Lalith Athulathmudali Murder

Place: Sri Lanka | Courtesy: Collection
| Date: 19930423

On 23 April 1993, the opposition party leader Mr. Lalith Athulathmudali was assassinated at an election rally held in the town of Kirullapone.

The government immediately accused the LTTE of this murder, and the police produced the body of a Tamil person, Ragunathan, as the assassin. A communiqué from the Presidential Secretariat stated in part, "the person now known to be Ragunathan, alias Appiah Balasingham, shot and killed Mr. Athulathmudali and was later found dead at scene 2. Seriously injured and fearing imminent capture, he undoubtedly took his own life by way of cyanide poisoning..."1

The allegation against the LTTE was repeated over and over again in news reports and other communiqués. Newswire services carried it to the world media. New York Times (10 May 93) said, "Ragunathan had been identified as the gunman who killed the opposition leader Lalith Athulathmudali..."

Even the famous Scotland Yard became a party to this lie. A team headed by Detective Superintendent Alec Edwards, in a report filed in July 93, said, "He (Ragunathan) undoubtedly took his own life by way of cyanide poisoning." [The government analyst2, however, found no trace of cyanide in his body!]

US State Department 1993 Report on Global Terrorism enjoined, "Opposition party leader Athulathmudali was assassinated the week before by an unidentified lone gunman who may have been an LTTE member."

Now, a Presidential Commission3 headed by former Supreme Court Judge Tissa Dias Bandaranayake has said in its report submitted on 7 October 1997 that, "the assassination was carried out not by an LTTE suspect but by an underworld figure on contract... premeditated murder was seen in the non-provision of proper security for the fatal Kirullapone meeting, the planting of evidence and wrong information given to the inquiring magistrate in an apparently planned and deliberate manner."

The commission said it believed that the Tamil youth Ragunathan, "was not the assassin but he had been killed elsewhere and his body dumped near the meeting site to present a false picture."

1. The Text of a News Release issued by the Presidential Secretariat of Sri Lanka; Released internationally by the Permanent Mission of the Democratic Socialist Republic of Sri Lanka to the United Nations; 16 July 1993

2. The Government Analyst, testified at the Lalith Athulathmudali Commission that swabs taken from the mouth of Ragunathan did not contain even a trace of cyanide. Dr. Lalantha de Alvis, the seniormost Judicial Medical Officer in Colombo, who conducted the autopsy on the body had earlier testified that the body smelled of cyanide and that he found pieces of glass in the mouth of the body.

3. AFP REPORT: FORMER PRESIDENT LINKED TO ASSASSINATIONS TRIED TO SHIFT THE BLAME ON TAMIL TIGERS.

COLOMBO, Oct 7 (AFP) - Sri Lanka's former president Ranasinghe Premadasa was responsible for two high profile assassinations and tried to shift the blame onto Tamil Tiger guerrillas, a fresh probe reported Tuesday. An investigation into the killings of former minister Lalith Athulathmudali and army General Denzil Kobbekaduwa found that president Premadasa was "directly responsible for the two killings," state radio reported. State radio quoted the findings of a special commission appointed by President Chandrika Kumaratunga as saying that underworld elements working for Premadasa was responsible for the killings. The commission also recommended the taking away of the civic rights of a Premadasa stalwart, former housing minister Sirisena Cooray, who is accused of suppressing evidence Athulathmudali was shot dead during an election campaign meeting in 1993 while Kobbekaduwa was blown up in a mine attack in the northern Jaffna district in August 1992. Premadasa was president at the time and the then government blamed the assassinations on the separatist Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) who are still fighting security forces in the island's northeast. Less than a week after the assassination of Athulathmudali, Premadasa himself was killed by a suspected Tamil Tiger suicide bomber during a May Day procession here. Premadasa is also accused of involvement in the 1988 killing of President Kumaratunga's actor turned politician husband Vijaya Kumaratunga who was a serious political challenger to Premadasa.