Land dispute ends in gruesome killing of Bhikkhu
The peaceful atmosphere was shattered last Sunday when a group of
people armed with swords and knives stormed the Sunnandopananda Vihara
at Egodauyana, Moratuwa and stabbed the chief incumbent Ven.
Matigahatenne Wimalawansa Thera several times mercilessly.
When neighbours rushed to the temple on hearing the screams of the
Bhikkhu, the suspects had fled. They found the Bhikkhu lying in a pool
of blood in the compound with multiple cut injuries on his body.
They could not believe for a moment what exactly happened to the
chief incumbent. However, other Bhikkhus witnessed the gruesome
stabbing. The slain Bhikkhu had a dispute with the squatters who
occupied the temple land.
The chief incumbent was rushed to the Moratuwa hospital but was
pronounced dead on admission. The land dispute erupted in a serious
manner last Sunday when the squatters stormed the temple around 2.30
p.m. and assaulted a Bhikkhu following a heated argument with him. Ven.
Wimalawansa Thera who heard the commotion rushed to the place after
ringing the temple bell repeatedly.
When people in the vicinity rushed to the temple the attackers fled
the scene threatening bodily harm to the chief incumbent. However, the
other Bhikkhus identified some of the suspects who assaulted the chief
incumbent. Around 7 p.m.on the same day the same group of suspects led
by Sujith and Randira stormed the temple and threatened to kill the
The group consisted of 15 suspects who appeared to be intoxicated.
They were armed with swords and knives. Frightened by the death threats
levelled against them, the chief incumbent Wimalawansa Thera and the
other Bhikkhus went to the Moratuwa police station and made a complaint.
The chief incumbent and other Bhikkhus were on their way back to the
temple around 8.45 p.m. after being assured by a neighbour that the
unruly crowd had dispersed and there was no threat to their lives. But
no sooner their car entered the temple premises a group of people armed
with swords and knives surrounded it and pulled out the driver and
assaulted him mercilessly.
Thereafter they pulled out the chief incumbent and disrobed him. At
this point the chief incumbent tried to run towards the temple.
He slipped and fell on the ground. When the mob finally caught up
with him they hacked him with knives. After inflicting severe injuries
the mob fled away.
The autopsy conducted at the Panadura hospital revealed that there
were 98 stab injuries on the Bhikkhu's body.
Police said the chief incumbent had lodged seven complaints against
the squatters who lived in the temple land and harassment.
The squatters too had made three counter complaints against the chief
incumbent Ven. Wimalawansa Thera. The Moratuwa police investigated the
complaints and counter complaints and referred them to the Mediation
Board for settlement. But some cases have been referred to the District
Court for adjudication.
The tussle between the Sunandopananda Temple and squatters began
following the acquisition of the land by the temple which the squatters
had occupied in 1994.
However, when Ven. Wimalawansa Thera became the chief incumbent about
five years ago he took a hard line towards the squatters.
He did not show any mercy to them and went all out to have them
evicted from the temple land although they had occupied the land for 50
The move, however, antagonised the squatters and soon they were at
each others throat.
Even before the chief incumbent was stabbed the squatters had
threatened him with bodily harm.
There were also frequent quarrels between the two parties. Following
the assassination of Ven. Wimalawansa Thera, people in Egodauyana became
restive and began demolishing the homes of the suspects.
Moratuwa police were on the trail of two suspects, Sujeewa Guneratne
(40) and Randima Fernando (29). However, before dawn their bodies were
found dumped near a paddy field at Moronthuduwa with gun shot injuries.
Both men had been shot in their heads. It was also revealed that
Sujeewa Guneratne was a supporter of the Deputy Mayor of Moratuwa.
The Moratuwa police under the supervision of SSP Mount Lavinia
Division Ravindra Karawita probed the assassination of Matigahatenne
Later the Colombo Crime Division (CCD) under the supervision of its
Director SSP D.R.L. Ranaweera took over the investigation and arrested
the Deputy Mayor of Moratuwa.
It was further revealed that Sujeewa Guneratne and Randima Fernando
had been involved in the drug trade for some time.
The Colombo Crime Division has arrested eight suspects linked to the
assassination of the chief incumbent and have found the three wheeler
bearing number AA 3376 used by them. They also recovered the three
knives allegedly used by the assassins.
The knives along with the robes of the chief incumbent were found in
a water tank of a house at Panadura. Among the suspects taken into
custody were two men from the Grandpass area, police said.