A rape case was heard at the Matara high court around 35 years ago. Then a state counsel, Suhada appeared for the victim, while the accused was represented by Mahinda. Both were friends at the time.
Giving evidence, the woman told the court in detail how she was raped while looking for firewood in the jungle. When asked by Suhada if the rapist was present in the court, she looked around hesitantly, looked at Mahinda, who in turned kept looking at her, and replied, ‘no your honour.’ That brought a laugh from Mahinda.
Rising up, Mahinda said, “Your honour. The complainant did not identify the accused. Identification is very important. Therefore, it is a very wrong complaint. This shows the police had fabricated this charge. There is no point in hearing this case any further, your honour. I request you to acquit the accused.”
Suhada was perplexed. But, he knew that something was wrong somewhere. When the judge brought up Mahinda’s request, Suhada said, ‘Your honour. This is puzzling. Please give me a few days to look into this.”
Mahinda objected in a high voice, “There nothing here to give any more time, your honour. The accused is not guilty. Acquit him today.” But, at Suhada’s request and it being a rape case, the judge put off the hearing for a few days.
It is impossible that the woman, who explained in detail how she was raped, could not identify the perpetrator. Suhada went to his room and started thinking. The court registrar came to see him and he told him about the case. ‘Oh, isn’t it our Mr. Mahinda’s case? I will get someone to inquire.”
A few days later, the registrar met Suhada and told him, “Sir, I got a man of mine to find out the truth. These women are chena cultivators. They visit Mr. Mahinda’s Medamulana Walawwa frequently. They are given rice, coconut and some money. Some days ago, Mr. Mahinda sent for this woman, gave her more rice, coconuts, spices and Rs. 500 and told her, ‘The man in this case was not the one who did it to you. It was Ukkuwa. Understand? Ukkuwa is a thug. You know that. He does things like that. This man is innocent. He should not be sent to prison needlessly. Therefore, tell the court that you don’t know him. Don’t show that you know him.’ That is what has happened here.”
At the next hearing, Suhada cross-examined the woman and asked her, “When did you last go to lawyer Mahinda Rajapaksa’s home?” The women kept silent. Mahinda disrupted the proceedings, rose up and said in a high voice, “That is irrelevant, your honour.’
The judge asked the woman, and she admitted with a nod of the head that she had been to Mahinda’s home. Putting off the case, the judge summoned both lawyers to his chamber. He asked both if the story was true.
Mahinda remained silent, but Suhada said it was 100 per cent correct and related the entire story to him. The judge questioned Mahinda, but he only managed to stammer out a few words.
After the judge sent both out, Mahinda told Suhada, “Don’t do dirty work, Yakko. Do you do things like this to a friend? I planned a game to win the case. But, you prevented that.”
When the case was taken up again, the woman gave evidence. However, lawyer for the accused Mahinda Rajapaksa did not make an appearance again.
That is just one instance of how Mahinda tried to manipulate the law to his advantage. Later, he became the president and gave presidential pardon to many killers and rapists. Suhada too, became a darling of his regime, and as the justice ministry secretary, did the dirty work for Mahinda and Gotabhaya.
Present justice minister Wijedasa Rajapakshe tried his best to get Suhada appointed as the attorney general. But, that did not work. However, Suhada is a friendly man as his name denotes. What went wrong for him is that he tried to help everyone in a friendly manner.