Nadarajah Raviraj

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Honourable
Nadarajah Raviraj
MP
நடராஜா ரவிராஜ்
Nadarajah Raviraj MP.jpeg
Member of the Sri Lankan Parliament
for Jaffna District
In office
2001–2006
Succeeded by N. Srikantha
16th Mayor of Jaffna
In office
9 January 2001 – 18 December 2001
Preceded by Pon Sivapalan
Succeeded by Sellan Kandaiyan
Personal details
Born (1962-06-25)25 June 1962
Died 10 November 2006(2006-11-10) (aged 44)
Colombo, Sri Lanka
Political party Illankai Tamil Arasu Kachchi
Other political
affiliations
Tamil National Alliance
Profession Lawyer
Ethnicity Sri Lankan Tamil

Nadarajah Raviraj (Tamil: நடராஜா ரவிராஜ், translit. naṭarājā ravirāj, [n̪əɖəˈɾ̪aːdʒaː ˈɾ̪əviɾ̪aːdʒ]; 25 June 1962 – 10 November 2006) was a Sri Lankan Tamil lawyer and politician. He was Mayor of Jaffna in 2001 and a Member of Parliament for Jaffna District from 2001 to 2006. A member of the Tamil National Alliance, he was shot dead on 10 November 2006 in Colombo.

Early life and family[edit]

Raviraj was born 25 June 1962.[1][2] His family were from Chavakachcheri in northern Ceylon.[3] Both of his parents were teachers – his father taught at Chavakachcheri Hindu College and his mother taught at Chavakachcheri Hindu Ladies College.[3][4] Raviraj was educated at Chavakachcheri Hindu College, Drieberg College, Chavakachcheri and St. John's College, Jaffna.[2][4]

Raviraj was married to Sasikala, a teacher at Bishop's College, Colombo.[3][5] They had a daughter (Praveena) and son (Yuthishthran).[3][6]

Career[edit]

Raviraj became an attorney at law of the Supreme Court in November 1987.[2][5] He was a human rights lawyer for Home for Human Rights from 1984 to 1990.[5] He worked at the Attorney-General's Department between 1990 and 1993.[7] He rejoined Home for Human Rights in 1993, working for them until 1997.[4][5][7] He then started a private practice firm, Raviraj and Associates, which specialised in Prevention of Terrorism Act and Emergency Regulations cases.[2][4][5][7] Raviraj represented clients in the Supreme Court, Court of Appeal and High Courts in Ampara, Batticaloa, Jaffna, Trincomalee, Vavuniya and other cities.[5]

Raviraj was a member of the Civil Monitoring Committee which monitored extra-judicial killings, abductions and disappearances in Sri Lanka.[2][5] He was an ambassador of peace for the Interreligious and International Federation for World Peace and Interreligious International Peace Council in 2004.[2]

Politics[edit]

Raviraj joined the Tamil United Liberation Front (TULF) in 1987, joining its central committee in 1990 and becoming its legal advisor in 1998.[2][5] He contested the 1998 local government election as a TULF candidate and was elected to Jaffna Municipal Council.[3][4] The TULF Mayor of Jaffna Sarojini Yogeswaran was assassinated on 17 May 1998 and her successor Pon Sivapalan was assassinated on 11 September 1998.[3][8][9] Following the assassination of its mayoral nominee Pon Mathimugarajah on 26 December 1998, the TULF decided not to appoint a mayor which resulted in Raviraj, who was deputy mayor, becoming de facto mayor.[3][10]

Raviraj was appointed to the TULF politburo in 2000.[2][5] He contested the 2000 parliamentary election as one of the TULF's candidates in Jaffna District but failed to get elected.[3][4] On 9 January 2001 Raviraj was officially sworn in as Mayor of Jaffna.[3][11] He became the TULF's Administrative Secretary in 2001.[3]

On 20 October 2001 the All Ceylon Tamil Congress, Eelam People's Revolutionary Liberation Front, Tamil Eelam Liberation Organization and TULF formed the Tamil National Alliance (TNA).[12][13] Raviraj contested the 2001 parliamentary election as one of the TNA's candidates in Jaffna District. On 28 November 2001 the TNA, including Raviraj, were campaigning in Naranthanai on Velanaitivu when they were attacked by the Eelam People's Democratic Party, a government backed paramilitary group, as Sri Lanka Navy personnel looked on.[3][4][14] Two TNA activists were killed and several others, including Raviraj, were injured.[3][4][15] Raviraj was elected and entered Parliament.[16] He subsequently resigned as Mayor of Jaffna.[3] He was re-elected at the 2004 parliamentary election.[17]

Assassination[edit]

On 10 November 2006 Raviraj led a demonstration outside the UNICEF office in Colombo protesting against the Vaharai bombing in which 45 civilians were killed by army shelling.[18][19] The following morning Raviraj took part in a live discussion on TV Derana between 7.00am and 7.30am.[3][20] Afterwards he returned to his home in Manning Town, Narahenpita, had breakfast and changed for work.[3][20] Raviraj had to drive to work himself as his driver was on leave.[3][20] He had intended to use his wife's car but finding its battery drained got into his Toyota Land Cruiser Prado (reg WP KE 1279).[3][20] Raviraj's police bodyguard Sergeant Lokuwellamurage Shantha Laxman Lokuwella got onto the passenger seat.[3][20] At 8.39am, as Raviraj was driving slowly down Martha Road and turning into Elvitigala Mawatha, a motorcycle (reg JE 3507) coming from the opposite direction stopped nearby.[3][20] The motorcycle's passenger got down, removed his helmet, crossed the road and waited on the pavement with a bag over his shoulder.[3][20] As Raviraj's vehicle went past, the motorcycle passenger ripped open the shoulder bag and fired the T-56 hidden inside.[3][20] Raviraj's vehicle was hit from the front, side and rear at point blank range.[3][20] After firing an entire magazine the assassin ran back to the motorcycle which then sped off, turning into Martha Road.[3][20] The shoulder bag, with the T-56 inside, and the assassin's helmet were left at the roadside.[3][20] According to the police a rickshaw parked nearby also drove off after the shooting.[3][20] They believed that its driver had been a lookout who had tipped off the assassins about the location of Raviraj's vehicle using a mobile phone.[3][20]

Raviraj had been shot five times and Lokuwella eight times.[3][20] Both were rushed to Colombo National Hospital where Lokuwella was pronounced dead on arrival.[3][20] Raviraj was clinically dead and emergency surgery was carried out but at 9.20am he was pronounced dead.[3][20] On 10 November 2006 the LTTE conferred the title Maamanithar (great human being) on Raviraj.[20][21][22][23] Raviraj's body had to be flown to northern Sri Lanka because the Sri Lankan government refused to open the A9 highway.[20] Raviraj's funeral took place on 15 November 2006 at the Kannadipiddy cremation ground in Chavakachcheri.[20][24]

Raviraj's assassination received condemnation from around the world.[20][22][25][26][27][28] The TNA blamed the assassination on paramilitaries working with the army.[5][20][29] The University Teachers for Human Rights (UTHR) quoted sources as saying that the main organiser of the assassination was former air force member Nishantha Gajanayake, an employee of defence secretary Gotabhaya Rajapaksa, brother of President Mahinda Rajapaksa.[30] The UTHR further claimed that the assassination was carried out by the Karuna Group/Tamil Makkal Viduthalai Pulikal (TMVP) with the assistance of the Eelam People's Democratic Party (EPDP) paramilitary group, military intelligence and a Buddhist monk affiliated with the Jathika Hela Urumaya.[30][31] EPDP leader Douglas Devanananda denied any involvement in the assassination.[32]

An shadowy anti-LTTE group calling itself Seerum Padai (Aggressive Army) claimed responsibility for the assassination, saying that it was a "serious message to those who betray our homeland".[33][34][35]

Investigation[edit]

Raviraj's assassination took place in the heart of Colombo near a security force base and on a stretch of road between police checkpoints.[3] Several government buildings including the Telecommunications Regulatory Authority, the Registrar of Motor Vehicles Department and the headquarters of the Sri Lanka Corps of Military Police were close by.[3][20][36] According to the police many people witnessed the assassination and came forward to give information.[20] A suspect was arrested in Wellawatte on 12 November 2006 and based on information provided by him seven further suspects were arrested in Borella, Cinnamon Gardens, Narahenpita and Wellawatte.[20]

Detectives from the British Metropolitan Police Service were brought in to investigate the assassination.[20][37] After initial reservations about the possibility that the suspects may face the death penalty, five British detectives arrived in Sri Lanka on 4 January 2007 to assist the Sri Lankan Criminal Investigation Department (CID).[38][39] After sharing their expertise, the British detectives left Sri Lanka on 13 January 2007, taking some evidence for further forensic tests.[40][41]

The police investigation found that the motorcycle used in the assassination had been bought by Arul from brokers Nalaka Mathakadeera (Matagaweere) and Ravindra.[42] Arul had been living at the house of S. K. T. Jayasuriya.[42] Jayasuriya was former soldier, who had been dismissed from the army, who was now working as a private security officer for a former EPDP Member of Parliament who was living in Switzerland.[43] Mathakadeera and Jayasuriya were arrested but both were later released on bail when investigations revealed that they were not in Colombo at the time of the assassination.[42] Jayasuriya informed the police that Arul was a former member of the militant Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam.[42] Arul was also a nephew of the former EPDP and was receiving protection from Jayasuriya.[43] Arrest warrants were issued for Arul and Ravindra whom the police suspected had fled to LTTE controlled territory.[42] The investigation stalled thereafter and no progress was made.[42]

Renewed investigation[edit]

Following the defeat of Rajapaksa at the presidential election in January 2015, the new government announced that it would re-investigate several unsolved high profile assassinations, including that of Raviraj, which occurred during Rajapaksa's nine-year reign.[44] Three navy personnel (Lt. Commander Munasinghe Aarachchige Don Nishantha Sampath Munasinghe, Lt. Commander Hettiarachchi Mudiyanselage Prasad Chandana Kumara Hettiarachchi alias Sampath and Petty Officer Deliwala Gedara Gamini Seneviratne alias Senevi) were arrested by the CID in March 2015 in connection with Raviraj's assassination.[45][46][47][48] A total of nine suspects were listed in connection with the assassination.[49] The rickshaw involved in the assassination was recovered by the CID in June 2015.[50] In November 2015 former soldier Nalaka Mathakadeera, J. L. Mahinda and Tennis Aruna Shantha Edirisinghe were arrested in connection with the assassination.[47]

In October 2015 The Sunday Leader identified Petty Officer Seneviratne as the assassin and claimed that the weapon used in the assassination had been handed to the Pillayan, leader of the TMVP paramilitary group, by Colonel Shammi Karunaratne of the army.[51] Pillayan then gave the weapon to Sivakanthan Vivekanandan alias Charan who then handed it to Seneviratne.[51]

On 3 November 2015 six people – three navy personnel (Pradeep Chaminda (Chandane) alias Vajira, Lieutenant Commander Hettiarachchi and Petty Officer Seneviratne), two Karuna Group/TMVP paramilitaries (Palanasami Suresh alias Sami and Sivakanthan Vivekanandan) and a police officer (Fabian Royston Toussaint) – were charged with Raviraj's murder.[52][53] A fourth navy personnel, Lieutenant Commander Munasinghe Arachchige Nilantha Sampath Munasinghe alias Navy Sampath, was charged in December 2015.[54] Three of the seven charged, Suresh, Toussaint and Vivekanandan, are not in custody.[54] Toussaint is believed to be running an eco-consultancy business, Eco Support Consulting, in Australia.[55] Vivekanandan is believed to be in Switzerland.[47]

Two suspects in the case, Nalaka Mathakadeera and Tennis Aruna Shantha Edirisinghe, were released by Colombo Additional Magistrate Nirosha Fernando on 8 December 2015.[56] Another suspect, former Police Constable Sampath Prithiviraj Wijeya Wickrema Manamperige Sanjaya Preethi Viraj, had turned state witness.[56][57]

Trial and acquittal[edit]

The trial of the six suspects (Chaminda, Hettiarachchi, Seneviratne, Suresh, Toussaint and Vivekanandan) began on 7 September 2016 at Colombo High Court in front of Judge Manilal Waidyatilaka.[58] On 27 October 2016 Waidyatilaka allowed the defendants' attorney's request for the case to be heard by a jury consisting exclusively of Sinhala speakers.[59][60] This was despite objections from lawyers representing Raviraj's family.[61][62][63] Police Constable Viraj, the state witness, was released on 22 December 2016.[64][65] On 24 December 2016 the all Sinhala jury unanimously acquitted all five defendants who were subsequently released.[66][67][68] In an unusual move, the verdict came shortly after midnight.[69][70]

Electoral history[edit]

Electoral history of Nadarajah Raviraj
Election Constituency Party Votes Result
1998 local Jaffna MC TULF Elected
2000 parliamentary Jaffna District TULF Not elected
2001 parliamentary[16] Jaffna District TNA 19,263 Elected
2004 parliamentary[17] Jaffna District TNA 42,965 Elected

References[edit]

  1. ^ "Directory of Members: Nadarajah Raviraj". Parliament of Sri Lanka. 
  2. ^ a b c d e f g h "Raviraj profile". The Daily Mirror (Sri Lanka). 11 November 2006. Archived from the original on 28 March 2013. 
  3. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p q r s t u v w x y z aa ab ac ad ae Jeyaraj, D. B. S. (5 November 2016). "Murder most foul of moderate Tamil MP Raviraj". The Daily Mirror (Sri Lanka). 
  4. ^ a b c d e f g h Jeyaraj, D. B. S. (12 November 2006). "TNA's rising star is silenced". The Sunday Leader. 
  5. ^ a b c d e f g h i j "Tamil Parliamentarian Raviraj assassinated in Colombo". TamilNet. 10 November 2006. 
  6. ^ ""Allow Raviraj's casket to be taken through A9," family requests SL President". TamilNet. 11 November 2006. 
  7. ^ a b c Jeyaraj, D. B. S. (10 November 2006). "Tragic demise of Nadarajah Raviraj in Colombo". Trans Currents. Archived from the original on 3 March 2016. 
  8. ^ "Assassins gun down mayor in Sri Lanka". The Independent. Associated Press. 17 May 1998. 
  9. ^ "Sri Lanka bomb kills Jaffna mayor". BBC News. 11 September 1998. 
  10. ^ "Jaffna TULF official killed". TamilNet. 26 December 1998. 
  11. ^ ""Stop war, start talks" – TULF". TamilNet. 9 January 2001. 
  12. ^ Jeyaraj, D. B. S. "Tamil National Alliance enters critical third phase – 1". The Daily Mirror (Sri Lanka). Archived from the original on 4 April 2010. 
  13. ^ "Tamil parties sign MOU". TamilNet. 20 October 2001. 
  14. ^ "Hartal call after EPDP assault kills 2". TamilNet. 29 November 2001. 
  15. ^ "Four TNA candidates wounded in EPDP attack". TamilNet. 28 November 2001. 
  16. ^ a b "General Election 2001 Preferences" (PDF). Department of Elections, Sri Lanka. Archived from the original (PDF) on 30 December 2016. 
  17. ^ a b "General Election 2004 Preferences" (PDF). Department of Elections, Sri Lanka. Archived from the original (PDF) on 4 March 2010. 
  18. ^ Gnanadass, Wilson (18 January 2009). "Professionalism in killings foxes them all". The Nation (Sri Lanka). 
  19. ^ Perera, Amantha (12 November 2006). "Raviraj's last act". The Sunday Leader. 
  20. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p q r s t u v w x y "TNA MP Raviraj murdered in Colombo in broad daylight" (PDF). Tamil Times. XXV (11): 15–18. November 2006. ISSN 0266-4488. 
  21. ^ "Pirapaharan confers Maamanithar award to Raviraj". TamilNet. 11 November 2006. 
  22. ^ a b "LTTE bestow highest honour on slain Sri Lanka MP". The Hindu. Press Trust of India. 11 November 2006. Archived from the original on 30 September 2007. 
  23. ^ "Pirapaharan confers Maamanithar (Great Humanbeing) award to Raviraj". The Island (Sri Lanka). 12 November 2006. 
  24. ^ "Jaffna bids farewell to slain MP, relatives reveal assassination attempt". TamilNet. 15 November 2006. 
  25. ^ Balachandran, P. K. (10 November 2006). "US seeks urgent probe into Lankan MP's killing". Hindustan Times. 
  26. ^ "SRI LANKA: Will it be too late for the arrival of international assistance to monitor gross violations of human rights?". Asian Human Rights Commission. 9 November 2006. 
  27. ^ "LTTE Political Head condemns Raviraj assassination in Colombo". TamilNet. 10 November 2006. 
  28. ^ "Ranil demands independent probe". The Daily Mirror (Sri Lanka). 11 November 2006. Archived from the original on 30 September 2007. 
  29. ^ "Sri Lankan MP killed in Colombo". BBC News. 10 November 2006. 
  30. ^ a b "Special Report No. 26: Can the East be won through Human Culling?". University Teachers for Human Rights. 3 August 2007. 
  31. ^ "Bulletins No.42 & 43". University Teachers for Human Rights. 13 December 2006. 
  32. ^ "Killing people will not solve problems: Devananda". The Nation (Sri Lanka). 19 November 2006. 
  33. ^ Balachandran, P. K. (15 November 2006). "Scotland Yard may probe SL MP killing". Hindustan Times. 
  34. ^ "New organisation claims responsibility for killingRaviraj â€" second "Tamil traitor," and warns other Tamil MPs to leave Tigers". Asian Tribune. 11 November 2006. 
  35. ^ "Violent cult: Bring it to book". The Nation (Sri Lanka). 12 November 2006. 
  36. ^ "TNA Parliamentarian Nadarajah Raviraj shot dead near Military Police HQ". Lanka-e-News. 10 November 2006. Archived from the original on 28 September 2007. 
  37. ^ Reddy, B. Muralidhar (11 November 2006). "Tamil MP assassinated in Colombo". The Hindu. 
  38. ^ Rafiq, Ayesha R. (26 November 2006). "Scotland Yard probe hits snag". The Sunday Times (Sri Lanka). 
  39. ^ "Scotland Yard in SL to probe Tamil MP's killing". Oneindia. 4 January 2007. 
  40. ^ "British forensic officers study Raviraj exhibits". TamilNet. 13 January 2007. 
  41. ^ Edirisinghe, Dasun (15 January 2007). "Scotland Yard sleuths leave". The Island (Sri Lanka). 
  42. ^ a b c d e f "Sri Lanka: Case No. Sri/53 – Nadarajah Raviraj". Inter-Parliamentary Union. 5 April 2012. 
  43. ^ a b "Sri Lanka: Case No. Sri/53 – Nadarajah Raviraj". Inter-Parliamentary Union. 10 October 2007. 
  44. ^ "Sri Lanka to probe high-profile assassinations". The Times of India. Press Trust of India. 21 January 2015. 
  45. ^ "Three arrested for Raviraj killing". The Daily Mirror (Sri Lanka). 31 March 2015. 
  46. ^ "Three arrests made over Nadarajah Raviraj killing". News First. 31 March 2015. 
  47. ^ a b c "TMVP's criminal complicity". Sunday Observer (Sri Lanka). 1 November 2015. 
  48. ^ "3 navy personnel arrested over Tamil lawmaker's killing". The Times of India. Associated Press. 31 March 2015. 
  49. ^ Weerarathne, Chitra (4 November 2015). "Six charged with aiding and abetting killing of MP Raviraj". The Island (Sri Lanka). 
  50. ^ Thajudeen, Farook (5 June 2015). "Trishaw connected to Raviraj killing found". The Daily Mirror (Sri Lanka). 
  51. ^ a b "Raviraj Murderer In Custody". The Sunday Leader. 4 October 2015. 
  52. ^ "Six people charged with murder of MP Raviraj". Daily FT. 4 November 2015. 
  53. ^ "Six charged for murder of Tamil lawmaker in 2006". Gulf Times. 3 November 2016. 
  54. ^ a b Sooriyagoda, Lakmal (9 December 2015). "Raviraj murder case fixed for trial". Daily News (Sri Lanka). 
  55. ^ Callinan, Rory (27 December 2015). "Former Sri Lankan cop wanted over assassination linked to Aussie eco-consultancy business". The Sydney Morning Herald. 
  56. ^ a b Silva, Shehan Chamika (8 December 2015). "Raviraj killing: case against 7 suspects goes ahead". The Daily Mirror (Sri Lanka). 
  57. ^ Sooriyagoda, Lakmal (21 October 2016). "Raviraj murder case: Court to deliver order on jury trial on Oct. 27". Daily News (Sri Lanka). 
  58. ^ Silva, Shehan Chamika (3 September 2016). "Raviraj killing : Trial to begin in absence of 3 suspects". The Daily Mirror (Sri Lanka). 
  59. ^ "Special jury to hear TNA MP Raviraj's murder trial". Ceylon News. 27 October 2016. 
  60. ^ Santiago, Melanie (27 October 2016). "MP Nadarajah Raviraj killing: Court permits special jury". News First. 
  61. ^ "Assassination of Raviraj; accused to be tried before jury". Tamil Diplomat. 28 October 2016. 
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  63. ^ Silva, Shehan Chamika (27 October 2016). "Raviraj case to be tried before Special Jury". The Daily Mirror (Sri Lanka). 
  64. ^ Sooriyagoda, Lakmal (23 December 2016). "State witness in Ravi Raj Murder case released from case inquiry". Daily News (Sri Lanka). 
  65. ^ "State Witness Released From Raviraj Murder Trial". Asian Mirror. 23 December 2016. 
  66. ^ "Sri Lanka Acquits Five Accused in Lawmaker's 2006 Death". Voice of America. Associated Press. 24 December 2016. 
  67. ^ "Sri Lanka court acquits murder suspects of Tamil legislator". Deccan Chronicle. Press Trust of India. 24 December 2016. 
  68. ^ Sooriyagoda, Lakmal (24 December 2016). "Raviraj Murder: All accused released". Daily News (Sri Lanka). 
  69. ^ "Sri Lankan court acquits five men in Tamil MP murder trial". BBC News. 24 December 2016. 
  70. ^ Fernando, Tharushan (24 December 2016). "Court releases five suspects in Nadarajah Raviraj killing". News First.