‘Special Commission to probe Athukorala’s death’

UPFA Presidential candidate’s election co-ordinator, Minister Mangala Samaraweera says that within a month of Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapakse’s victory in the November 17 polls, a special Presidential Commission would be appointed to probe the mysterious death of former UNP General Secretary Gamini Athukorala.

In a statement issued yesterday Minister Samaraweera said that a large number of UNP MPs had requested UPFA candidate Rajapakse to bring in a special commission to probe the mysterious death of the party’s General Secretary who had a dispute with the party’s leadership.

"Following the loss in general election 2000, a situation developed within the UNP to reject the incapable leadership of Wickremesinghe. A majority of UNP senior leaders rejected the leadership of Ranil Wickremesinghe and rallied behind deputy leader of the party Gamini Athukorala. Wickremesinghe had opposed this growing popularity of Athukorala but had to create a deputy leader post and appoint MP Karu Jayasuriya to the post," Samaraweera said in the statement.

Wickremesinghe, when appointing his Cabinet in 2000, entrusted Athukorala with the Ministry of Highways and Civil Aviation though he was shadow defence minister when the UNP was in opposition. "Athukorala was not allowed to appoint any officer to his ministry," the statement said.

Athukorala had attended a musical show organised by the Sirasa Television the night he died. At the musical show some UNP associates of Wickremesinghe had given several glasses of wine to Athukorala. On his way back home, Athukorala had complained of a burning sensation in his stomach. He died that night, the statement said.

It said that when Wickremesinghe came to know of the mysterious death of Athukorala, he had made arrangements to bring the body to Colombo. No post mortem was held either in Ratnapura or Colombo. Wickremesinghe who hurried to transport the body to Colombo did not attend the seventh day or three months alms giving ceremony of Athukorala, the statement said.

Several days after the mysterious death, there was a fire at Sirasa TV station. Following this fire, it was said that the video tapes of Athukorala’s last appearances were destroyed.

On these grounds, UNPers suspect foul play and demand a proper probe Athukorala’s death. UPFA candidate Prime Minister Rajapakse had assured them that within a month after his victory, he would appoint a special presidential commission to investigate the sudden death of Athukorala. "We have already made arrangements and allocated funds to the functioning of the commission," Samaraweera said.


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