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Talduwe Ratugama Rallage Weris Singho better known as Talduwe Somarama Thero (1915–1962) shot and killed S. W. R. D. Bandaranaike the fourth Prime Minister of Ceylon (later Sri Lanka), serving from 1956 until his assassination by a Buddhist monk in 1959.
Somarama Thero was born on August 27, 1915, to Iso Hamy and Ratugama Rallage Dieris Appuhamy. He was robed when he was 14 on January 20, 1929, and received his schooling at Talduwa Ihala School. He allegedly received his higher ordination as a Thero (Buddhist priest) in Kandy on June 25, 1936.
Allegedly drafted into the conspiracy by Mapitigama Buddharakkitha Thero, the chief incumbent of the Kelaniya Raja Maha Vihara, Somarama Thero reluctantly consented to assassinate the Prime Minister, "for the greater good of his country, race and religion". Although Buddharakkitha Thero attributed Bandaranaike's failure to aggressively pursue the Nationalist reforms as the motive to eliminate him, the real reason appeared to be the Prime Minister's refusal to award business deals, in particular a shipping contract, to a company floated by the Chief Priest, Mapitigama Buddharakkitha Thero.
The date was set to September 25, 1959, when Somarama Thero was to visit the Prime Minister at his home and shoot him at point blank range. His saffron robes gave him free access to 'Tintagel', the private residence of Bandaranaike, in Rosmead Place, Colombo. As the Premier commenced his routine meetings with the public, Somarama waited in patience for his turn. When the monk's presence was announced to him, Bandaranaike rose to greet him in the traditional Buddhist manner. The assassin then pulled out the revolver hidden in his robes and fired at the prostrate Prime Minister. Somarama was injured in firing between himself and the Prime Minister's bodyguards.
The wounded Premier was rushed to hospital and died the following day in spite of a six-hour surgery by the country's most skilled surgeons. In his message to the nation from his bed in the Merchant's Ward of the General Hospital in Colombo, Bandaranaike referred to his unknown assassin "as a foolish man dressed in the robes of a monk", but requested that the authorities "show compassion to this man and not try to wreak vengeance on him."
Somarama Thero then faced trial, along with four other involved in the conspiracy. It was a hopeless case, and in spite of a resourceful defense the jury unanimously found Somarama Thero guilty of the capital offense. Before sentencing him to death, the trial judge, Justice T.S. Fernando, QC, CBE, told Somarama Thero he had a "streak of conscience as he did not attend court in his saffron robes." The chief conspirator, Mapitigama Buddharakkitha Thero and H. P. Jayawardena, a businessman closely associated with him, were found guilty of conspiracy to murder. Bandaranaike had suspended capital punishment, but after his death the government had it restored. In an apparent blunder by the draftsman, the law re-establishing the death penalty failed to include conspiracy to murder. As a consequence, while Somarama Thero would hang, the two chief conspirators escaped with life sentences.
Somarama Thero was hanged on 7 July 1962. He gave up his robes a fortnight before his hanging and, two days before his execution, was baptized as a Christian by an Anglican priest. It was speculated[by whom?] that this ritual was forced on the assassin by the authorities as it would bring shame to the country, when a Buddhist priest was hanged for committing the murder of its prime minister.
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