Ilankai Tamil Sangam

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TCHR: Maheswaran Assassination

Those who raise their voice against state terrorism, to protect human rights, are assassinated either by the Sri Lankan military intelligence or by the paramilitary forces which work closely with them.

Tamil Centre for Human Rights

Ref : BD012/PR/2008                                                9 January 2008


Paramilitary groups are given licence

by President Rajapaksa to kill anyone who opposes them

Mr. Thiyagarajah Maheswaran, who escaped an assassination attempt on the final day of the election campaign in March 2004, was shot dead on New Year’s day, 1st January 2008. Maheswaran was killed by so called unknown gunmen when he went to pray in the morning with his family at Ponnambala Vaneasvarar temple, near St. Anthony’s church at Kochchikkadai in Colombo.

Mr. Thiyagarajah Maheswaran was a Colombo district parliamentarian of the opposition United National Party (UNP) and former Hindu Affairs Minister.

Maheswaran’s assassination took place a few hours after he had told media in Colombo that he would reveal details in Parliament of how the Sri Lankan government carries out abductions and killings in Jaffna through the EPDP paramilitary. Days before his assassination the government of Sri Lanka had reduced Maheswaran’s security, provided to him as parliamentarian, from eighteen personnel to only two.

“Meanwhile, President's Counsel, M. L. N. Ameen looking after the interests of the Maheswaran family at the magisterial inquiry had submitted to court that investigations should also include the information emerging from the final interviews given by the slain MP, particularly to the Minnal programme on Shakti TV and an interview with Lanka-e-News where he had been severely critical of the EPDP and vowed to divulge vital information on January 8 when parliament meets, of those responsible for the spate of abductions and killings in the northern peninsula”. (excerpt from ‘The Sunday Leader’ of 6 January 2008)

TCHR strongly condemns the killing of Mr Maheswaran and requests civil society to work hard to pressurise Mahinda Rajapaksa’s government to bring the culprits to justice.

In Sri Lanka death threats and killings of Human rights defenders is nothing new.

Those who raise their voice against state terrorism, to protect human rights, are assassinated either by the Sri Lankan military intelligence or by the paramilitary forces which work closely with them.

Mr Mano Ganeshan, leader of Western People’s Front – WPF, and a member of Parliament for Colombo district, speaks openly against the atrocities of the security forces and the paramilitary groups and has faced death threats. He has temporarily left the country for his safety to India on 30th of last month. Mr Mano Ganeshan is the president of the Democratic Worker’s Congress and Convener of the Civil Monitoring Committee. Last December, he was awarded the "Freedom Defender's Award" by the U.S. Government.

On 10 November 2006, lawyer, Jaffna district parliamentarian and a member of the Civil Monitoring Committee, Mr. Nadarajah Raviraj was assassinated by so called unknown gunmen in the capital Colombo.

Raviraj had spoken openly and strongly against the atrocities committed by the Sri Lankan security forces. He never hesitated to speak out against the paramilitaries as well.

A week before his assassination, during the parliament session, Raviraj also had criticised Devananda Douglas, leader of a paramilitary group known as the EPDP. Douglas is a Minister in the present cabinet of President Mahinda Rajapaksa. Many in the Parliament, including the speaker, witnessed the heated argument and within a few days Raviraj was assassinated by so called unknown gunmen.

During the last Presidential election in Sri Lanka, in 2005, an English newspaper, the ‘Daily Mirror’ in Colombo, contacted veteran human rights defender and parliamentarian the late Joseph Pararajasingham, for his comments on Rajapaksa's move against the Tamils during the presidential election. Being the leader of the parliamentary group of the Tamil National Alliance (TNA), Pararajasingham said, ‘’……we can say the Prime Minister is beating war drums by agreeing with the JVP……’’

As soon as Joseph Pararajasingham’s comment was published in the Daily Mirror, then Prime Minister Rajapaksa (present President) telephoned Pararajasingham’s home in Colombo and argued with him, demanding that he withdraw the published statement. As a man of principle, Pararajasingham refused Rajapaksa's demand and the disappointed Rajapaksa concluded his phone call saying that, ‘’……once the presidential election is over, you will see my true colours’’.

On 19 November 2005, Mahinda Rajapaksa became the President of Sri Lanka. On 24 December 2005, Mr  Pararajasingham was assassinated inside St Mary’s Cathedral by so called unknown gunman while he and his wife were participating in the midnight Christmas Eve mass in their home town of Batticaloa. Even though there were hundreds of eye witnesses to this assassination and the killers names were personally given by TNA parliamentarians to President Rajapaksa, until today nothing has happened to bring the culprits to justice!

A Criminal Lawyer and the President of the All Ceylon Tamil Congress who participated in the sessions of the Geneva based UN Commission on Human Rights, Mr. Kumar Ponnambalam, was assassinated on 5th January 2000 in Colombo at Wellawatta by so called unknown gunman. Mr Ponnambalam defended thousands of Tamils and Sinhalese youths, over many years, who suffered gross and systematic violations of their human rights at the hands of the Sri Lankan government security forces. Mr Ponnambalam defended several cases charged under the Prevention of Terrorism Act – (PTA).

Mr. Kumar Ponnambalam exposed the fallacies in Sri Lankan President Chandrika's interview to the South African Television in 1998. In this TV interview, President Chandrika Kumaratunga had said : "They are wanting a separate state - the minority Tamils who are not the original habitants of the country".                                                                                         

A few days before his assassination, Kumar Ponnambalam, wrote an open letter to President Chandrika Kumaratunga. He wrote “......They (Tamils) have, for far too long, looked to peace packages, negotiating tables and anything offered or dished out by the Sinhalese. This beggarly attitude must go. The sooner it goes, the better it is for the Tamils”. (excerpt from the open letter written by Kumar Ponnambalam on 23 December 1999)

Eight years have passed since the assassination of Kumar Ponnambalam but until today no progress has been made in the investigations, despite many clues about the culprits of this cold blooded murder. Although there have been many statements by the Police investigators that the killers have been identified, these statements are considered to be routine “Eye wash”, given to the outside world by the investigators and the government.

On 19th October 2000, Mylvaganam Nirmalarajan, well-known BBC journalist and the secretary of the Northern Journalists’ Association was assassinated by EPDP cadres for bravely reporting to the media about the vote rigging, intimidation and violence carried out by the EPDP in Jaffna during the elections in 2000.

Days before his killing, Nirmalarajan had confided with colleagues that he had received death-threats from the paramilitary group EPDP, which had contested parliamentary elections, and assists the Sri Lankan government’s security forces in the peninsula.

There is strong evidence to prove that EPDP cadres carried out the assassination of Mr Nirmalarajan. His suspected assassin is known as Napoleon. He has fled the country with the help of the Sri Lankan government and is leading a peaceful life in the United Kingdom. Napoleon who worked closely with the Sri Lanka Navy in Jaffna, is believed to have escaped from Sri Lanka using a Sri Lankan diplomatic passport!

Many international organisations such as Reporters Without Borders have raised the matter of Napoleon with the President, Prime Minister, Defence Secretary and many others in Sri Lanka, but their words have fallen on deaf ears.

Until today none of the many killings have been properly investigated nor have the culprits been brought to justice. The killing of Human rights defenders continues with impunity in Sri Lanka.

It is the pattern in Sri Lanka, when either the members of the Sri Lankan security forces or the paramilitary forces are involved in a killing, no proper investigations are carried out and the culprit of that killing enjoys impunity and is allowed to carry out further killings.

This is the law and order and the judicial system that one finds in Sri Lankan democracy. Those who talk about democracy in Sri Lanka should be outraged by and ashamed of these killings.

Further to what is happening in Sri Lanka itself, the Sri Lanka intelligence service, the National Intelligence Bureau (NIB), the members of the Paramilitary and the members of the JVP have intensified their activities on the Tamil diaspora and others who are active on the human rights and humanitarian situation in Sri Lanka. The Sri Lankan embassies, with the help of paramilitary members in foreign counties, (Australia, Canada, France, Germany, Switzerland, United Kingdom, USA and Nordic countries) have special personnel monitoring individuals and their activities. In the recent past many intelligence officials have even attended sessions of the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva. For example the last session in September was attended by Nimal Kulatunga, CID Director of the Sri Lankan Police.

All this, raises doubts about the intentions of the Sri Lankan intelligence service in foreign countries.

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Contact person : S. V. Kirubaharan – General Secretary
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