Kumar Ponnambalam shot dead

Place: - | Date: 20000100

Mr.Kumar Ponnambalam, president of the All Ceylon Tamil Congress, was shot dead by unidentified gunmen at Wellawatte, a Tamil suburb of the capital Colombo around 11.15 a.m. police sources said.

The attack took place at Ramakrishna road, near a by lane known as 'Muhamthiram lane'.

Sources said Ponnambalam was driving from his residence this morning when unidentified gunman stopped his vehicle and shot him while he was seated in his car. Mr. Ponnambalam died on the spot.

Born on 12 August 1938, Ponnambalam entered the Sri Lankan politics in the early 60's. In 1966 he became the president of the Tamil Congress' Youth Wing.

A lawyer by profession (he became a barrister in 1974), he contested the general elections in 1977 and the presidential elections in 1982.

His father, Mr.G.G. Ponnambalam, was also leading lawyer, and held a ministerial post twice.

Mr. Ponnambalam, father of two, is married to Yogalauxmy, a cardiac surgeon.

TULF condemns Ponnambalam slaying

[TamilNet, January 05, 2000 10:30 GMT]

The Tamil United Liberation Front (TULF) has strongly condemned in a statement today, the killing of All Ceylon Tamil Congress president, Mr. Kumar Ponnambalam this morning.

TULF sources expressed concern that Mr. Ponnambalam's outspoken criticism of the Sri Lankan President Chandrika Kumaratunge might have motivated his killers.

The Secretary General of the TULF Mr.R.Sampanthan today issued the party's statement, the text of which follows:

"The TULF is shocked by the news of the assassination of Mr.Kumar Ponnambalam,General Secretary of the A.C.T.C. and strongly condemns this brutal killing. Such killings do not help to stem the cult of violence that plagues the country."

"Freedom of expression is a basic tenet of a vibrant democracy. If Mr.Kumar Ponnambalam's assassination is attributable to the exercise of this fundamental right it would indeed be a dangerous trend, and would seriously erode the right of a citizen to think and express himself with independence."

"We convey our deepest sympathies to Mrs.Ponnambalam, the children and other members of the late Mr.Kumar Ponnambalam's family."

Ponnambalam killing claimed

[TamilNet, January 06, 2000 08:54 GMT]

An organisation calling itself 'National Front Against Tigers' Thursday claimed responsibility for the killing Wednesday of Kumar Ponnambalam, the president of the All Ceylon Tamil Congress.

In a note in Sinhala faxed to leading media institutions in Colombo the group said it is warning all those who support and help the Liberation Tigers. Such people were "traitors" the group said.

The note was signed "Wijayaranabahu, Commanding Officer".

Mr.Kumar Ponnambalam, was shot dead by unidentified gunman at Wellawatte, in Colombo.

The funeral of Mr.Ponnambalam will be held on Sunday in Colombo, his relatives said. His body is kept at his residence at Queens Street.

Tigers salute Ponnambalam, accuse government

[TamilNet, January 06, 2000 12:53 GMT]

The Liberation Tigers Thursday paid tribute to Mr. Kumar Ponnambalam, leader of the All Ceylon Tamil Congress who was shot dead Wednesday in a Colombo suburb. The LTTE in a statement sent to international media, accused the Sri Lankan government and Tamil groups operating with the Sri Lanka armed forces of carrying out the killing.

Mr. Ponnambalam was shot dead at close range whilst at the wheel of his car Wednesday. An unknown group giving its name as the 'National Front Against Tigers' claimed responsibility today and said the Tamil leader was targeted because he was ëa traitor.

The text of the LTTE's press release follows:

The Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) wishes to express its deep shock and profound grief over the brutal killing of Mr. Kumar Ponnambalam, a courageous Tamil leader who fearlessly exposed the hypocrisy of the Sinhala state and audaciously championed the cause of the Tamil nation.

We accuse the Sri Lanka government and the Tamil quisling groups of masterminding and executing this heinous crime to silence a brave, daring voice of reason that defended the rights of the Tamils.

Mr. Ponnambalam's sudden death is a great and irreparable loss to the Tamils, a monumental tragedy that has befallen the Tamil nation at a critical historical time.

Faced with constant threat to his life and property, Mr. Ponnambalam lived in the heart of the Sri Lankan capital and boldly challenged his racist adversaries. His speeches and writings, which touched on extremely controversial issues, expressed its truthfullness, genuiness, uprightness and indomitable spirit for justice.

He pleaded for the rights and liberties of thousands of innocent Tamils in Colombo who were subjected to constant persecution at the hands of the tyrannical Sinhala state. He also voiced for the Tamils rights at international forums.

Mr. Ponnambalam was the only Tamil leader who openly and fearlessly supported the armed freedom struggle of the Liberation Tigers. He endorsed the policy of the LTTE as the authentic political project based on the right to self-determination of the Tamil people.

By his gallant and heroic life in advancing the legitimate cause of the Tamils amidst all dangers, Mr. Ponnambalam has earned the respect and admiration of his people as a true Tamil patriot.

Tamils mourn Ponnambalam's death

[TamilNet, January 08, 2000 11:31 GMT]

The killing of Kumar Ponnambalam on January 5 has triggered a wave of emotion across the Tamil Diaspora. Sadness and anger has been expressed by Tamil community organisations and individuals in statements and messages on bulletin boards. Ponnmabalam's death has arguably been the main topic of conversation amongst Tamils recently - as is his last public letter to President Chandrika Kumaratunge and the latter's recent stern warning to supporters of the Liberation Tigers.

The news of the All Ceylon Tamil Congress leader's killing was reported within the hour to Tamil communities across the world by Tamil language radios, television stations and also via the Internet.

A well known politician, Ponnambalam stature amongst Tamils was enhanced by the reputation of his late father, G.G. Ponnambalam.

Whilst Tamil community organisations issued statements expressing shock and grief, Tamil media began broadcasting background material: most reports seemed to focus on Ponnambalam's latest letter to Sri Lanka President Kumaratunge, along with the stern warning the latter had issued in her swearing in speech to those who supported the LTTE.

The widely held belief among expatriate Tamils is that the government of President Kumaratunge must have either authorised Ponnambalam's killing, or the assassins were sufficiently confident of tacit approval from the authorities.

Ponnambalam often deliberately stirred political controversy, challenging the Sri Lankan government and President publicly on matters related to human and political rights for Tamils.

Whilst perceived as a shrewd and flamboyant politician by Tamils, he was also viewed - along with his father - as a strong champion of rights for Tamils, as the statements by many organisations highlighted.

He had been involved in numerous human rights applications by Tamils, and was involved in bringing to court the Krishanthy Kumaraswamy rape and murder case, a long running trial which led to the Chemmani mass graves issue, resulting in severe international embarrassment for the Sri Lankan government.

The Australian Federation of Tamil Associations (AFTA) in a statement said it "is shocked and grieved at the cold blooded murder of Kumar Ponnambalam, a human rights lawyer."

"Mr. Ponnampalam has been a fearless critic of the Sri Lankan government and its security forces for their blatant violations of human rights of the Tamil people," said AFTA.

"Tamils in Sri Lanka will miss the courageous voice of Kumar, as also by the hundreds of Tamil youth languishing in cruel detention centres across the island. As a human rights activist he was one of the very few lawyers who were prepared to appear on their behalf on humanitarian grounds," AFTA said.

"Kumar has relentlessly toiled to expose scores of rape cases and thousands of disappearances of Tamils in the hands of the Sri Lankan security forces and government backed militia," AFTA said.

The London based Tamil Information Centre (TIC) said in a statement that the killing "has shocked the Tamil community" and that the attack "posed further threats to the freedoms of expression, assembly and association" in Sri Lanka.

The Paris-based Tamil Centre for Human Rights (TCHR) said in a statement "Mr Ponnambalam was a brave and tireless champion of civil and political rights, and fundamental human rights. He was not afraid to speak out on Human rights and this has cost him his life. His assassination marks a tragic loss for all who strive for the cause of justice and human rights."

In a notable comment, the Liberation Tigers issued a statement from their London officers on the killing.

"The LTTE wishes to express its deep shock and profound grief over the brutal killing of Mr. Kumar Ponnambalam, a courageous Tamil leader who fearlessly exposed the hypocrisy of the Sinhala state and audaciously championed the cause of the Tamil nation," the statement said.

Other expressions of grief came from individual members of the Tamil Diaspora. A popular Canada-based Tamil website in its Îtalking point' section solicited comment on the killing, and received entries from around the world.

According to the webmaster, hundreds of Tamils wrote to the tamilcanadian.com discussion page during the first 24 hours alone.

"The overwhelming feeling was sadness and anger," the webmaster told TamilNet by email. "But a couple of people expressed satisfaction over the killing."

The US-based Tamil Sangam website said "Sangam has been deluged with messages from hundreds of US Tamils not only to express their sorrow, but also wanting to convey the angst of the thousands of their loved ones, trapped and powerless to speak up in that island."

Almost all the messages accused the Sri Lankan government of responsibility, said the webmasters, a sentiment reflected in the statements by the Tamil organisations.

"It is an irony that only ...days ago during a three hour long television interview, the Sri Lankan President had issued a stern warning to all her critics," said AFTA.

The organisation linked Ponnambalam's killing with that in early November of Atputharajah Nadarajah, chief editor of the popular Tamil weekly "Thinamurasu." Atputharajah was shot dead in his vehicle in another Colombo suburb.

Whilst Sri Lankan officials suggested the Liberation Tigers were responsible, as the editor was also a Parliamentarian of the Eelam People's Democratic Party (EPDP) which opposes the LTTE, many Tamils believe he was killed due to his influential paper's harsh criticism of the government and support for the Tamil cause.

"These [two] gruesome incidents appear to expose a trend suggestive of attempts by forces close to the government circles to silence the voices raised against the genocidal oppression of the Tamil people in Sri Lanka," said AFTA.

"Everyone knew that Mr Ponnambalam had been facing a threat by the Chandrika government for a long time," said the Tamil Centre for Human Rights.

"On certain International platforms Mr Ponnambalam stated openly that President Chandrika Kumaratunga was "after his blood". Recently he stated that the government was "looking for his blood". Today this has become a tragic and sad reality," the TCHR said.

The Tamil Information Centre was more circumspect, saying "The government is unable to prevent deliberate killings"

"Its believed that "deaths squads" freely operating in the capital Colombo are responsible for these killings," the TIC said, calling on the international community to "monitor the situation in Sri Lanka."

Suspicion lingers on the Tamil paramilitary groups operating with the Sri Lankan armed forces.

The presence of EPDP leader, Douglas Devananda at the scene soon after Atputharajah's shooting in November was inconsistent with the claim that the Liberation Tigers were responsible believe journalists in Colombo. "As the gunmen could still have been at large, Douglas would have to be pretty sure of himself to show up there," said one.

Whilst Ponnambalam's killing has been claimed by hitherto unknown ÎNational Front Against Tigers', in a Sinhala-language statement sent to Sri Lanka's media, Tamil paramilitaries are thought to have carried out the killing also.

With the exception of the Tamil United Liberation Front, none of the Colombo-based Tamil political groups have condemned the killings.

'Mamanithan' award for Ponnambalam

[TamilNet, January 08, 2000 12:27 GMT]

Mr. Kumar Ponnambalam, the assassinated Tamil political leader, has been bestowed with the Most Eminent Person (Mamanithan) award by the Liberation Tigers' leadership, the organisation said in a statement from its London offices Saturday.

The LTTE said the award was for Mr. Ponnambalam's "dedicated patriotism and for his outstanding contribution to the cause of Tamil liberation".

"Conferring this highest national award for extra-ordinary services on Mr. Ponnambalam, the LTTE leader Mr. Pirapaharan praised him as a great patriot who courageously championed the freedom of the Tamil nation," the LTTE said.

In a special statement issued Friday Mr. Pirapaharan categorised Mr. Ponnambalam as "a revolutionary political leader who fought for human justice with sincere determination and commitment," the LTTE said.

Living in the heart of the Sri Lanka capital and disregarding the dangers that threatened his life, he challenged the evils of Sinhala chauvinism, the LTTE leader had observed.

"Mr. Ponnambalam was an outstanding patriot who deeply loved his Tamil homeland. He supported the formation of an independent Tamil state based on the right to self-determination of the Tamil people. He firmly believed in the armed revolutionary struggle as the authentic political mode for the emancipation of the Tamils," the LTTE statement quoted Mr Pirapaharan as saying.

"Therefore, he openly and courageously supported the LTTE and its political ideology. He defended the cause of our liberation movement in the international arena. His courage, dedication and the deep commitment with which he contributed to the cause of freedom is highly commendable," Mr. Pirapaharan had declared.

Ponnambalam's funeral held

[TamilNet, January 09, 2000 08:25 GMT]

The funeral of Mr.Kumar Ponnambalam took place in Colombo today. His body was cremated at Khanate Hindu cemetery around 1 p.m. this afternoon. His son Gajenthirakumar set fire to the pyre.

The cortege of Mr.Ponnambalam left the residence, 'Geethanjali' at Queens Street around 10.30 a.m. this morning. Over one thousand people followed the cortege to the cemetery sources said.

A large number of people from all communities, including Tamil parliamentarians and opposition party members attended the funeral, sources said.

Shops remained closed in areas where Tamil live in large number, including Wellawatte, Bambalapitiya, Kollupitiya. Black and white flags were also hoisted in these areas to mourn the slain leader, the sources said.

Sources said a hartal is observed in the northern towns of Jaffna, Mannar and Vavuniya with shops remaining closed.

In the Batticaloa district, Tamils in Araiyampathi, Pudukuddiruppu, Senkaladi, Siththandi and Valaichchenai villages today observed a hartal by hoisting white and black flags and closing down shops in mark of respect.

In Batticaloa town, shops were not closed due to threats made by a local leader of the United National Party with the help of some members of Sri Lankan armed forces, traders said.

People living in the areas held by the Liberation Tigers in the district also mourned, sources said.

People in Mannar today observed a hartal at the request made by the District Organizers of the Tamil Eelam Liberation Organisation and Eelam Peoples Revolutionary Liberation Organization. Shops were closed and black flags were hoisted.

Tamils in Trincomalee also observed hartal. Black flags were seen all over the town and shops were closed.

In the Jaffna peninsula, black flags were hoisted in public places and shops were closed.

Ponnambalam aide identifies 'Shantha'

[TamilNet, January 18, 2000 10:45 GMT]

All Ceylon Tamil Congress leader Kumar Ponnambalam's aide, G.Thomas has identified the person who met the late M.Ponnambalam. at his home on the day of his assassination as Shantha.

Shantha later accompanied Ponnambalam on a drive to downtown Colombo, Thomas tesitfied. The ACTC leader was later assassinated by a gunman in Wellawatte, a Colombo suburb.

Testifying before Galkissa Magistrate Sumathipala at the Magisterial inquiry into the death of late Kumar Ponnambalam, Thomas said that he had been working as a mechanic at the residence of Ponnambalam for about ten years.

His employer had amassed a collection of 19 Mercedes Benz cars at his home which were maintained by Thomas. On Janaury 5 while working in the garage, he heard the call bell at the gate ring. He went towards the gate and looked out to see a caller waiting outside. The caller introduced himself as 'Shantha' and said that he'd come to see Ponnambalam. Thereafter he told his employer, who was upstairs at the time, that one Shantha had come to see him. He told him this over the telephone.

Ponnambalam directed him to let him in and told him to be seated in the verandah.

Shantha, who didn't strike Thomas as threatening, wore a blue shirt and black trousers. "Since that person spoke fluent Sinhala I thought that he was a Sinhalese," said Thomas. Thereafter he proceeded to the garage to continue his chores.

Thomas tesified that he saw his employer leave with Shantha. They travelled in Ponnambalam's Mercedes, bearing the registration plate No 65-3590. Ponnambalam drove while Shantha sat in the passenger-side front seat.

Thomas proceeded to the scene of Ponnambalam's killing with the M.P's son when they heard the news, Thomas told the inquest.

The inquiry will resume on January 21.

CID arrests Ponnambalam suspect

[TamilNet, January 26, 2000 15:46 GMT]

Criminal Investigation Department officials have arrested a youth in connection with the assassination of Kumar Ponnambalam, police sources said.

The youth was arrested at a house at Mattakuliya by a CID team led by Senior Superintendent of Police (SSP) Bandulle Wickremasinghe, the sources said.

Sources added his father is a Muslim and mother Sinhalese.

The police said the arrest was made after officers acted on a tip off from a member of the public.

The youth fits an artist's impression of the suspect published by the police.

Kumar Ponnambalam, the leader of the All Ceylon Tamil Congress, was shot dead in Colombo on 5 January.