News

The dark shadows behind the sunshine

  • The family of notorious underworld figure ‘Sunshine Sudda’ claim he was the target of corrupt cops, contract killers, and media misbranding

By Dinitha Rathnayake 

Amila Prasanna, alias “Sunshine Sudda”, was alleged to be a notorious underworld gangster and drug trafficker. On 3 September 2021, while travelling by car in Kotawila, Matara, he was gunned down by an unidentified suspect near a school in Warakapitiya of the Kotawila police area. 

The owner of the van that was used to kill Sunshine Sudda was arrested, and upon interrogation by the Police, it was discovered that he had sold the van to an accomplice of the gangster known as “Harak Kata”.

The cash transaction was found to have taken place in Kelaniya, although the accomplice that had purchased the vehicle had fled the area. The Police then began investigations to track him down. 

According to reports, he was connected to several major drug rackets operating within the Southern Province, while there were pending cases against him in a court in Dubai, as well as at the Matara Court. 

“Sunshine Sudda” earlier came under the spotlight last year, when he was injured in a shooting incident at the Mirissa Harbour Road on 30 May 2020. He was also said to be a close associate of drug kingpin Madush Lakshitha, also known as “Makandura Madush”. 

The Morning’s Investigation team decided to delve into some unanswered questions in this issue, meeting Sunshine Sudda’s family members, who agreed to speak to the media for the first time. 

Excerpts from the discussion are reproduced below: 

Tell us about “Sunshine Sudda”. What was his past like?

Prasanna’s mother: My son’s full name is Amila Prasanna Hettihewa, born in 1992 in Matara. He is the third member of our family. He has a sister, one elder and one younger brother. He did no wrong to anyone. He loved to go to school and started his nursery education from the age of three. He attended Mirissa Central College. He completed his O/L exams. His father was into fishing, but never wanted to involve the children in the same business. 

Sudda got married when he was 18, and spent five years with us. Then he wanted to join his father’s fishing business and worked as a keeper on the boat. He was earning a lot of money. They were very happily married as well. Then his father bought a whale-watching boat. To drive this boat there was a need for a licence, and Sudda was the youngest to get that licence. 

Then he was offered properties by his wife’s party, where he was able to run a restaurant named Sunshine. Sudda has one son. He also bought a vehicle on lease. I can only say that he was not an underworld gang member, and it is only a show by the media. 

Prasanna’s sister: When he was very small, he was such a beautiful baby, and I did a lot to raise him. We called him “Sudda” when he was young, because he was beautiful. He was very caring, and he was the one who strengthened our home economy. We went to school by school van, and we had a very good family background. 

He was very enthusiastic about almsgiving, and even recently he gave a lot of money towards a temple donation. He asked Saman Aiyya, who taught us in Sunday school and handled the donations, whether more money was needed. Even recently, he wanted to host a Vesak dansal, since my father was also organising one in Mirissa. 

Sudda was very playful. He was more comfortable associating with females rather than males. He didn’t want to go out with his brothers, instead he was more comfortable going with us. 

I did not think something like this would happen. Through all the problems that I faced, he was there, financially and otherwise. We did not ever think that something like this would happen. Even though society has spoiled his name, he is not like that. Mirissa is our village, from both our mom’s and dad’s sides. 

How did Prasanna get the nickname “Sunshine Sudda”? Was he affiliated to any gang activity? 

Prasanna’s sister: After he joined the Sunshine Hotel for work, the “Sudda” nickname became “Sunshine Sudda”. He received many death threats, and although he could have even killed people, he didn’t do that, not ever. He was always confident in Buddhism and karma, and that he would never be killed. But we cannot change karma. 

All of these problems started after he went to the Sunshine Hotel. He went in 2013, when he was 23 or 24 years old. His wife’s name is Lasika Tharangi. She was 17 when she got married and they were in the same class in school together. Sunshine Hotel had many other hotels as well. There are some very old ones. It’s on Mirissa Beach, and you can surf and swim there. They only maintained the rooms there. There was a small restaurant to give breakfast, which was added to the room charges before.

Once the hotel was divided among family members, they split it according to what service they wanted to offer for the clients. However, Sudda was offered the restaurant area, and he had a big idea on how to develop that small restaurant. Every day he developed the business. Lasika didn’t know anything about these things, but she helped as the cashier. Initially, it was only my brother’s friends who worked there. The neighbouring businesses were threatened by him. If he had been an outsider, they would have assaulted him; but since my brother was from the village, he had strength. 

He had very good business, and at midnight, it was crowded. Every day, he would put together about 100 tables. Normally, a foreigner’s bill is more than Rs. 5,000. So why would he need another income? Why would he need to sell drugs? He did it for seven years. 

However there are tourists who use cocaine and magic mushrooms. We really don’t know how they get them. There are staff members who use drug tablets as well. There are certain parties who provide these drugs, and they offer them to the tourists whenever there is a party. These incidents take place in the Hikkaduwa and Unawatuna areas as well. 

Now there are undercover officers from the Narcotics Bureau to arrest such individuals. In Mirissa, there are hotels stretching for over 1km on that beach. In that case, everybody has to have that background. But Sudda was never involved in these types of things. 

It is reported that Prasanna was linked to the underworld figure Madush Lakshitha, also known as “Makandure Madush”. How did the two of them come in contact? 

Prasanna’s elder brother: It’s a long story. Many media reports assume that Sudda was involved in the drug mafia. They think that Sudda was part of the Southern mafia. But he was just a person that Madush liked. He wasn’t involved in the underworld. 

It was only due to the Dubai party that he was tagged as an underworld member. We have to say that because of the media, Sudda was branded as an underworld member. He was linked with Madush only because he saved his life. 

The issue began at the Sunshine Hotel. Sudda doesn’t have a lot of wealth. The hotel was his wife’s dowry. The next-door hotel was also given at a cheap price by his wife’s siblings. The house was also given cheap by his wife’s aunt. They also have land that the wife’s family gave, and another land that my father gave. 

Prasanna’s sister: Some of Sudda’s relatives on his wife’s side were angry that he had been given so much property. Another distant relative, Jagath*, wanted to own everything. He had given a contract to one of Madush’s contacts to kill Sudda, because he was angry. This was in mid-2016. 

Sudesh was also in jail once for possession of a T56. He doesn’t know Makandura Madush, but he knows someone called “Tinkerin Lasantha” in Matara, and gave him a contract to kill Sudda. One of the prison officers heard of this deal and let Sudda know about it. 

One of my brother’s friends, “Kalu”, who was a friend of Madush’s, found this out and  worked to withdraw the contract after contacting Makandura Madush. The contract was for Rs. 3.5 million. Tinkerin Lasantha was angry with Sudda since he was able to withdraw the contract. 

Sudda used cannabis and Kalu sold it. Kalu is very close to Madush; apparently, he handled money for Madush, but we don’t know for sure. Sudda loved Kalu as they benefited from each other. Kalu has a brother named Amila, who called him and asked how he heard the rumour. He said “Don’t walk around anywhere, and be careful”. 

In two days, this person came to our house and to the hotel to shoot Sudda. Madush and Amila are friends, and Amila had called Madush, who had said that Sudda is one of his brothers and to not do it. So Madush had called Lasantha and understood that it was a Rs. 3.5 million contract. Madush then called Sudda through Lasantha, who had said he would be able to stop the contract if Sudda paid Rs. 3.5 million. 

Sudda had promised he wouldn’t kill Jagath, who had issued this contract, as his kids play in Sudda’s own backyard. Sudda just asked Madush to save his life. Afterwards, Amila had said that Sudda would not have to worry anymore, and that problem disappeared. 

So Lasantha was supposed to get Rs. 3.5 million, and since Madush solved that issue, Lasantha had a bit of an issue with Sudda. When Lasantha took the contract, the spying was done by someone called Dananja*. After Sudda returned from Dubai, the Police placed drug charges against him and sent him to jail. 

When he went to jail, there were several other known parties inside, including Amila and Kalu. Tinkerin Lasantha also met him there, and had told him that he hadn’t known he was friends with Madush, and then told him about the information given by Dananja about the best time to shoot Sudda. Then Sudda knew who had given the information, but Sudda did not want to hurt him in the slightest. 

Even when they met, Sudda would wave at him. He doesn’t like to kill people or get violent. We did not let Dananja know that we knew, but Sudda started business again, while slowly stopping friendships with all of them, including Kalu. 

On 5 February 2019, Prasanna was among the several people, including known criminal figures like “Keselwatte Dinuka” and “Kanjipani Imran” as well as famous entertainers Amal and Nadeemal Perera and Ryan Van Rooyen, who were arrested for attending a party hosted by Makandure Madush at the Al Marina Resort and Spa in Dubai. How was Prasanna involved in this incident?

Prasanna’s sister: In 2019, Sudda went to Dubai, but said that he was going to France as well. He went with Amal Perera, who was the one who took Sudda in his vehicle. Only on that day we knew that Sudda went to Dubai, and that Madush had invited them. Madush Lakshitha, better known as “Makandure Madush” was arrested with several others in Abu Dhabi during the birthday celebration of his second wife’s child. 

On 2 February 2019, when Sudda went to Dubai, he had no allegations against him until then – only that he was caught with 5g of cannabis once. I did not know about that actually; we had only heard about Madush. 

We were completely shocked. We went to a temple, we did poojas, we made promises to Gods. When we were coming back, Sudda called us. He told us that they were making him take a blood test for cocaine, and said he wouldn’t have a problem with that. We knew he smoked cannabis, but we have never seen him even smoke a cigarette; we knew he smoked, but he never did in front of us. 

Prasanna’s elder brother: Several friends of Amal Perera used to come for parties at the Sunshine restaurant. Sudda never charged him for his bills, not even for a Rs. 100,000 bill. He would even give his own sunglasses to Sudda. That was how the friendship was built. Sudda had parties at Central Beach and brought in a crowd of about 2,000 or 3,000 foreigners. On those days, they would sell beer, cocktails, soft drinks, and bring in a lot of income. 

One day, there was a hotel next door, where the owner was friends with someone from the Weligama Urban Council. With that friendship, it became difficult for Sudda to host the parties. You can’t have two parties at the same time next door to each other on the beach. 

One night, Sudda was also preparing a party and his famous friends came that night. But some people did not allow Sudda to carry on with the party. Then someone had called Madush and told him that some people were not letting Sudda have his party. And that hotel owner had gotten a call from Madush, but hadn’t known who it was, and had scolded Madush, saying: “How can you stop my party?” 

This was on New Year’s Eve. Then one of Madush’s people had come to meet that hotel owner, who had told him it was Madush that had called him. It was there that the Police got to know that Sudda and Madush knew each other, and the Police investigated him. Sudda didn’t have any deals with Madush, but they were friends. 

Even though we don’t realise it, it is a big deal for a visitor when they are not charged for food or drinks at the beach. When you refuse to accept money for a Rs. 20,000 bill, it is a big deal, even for a lawyer involved in cases. Sudda was very satisfied, and with that New Year’s Eve party, he would earn about Rs. 1-1.2 million. Having a neighbouring party would ruin his business and split his customers. 

The other hotel owner had complained to the Police related to Madush’s phone call; however when the Police checked, there was no criminal record against Sudda. But the Weligama, Kotawila, and Matara Police searched for information about him. 

After he came back from Dubai, many of them were arrested. As soon as they came down, Nadeemal, Amal, and Sudda were released. Sudda didn’t have any charges against him either. 

Sudda had a passport because foreigners liked Sudda, and he had many offers to go abroad. That is why he had a passport. But for the Dubai party, the visa and tickets were provided by Madush. I knew he wasn’t going to France. He told me that he was going for some shows with Madush. 

He was deported from Dubai, but he has no cases against him. The two boats were taken on lease. There is no wealth that we can show that Sudda got from drug dealing. 

Prasanna had previously survived a shooting attempt that was reportedly carried out by an associate of Maddumage Lasantha Chandana Perera, also known as “Angoda Lokka” in May 2020. If he was only a friend of Makandure Madush, and not involved in criminal activity, how did this come about?

Prasanna’s elder brother: One day, the Criminal Investigation Department (CID) officers came to meet Sudda to ask if he knew any information about a particular boat, since they had received information that this boat was involved in a drug business. The officers asked if Sudda was involved in this business, but the only charge Sudda had against him was for possession of 5g of cannabis. 

The CID came and questioned him, and asked him whether he was connected to the rumours involving Madush. Sudda had told them; “Sir, I don’t sell drugs, but everyone knows I am friends with Madush. I treat him well, and I love him, because he saved my life.” 

However, the Police came and arrested Sudda for storing drugs in his hotel, which he didn’t. We have CCTV footage to prove he is innocent. It was about five or six days after Sudda came to Sri Lanka from Dubai. 

The Police usually came to charge us for selling arrack, as they were angry with Sudda for his incident in Dubai. I didn’t allow people to sell arrack while Sudda was abroad. The day Sudda got caught, he came downstairs with a Police officer to show the bar. The other two working boys were in the room with another officer. 

After about 20 minutes, they said they found drugs in a flower pot, and handcuffed the two boys. They took Sudda also, but not handcuffed, just talking to the officers. The Police said it was only to make a statement. They took a case of arrack with them also. That is the Government’s fault. As the Government refuses to issue even a temporary license for bars on the beach. That is the culture, and Narcotics usually fines us for that. 

We can’t say the Police planted these drugs on that day, but the Police later said they took it from Sudda’s back pocket, instead of the flower pot. This was because they could not charge him for the Dubai incident. We don’t know whether the Police planted it there. There is no reason for drugs to be in the pots, because we clean rooms every day. If it was in Sudda’s pocket, then shouldn’t they have handcuffed Sudda on that day? 

They put him before the High Court, and after about seven months, the drug report arrived, and said that there were 0.729mg of drugs, even though it was mentioned  as 5mg. Then the Lower Court gave him bail. He came out on 26 December 2019, and then again on 30 December he had another party, and that was when he earned the most. There was no proper DJ at the party even. 

Afterwards, the case of the boat involved in drug dealing was again brought up. Sudda told them again that he doesn’t sell drugs, and that the boat belonged to one of his uncles. The uncle’s son writes the accounts, or is the bookkeeper, for Sudda’s boat too. He told the CID that he would let them know any information about this. But the people who were doing these deals informed Maddumage Lasantha Chandana Perera, alias “Angoda Lokka”, that Sudda was the one who spread all the information about this matter. 

But the rumours actually began because the boat’s skipper had put up money to buy his own boat, and the boatmen had also been spending a lot in the village. When they came back to land after going to sea, they did not bring fish either, even though it was during a good season. They had gone somewhere far away from the fish population too. That is why people were suspicious. But the owner did not know of this; only the skipper. 

So Sudda warned Lahiru, his uncle’s son, to place an entry with the Police if he wasn’t involved in it, so that he wouldn’t be held as a suspect too. However, the uncle talks too much, and had told them he wouldn’t let them go. So Angoda Lokka had been told that Sudda had leaked the news. 

Someone called Sarath had worked with Angoda Lokka, who had never gotten caught by the Police until then. He had told Angoda Lokka that as long as Sudda was alive, he would not be doing any other work for him. So that is how Sudda and Angoda Lokka grew angry with each other. Angoda Lokka was a connected person who had done a lot. Sudda was just someone who partied with Madush. Sudda didn’t think this would go so far. They lost a lot of work because of Sudda. 

That is why Sudda was shot earlier. 

There were also reports that Prasanna had been shot because he had been involved in an extramarital affair. How did these come about?

Prasanna’s elder brother: After Sudda escaped the attempt on his life in 2020, the Police told Sudda that Angoda Lokka was involved in it, and to be careful. That is why Sudda stayed at home a lot. Then after some time, he started going to the beach again. 

He fell in love with a girl called Peshala then. She had split up with her husband, and she called Sudda. They had an affair for about nine months. Sudda didn’t stay at home in the nights back then, because he was afraid. He became involved with Peshala after that; in the very recent past, around February 2021. He changed due to his rumoured affair, but we don’t know if she is involved in this murder. 

But after a number of attempts, finally Tinkerin Lasantha carried out the contract. Usually someone else does it for Lasantha, but this time, he had pulled the trigger himself, according to reports we heard. It probably would not have happened if Madush was still alive.