Features
Political killings: Some intriguing facts
Continued from Monday
By Shamindra Ferdinando

Those who accuse President Mahinda Rajapaksa’s government of complicity in Maheswaran’s killing should take a realistic view on political killings. During the UNP-LTTE honeymoon (May 1989 to June 1990) the LTTE operated freely. No one wanted to dispute Premadasa whose idiotic handling of the negotiations gave a free hand to the LTTE. In the Northern and Eastern Provinces, Premadasa ordered the army to vacate strategic camps including Point Pedro and Valvettiturai to appease the LTTE. He also released Manohari Daniels, an LTTE operative who was serving a long prison term for carrying out a car bomb attack at Maradana along with over a dozen LTTE cadres.

Tigers strike in Colomb

On May 7, 1990 the LTTE assassinated Batticaloa District EPRLF MP Sam Thambimuttu and his wife Kala in Colombo. The UNP did absolutely nothing as LTTE assassin struck at will. Still the peace caravan continued.

LTTE assassins took the lives of two more MPs V. Yogasangari and K. Kanagaratnam on June 10 and July 15, 1990 respectively.

They were followed by three high profile assassinations which brought the UNP down to its knees. State Minister for Defence Ranjan Wijeratne, and President Ranasinghe Premadasa died in separate attacks in Colombo.

Babu and Premadasa’s valet

Premadasa’s assassin identified as Babu had been a close associate of P.M. Mohideen, the slain leader’s valet. The assassin had been with Mohideen for over two years and had visited Moneragala, Kataragama, Kurunegala, Pelmadulla, Embilipitiya and Ambanpola. He had also been to Sucharitha. Although the suicide cadre who approached the President on a push cycle had been blocked by police commandos, Mohideen had signalled the assassin to come. The assassination of Premadasa guarded by several hundred personnel from the Presidential Security Division (PSD) and the Special Task Force (STF) highlighted the LTTE capability to change its tactics depending on the target. Two dozen persons died with Premadasa including his chief bodyguard ASP Sarath Mahinda and Chief Inspector Upali Silva.

Who killed Lalith?

Although the PA administration made a ridiculous attempt to link an influential section of the UNP with Athulathmudali’s assassination, police investigators had no doubt of the LTTE’s involvement. The then government went to the extent of ‘killing’ a front-page news item in the Daily News which revealed the LTTE hand in the former National Security Minister’s assassination.

But a section of the UNP, too, questioned the assassinations of Athulathmudali and Premadasa. A furious Dulanjali accused of the then government of cleaning the scene of the attack at Armour Street. In an interview with this writer, she severely criticised the government for failing to conduct a proper investigation. The recovery of a body of youth about 150 meters away from the political platform where a lone assassin shot Athulathmudali triggered speculation that the former National Security Minister was a victim of a UNP conspiracy. The recovery of a pistol and a National Identity Card which was subsequently identified as a fake prompted the DUNF to level a series of allegations against the UNP. It was alleged that the youth whose body was found had been held by Arambawalage Don Upali Ranjith alias Soththi Upali, a notorious hoodlum who was on the payroll of the UNP bigwigs at that time.

UNP, EPDP link

Rebel UNP MP Premachandra and some other spokesmen pointed the finger at the EPDP. The DUNF demanded the immediate removal of special facilities given to the EPDP which had declared its support for the UNP at the May 17 Provincial Council elections. The DUNF pushed the then Defence Secretary Gen. Cyril Ranatunga to disarm the EPDP and also withdraw special identity cards issued to cadres operating in the city and its suburbs.

Nimal survives suicide attack

Minister Nimal Siripala was one of the few politicians to survive a suicide attack. The minister visiting Jaffna in the aftermath of security forces bringing the entire peninsula under their control received injuries in the blast triggered by a woman suicide cadre who came on a push cycle. The July 96 blast killed senior police and army officials based in Jaffna.

Ministers indicted for Ellawela murder

The killing of Ratnapura District PA MP Nalanda Ellawella on February 11 1997 shocked the country. The PA accused the then UNP MPs and Mahinda Ratnatilleka of killing the young politician. Today, both of them are with the SLFP-led ruling coalition, having secured ministerial portfolios. The Attorney General on Thursday (January 10) served indictments on them and six others at the Ratnapura High Court as accused in the murder of former PA MP (Ellawela contested on the PA ticket) and police constable T.M. Jayasena in 1997.

In June 1988, the LTTE attacked PLOTE MP Vythilingam Balachandran’s residence situated at Anna Street, Pandarikulam. He escaped the attack.

Tigers assassinate Thangadurai

Trincomalee district MPs A. Thangadurai (July 5, 1997) and Mohammed Maharoof (July 20, 1997) and Saranabawan Shanmuganathan (July 15, 1998) who represented the Vanni District died in the hands of assassins. Although I couldn’t remember now, Thangadurai’s assassination fuelled speculation that a group opposed to the LTTE was involved. Unfortunately police never made a breakthrough.

TULF stalwart Thangadurai who publicly acknowledged the futility in pursuing four cardinal principles placed at Thimpu namely recognition of Tamils as a distinct national entity, an identified Tamil homeland whose integrity was guaranteed and their inalienable right to self determination, was targeted at a school function. The LTTE attack also claimed the lives of school Principal Rajeswari Thanabalasingham and several other civilians. The MP who had facilitated government assistance to the needy people of the East had earned the wrath of the LTTE. LTTE gunmen shot dead UNP MP Mohammed Ehuttar Hadjiar Maharoof, his six-year-old son and the principal of the Van Ella Muslim School in an ambush on the Trincomalee-Kuchchaveli road. The popular MP was on his way to Irrakandy when gunmen sprayed his vehicle with automatic fire as it passed Uppaveli.

Indian trained terrorist turned MP killed

The LTTE assassinated Vanni District PLOTE MP Shanmuganathan alias Wasanthan (36) by triggering a claymore mine blast at Rambaikulam, Vavuniya. His three-year-old son too died in the blast. Wasanthan wasn’t an ordinary MP. He had been among the first batches of Indian trained cadres who led attacks against Sri Lankan forces. The one-time PLOTE commander had been in IPKF custody for about a year.

The assassination of Dr. Neelan Tiruchelvam (National List MP) on July 29, 1999, Jaffna District MP A. Nadarajah on November 2, 1999, C. V. Gunaratne on June 8, 2000, Foreign Minister Lakshman Kadirgamar (National List MP) on August 12, 2005, Batticaloa District MP A. Chandraneru on May 9, 2005, Joseph Pararajasingham on December 25, 2005 and Nadarajah Raviraj on November 10, 2006 highlighted the growing danger parliamentarians faced.

Charismatic politician Tiruchelvam died near the Rosmead Place-Kynsey Road junction in a suicide attack carried out by a male LTTE cadre.

JVP kills UNP MP

The JVP didn’t specifically target politicians during its short-lived first April 1971 insurgency. But the second insurgency launched in the immediate aftermath of the signing of the Indo-Lanka accord on July 29 targeted politicians.

It was one of the most violent chapters of our bloody politics. The JVP killed Hambantota District MP Jinadasa Weerasinghe at Angunakolapalessa on August 1, 1987. The assassination was followed by an unprecedented hand grenade attack on the then President JR Jayewardene on August 18. It claimed the life of Matara District MP Keerhthi Abeywickrema. Had the attacker succeeded in directing the grenade attack as intended, it would have killed several UNP heavyweights including JRJ, Prime Minister Premadasa and Lalith Athulathmudali. That would have changed the direction of the country.

A gang of JVP men ambushed Weerasinghe’s vehicle as he was on his way home. The MP who got out of the vehicle was ordered to raise his hands before gunmen shot him.

Question mark over Jayatilleke’s assassination

But the assassinations of Minister Lionel Jayatilleke (late September 1988) and former Agalawatte MP Meril Kariyawasam (late September 89) fuelled speculation of a possible inside job. Although police blamed the JVP for both killings, some believed that they may have been assassinated by some other party. Jayatilleke had been on his way home from Nidangala Viharaya, Kuliyapitiya after participating in a pinnacle laying ceremony when gunmen attacked his car. Kariyawasam who had been a former Deputy Minister had been Chairman of the Rubber Research Board at the time of his assassination. Police also failed to make a breakthrough in the assassination of UNP MP Anura Daniel in 1989 in his Kandy office.

Yalegama gunned down

The assassination of former SLFP MP S.B. Yalegama on May 28, 88 at his Matale office situated close proximity to Matale police station too was credited to the JVP’s account. Yalegama who won general elections in 65 and 70 but lost P.B. Kaviratne of the UNP in 1977 had handed in over his nomination to contest the June 2, 1988 provincial council polls on the United Socialist Alliance ticket.

The hand grenade attack on a UNP rally organised by Tyronne Fernando in late November 1989 wounded about 50 persons including Gamini Lokuge, Tyronne Fernando and Nanda Mathew. The attack, the first major incident after the UNP executed JVP leader Rohana Wijeweera prompted at least a section of the UNP to believe that some other interested party would have carried out the attack.

‘Tragic but inevitable’

The JVP could at least shed light on mysterious killings by acknowledging the political assassinations ordered by the party. It would be in the best interests of the country as some faceless killers or at least their mentors could be identified.

The National Peace Council called Kadirgamar’s assassination tragic but inevitable. Would it express a similar sentiment on the assassination of Maheswaran or any other politician allegedly killed by the government or any party linked to the government security forces. The likes of National Peace Council wouldn’t do that.

The recent National Peace Council statement on the assassination of Dasanayake was evidence of its ridiculous thinking that the government decision to quit the Oslo-arranged CFA would trigger more violence. Had anyone bothered to analyse the LTTE strategy it would be clear that it would have continued its campaign of death and destruction regardless of the CFA.

Tigers zero in on Ratwatte

The recent revelation that former SLFP heavyweight Anuruddha Ratwatte was under LTTE surveillance highlighted the enemy’s mentality.

The LTTE is believed to be targeting former Deputy Minister of Defence Anuruddha Ratwatte who led the Riviresa campaign which brought the Jaffna peninsula under government control in late 1995-early ’96.

Naval troops, deployed at Ussimukkanthural in Mannar on Wednesday have recovered what a military official identified as a satellite image of Ratwatte’s residence at Aniwatte in Kandy.

The recovery of the map has alerted the government to a possible threat on the former minister.

Call to probe Ashraff’s death

The recent call by Nazeer Ahamed, Adviser to President Mahinda Rajapakse for an inquiry into the death of SLMC founder leader M.H.M. Ashraff in September 2000 shouldn’t be ignored. The SLMC leader and another PA candidate contesting the Digamadulla electorate died when the SLAF Mi 17 carrying a group of civilians crashed onto a hilltop in Kegalle district. They were to contest the October 10, 2000 general elections.

As highlighted repeatedly we have a short memory. Hardly anyone would have remembered the LTTE attempt to ambush a minister or a group of ministers leaving Parliament in March, 2000. Had the killer squad which took up position near the Cotta Road-Castle Street roundabout escaped detection, it would have pounced on a convoy leaving Parliament.

Thinamirasu editor killed

The assassination of EPDP MP Arjunarajah Nadarajah who edited the widely read Thinamurasu on November 2, 1999 near Wellawatte Railway Station highlighted the complexity of the situation. Despite the paper being funded by the EPDP, Nadarajah took an overtly pro-LTTE stance on critical issues and this may have led to friction

The December 1999 attempt on President Chandrika Kumaratunga caused injuries to several politicians. Ministers G.L. Peiris and Alavi Moulana were among the parliamentarians who received injuries.

Moulana’s crime

Had UNP National List MP Ali Zahir Moulana remained in the country after his role in helping Karuna to reach Colombo after losing the Good Friday battle (April 2004) he would have been killed. Moulana fled after resigning his seat on the party’s request. Strangely he was the only MP punished by any political party whereas many MPs accused of underworld dealings, waste, corruption and criminal negligence continued to hold office.

(Concluded)

 

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