College, he produced many brilliant innings for the school including a magnificent 145 against St. Thomas’ College in 1936. He was a stylish right-handed batsman who could cut, drive and pull with extreme power, and his late cut was his most revered stroke.

He captained the Tamil Union Cricket and Athletic Club, and first played for Ceylon in 1945 scoring 111 runs against India. He scored 215 at the Madras Cricket Club and later captained Ceylon against Australia in 1948. He was a batting genius and Frank Worrell, the West Indian Captain, said that the very first batsman he would pick for a World XI would be “Sathasivam from Ceylon”.


Sathasivam married Miss Anandan Rajendra on the 9th February 1940. Miss Rajindra had two valuable properties, as well as jewellery, as part of her dowry and the Tamil couple eventually had four daughters. In 1949, one of Mrs Sathasivam’s properties was sold and a house called “Jayamangalam” was purchased at No.7, St. Alban’s Place in Bambalapitiya. It was a troubled marriage and the following year Sathasivam became involved with an attractive young lady, Yvonne Stevenson, born to a Dutch mother and a Polish father. The couple separated and appeared headed for divorce.

On 9th October 1951, a hot humid day in Colombo, shortly after 3.00 p.m., Mrs Sathasivam was found strangled and dead by a Meegoda laundryman on the floor of a garage, face upwards with a wooden mortar placed on her neck. Her two young daughters were playing downstairs in the adjoining house. A next door neighbour, Mrs Foenander, was called and the Bambalapitiya police informed of the crime. By 3.23 p.m. 7 St. Alban’s Place was under police guard and an angry crowd had gathered outside the front door. A short while later Mahadeva Sathasivam, who had stayed at his wife’s house on the night of 8th October but had left early on the next morning, was arrested at a friend’s house. A 19 year old servant boy, Hewa Marambage William, who also lived at the house, was found to be missing.

After an extended search, the servant boy William was found ten days later in the village of Kalametiya near Hungama in the Tangalle district where he was taken to the Matara Police Station for questioning about the murder as well as about certain articles - precious stones from a ring and a gold bar or “Thalikody” - which had been stolen from Mrs Sathasivam’s neck and later sold. It was also noted that there were eight injuries on William’s face, arm and hand. William was remanded.

Magisterial inquiry

The law of Ceylon determined that a magisterial inquiry had to held on the murder of Mrs Sathasivam, before trial in a higher court. The inquiry began on 2nd November 1951 and ended on 16th October 1952 when both Sathasivam and William were committed to the Supreme Court for trial.
Then, curiously, on 16th October 1952, over a year after the death of Mrs Sathasivam, a warrant of pardon for William was received from the Attorney-General “on condition that William making a full and true disclosure of the whole of the circumstances within his knowledge of the murder and abetment of a murder and relative to every other person concerned, whether as principal or abettor in the commissioning of the said offence”. He was then released as a suspect but retained in police custody until the termination of the trial.

 Professor Ravindra Fernando, in his gripping account of the sensational Sathasivam case over half a century ago A Murder in Ceylon gives a detailed account of the Supreme Court trial that started on 20th March 1953, almost a whole year after the magisterial inquiry, before Justice E.F.N. Gratiaen.
Sathasivam alone was charged with the murder of his wife under Section 296 of the Ceylon Penal Code. He entered a plea of “Not Guilty”.

The second accused in the Magistrates’ Court, William, who was given a conditional pardon by the Attorney-General, became the chief witness for the prosecution. Professor Fernando’s book makes for fascinating reading, and takes the reader through an extraordinary trial where circumstantial evidence pointed strongly at the accused Sathasivam, someone known for his drinking and womanising, to have murdered his wife.

Two or three different confessions from the servant William, including a statement that he had assisted Sathasivam in the murder of his wife, added to the confusion of the case. The actual time of the murder became an important issue, Sathasivam maintained that he left No. 7, St. Alban’s Place, at 10.30 a.m., and at that time his wife was alive and healthy. He admitted that he had stayed in his wife’s bedroom on the previous night and indeed had sexual intercourse with her the following morning before leaving in a summed Quickshaws cab.

Manually strangling her

The Crown however accused Sathasivam of (a) manually strangling her, first lulling her into a sense of false security by having sex with her; (b) stamping on her neck with a shod foot after the strangulation; (c) planning the murder in order to throw suspicion on the servant boy; (d) with cynical regard for Hindu custom, remove her “Thalikody” which he had placed around her neck on her wedding day when that neck was the neck of a corpse; (e) removing other articles of jewellery from her dead body; (f) give money and the removed articles of jewellery to the servant William as a reward for assisting with the murder; and that (g) he had proceeded to make the case against William doubly certain by daubing the corpse’s feet with kitchen dirt because William’s legitimate activities were confined to the kitchen. A motive for murder was also suggested where the unemployed Sathasivam, with no income except a small allowance from his mother, was faced with the burden of alimony in any expected divorce ruling, and to be denied any further access to his wife’s property or fortune.

A bitter legal battle between the eminent counsel T.S. Fernando for the Crown and Dr. Colvin R. de Silva for the defence then ensued in Court. Suspense and suspicion gripped the entire island of Ceylon.

The Inspector General of Police, police officers, scientists, the general public, as well as the medical experts, including the first Professor of Forensic Medicine, two eminent Professors of Surgery at the University of Ceylon, and the world acclaimed Professor Sydney Smith of the University of Edinburgh, had varying and conflicting opinions on the murder case.

Then, following a 57-day trial, Justice Gratiaen gave a long, detailed and excellent scientific analysis of the evidence. Professor Ravindra Fernando leaves none of the gruesome details out in his book which examines and presents the facts and expert evidence in this landmark case in the history of law and forensic medicine in Sri Lanka.
It is no secret that after questioning the credibility of the wrongly pardoned William’s testimony and severely criticising the conduct of the Ceylon Police, that Justice Gratiaen correctly directed the jury which then deliberated for 64 minutes before bringing back an unanimous verdict of “Not Guilty”.

Mahadeva Sathasivam then walked out of the dock a free man, after spending twenty months in the remand prisons for a crime he did not commit. Three prosecution witnesses were sentenced to two months rigorous imprisonment for giving “palpably false evidence on a matter of vital importance affecting the guilt or otherwise of the accused”, and one prosecution witness was discharged with a severe warning.

Amazingly William, having been granted a pardon by the Attorney General before the case, also walked free after the trial. He is the only person alive today who was a first hand witness to what happened at No. 7, St Alban’s Place on that fateful day in October 1951. He lives in the village of Angunabadulla in the Thihagoda area eight miles from Matara.

Vijitha Yapa Publications, Sri Lanka - Rs. 890

27.Aug.2006: The Other Side of the Sathasivam Case.

A review on A Murder in Ceylon by Prof. Ravindra Fernando,

MBBS, MD, FCCP, FCGP, FRCP(Lond), FRCP(Glasgow), FRCP(Edin.), FRCPath(UK), DMJ(Lond).

Senior Professor of Forensic Medicine and Toxicology, Faculty of Medicine,

University of Colombo. (Colombo, Vijitha Yapa Publications, June-2006:

ISBN 955-1266-20-X: First Edition, Hardcover 480pp). [The Sunday Times, p-4 (Books)]

The other side of the Sathasivam case

A Murder In Ceylon: The Sathasivam Case by Prof. Ravindra Fernando. Vijitha Yapa Publications. Reviewed by Firoze Sameer


The case revolved around three major factors: the identity of the murderer, the location of the crime, and the time at which Mrs. Anandan Sathasivam was killed.


Prof. Ravindra Fernando deserves to be commended on this 480-page account – touching on the medical aspects and leaning toward the defence – in giving us the intricacies involved in this celebrated case of 1952.


Parallel contrary views
Sir Sydney Smith's account under the same title in his book Mostly Murder (1959, Harrap Ltd, GB) is upheld by Prof. Fernando. However, readers should study former Supreme Court Judge A. C. Alles's version in his Famous Criminal Cases of Sri Lanka Vol. 4 to have a balanced view of what really happened on that fateful day at No. 7, St. Alban's Place in Bambalapitiya, on October 9, 1951.


Confusing the jury
In some celebrated murder cases, a common streak is clearly discerned in the line of conflicting evidence by expert witnesses, running into several thousands of pages, led by eminent defence counsel in examination/cross-examination vis-à-vis the clear evidence at hand. The resultant effect confuses and confounds the seven lay jurors comprising average folk, leading them to unanimously acquit the accused! In such cases an erudite three-judge bench would have determined otherwise as witnessed in the Mathew Peiris, Rita John and Hokandara trials, all leading to convictions.


Ranjani taxi-cab murder
The Ranjani taxi-cab murder case in September–December 1954, showed this kind of clever strategy adopted by G. G. Ponnambalam, QC, and Sir Ukwatte Jayasundera, KCMG, KBE, JP, QC, in their cross-examination of three topflight fingerprint experts. Alles states that “a large part of the cross-examination was confined to minor contradictions, irrelevancies and fanciful improbabilities, which were bound to affect the lay jury and confuse them in regard to the salient features of the crown case”. Trial proceedings of 3,500 pages comprised cross-examination of the finger prints and ballistics experts testimony topping 1,170 pages! The jury's unanimous verdict saw all four accused being acquitted.


Ceylon: Turf Club robbery and murder
The Ceylon Turf Club robbery and murder case in January 1950: two belated witnesses, one saw the 4th accused Aratchirala at Punchi Borella; the other saw him travelling in the car Z6033 along Havelock Road at almost the same time 8.30 a.m. on 31.01.49. Crown witness Rupananda's statement that the arrangement was for Z6033 to be at Darley road/McCallum road junction at 8.00 a.m. added to the confusion, while proctor Somaweera Gunasekera testified that Aratchirala met him at Hulftsdorp at 9.30 a.m. Aratchirala and his henchman Madaviya were, at the early stages of this case, discharged, while four accused went to the gallows.


Chandrasekera Dias murder:
Called by the defence, Professor of Forensic Medicine at Peradeniya University, Dr. Chandra Amerasekere, vehemently contradicted AJMO Dr. J. G. Gunaselvam, a lecturer in Forensic Medicine, whose excellent job in conducting the autopsy established beyond reasonable doubt that Chandrasekera Dias was the victim of homicide and not suicide.

Cross-examined by the defence for almost nine days to shake his testimony to throw doubts on the time of death, they could not shake his evidence on the cause of death as a result of homicidal strangulation. The seven-member Sinhala-speaking jury's unanimous verdict saw Mrs. Rohini Dias and chauffeur Nimal Fonseka being acquitted on 04.09.82.


Sathasivam murder case:
Similarly, in the Sathasivam murder case, the jury appears to have been thoroughly confused, especially with the conflicting medical evidence, and should have seriously considered the following facts:


Hostile witness

1. IGP Sir Richard Aluvihare, KCMG, breaks protocol, requesting Prof. G. S. W. de Saram, Professor of Forensic Medicine of Peradeniya University, to conduct the autopsy over the JMO, Dr. P. S. Gunawardene.

2. Prof. de Saram's dogged stance insisting on conducting the autopsy by himself sans assistance from the JMO portrays a psyche of blatant infallibility (p137).

3. Re: Time of death – his postmortem report states 10.00/11.30 a.m. and, after conducting experiments on executed prisoners on Sir Sydney Smith's advice, changes it to 11/11.15/11.30 a.m. in and not earlier than 10.45 a.m.! (p169).

4. This stance stood diametrically against the temperature/alimentary tests conducted by Professors Paul and Peiris, and tests by the radiologist Dr. A. H. N. Welikala indicating 9.30 a.m. keeping with William's story.

5. Prof. de Saram's aversion from pronouncing executed prisoners dead, revealed his stance against capital punishment.

Prof. G. S. W. de Saram, called as a prosecution witness, at the very outset turns a hostile witness.


OP Mack

1. Sathasivam's voluntary statement made on 31.03.52 at the magisterial inquiry held by N. M. J. Rajendram, indicates thus (p280-281): Mr. Sathasivam said that he then had sexual intercourse with his wife (on the 9th morning).

“After my bath I came out of my bedroom. While I was rubbing myself down I remember my wife telling me, ‘Summons has also been served and I do not know what I could tell Mr. Mack if I conceived’.”

2. OP Mack acting for Mrs. Sathasivam in the divorce case states that some time between 10.30 a.m. and 12 noon on the 9th he received a call from a lady who asked him whether summons had been served in the divorce case. Although she did not give her name, he presumed it to be the voice of Mrs. Sathasivasm. However, he entertained some doubts later.

But then we all know from Sathasivam's very statement that Mrs. Sathasivam already knew that summons had been served on Sathasivam on the 8th (p17). Why would she query Mack again?



1. A villager,18 years, just 11-days in service in the Sathasivam household, bereft of any education or imagination, tells a long story, ball by ball in cricket parlance, on how the master threatened him and made him an accessory to a murder, and all the attendant actions of going about it, from the bedroom via the pantry, right through the kitchen and to the garage, and later being given a part of the jewellery. This is unimaginable for such a villager to concoct.

2. The controversial abrasion on the victim's back could easily have been caused while the body was being carried via that narrow 17-inch passage between the pantry and garage.

3. The drag mark on the kitchen could very well have been one of the victim's feet being dragged along that same passage, thereby causing blackening of that foot. The victim could even have stained her feet by walking about the kitchen before she was murdered.

4. The victim's head injury, as opined by the defence, was the cause of William hitting her with a piece of firewood, followed by strangling her, is rather far fetched. He could have continued to hit her with that piece of firewood, better still that blowpipe, and done his foul deed.

5. That William attacked Mrs. Sathasivam from behind vis-à-vis she having approached him from the pantry to the kitchen while facing him, when that “protrusion” allegedly causing the abrasion between her shoulders, was at the point of the narrow passage leading to the garage far behind William. Also, if he had approached her from behind, how come he received those scrape marks?

6. The dead body had husk scrapings, not coconut scrapings, on the neck region. Evidently, the body was lying close to a whole heap of coconut husks. William was scraping a coconut at that time.


William's confession at an early stage to the murder was a strongpoint with the defence, but then his motive of robbery was flawed, since there was enough wealth in the house he didn't steal.


Sir Sydney Smith, CBE
Prof. Sydney Smith was successfully challenged in the Sidney Fox murder case by Sir Bernard Spilsbury, where the jury accepted Sir Spilsbury's evidence and found the accused guilty of murder by strangulation, rejecting the opinion of Prof. Sydney Smith that death had resulted from heart failure, due to suffocation induced by excessive smoke and a weak heart.

Alles states that “in both cases, that of Sydney Fox and Sathasivam, Sir Sydney Smith appears to have displayed a weakness of too readily supporting his medical opinions by an acceptance of non-medical facts, on which a forensic expert is not competent to express an expert opinion.”



1. William's evidence on leaving the residence about 09.30 a.m. and meeting with V. S. N. Shanmugam was established at the trial.

2. Quickshaws driver Pabilis's log sheet shows he left Majestic cinema in Bambalapitiya in response to Shanmugam's call at 9 a.m. for High Street, and according to both Pabilis and Shanmugam, they both travelled together in the taxi from 9.45 a.m. to 11 a.m. that morning. The log sheet strangely showed an ‘erasure’ after the numeral nine, for which he could not give a satisfactory explanation.

3. Quickshaws driver M. L. A. Perera picked Sathasivam at 10.30 a.m. at his home, and after having driven down the lane, turned the vehicle, and while travelling towards Galle Road glanced at the Sathasivam household and at the entrance saw Mrs. Sathasivam. This was a time divorce action was filed against her husband, and here she was at the door to send her husband off!

4. Quickshaws manager, Allen Mendis's evidence that Mrs. Sathasivam called just before 10.30 a.m. notwithstanding the log sheet entry stating ‘Sathasivam’.

Obviously some sinister hand at Quickshaws was tampering with evidence, detrimental to the interests of Sathasivam.


Conflicting evidence

The damning evidence of simple people who gave details of time, action, and events absolutely ignorant about the implications their evidence will relate to the time of the crime vis-à-vis the so-called experts, who were stubbornly insisting on various times and happenings, using their tenuous and conflicting medical expertise and experiments to substantiate their position, being cognizant their evidence will either save or send Sathasivam to the gallows.

Professors Paul and Peiris's evidence conflicted with Professors de Saram and Sydney Smith, obviously casting doubts in the minds of the lay jury, let alone the eminent judge's direction to the jury, which appeared to lean more in favour of Sathasivam. A hard-fought attempt was on the cards to save Sathasivam from the gibbet, since William too had turned crown witness, and at the end of the day, nobody was going to be hanged. The verdict of the unsequestered (as opposed to the OJ Simpson case) jury to acquit unanimously.


Points to ponder

1. Sathasivam was a prominent and popular all-Ceylon cricketer vis-à-vis William, a nonentity.

2. The eminent trial judge E. F. N. Gratiaen (later CBE, QC) was a sportsman himself.

3. The English-speaking jury, comprised folks favouring Sathasivam's prowess at cricket.

4. Colvin R. de Silva's inimitable charisma over solicitor-general T. S. Fernando (later CBE, QC) swayed the jury.

5. Conflicting medical evidence amongst experts vis-à-vis that of ordinary folk.

6. Sinister and powerful hands working behind the lines in favour of Sathasivam.

7. Affluent friends like M. M. Haniffa allegedly doling out funds.

8. Some support for Sathasivam from a section in the police department.

All these aspects favoured Sathasivam, who had a strong motive to kill his wife after divorce action had been filed on the 8th – which was obviously going to succeed against his interests – and he stood to lose all, including his lover Yvonne Stevenson, whom he wouldn't have been able to support, let alone pay alimony to his wife. His last try for reconciliation on the 9th morning appears to have failed.


Some editorial drawbacks: Quotes carry closed inverted commas at the end of every paragraph, instead of only the last one. The inevitable “different to” provokes a riposte of “similar from”! Overkill of exclamation marks. All in all, Prof. Fernando has made a significant contribution in recounting the in-depth medical ramifications of this diabolical crime.


(1) 29.July.2006: Expert Testimony in Sensational Murder Case Analysed:

A review by CR de Silva, PC, Solicitor General (Attorney General since 07.04.07).

(Daily News: p-12)

Expert testimony in sensational murder case analysed

Review: C. R. de Silva Solicitor General

A murder in Ceylon

The Sathasivam Case

Author: Ravindra Fernando

Vijitha Yapa Publications


CRIME: Prof. Ravindra Fernando's book 'A murder in Ceylon' covers in great detail the famous Sathasivam murder case, which evoked much public interest in this country. Prof. Ravindra Fernando, needs no introduction in the field of Forensic Medicine.


He has been one of our leading Forensic Pathologists for a considerable period of time. Apart from the field of Forensic Medicine, Prof. Fernando has interested himself in various other disciplines such as Human Rights and Politics.


Prof. Fernando in his book has analyzed in great detail all evidentiary aspects relating to expert testimony as well as the evidence of lay witness of fact.

He has spared no pains in conducting a very comprehensive research on the numerous aspects of this case which includes forensic medicine, law and also the rules governing evaluation of credibility of witnesses.

Legal principles

As for me, although I have quoted the judgement of Regina V. Sathasivam on innumerable occasions in court, I have not been conversant with the various factual aspects behind the numerous legal principles that arose for consideration in the course of this trial. The reason being the absence of any publication which dealt exhaustively with the factual aspects of this case.


In this regard, I am personally indebted to Prof. Fernando, for giving me an opportunity to educate myself, on the numerous evidentiary and legal aspects that came up for consideration during the trial.


The author in his characteristic readable style, has dwelt very clearly and lucidly into the evidence as well as the arguments which came up at the trial.

I think I would not be doing justice to the great work of Prof. Fernando, unless I briefly refer to some of the important factual and legal aspects, that went before the jury.

Sordid murder

The accused in this case was a household name in the field of cricket and he was arranged for having murdered his wife on October 9, 1951.

The principal witness was one William, a young servant boy employed by the deceased. William, who was an accomplice in this sordid murder, was granted a conditional pardon by the Attorney General.


According to the prosecution the murder had taken place around 9.30 a.m. before the very eyes of William. In his narration of events that took place on the fateful day he had been in the kitchen preparing the mid-day meal, when the accused had come there and sought his assistance to murder his wife.

William stated that the accused had told him that his wife had filed a case for divorce against him and he had further stated that her case would, in all probability, be decided in her favour and therefore it was necessary to murder her.


The prosecution alleges that this was the motive for the killing. The accused had promised William some gold jewellery worth three to four hundred rupees for his services.

Feeble attempt

According to William the accused had taken him to the master bed room wherein they found the deceased seated on the bed. Thereupon the accused had gone up to the deceased, pulled her down to the floor and strangled her with his bare hands.

William had helped the accused by holding the deceased in the region of her hips and in the process the deceased had made a feeble attempt to grab William. As a result, William suffered a few abrasions on his face and the right forearm.


At one stage, according to William, the accused had got up and trampled her throat. Thereafter the accused had removed the Thali, a gold bangle and a ring the deceased was wearing and given it to William.


William then described how he assisted the accused to carry the dead body to the garage through the kitchen. After the body was dumped in the garage William had made his escape to his home town in the deep south having sold the jewellery at Wellawatta and Panadura.

William categorically states that the murder had taken place at 9.30 in the morning. It transpired that the accused had left his marital home in a taxi which he had ordered from Quickshaws around 10.30 a.m.


The accused took up the position that when he left the house at 10.30 a.m. he was seen off by the deceased and it was the position of the defence that the murder had taken place after 10.30 a.m.


The time of death in this case played a crucial role in the determination of the guilt or innocence of the accused. Prof. G. S. W. de Saram took up the position that the death had occurred between 11.15-11.45 a.m. That is admittedly after the accused had left the house.

The opinion of Prof. de Saram was supported by Prof. Sydney Smith who was called by the defence. On the other hand Prof. Milroy Paul and Prof. M.V.P. Pieris disagreed with both Prof. De Saram and Sir Sydney Smith.


Prof. Ravindra Fernando has itemized the medical evidence of these medical experts regarding the methods employed by them relating to the estimation of the time of death.


I would think that the expert evidence narrated by Prof. Fernando from pages 136 to 270 provide ample material for any lawyer to effectively deal with medical evidence, in a case where the time of death becomes relevant. On behalf of the legal fraternity of this country I must thank Prof. Fernando for educating us on this important aspect of forensic medicine.


Another aspect of this case highlighted by the author was the presence of two abrasions on the back of the deceased between the two shoulder blades.

It would be interesting to note that Sir Sydney Smith having arrived in Ceylon had on his way to the hotel, visited the scene of the crime and he had observed a protruding metal clasp by the kitchen door.


This metal clasp was situated at a height of 3 and half feet from the floor. He went on to state that those injuries between the shoulder blades had been caused as a result of the deceased being pressed against the surface upon which the metal clasp was fixed.

This evidence necessarily shifted the place of offence to the kitchen and completely contradicted William's evidence that the murder took place in the bedroom upstairs. This was another aspect of medical evidence which militated against the guilt of the accused Sathasivam.

I would refer to another interesting aspect that necessarily caused a serious doubt about the truth of William's version of the crime. Prof, G.S.W. De Saram had found some dark fluffy material on the soles of the deceased.


This tallied with the floor scrapings taken from the kitchen floor. This evidence created a further doubt about the veracity of the testimony of William, that the murder took place in the bed-room.


These aspects of expert evidence have to be viewed in the light of the position taken up by William in his statement made soon after his arrest at the Matara Police Station where he admitted that he had strangled the deceased when she came into the kitchen while he was scraping coconuts for the preparation of the midday meal.


This position is further confirmed by the discovery of "fragments of fine black powder" by Prof. De Saram in a depressed abrasion found in the lower Jaw.

The Govt. Analyst opined that this powder was coconut fluff. If the murder took place in the bedroom there would have been no way that coconut fluff would have been found on the deceased.


This would be additional material which clearly points to the murder being committed in the kitchen and would also support the theory advanced by the defence that Willian had strangled the deceased in the kitchen when the latter had come there while William was scraping coconuts.

The items of expert evidence I have discussed were undoubtedly of great importance in the final outcome in this case.


Finally, may I say that had I been a member of the jury I would have without much hesitation come to the same conclusion that the seven members of the jury came to in this celebrated case.

24.Nov.2004: Mohanraj sustains music tradition: Apsaras moves into third decade.
 (Daily News: Art Scope: p-viii).

Apsaras moves into third decade

Mohanraj sustains music tradition

by Firoze Sameer

Goddess of South Indian playback singing, P Susheela, during her debut in Sri Lanka at the grand 4-hour Nenjam Marappathillai show at the BMICH on 10.05.91, declared on stage in clear Tamil,


"...He [Mohanraj] is the cause for all this [show]. There is a computer inside him... Yes... He should be cited in the Guinness Book of Records. You should all encourage him, and nominate him to get his name into the Guinness Book. Because he plays all the notes. And I have never seen such talent before. This is the first time I'm seeing such talent. A computer, not even referring to a single notation. To play so is extremely difficult... ...I take great pride [in him]."

The encomiums APSARAS and Mohanraj have publicly received over the years from the South Indian music moguls Padmashree Dr KJ Jesudas, Padmashree Dr SP Balasubramaniam, Kalaimaamani TM Soundararajan and P Susheela are legion, and bear ample testimony to the high quality of their many musical renditions.

Mohanraj (left), Muthuswamy master with baby Mohanraj (right)

APSARAS, the popular oriental music group moves into its third decade toward year-end 2004.


Mohanraj, now pushing 42, son of the renowned music director Muthuswamy Master, has been the driving force behind which APSARAS has successfully steered ahead through its periods of peaks and troughs, thrilling diverse audiences at home and abroad, in rendering light Sinhala, Tamil and Hindi music, for almost thirty years.


APSARAS has come a long way in its splendid performances and achievements, guided by its dynamic and precocious leader over its experienced members, and its sustained continuity of valuable and varied contributions to the oriental music field from the 20st century into the 3rd millennium.


Muthuswamy Master

What's special about the group is that it was formed in 1975 followed by the blessings of that doyen of oriental music, Muthuswamy Master, and it was led by his son, Mohanraj, who has undoubtedly proved himself a chip of the old block.

Muthuswamy Master's music direction has seen a slew of South Indian singers under his baton. The local music arena comprised of some fine vocalists who were backed by Muthuswamy Master including the famed Dharmadasa and Lata Walpola (later Kalasuri), HR Jothipala, Mohideen Baig (later Kalasuri), GSB Rani, Sujatha Perera (now Attanayake), Milton Perera, Narada Dissasekera, Angeline Gunatilleka and others.


Notable were WD Amaradeva (violin) (later Pundit), Premasiri Khemadasa (flute) (later Dr), Sarath Dassanayake (sitar), Victor Ratnayake (violin), and Dharmadasa Walpola (flute) all reading their respective instruments under Muthuswamy Master's direction. The Master was also instrumental in Nanda Malini's entr,e to music in Dharuwaa Kaagedha in 1960.


Father and son

Unlike Muthuswamy Master's father, who encouraged his son to play music, in the case of Muthuswamy Master and his son, Mohanraj, it was the reverse.

As in the case of the great Viennese composer, Johann Strauss the Elder, who initially discouraged his son, Johann Strauss the Younger (famous for The Blue Danube, and other remarkable classics) to follow in his footsteps, the Master vehemently opposed his son to the extent of debarring him from touching his prized harmonium! However, during the periods of the Master's absence when he used to visit the SLBC as Leader of the Tamil orchestra, the boy's Mom encouraged him to practice in secret!


Sometime in 1976-77, the memorable SweetNight musical show was staged at the Kathiresan Hall in Bambalapitiya, APSARAS being assisted by the popular bandmaster Latiff Miskin, a great friend of, and musician for, Muthuswamy Master, joining in with his trumpet.

Mohanraj, born 27.09.62, was billed to play on an upgraded version of his electric organ: the new Yamaha YC-45. Muthuswamy Master and general secretary of the Ceylon Workers' Congress (CWC), S Sellasamy, were invited as chief guests.


Sellasamy's presence at this show was the result of the friendship Selladurai had with the Sri Lankan drama artiste, VKT Balan (presently operating an airline ticketing business in Chennai), who was closely associated with Sellasamy during that period. Tickets were priced at Rs 10, Rs 7 and Rs 5.

The SweetNight show was a landmark event in Tamil music in Sri Lanka. Selladurai sang his first song in public, En Devanei, which was originally sung by the famous South Indian singer AM Rajah in the Tamil movie Veetu Maapilai.


Whether the Master had a notion that his boy had been playing secretly behind his back is a moot-point, since, even if he did so, he never showed it. However, the Master was pleasantly surprised and greatly impressed by his son's performance at this musical show, which evoked amazing audience response.

Perhaps, after attending this show, the Master was probably convinced that his son had re-confirmed the established theory of genes relating to characteristic inheritance.


Muthuswamy Master thereafter blessed and guided his boy in music for over the decade that followed. The vital in-depth training Mohanraj received from his father was profound. Thus began the road to fame and success.


APSARAS, under the able guidance of Mohanraj, has made several musical tours to England and Western Europe, Singapore, and Norway, while Mohanraj has also toured South Africa, Doha in Qatar, and also made recent visits to the UK and to Sydney and Melbourne, Down Under.



Mohanraj has received the Mellisai Mannan award on the same occasion when his father Muthuswamy Master was awarded the Layagnaanavaarudhee by Regional Development Minister C Rajadurai on 03.01.87, the Isaignaana Ilavarasar award by the France Tamil Cultural Federation in Paris in 1991, and the In-Isai Elavaarsar award under the auspices of President JR Jayewardene on 30.12.90.


Mohanraj received the Isai Maamanie award for which the South India movie star 'Major' Sunderrarajan of the movie Major Chandrakanth fame arrived to make the presentation on behalf of the All Ceylon Sabarimalai Saastha Peedam sometime in 1993.


He also received a Kala-Jothi certificate with Ponnaadai (silk shawl) by the Tamil Saagithya Vizha (Festival) program from Hindu Cultural Affairs Minister PP Devaraj on 22.08.93, while in the same month Aacharya WD Amaradeva donned a silk shawl on him for his brilliant backing in a rendition of twelve Tamil folk songs sung by the eminent Visharadha Nanda Malini: the audio-cassette Kunkuma Pottu was released thereafter.


The International University of Martial Arts under the patronage of Prime Minister Sirimavo RD Bandaranaike, conferred an honorary doctorate on Mohanraj for his contribution to music on 30.04.97.


Mohanraj was also awarded the Sudhanthira Pon Vizha Isai Virundhu award from the Indian entertainer, Leoni, during Sri Lanka's golden jubilee independence celebrations on 08.02.98.


He also received the Isai Gnaani award from deputy minister of Estate Housing P Chandrasekeran on 20.06.99. Mohanraj also received the Asia Isai Thalapadhi award at the Ameenkhan's Nite on 08.07.01 at the Tower Hall from former minister MH Mohamed, MP.



The audio-cassette Innisai Vaarpugal was released on Dheepavali Day 01.11.86 comprising of 10-Tamil songs with original melodies composed by Mohanraj, and recording was conducted under the supervision of that dynamic entertainer, BH Abdul Hameed, who served as recording engineer in this instance.

It was a time when Ayaz Zavahir, successor to Yaal Ramanan who later qualified as an attorney-at-law, was lead guitarist to the group, while jazz-drummer Neville Silva's son, Sarath, sat in for Benhur Fernando, on jazz-drums.


April-97 saw the release of APSARAS's CD comprising of twelve top Tamil hit numbers titled Viludhu (Young Tastes) sponsored by the Viludhugal dance troupe in France to celebrate an annual event with famed South Indian vocalist, Mano, featuring two hits. Ananda Ramesh wrote the lyrics.

Ninaivugal comprising 15-Tamil hits, all new lyrics written by ex-SLBC lyricist Kaarmegam Nanda, now resident in Oslo, Norway, was released in early 2001.

The image of APSARAS and the high respect it commands over Sri Lankans all over the globe, and especially at home, has continued to flourish and grow with the passage of time.


This success is mainly due to its tunesmith and talented leader, Mohanraj, a literal prodigy behind his four-tiered keyboards, and his knack in contributing to the group as a vocalist.


Mohanraj's ability to render Sinhala, Tamil and Hindi numbers with ease springs from the vital advantage of having a parentage mix of Tamil in his famed father and Sinhala in his mother, Neeliya, who hails from a known Sinhala family connected to music in Kandy.


Mohanraj's erstwhile renditions of old-time Tamil songs brought him much deserved prominence and popularity amongst his Tamil fans at home and abroad.

His revival of some of his father's old Sinhala songs, with slight modifications to suit the new generation, has expanded his popularity significantly amongst the Sinhala people. The revival of the popular piece Madhura Yaame was one such landmark, and has thrilled the Sinhala audience in no uncertain terms.

Such response was witnessed especially at the Madhura Yaame show held in honour of the 10th death anniversary of Muthuswamy Master on 27.06.98. Amongst the many speakers at this show, notable was the splendid speech delivered by the North-Eastern province governor, the late Kalasuri Dr Gamini Fonseka.


A vital aspect pertaining to the survival of APSARAS for almost three decades is that, during its sensitive incubation in which it was nurtured by CHITRALAYA music-group-leader Sinniah Selladurai, the Mohan-Rangan combination established a fantastic euphoria especially in the minds of the swabasha-speaking public, with especially that charismatic compere BH Abdul Hameed boosting APSARAS's splendid musical feats to Himalayan heights.


The key person working behind the scenes, consistent and continuous, even prior to the formation of APSARAS, and who has lived through its ups and downs and managed its promotion, poster preparations, publicity and overall organization in general, and continues to keep the life throb of APSARAS resounding, is Sinniah Selladurai.


Selladurai is the principal axle around which the CHITHRALAYA music group and later the APSARAS music group revolves. He continues to be an active member of APSARAS, as a vocalist, rendering especially fast numbers.


It was Selladurai, a student of Muthuswamy Master, who initially formed CHITHRALAYA with his brothers Sri Kanthan alias Rajendran, and Rangan.

Notwithstanding Selladurai's yearning to master the serpina or harmonium, the piano accordion and finally the electric organ, he was not only sharp in spotting the inborn talent of young Moharaj at age-13 on the keyboards but was also altruistic-minded to suppress his penchant for playing on these instruments, and encouraged Mohanraj to fill that slot.


Although Mohanraj was the 'baby' in the group, Selladurai was gracious to acknowledge him as the leader of APSARAS and give him the fullest co-operation and support in establishing the group.


Selladurai developed into a vocalist and made some important contributions in the musical extravaganzas, which were to thrill local and overseas audiences.

His elder brother Mylvaganam's moral and physical support to CHITHRALAYA extending later on to APSARAS was tremendous, while the eldest brother Murugiah took upon himself to fend for his four younger brothers in a family of eight in the absence of their father who had passed on when they were very young sometime in 1961.

Mohanraj's first exposure at music direction in movies in the year 1977 at age 15 was under the strict guidance and supervision of his father, Muthuswamy Master, for the local Tamil movie Pulugargal Jaakradhai at the Sarasavi Studio in Kelaniya.


Others associated with this project included the top-flight violinist, MK Rocksamy, SHAKTHI lead guitarist A Surendra and his father, Anthony, played their mandolins, with jazz-drummer, Nesan Thiagarajan. However, production of this movie ran into difficulties, and the project was apparently shelved mid-way.

Other Sinhala movies followed: Veera Udhaara, Love in Bangkok, Raja Kello, Rajawanseyen Ekek, movie-star Geetha Kumarasinghe's production of Hira Bata Tharuwa, Uthura Dhakuna, and Vairayen Vairaya. In Hira Bata Tharuwa, the entire music and melodies were produced by Mohanraj.

Apart from a number sung in this movie by Pundit WD Amaradeva, a duet sung in this movie by Gratian Ananda and Angeline Gunatilleke, was adopted in another of Geetha's production titled Salambak Handai.


In recent weeks Mohanraj did a solo number titled Sangeetha at the Chennai Prasad Studio, with Hemasiri Halpita writing the lyrics, under the music direction of the famous Deva for a forthcoming Sinhala movie to be titled, while the Tamil songs were sung by the great SPB.


APSARAS continues to survive despite continual changes in its membership with the passage of time.


Apart from Mohanraj who is in overall supervision including guitars and vocals while playing on the keyboards, Rangan used to play on triple-congos and supervise all rythms. Fayaz Zavahir served onetime as an assistant on keyboards. Akram presently plays the bongos.


Comperes at various stages in shows include the dashing and dynamic BH Abdul Hameed, Vijayarajah, Rajeswari Shanmugam and her son, S Chandrakanthan, and presently vocalist Ameen Khan.


Those who strum the lead guitar include Ananda Perera, Ayaz-Zavahir, Anthony Surendra, Mahinda Bandara, and presently Nelson John, while rhythm was looked after by Anthony Surendra, and bass by the left-handed Christie Watson, Jagath Jayawardena, Raju Bandara and later on by the acclaimed violinist's son, Jeevan Rocksamy.

Sons of the renowned Gadam Master, Kalasuri Guruvayur KK Atchudhan & SLBC violinist Kamala: Radhakrishnan played violin while Ravindran was a maestro at the mirudhangam.


At various times, Benhur Fernando, Nesan Thiagarajan, extolled for his extended dramatic drum-breaks, and K Prabhagaran play on jazz-drums/octopad, while thabla renditions are made by Radha Weerasingham and Ratnam Ratnadhurai, and the dholak was tapped at various times by the famous Fuji Ismail and presently by his son Naushad. Mohamed Hussain, always the-man-Friday, plays percussion.

Indian Vocalists

Famed South Indian playback singers who have been backed by APASARAS include the famous P Leela, Jikki, Jamunarani, MS Rajeswary, P Susheela, LR Easwary, Vaani Jeyaram, S Sarala, Malaysia Vasudevan and his son Yugendran, Mano, Minminie, AL Raghavan, Jeyachandran, Kalpana Raghavendra, Karthik, Srinivas, Harish Ragavendra, Arulmoly, Unni Menon, Chithra Sivaraman, Vasundara Das, Usha Udhup, Anuradha Sriram, Mahalaxmi, Maalathy, Madhangi, Sri Lekha Parthasarathy, Manickavinayagam, Pop Shalini, Sabeshan, Dhevan, and the two giants of the South Indian playback arena: SP Balasubramaniam and TM Soundararajan and son TMS Balraj.


The Tippu & Harini duet excelled with Mohanraj in recent weeks in Australia.


A phalanx of local vocalists have appeared against the APASARAS background. Prominent and consistent amongst them are the late G Balasubramaniam who was a typical imitation of the South Indian comedian-singer, JP Chandrababu, the erudite and splendid music teacher N Rakunathan, Jeyabarathidhasan, Jegadevi, Lilly Mylvaganam, M Sivakumar, V Premanand, Rani Fernando, Rani Joseph, Ranjan Saliya Perera, Saifullah Mehedoom the Hindi songster suitably replaced by the popular Tony Hassen, S Selladurai the fast-number exponent, and the teenager with a sweet voice Vidhyashini, daughter to Mohanraj.


On the Sinhala side we see APSARAS backing the great Pundit WD Amaradeva, Visharadha Nanda Malini, Kalasuri Lata Walpola, Sujatha Attanayake, Gratian Ananda, Angeline Gunatilake, Nirosha Virajini, Champa Kalhari, Sameetha Mudhunkotuwa, Athula Adhikari and Jagath Wickramasinghe.


Dancers have participated in the form of Helen Kumari, Vasugi Shanmugampillai, and the famous Channa Wijewardene's dance troupe, while the South Indian artiste, Silk Sumitha, took part in the APSARAS UK-European-Scandinavian tour, Inisai Iravu, with P Susheela and TMS in Sep-Oct, 1991.


Unlike so many local music groups which have mushroomed, flowered and faded over the years, APSARAS stands firm like a lotus spread well above the waterline, splendidly blooming in its colorful musical performances, while proudly possessing a memorable history of important people, places and events, which all confluxed to bring about its birth.


Selladurai's ideal imagination figures that grand day when those original APSARAS music group members, vocalists and comperes who are still in harness, with top South Indian stars thrown in, will participate under the supervision of Mohanraj in an extended grand musical show, worthy of being reminisced for decades by generations. Perhaps, time will tell.

27.Oct.2004: Brando’s Godfather revisited: Francis Ford Coppola’s The Godfather trilogy.
(Daily News: Art Scope: p-iii).


Brando's Godfather revisited

by Firoze Sameer

Marlon Brando, the Godfather Courtesy Paramount Pictures

"A lawyer with a briefcase can steal more money than a thousand men with guns."

Mario Puzo in The Godfather Papers and Other Confessions.

"Behind every great fortune there is a crime."

Balzac quoted by Puzo in The Godfather


Marlon Brando's death on July 1 at age-80 brings back vivid memories of his scintillating role in the box-office movie The Godfather (1972).

It was followed by Bernardo Bertolucci's French-Italian Last Tango in Paris (1973) and Coppola's controversial Vietnam war epic Apocalypse Now (1979) based on Joseph Conrad's brilliant novel Heart of Darkness.


Newsweek and TIME of July 12 carried some fine appreciations and photos of Brando. Life magazine of March 10, 1972 front-page featured Brando in his role as The Godfather.


Brando's film debut in The Men in 1950 ended with a total of 35-appearances, notable among them being A Streetcar Named Desire (1951), The Wild One (1954), On the Waterfront (1954) winning best actor amongst the eight Oscars, Guys and Dolls (1955), Sayonara (1957), The Young Lions (1958), One-Eyed Jacks which Western was the only movie he directed (1961), Mutiny on the Bounty (1962), The Ugly American (1963), Morituri with the bald-headed Yul Brynner (1965), to his last Don Juan DeMarco (1995) with Faye Dunaway.


U.S. film critic Leonard Maltin called The Godfather as the 1970s' answer to Gone With The Wind. Movie director Francis Ford Coppola transformed Mario Puzo's fine book of the same title, published in 1969, into celluloid by dividing it into two parts. Later, he covered the complete epic from 1902 to 1958 called the Godfather Saga on home-video (1981) comprising a chronological arrangement with additional pieces from the cutting floor, of the first movie and Part-II (1974), followed by a final Part-III (1990). Nino Rota's splendid signature tune decidedly haunts the mind of the filmgoer.


Author Andrew Yule in his Al Pacino: A Life on the Wire (1991), and professor of film studies at UCLA, Nick Browne, editing Francis Ford Coppola and the Godfather Trilogy (2000), a serious and solid treatise comprising independent high profile analyses by some top professors in the film industry, include various breakdowns of costs, profits and earnings in the three movies.


Looking at costs of production of the three movies in the range of less than U$7.5mn for GF-I, U$15mn for GF-II and U$54mn for GF-III, they grossed approx. U$86mn (1972), U$32mn (1974) and U$70mn (1990) respectively. GF-I & GF-II had by 1989 grossed in excess of U$800mn. It is said that over the years the trilogy did business of over a billion dollars!


For GF-I, Paramount claimed 84% of the profit, leaving 7.5% for producer Albert S Ruddy, 6% for Director Coppola, and 2.5% for author Puzo who wrote the screenplay with Coppola.


Brando was reportedly paid only U$50,000 but collected U$100,000 for his co-operation with publicity, and, on a sliding-scale percentage of the movie's gross, finally landing him some U$1.5mn. His demand for U$500,000 plus 10% of the gross for GF-II was turned down, and the part went to Robert de Niro.

Al Pacino who played Michael collected U$35,000 for one year's work in GF-I, receiving some U$500,000 plus no less than 10% of profit for GF-II, culminating for GF-III at U$5mn plus 15% of gross.


Diane Keaton who played Michael's wife, Kay Adams, was able to collect U$2mn in GF-III vis-...-vis the pittance she collected in GF-I: U$6,000. Robert Duvall playing the Consigliori, Tom Hagen, demanded for U$3.5mn against Paramount's U$1.5mn and was turned down and replaced with George Hamilton in GF-III.

Director Coppola collected U$3-mn to direct, U$1-mn to write and U$2-mn plus 15% of gross to produce GF-III, as against what he received for GF-II: U$200,000 for direction, U$250,000 for the script plus on a formula ranging between 10% and 15% as co-producer.


Perhaps The Godfather fitfully won the Academy awards for Best Picture, Actor (Brando), and Screenplay (Coppola & Puzo), and also in that one is able to discern the special features in the movie. GF-I & GF-II totally were nominated for 21-Oscar nominations, and collected nine, both winning Best Film Awards.

The momentous meeting Virgil "The Turk" Sollozzo has with Don Corleone in the presence of his Consigliori Tom Hagen, the two Caporegimes, Sal Tessio (Abe Vigoda) and Pete Clemenza (Richard Castellano), and two of the Don's sons, Santino (James Caan) and Fredo (John Cazale), prompted U.S. management guru, the late Donald McCormick to cite Sonny's faux pax as an example of observing fringe times in business interactions in his masterpiece, What They Don't Teach You At Harvard Business School.


Reminiscent in GF-I is the initial introduction of Don Vito Corleone (Brando) in a sudden reverse shot, seated behind his table in his paneled office, intently listening with composure and assumed power, kitted up in black suit and brilliant white shirt complete with tuxedo and blood red nosegay, to attend his daughter's wedding, the camera focusing directly on the undertaker, Amerigo Bonasera, facing the Don, relating his daughter's trauma; seeking for revenge.

Sparks of professionalism at its peak is also seen in the Don's two brief discourses with the deadly Luca Brasi, enforcer to the Corleone Family, and in the famous speech made by the Don to the head of the Five Families.


GF-I carries a slew of dramatic events, which have an everlasting impact on the filmgoer. The dramatic assassination of Luca Brasi in the bar owned by the Tattaglia Family; the tragic ambush of Sonny; Sollozzo's car taking that high-speed U-turn amidst klaxons, as the driver, Lou, crosses over the road's divider across the splendid Triborough bridge connecting New Jersey and New York; the deadly confrontation of Michael with Sollozzo (Al-Lettieri) and Police Captain McCluskey (Sterling Hayden) at Louis' Italian-American Restaurant in the Bronx; Consigliori Tom Hagen taking a short drink before he plucks up courage to break tragic news to the Don.

The Don's visit to Bonasera seeking his services to return a favour.


The Don's memorable address to the head of the Five Families and their associates at a secret conference, seeking for peace. Scenes in the backyard of the Corleone home with the Don and Michael, and later the Don and his grandson, Anthony, amidst the tomato vines, ending a marked shift in the story; the terrible scenes of bloody violence; all contributing toward Coppola's masterpiece in direction.


Puzo in his The Godfather Papers and Other Confessions describes the fury of Frank Sinatra directed against him while dining at the famous Chasen's in Hollywood on account of the Johnny Fontane character in his book, allegedly portraying a resemblance to Sinatra.


According to Puzo, the incident was a case of a Northern Italian threatening a Southern Italian, which Puzo equates to Einstein pulling a knife on Al Capone!

Fascinating advice

The book and movie are inundated with some fascinating advice given intermittently by the Godfather to his sons or close associates at various times.

In Puzo's opus at Book-8: Chapter-30, the Don gives Michael one of the most valuable lessons on how he came to use a guy like Luca Brasi, and Michael had used it to make the deadly ex-cop Albert Neri his Brasi.


Other brief but vital snippets to Bonasera: "And that by chance if an honest man such as yourself should make enemies, then they would become my enemies. And then they would fear you."


"You spend time with your family? to Johnny Fontane who replies, "Sure I do." Then to Johnny, but toward and about Sonny: "Good. 'Cause a man who doesn't spend time with his family can never be a real man."


Upbraiding Johnny: "You can act like a man! "What's the matter with you? Is this how you turned out? A Hollywood finocchio that ah cries like a woman? (then mimicrying Johnny, as Tom giggles) "What can I do?! What can I do?! What is that nonsense? Ridiculous." Again to Johnny: "I'll make him an offer he can't refuse," referring to Jack Woltz, the Hollywood director.


To a friend "He performs these miracles for strangers," referring to his son, Michael's deeds as a captain in WW2.


To Virgil "The Turk" Sollozzo: "I said that I would see you because, I heard that you're a serious man, to be treated with respect." and after Sonny's faux pas, "I have a sentimental weakness for my children, and I spoil them as you can see; they talk when they should listen."


Admonishing his son Sonny: "Never tell anybody outside the family what you're thinking again!" To Hagen, Tessio and Clemenza: "Now, any man should be allowed one foolishness in his life. I have had mine."


Then to his successor, Michael: "You cannot say 'no' to the people you love, not often. That's the secret. And then when you do, it has to sound like a 'yes'. Or you have to make them say 'no'. You have to take time and trouble." Adding that: "Friendship is everything. Friendship is more than talent. It is more than government. It is almost the equal of family. Never forget that...."


To Michael again: "Revenge is a dish that tastes best when it is cold."


Advising Michael: "It's an old habit. I spent my life trying not to be careless - women and children can be careless, but not men." And then: "I've done my share in life. I haven't got the heart any more. And there are some duties the best of men can't assume."


Once again to Michael: I knew that Santino was going to have to go through all this. And Fredo - well - Fredo was - well - But I never - I never wanted this for you. I work my whole life, I don't apologize, to take care of my family. And I refused - to be a fool - dancing on the string, held by all those - bigshots. I don't apologize - that's my life - but I thought that - that when it was your time - that - that you would be the one to hold the strings.


Senator - Corleone. Governor - Corleone, or something..."Michael quips: "Another pezzonovante..." and the Don continues: "Well - this wasn't enough time, Michael. Wasn't enough time..." Michael adds: "We'll get there, Pop - we'll get there..." And then: "Uh..." Now listen - whoever comes to you with this Barzini meeting - he's the traitor. Don't forget that."


In the real life scenario, Brando had to face the shooting of his daughter Cheyenne's BF by his son Christian in 1990 who served a term of some 6-years, and before he was released Brando experienced the tragedy of Cheyenne hanging herself in 1995.


Coppola had his own share of tragedy when his 22-year old son Gian-Carlo - Gio - was killed on 27.05.86, when his speedboat struck a towline of another boat, while in the company of Ryan O'Neal's son Gliffin Patrick, 21, who was later charged with reckless piloting.


Life thereafter was probably never the same again - Coppola's quest is mirrored in Michael's search for himself in GF-III - for these grand folks who gave us such splendid and memorable movies to feast our imagination.