29 September, 2021

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The Athulathmudali Assassination

By Rajan Hoole –

Rajan Hoole

Rajan Hoole

Political Murders, the Commissions and the Unfinished Task – 6

The claims made by the Government and the Police in the weeks following the assassination on 23rd April 1993, as we had averred before, aroused public incredulity and indignation. Amarasena Rajapakse, DIG, CID, is said to have been at a dinner party that evening and was reportedly informed of the shooting 15 minutes later at 9.00 PM. For a man who, acting on a rumour, went to Premadasa’s home and addressed the kitchen staff at mid- night about guarding against the President being poisoned, was accused in the Press of not going to the scene of Athulathmudali’s shooting until after midnight. IP Ranagala who had reportedly said that he was ordered by superior officers not to provide Police security for the meeting was said to be in hiding by the Press.

The body of a dead youth with an identity card having the name Appiah Balakrishnan was found in front of a co-op building on Mugalan Road about 200 yards from the scene of shooting about 11.00 AM the following day (24th). It was then broadcast in the evening news bulletin of the state media the next day (25th) that Athulathmudali’s killer was Appiah Balakrishnan, who was believed to be a member of the LTTE. IG Police, Ernest Perera, later told the Press (Sunday Times 2 May ’93) that the identity card was a fake and that the Police had not given such information to the state media. He did not know how the state media got that information. In effect, a Tamil name had been touted out as that of the killer with no sound evidence.

lalithSuspicion was also created by A.S. Seneviratne, DIG Metropolitan, being placed in charge of the investigation. There had been several attempts on Athulathmudali’s life and he, Athulathmudali, had complained in writing to the IGP and Defence Secretary, General Ranatunge, that he felt a threat to his life from A.S. Seneviratne. There had been several reports of Seneviratne’s complicity in government thuggery – such as the attack on journalists on 10th December 1992 which Seneviratne denied had taken place. A journalist saw a policeman removing an identity card from the Mugalan Road corpse and handing it to A.S. Seneviratne, who put it into his shirt pocket. It was later claimed that the identity card had no fingerprints. It was wiped clean!

The Government seemed eager to wrap up the inquiry. Three witnesses produced at the inquest who identified the dead youth as the assassin were found to be closely associating with SSP Ronnie Gunasinghe. The Counterpoint of May/June 1993 reported that they were all brought and produced by Ronnie Gunasinghe.

Even on 9th May, the Press did not know the identity of the Mugalan Road corpse. The Sunday Times Political Correspondent reported that the Police had swooped on an apartment in Gunananda Road, Kotahena. The report said that an Athula who had rented out part of the apartment to Appiah Balakrishnan and a couple, was a strong supporter of a UNP provincial council candidate, who featured in an attack on Athulathmudali at the Fort Railway Station. Nothing more was made of this significant point, which should have opened up some lines of investigation. The report said that the couple staying there had decamped.

Subsequently, Senior State Counsel Mohan Peiris announced at the Magistrate’s inquest that the dead youth had been identified as Ragunathan by six witnesses, but thought it unnecessary to file their testimonies. On 13th May, Daya Perera, the counsel for Athulathmudali’s family, stated at the inquest that he had information to the effect that Ragunathan had been held at Kirullapone Police Station and had been visited by a member of his family. This was then denied before the Magistrate M.A. Silva by Mohan Peiris. ASP Lugoda of the CDB said that no such person had been picked up by the Kirullapone Police.

We will not go into technical matters about whether Ragunathan died of cyanide poisoning, and whether if he were the assassin, he could have run 150-200 yards with a bullet supposedly fired by a security guard embedded in his back. A more immediate question troubling the public was, how search parties who combed the area in the night missed the body and why it was found as late as 11.00 AM the next day on a public road. Rajapakse (CDN 18.6.93) could only put it down to ‘human error’. He added, “the evidence we have does not suggest that the body was brought later”.

A Scotland Yard team had been invited by Premadasa to assist the Police. Its Review written by Detective Superintendent Alec Edwards which received press publicity in mid- July gave rise to further incredulity. It said that Ragunathan was the killer. But its arguments left something to be desired. As though to exonerate the Police for not providing security for the meeting, it said, “the crime was as audacious as it was innate and no matter how closely policed the rally may have been, the outcome was likely to be the same.”

Tassie Seneviratne says the following regarding the Scotland Yard Review (‘Police Problems’, Sunday Times 30.1.00):

“The Scotland Yard report clearly speaks of a backlash on the government and the police alike. There can be no ‘backlash’unless they were in fact involved!

“Also strangely, Scotland Yard officers took briefings from the very officers accused of the cover up. The head of the NIB, Mr. Z. Wijesuriya, had by this time cultivated a close rapport with an MI 5 officer, Brian Watters, who was attached to the UK High Commission in Colombo in the capacity of a secretary, when the government was faced with the ‘ensuing problem’. The ‘decisive act’ to get down the Scotland Yard officers was suggested to President Premadasa by Z. Wijesuriya and through Brian Watters’ intervention the Scotland Yard team was got down ‘quickly’ and tasked with clearing the government and the police of the blame. When the Scotland Yard officers arrived here, they were housed in Hotel Ramada, which was in fact Brian Watters’ rendezvous. In the evenings Scotland Yard officers, Brian Watters and DIG/CID M.D.A. Rajapakse who was long retired from the police but serving on a contract given by President Premadasa, met frequently at the ‘Library’ at Hotel Ramada where the Scotland Yard officers were entertained. It is reliably learnt that M.D.A. Rajapakse and Brian Watters had a hand in the preparation of the Scotland Yard report.”

The report was so obviously a cover-up, that it further enhanced suspicion of the Government’s involvement.

As though to assuage public disquiet, the CDB produced the first of its ‘confessions’ which was given banner headlines in the Ceylon Daily News of 25th September 1993 claiming a major breakthrough in the Athulathmudali case. A detainee K. Lingeswaran was said to have confessed to having been an accomplice of Ragunathan in the latter’s murder of Athulathmudali. A senior police source was quoted, “It has now been firmly established that the LTTE was behind the Athulathmudali killing. We hope all the wild speculation that it was otherwise will now end.” Ranil Wickremasinghe, as the prime minister, made a statement of similar import in Parliament.

A further confession from Kauseelan, another alleged accomplice of Ragunathan, was ‘leaked’ to the Press by the CDB in January 1997 while the Athulathmudali Commission was in session. But these were lame confessions without connecting links to tell us how the actors interacted and the plot materialised. There is nothing there amenable to independent examination. For example the CDB has told us at different times that Kauseelan and Lingeswaran were accomplices in Ragunathan’s murder of Athulathmudali, but have offered no material facts pertaining to Kauseelan’s link with Lingeswaran. The police officer doing the investigation for the Commission was told by court translator M.K.M. Razeek that Lingeswaran’s confession before the magistrate was typed by Inspector Nilabdeen of the CDB! The government of the day never produced Lingeswaran in open court. But the ‘free press’ went to town on these alleged confessions that are a hallmark of the quality of police work.

The Athulathmudali Commission, along with the Kobbekaduwe Commission, was presided over by Justice Tissa Dias Bandaranayake (Chairman) and High Court Judge G.W. Edirisuriya. Their concentration has been on Ragunathan allegedly having been held in captivity by Sothi Upali, an underworld figure in Minister Sirisena Cooray’s security service. Ragunathan was said by a witness, a drug peddler, to have been taken away from Upali’s captivity at 6.30 PM on 23rd April about 2 hours before the murder of Athulathmudali. There were no witnesses to what then transpired until his body was found at Mugalan Road the next day. The Commission was also at pains to demolish earlier findings (e.g. Scotland Yard Review) to the effect that Ragunathan was the killer, and to identify the real killer.

Earlier two commissioners, High Court Judges D.P.S. Gunasekera and N.G. Amaratunge, had resigned, reportedly because of disagreements with the Chairman. According to police sources, the Chairman had gone against the advice of police officers who screened witnesses and called in persons with such records as brought the proceedings into question. One woman, Rohini Hathurusinghe, who told the commission fantastic stories of crime and conspiracy involving Premadasa and high ranking army officers in the Kobbekaduwe case, was already known by the Police to be a prostitute who plied her trade with soldiers in the border zones. The Chairman reportedly disregarded Police advice and caused a fiasco by summoning her.

A police officer asked about his opinion on the Commission’s conclusions, replied, “I would still like to know the truth. We wanted to investigate the murder of Athulathmudali, but we were not able to.” He said that police officers had sent messages warning Athulathmudali’s family that things were not going well at the Commission, but he is unaware of any protest from the family.

A number of police officers viewed these commissions as political projects.

The weakness in the Commission’s approach was that it depended heavily on the testimony of a sole witness Subash Abeysekere who said he attended to Ragunathan while held in captivity. He was a drug peddler who could hardly stand up to hostile cross-examination by professional lawyers. Thus the Press, which was heavily leaning towards the UNP, was able to campaign against the testimony before the Commission as fiction purveyed by social undesirables. They then peddled the CDB’s alleged confession of a Tamil detainee uncritically, as the most reliable revelation.

The Commission did not pursue the more tangible line of what happened to Ragunathan before he went missing from his area of residence in Kotahena, where he was known. The Commission did not push this line although one police officer, Dias Senanayake, ASP Badulla, told them something significant. A fellow police officer, J.R. Jayewardene, had told him in 1994 that Ragunathan was held unofficially at Kotahena police station and then transferred to CDB custody. The Commission turned briefly to Ragunathan’s earlier residence at Kotahena, but mainly to demolish an alleged LTTEer Kauseelan’s ‘confession’ then being publicised in the Press. We now look at this angle.

To be continued..

*From Rajan Hoole‘s “Sri Lanka: Arrogance of Power  – Myth, Decadence and Murder”. Thanks to Rajan for giving us permission to republish. To read earlier parts click here

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Latest comments

  • 0
    6

    Interesting…

    Will Keselwatta Kid be the next Athulathmudali, if the Christian Faction come to power?…

    The only consolation in favor of the Kid is there are no official LTTErs working with the UNP Underworld since Nanthikadal.

  • 2
    1

    but more than that we are interested in Vellala Sumanasekeras next scam!

    • 0
      1

      @Peace Lover

      “Vellala Sumanasekera?”

      I thought he was a pure Shingala Buddisht

  • 6
    6

    Another Sinhala racist who paid a hefty price for being a menace to the people. All that education from a top UK university did not teach him anything but hatred towards a suffering minority. Sinhala racists like him created this menace called the LTTE and then blamed everything on the minority. Sinhalese always blameless and the minorities are always at fault. They are done with the Tamils, now they have moved onto the Muslims. Tomorrow, it will be the poor Sinhalese and then the vicious cycle will start with the Tamils.

  • 7
    1

    Tamil from the North.. what a thing for you to say…to a such a person…He did’nt ask for a persons caste creed race or gender when he introduced scholoships for the Univercity’s….you must be some idiotic moron to wright something like this…yes he was the Dy; Defence Minister…but he was never a Racist…

    • 0
      1

      You are right he wasn’t a racist and was on friendly terms with many colombo tamils and assisted them. Its the JT’s pushing it too far.The question is who came out of the manhole and placed the remote device?? A J tamil assisted by another JT accounts student who fled to Canada. Preme covered it

    • 2
      5

      Jra Kandy

      I don’t agree with what had happened to Athulathmudali. In fact whoever assassinated him should be condemned.

      “yes he was the Dy; Defence Minister…but he was never a Racist… “

      All Sinhala/Buddhists are racists. He is one of them.

      • 0
        2

        NV
        my second para “The question is who came out of the manhole and placed the remote device?? A J tamil assisted by another JT accounts student who fled to Canada. Preme covered it”
        It is a mistake and pertains to gamini assisnation on havelock road in the late 80’s – he thrived on racism not lalith- Lalith did assist many tamils of royal
        Its the stupid politics that make all SB’s and all JT’s racist isnt it??

        • 2
          2

          Javi

          “Lalith did assist many tamils of royal”

          So did Dutta Gamini.

          Would you believe Gota too have Tamil friends and relatives?

          It does not mean these people are secular liberals.

          You ought to revisit 1980 – 90 period to understand the mindset of those who were in power or aspire to be part of the Sinhala/Buddhist establishment.

          • 0
            1

            NV
            I prefer to see matters more from – the statistical average of all the frogs is not equal to each and every frog.

            All politicians and especially dictators need a trigger to come to power and stay there. Hitler’s men did not bomb a church and Franco gave immense powers to the church while destroying the communist to please the Americans. I have very close friends who are from Franco regime but they aren’t fascist- it’s just the times. Franco invited the Hindu Sindhi’s and their money into his home town Tenerife and today they are the richest there and they look similar in colour. The Japanese bombed anything to do with East India Company and the Church.
            Tell me why is it that no Tamil home (living there for generations not the new rich from shipping and smuggling) like in Colombo 7 was touched in 83 when adjoining Colombo 8 junction was the first to go in flames?? I know of DIG’s and top ranking Navy personnel who came in jeeps and rescued their Tamil friends in 83. Also one of the oldest Jaffna Tamil who got paid via insurance thanks to Lalith (at that time Thilakawardena or Silva was chairman Insurance)You said Gota relation yes this person is also related to that thambi renuka hotel.

            Religion/Faith is one such ancient dastardly trigger and added to it the education system where folk use guide books therefore are unable to innovate. Mainland Chinese are still unable to innovate but can do repetitive work before anyone can bat an eye lid. Most Chinese from the mainland that I know retain their Chinese passport but have indefinite leave to stay in Europe and have flourishing enterprises. When intelligent Indians leave for the west they generally do not return to resettle.
            Their mind-set is in LUST mode that creates the carnage.

      • 1
        1

        Native Vedda,
        I agree with you. I was one of the members when the DUNF was formed. He was never a racist but was reluctant to use the word ‘Federalism’. Instead he agreed to use the word “Region. Even Gamini Dissanayake agreed. Accordingly he agreed that Sri Lanka to be divided into Five Regions. There is an article entitled ‘Some errors to be rectified’ which was published in DUNF’s paper called ‘Eagle”.

        • 1
          2

          Citizen

          “Accordingly he agreed that Sri Lanka to be divided into Five Regions.”

          This idea of dividing/restructuring the island into five regions came from the Israeli experts. Ravi Jayewardene (father of Special Task Force (STF)) was enthusiastic about this proposal even in mid 1980s.

          The objective was to de-link North from rest of the Tamil speaking areas, hoping to neutralise Tamils’s homeland theory that they were a people living in a defined contiguous region from North to East.

          Under his leadership as National Security Minister the country saw an unprecedented level of expansion in militarisation which was matched only by human rights violation at a colossal scale.

          I think you should revisit the past.

          Party manifestos and organs do present completely different glossy picture to what it really believes and delivers.

          I am yet to see a Sinhala/Buddhist who is not a racist.

          • 0
            0

            “I am yet to see a Sinhala/Buddhist who is not a racist.”

            This is very utopian concept and that too in the 21st centenary when time for interactions is hard to find.

            Have you never met Sihala Buddhist happily married to others??

            • 2
              0

              Javi

              “Have you never met Sihala Buddhist happily married to others??”

              I have seen Sinhala happily married to others.

              I have seen Buddhist from this island happily married to others.

              I am yet to meet a happily married Sinhala/Buddhist.

              • 0
                0

                Very honestly, I have known quite a few. He (handsome Sihala Buddhist; father Sihala only man) was just o’level and trained to the job to work under her (Hindu) a MSc qualified and working for the government. She was from a rich background so after marriage he became a property developer. The last I met (beautiful home at Battaramulla) they had 2 kids and doing very well. There are many cases of marrying out (being disowned by both relatives) and doing better than others expectations. 5 fingers are not the same.

                on the other side I met where the man was JT (hindu)gov employee mahaweli married to a very rich sihala buddhist woman.He was radical and made his 3 kids anti sihala and had other affairs with servants too. This is the weakness of JT men. She is a good woman and she cannot divorce for the sake of daughter. He tried to migrate to Australia but was refused – they live in colombo 5

                Also Hindian married to South Indian Plus both you and I know who married Darmendra- Hema the star who still dances.

                Good luck friend in your search I will be away for a couple of days till then Hast Luego!

      • 2
        6

        Absolute nonsense.
        I can say unequivocally that Lalith Athulathmudali was an ambitious arrogant politician and was the biggest racist-chauvinist in the JR govt. (Not Cyril Mathew).
        I personally dealt with him when I owned one of the largest shipping agencies in Sri Lanka between 1977 and July 1983.

        I made complaint to the President at that time a few times to JR and other cabinet ministers.

        His private secretary an old Royalist Maani Dhahanayake was a very good friend of mine who was killed in December 1983 under suspicious circumstances.

        LA ruined shipping in SL when he was Minister of shipping. CSC is a shining example under his ministry. Left it in ruins to never recover even after 25 years.

        • 4
          5

          Lalith A was an arrogant, ambitious, anti-minorities rascal who had close contacts with the underworld. He defaced a handsome man on a personal grudge by getting acid thrown on him. It is true he ruined the well-performing Ceylon Shipping Corporation which he used as his private property – naming ships after his wife and family. Doubtless, he was an able Minister but full of cunning and intrigue. He took on the Keselwatta King for the race to the Presidency. The latter got a Vegetable Market mafia chieftain, very close to him, to take care of Lalith A. Innocent young Tamil blood and life was used as a cover for the murder. Police records will show Lalith named this gangster as one out to kill him.
          Lalith wrecked the Indo-Lankan Accord by forcing Pulendran and friends to take cyanide – that resulted in war breaking out again. Thousands of Tamils and Sinhalese died as a result. He did this not out of love to the country but to scuttle Gamini D, who was favoured by Rajiv and India for President after JRJ.

          Backlash

  • 3
    3

    Let the good Sinhala people know how an innocent young Tamil boy – unlawfully held at the Kotahena Police Station in Colombo North – for allegedly identification papers’ issue was found shot dead at Kirilaponne accused of killing Lalith A. The talk is Premadasa’s favourtite Ronnie Gunasinghe sounded his contacts in the different police stations to find a Tamil of a particular height, size/weight and age and this poor fellow was the victim.

    Since the introduction of the PTA the life of many people became meaningless. Hundreds were snuffed out. Anyone could be held for any length of time without question. The Constitution became a joke. It was largely the Tamils who suffered under the PTA for years. Now the raison d’etre for the PTA is long gone but the dreaded piece of legislation is an effective tool in the hands of Govt goons. Many Sinhalese have since suffered. The country will soon become a vast prison holding the young and innocent.

    Backlash

  • 1
    5

    Late Lalith Acidatmudali? May he RIP after 20 years.

    Donald Gnanakone
    Tamils For Justice.

    • 0
      0

      Oi,and you Alutmudalai the smuggling shipping.
      Some are awaiting the book you were supposed to publish last January – June.
      Arn’t you a franco type fascist cat-o-lic??

      • 0
        0

        Javi yako.
        I will publish my book when I choose the right time.
        Meanwhile I have other priorities.

        Stay tuned.

        • 0
          0

          Donald the[Edited out] arnt you singing nearer to god.

          The sooner you decimate the better isn’t it??

          • 0
            0

            @Yako.

            I am always been ready to meet my maker anytime. I am not afraid to die.

            Donald Gnanakone

            • 0
              0

              Mulgathanni,
              Yako is your family background of SC/ST.
              Your shipping smuggling is well known to Carsons and Freudenberg therefore a section of the politicians never backed your company.

              To top it your connections to fatty VP are well known.

              Old fart terror you might think your cash impresses all which is just your dream- remember what happened to raj rajaratnam the richest lankan- he created american history with 11 years

              The sooner you dig your site and jump in its would be good for the rest

              • 0
                0

                Javi

                “The sooner you dig your site and jump in its would be good for the rest”

                This is not a nice thing to say even to your bitter enemy.

                Instead wish them well.

                Hatred towards others would not destroy them but definitely will destroy you as a person. Don’t harbour any bitterness against your perceived enemies nor your real enemies.

                • 0
                  0

                  NV
                  `Dislike` is the appropriate statement, please.

          • 2
            0

            Javi

            “The sooner you decimate the better isn’t it??”

            This is not a nice thing to say even to your bitter enemy.

            • 0
              0

              NV,
              He is not an enemy neither is he friend nor have I met him
              But I have observed what he has to say for very long.
              Then for him to talk of justice is another businessman’s ploy.
              Then to say racist to folk I have met and enjoyed a drink makes me wonder what he is upto.

  • 1
    2

    @Donald J Gnanakone

    “The Late Lalith Acidatmudali”. Ha, Ha, nice one. Am still laughing out loud.

  • 0
    0

    Rajan Hoole as usual,has led meticulous evidence regarding the assasination of Lalith A.Its now upto the readers of CT.[Jury] to give their verdict.
    We should not character assasinate Lalith A.in the process,though he had many skeletons in the cupboard.Lalith A.was certainly a very ambitious man,and like all or most ambitious men the Tamil factor kept him afloat thanks to the LTTE.and the Mahavamsa.

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