Politics & Current Affairs

Sri Lanka delivers shocking verdict on assassination of Tamil MP

A top court in Sri Lanka acquitted and released all accused in the killing of a Tamil lawmaker ten years ago.

The release of three navy intelligence officials and two state paramilitary members came as a shock to many who had a long wait for justice for the assassination of outspoken Tamil National Alliance (TNA) parliamentarian Nadarajah Raviraj in the country's capital.

TNA parliamentarians and at least one government minister have criticised the verdict.

'Frustrating'

Highly displeased with the acquittal delivered by an all-Sinhala jury, leading TNA parliamentarian and attorney at law MA Sumanthiran has announced that he will appeal the verdict.

The MP said the verdict confirms that the country's judiciary is not trustworthy and that it strengthens the call for an international justice mechanism to probe war crimes committed in the final stages of the civil war.

"It is frustrating as if Raviraj shot himself and his security," Minister of National Co-existence Dialogue and Official Languages, a Tamil himself has tweeted.

Nadarajah Raviraj and his driver Lakshman Lokuwella was killed by gunmen in heavily guarded Colombo on November 10, 2006.

The jury delivered its verdict past midnight in a highly unusual move after arriving at a unanimous decision in a month-long trial.

No civilians were suspected for the murder.

Identification

High Court Judge Manilal Waidyatilleke delivered the verdict on Saturday where the jury has decided that the accused “cannot be convicted based solely on the fact that they were identified by several witnesses in the case”.

The killing of the MP during the Mahinda Rajapaksa regime caused international outrage and  condemned  the government for dragging its feet on the case.

Following the regime change in January 2016 international bodies including the UN were highly optimistic of achieving justice when the present government reopened several unresolved high-profile murder cases including the killing of Nadaraja Raviraj.

Police Constable Sampath Preethi Viraj, a suspect who turned State witness had earlier detailed to  court of the murder plot and those allegedly involved in the shooting.

Pradeep Chaminda alias Vajira, Prasad Chandana Kumara alias Sampath, Gamini Seneviratne, Palana Sami Suresh alias Sami, Sivakanthan Vivekanandan alias Charan and Police Officer Fabian Royston Toussaint were the accused released by the Colombo high court.

Colombo based media quoting Criminal Investigation Department (CID) sources had reported in 2015 that Lieutenant Colonel Shammi Kumararatne, a suspect in the disappearance of journalist Prageeth Eknaligoda had handed over the murder weapon to a paramilitary leader who in turn gave it to Sivakanthan Vivekanandan.

Lieutenant Colonel Kumararatne has been reinstated in military intelligence since December 23 after he had been released on bail, while still a suspect.

© JDS