Looking behind Raviraj assassination

* Both Pararajasingham and Raviraj were lawyer friends of President Rajapaksa and welcome guests at the Temple Trees

* One was gunned down one week after Rajapaksa’s election and the other was gunned down one week before the first anniversary of the presidency, so as to bring international condemnation.

*Raviraj participated in a protest rally in Puttlam against ethnic cleansing in Jaffna. Pararajasingham was discussing tsunami relief with Rajapaksa. Both were fully committed to democracy like Neelan Thiruchelvam and Laxman Kadirgamar.


by Lucien Rajakarunanayake (Courtesy Island)

There is much speculation today about the assassination of the TNA MP Mr. Nadaraja Raviraj, especially about the identity of the unknown assassins and the motive behind the killing.
Although such speculation in not unexpected, given the nature of the brutal act, one would expect senior members of parliament to give weigh the import of what they say in a situation such as this.

The assassination of Mr. Raviraj was no doubt a most shocking tragedy. It is part of the fast galloping proliferation of crime and violence we see today, which is wholly unacceptable in a civilized society. The demonstration at Town Hall on Monday where such violence was condemned, and an end to it demanded, was a welcome move in the context of a democratic society. However, it is regretted that some of the statements referring to this assassination, by those from whom one expects serious comment and observation, appear to be either knee-jerk reactions or politically coloured viewpoints, which have little bearing in the search for the truth.

Mr. R. Sampanthan, the leader of the TNA Parliamentary Group, stands out among these knee-jerk commentators. He is quoted in the media saying that "Mr. Raviraj’s assassination was connected to the previous day’s protest opposite the UN office in Colombo." "This is not the work of a madman" he says, forgetting that there could be method even in madness. What he seems to impute is that this has been a well-planned act of violence, which no doubt it appears to be

However, if it was directly connected to the protest demonstration of the previous day, in the sense that it was instant revenge for it, it could have been so a well-planned and executed. How could the pieces of the criminal puzzle be made to fit in, such as the arrival of the killers in a three-wheeler and their getaway on a waiting motorcycle? If it was an immediate consequence of the previous day’s protest, would the killers have known the movements of Mr. Raviraj so well, as to get him when and where they did? The events are more suited to a grisly act planned and hatched earlier, and carried out the morning after the protest near the UN office, which had its own advantages to the conspirators. The main advantage was the huge international publicity, coming on top of the death of civilians in the incident at Vakarai.

Mr. Sampanthan, and others too, have compared this assassination to that of Mr. Joseph Pararajasingham, in a church at Batticaloa, just before midnight of December 24 last year were he had gone for midnight Christmas service. No doubt there is a clear comparison between these two killings. The killing of Mr. Pararajasingham, too place barely a week after President Mahinda Rajapaksa took office as President of Sri Lanka, it was the first stain on the shine of the new presidency.

The killing of Mr. Raviraj took place just a week before the first anniversary of that swearing in. No doubt this could be a coincidence. However, there is another important comparison between these killings. Both of them, in them in their timing made sure that they would get the maximum international publicity. One capitalized on the Christmas mood, the other capitalized on the aftermath of Vakarai. Both these killings drew huge international publicity and condemnation, much more than the usual political killings carried out in Sri Lanka so frequently, by the forces of terror.
The friendly bonding

There is more another important aspect about these two killings that has so far not been mentioned, especially by those who tend to draw comparisons between them. Is there no significance in the fact that both Mr. Joseph Pararajasingham and Nr. Nadaraja Raviraj were Members of Parliament together with Mr. Mahinda Rajapaksa, the former MP for Beliatta from the Hambantota District? They too were lawyers. Both of them were very much interested in human rights. More significantly, both Mr. Pararajasingham and Mr. Raviraj were closely associated with President Rajapaksa, either in his capacity as Prime Minister or as President.

The late Mr. Pararajasingham had been in close contact with Prime Minister Rajapaksa especially from the time of the Tsunami in December 24, 2004. The day before his assassination on December 24, 2005 he had been discussing aspects of relief for Tsunami victims with the new President. He was a frequent and very welcome visitor at Temple Trees. Mr. Raviraj too had a similar relationship with Prime Minister and later President Rajapaksa.

The personal note that the President struck in his reaction to Mr. Raviraj’s killing, showed the bonding that existed between them. He was very appreciative of Mr. Raviraj’s outspoken nature and his fluency in Sinhala, and readiness to explain his political position in Sinhala. Mr. Raviraj too, was a very welcome visitor to Temple Trees.

With all these commonalities, would it be wrong to suppose that close relationship with President Rajapaksa too may have been a factor that weighed against these two TNA members, in the eyes of those who plotted their assassinations? I make no allegations.

These are only observations. Maybe, this could interest the investigators into the Raviraj killing, whether from the Sri Lankan CID or Scotland Yard.

Many who knew him, including Mr. Sampanthan, have referred to Mr. Raviraj’s commitment to democracy. He has been praised as one who never tolerated violence and injustice in any sector. He had looked at issues from a democratic perspective. All these are certainly very laudable qualities. But these are certainly not the most acceptable qualities in the quarters that eschew democracy, and are keener on terror than dissent and dialogue.

Who is it that Mr. Raviraj could have angered by participating in a protest rally in Puttalam against the forced removal – ethnic cleansing it is called – of Muslims from the Jaffna peninsula? These are good thoughts to chew on before one rushes in to make allegations about killers of Mr. Raviraj. It is also important to recall that the late Dr. Neelan Tiruchelvam and Foreign Minister Lakshman Kadirgamar were also persons with a full commitment to democracy, for which they were not liked by their killers.

Finger of suspicion
There are many who seek to point the finger of suspicion at the Government for the assassination of Mr. Raviraj. Not everyone is certain of the identities of the dark forces that carry out the abductions and killings today. Some of the suspicions stated may well turn out to be real. A government of a country is responsible for the maintenance of law and order. In that sense, it has to accept responsibility for the breakdown of law and order, too, and take adequate remedial; measures, the sooner the better.

However, is it possible to believe that the Government could be so distanced from reality as to have organized the killing of Mr. Raviraj, the day after the high-profile demonstration near the UN Office against the unfortunate incident at Vakarai; when it was already overwhelmed by the international criticism of the death of civilians that took place at Vakarai? It was an incident that prompted the President to express regrets on behalf of the Government, and also order compensation to the families of the victims. Allegations are always easy to make. But the worth of allegations depends both on the actualities behind them and the absence of petty advantage in making them.

Some, who have already come to their own conclusions about the killing of Mr. Raviraj, are critical of the decision to seek the assistance of Scotland Yard for the investigation into this killing. Surely, they must be aware that the record of the Sri Lankan Police in solving crime is most dismal. Over the past several years, this country has held what must be a world record for the number of unsolved serious crimes.

In such a situation, isn’t it better to have some investigators who have a known record of success in investigation and technique to help in bringing the killers of Mr. Raviraj to book? No doubt if they do come, they must be given a completely free hand to carry out the investigation and the full cooperation of our Police. If it helps to change this record of unsolved crimes, it would certainly do us good.



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