Sri Lanka : Clash of the Titans

| by Veluppillai Thangavelu

(November 17, Toronto, Sri Lanka Guardian) The assassination of Bharatha Lakshman Premachnadra, President’s Director General of Trade Union Affairs and former Parliamentarian, can be described as the result of ‘Clash of the Titans’, the ultimate struggle for power that pits politicians against politicians.
“Why are the authorities afraid to take any action against Duminda Silva? The man who shot our brother is being protected in a hospital”
But, the war between politicians themselves could destroy lives. This war between the politicians ended in one politician dead by shooting at point blank range and another seriously wounded. In all, four people were killed on that fateful day. Police have so far recovered two T-56 assault rifles, three 3.8 revolvers and 10 pistols belonging to those involved in the shooting.
In all so far, 8 associates of UPFA MP R. Duminda Silva have been arrested. They are being held under the Prevention of Terrorism Act (PTA) in connection with the inquiry. Colombo additional Magistrate Prasanna de Alwis remanded MP Silva’s bodyguard Anura Thushara de Mel till Nov. 1 pending an identification parade.
Two persons arrested and deported from India for their alleged involvement in the assassination of former PA MP Bharatha Lakshman Premachandra on Oct. 8, had obtained visas from the Indian High Commission several weeks before the shootout.
The brutal killing of Bharatha Lakshman Premachandra took place in broad daylight by the security guards of UPFA Parliamentarian supervising the Defence Ministry, Duminda Silva opposite a polling station in Mulleriyawa on October 8 when polling at the local government elections was in progress. The killing has sent shock waves through out the country and raised many unanswered questions.
In many ways this is a home and home match. The victim Bharatha Lakshman Premachndra and Duminda Silva both belong to the Sri Lanka Freedom Party (SLFP), the major constituent party of the United Peoples Freedom Party (UPFA).
Bharatha Lakshman is a native of Kolonnawa, moved closely with the people of the area as a local politician from 1979. He was born on January 26, 1956 and was educated at Ananda College Colombo. Right from his school days he showed a keen interest in politics and became an active politician at village level soon after leaving school. He was elected to the Kolonnawa Pradeshiya Sabha in 1979 and was appointed as the Kolonnawa Organizer of the Sri Lanka Mahajana Pakshaya.
In 1988 Bharatha Lakshman contested for the Western Provincial Council in the first provincial council election from the United Socialist Front and was elected to the council. He represented the Western Provincial Council from 1988 to 1993.
In 1993 Bharatha Lakshman Premachandra contested from the People’s Alliance for the Western Provincial Council and was elected to the council once again. He first contested for Parliamentary Election in the year 1994 on the People’s Alliance platform. He won securing 63,421 preferential votes and served as a parliamentarian until the year 2000. At the time of his death he served as the Director General of Trade Unions at the Presidential Secretariat. Bharatha Lakshman Premachandra was an active trade unionist and also served as the President of the Sri Lanka Gymnastics Association.
Duminda Silva who was involved in this shooting incident was elected to Western PC on the UNP ticket, but later crossed over to the UPFA. He successfully contested the last Parliamentary general election on the UPFA`s Colombo District list.
The bone of contention between the two powerful politicians was over the preferential vote. Bharatha Lakshman supported Prasanna Solangarachchi who contested on the UPFA ticket at the election to the Mulleriyawa Pradeshiya Sabha. Duminda Silva supported a group of candidates whom he had sponsored. There had been frequent clashes between these two factions in the run up to the October 8 LG elections.
According to eye witness, Duminda Silva on October 8, Saturday rampaged through the Mulleriyawa along with about 100 supporters riding in about 20 vehicles, striking terror into people by attacking and intimidating the supporters of Solangarachchi. It was reported Solangarachchi and some of his supporters were prevented from making it to the polling stations to cast their vote by the gang of goons providing security to Duminda Silva.
Goons led by Duminda Silva have been terrorising Kolonnawa-Mulleriyawa area ever since the start of electioneering for the local government elections on 8th October. They have been intimidating and attacking mostly UPFA supporters.
On October 06, UNP MP Dayasiri Jayasekera told Parliament the graphic details about the state of terror prevailing in Kolonnawa-Mulleriyawa area. Holding up a photograph Jayasekera said that it showed the extent of damage caused to an election office of Prasanna Solangarachchi in Mulleriyawa by goons led by Duminda Silva adding that even a portrait of President Mahinda Rajapakse inside the election office was fired on by the assailants. Outside speaking to media Dayasiri Jayasekera said that the tragedy that caused such widespread shock and dismay would not have occurred if the government had paid heed to the revelations he made in Parliament.
On the day of the elections there were ominous signs that the day may turn bloody and violent. The first complaint to the special complaints center of the Elections Commissioner office was received at about 10.30 a .m. that Duminda Silva with about 100 others are obstructing and harassing the voters in the district of Sedawatte, Weheragoda Siddhartha Vidyalaya from casting their votes.
Unlike in the past, the police had new methods to immediately take counter action after determining the complaint received. Accordingly, these complaints under COL 9 received at 10.30 a.m. were reported to the DIGs of the Central, Southern and northern ranges by the Elections Commissioner. But those actions had no effect.
The second complaint received by the office was also against Duminda Silva. In that complaint a clear request was made to provide special extra police security. The Elections commissioner had forwarded this special request to the DIGs concerned at about 12.40 p. m.
Bharatha Lakshman was murdered by Duminda Silva at about 3.30 p.m. Hence, if the police really wished to take preventive action they had three long hours on their hands. Yet the politicised police took no action at all. Similar polling incidents were reported in Kurunegala and Matale too. But there, the police chiefs took immediate action following the Elections Commissioner’s office complaints.
According to Lakbima, when Bharatha Lakshman was shot at and fell, the police officers stood idle and watched without helping to take the victim to the Hospital. However, the police had contradicted the Lakbima story claiming that no police officer was on duty at the scene of the incident or even in its proximity. The police, however, had been fully aware well ahead from morning 10.30 a.m. of Duminda Silva’s murderous and intimidatory actions, yet avoided deployment of security in those areas.
In Kollonnawa, although Bharatha Lakshman was a political heavy weight he was no match to Duminda Silva who was the advisory MP for the Ministry of Defence, headed by Gotabhaya Rajapakse, the powerful civil servant cum politician.
Gotabhaya has turned the armed forces and the police to pay obeisance to him, and carry out only his orders. The armed forces have been purged of elements related or sympathetic to Gen. Sarath Fonseka who is incarcerated in Welikada prison and eating kiribath out of aluminum plate.
The family of Bharatha Lakshman Premachandra at a press conference asked why parliamentarian Duminda Silva was not a prime suspect in the investigation into Mr. Premachandra’s assassination. It was said they had no confidence in the probe carried out so far. Mr. Bharatha Lakshman’s brother Asela said they had urged the authorities to carry out an impartial inquiry into the killing of their brother. “According to one of the eye witnesses, Duminda Silva shot my brother. So how can they say he is not a suspect? This means that they pick and choose whom they think should be a suspect in this case,” he alleged. The CID had informed Premachandra’s family that investigations into his assassination were still on going.
“Various contradictory statements are being made on the inquiry and we are very disappointed with the government’s response to this tragedy,” he said and added that since their brother’s killing, President Mahinda Rajapakse had not spoken to the family nor had he visited the funeral house at Kolonnawa. Asela said there were threats to Mr. Premachandra’s life in February this year and that the family had written to government officials including Defence Secretary Gotabaya Rajapakse requesting for more security personnel, but nothing had been done at the time.
He said Silva was receiving a lot of backing from an influential force within the government. “We do not blame the government, but we feel there are certain elements within the government that are protecting him,” Asela said.
“Why are the authorities afraid to take any action against Duminda Silva? The man who shot our brother is being protected in a hospital,” Mr. Premachandra’s elder sister Swarna Gunaratne, a Canadian citizen, alleged. She said there was mystery and suspicion surrounding Silva after the shooting incident.
Hence, is it wrong if one assumes that the police chiefs in Colombo took no action on the complaints following the defence Secretary Gotabhaya`s instructions not to obstruct Duminda ? For, after all Gotabhaya is the all powerful defence Secretary fully responsible for the citizen’s security. If all the three Police chiefs neglected their onerous duties not because of Gotabhaya`s instructions, then what caused them to act this way ignoring the dire situation whereby a senior politician was made to lose his life eventually?
In “Clash of the Titans,” the ultimate struggle for power pits men against kings and kings against gods. But, the war between the gods themselves could destroy the world. Born of a god but raised as a man, Perseus (Sam Worthington) is helpless to save his family from Hades (Ralph Fiennes), vengeful god of the underworld. With nothing left to lose, Perseus volunteers to lead a dangerous mission to defeat Hades before he can seize power from Zeus (Liam Neeson) and unleash hell on earth. Leading a daring band of warriors, Perseus sets off on a perilous journey deep into forbidden worlds. Battling unholy demons and fearsome beasts, he will only survive if he can accept his power as a god, defy his fate and create his own destiny.
When elephants fight, it is the grass that suffers. This ancient proverb of the Kikuyu people, a tribal group in Kenya, Africa, is as true today as when the words were first spoken, perhaps thousands of years ago. Its essence is simplicity—when the elephant fight, it is the ant which suffer most. But Mulleriyawa was different. One elephant shot the other but also got seriously injured in return.

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Author: Sri Lanka Guardian

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