SRI LANKA: Political party's newspaper distributor and member killed in separate attacks

Bomb attack intended for Eelam People's Democratic Party's intelligence chief, police say

By Arthur Rhodes
AsiaMedia Contributing Writer

Saturday, October 8, 2005

Colombo --- Two men were killed and one injured in three separate attacks against members of the Eelam Peopleís Democratic Party (EPDP) this week.

Kingsley Weeratana, a newspaper distributor and EPDP member, was shot to death while handing out the partyís newspaper Thinamurasu on Thursday morning. Fifteen minutes later a bomb exploded beneath a van parked outside of Thinamurasu's Colombo office.

A bomb exploded under a van outside Thinamurasu's Colombo offices. (Photo by Arthur Rhodes)

The police believe the bomb was intended to kill the van's owner, EPDP intelligence chief A. Jeyarajah, who resides above the paperís headquarters. Jeyarahah escaped, but his assistant was slightly injured in the explosion.

Friday morning, EPDP member Sendil Kumaran was shot to death in Jaffna shortly after dropping his son at school. A relative of Kumaran told the military that the he had recently applied for a job with the party.

Military spokesman Brigadier Witharanage says that the militant group Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) is suspected in all three attacks.

The EPDP claims that over fifty of its members have been abducted or killed by the LTTE since EPDP was disarmed following the February 2002 Cease-Fire Agreement between the Tigers and the Sri Lankan government.

"Before the ceasefire the government provided our members with weapons to protect themselves, but they took them back when it was signed. After that the LTTE intensified their attacks. We all live under severe threat," said EPDP spokesman S. Tavarajah.

"The LTTE claims to be the only voice of the Tamil people, and they will try to eliminate anyone that is opposed to them," Tavarajah said Friday.

The LTTE denies involvement in the attacks.

"This is what normally happens. There is an attack, and we are blamed for it," LTTE spokesman Thaya Master told AsiaMedia. "Without any proof or investigation they put the blame on us. Our leaders have been democratically elected by the Tamil people. We have twenty-two representatives in parliament. The [EPDP] has one. We have no reason to be killing anyone."

"There is no material evidence that would lead us to believe that this is the work of the LTTE," said Brigadier Witharanage. "But we believe that based on the past involvement of the [LTTE] in attacks such as these, we can say that it is their work."

The attacks occurred the same week the EPDP promised to intensify its campaign for the Northeast for Sri Lankan Freedom Party (SLFP) candidate Mahinda Rajapaske. Rajapaske has recently tied his campaign to two hardline anti-LTTE parties, the Janatha Vimukthi Peramuna (JVP) and the Jathika Hela Urumay (JHU). Both of these parties agreed to lend their support to Rajapaske only after he pledged to uphold the unitary system currently in place. LTTE leadership insists, however, that the authority of the Sri Lanka government must be devolved before the island can find a lasting peace.

After having spent almost two bloody decades fighting for a separate state, the LTTE committed in February, 2002 to a federal system in which power would be shared between central and state governing bodies.

LTTE political leader S.P. Tamilchelvan told AsiaMedia that the alliance between Rajapaske and these two parties "would erode the confidence of the Tamil people, and have extremely negative impacts on the peace process."

The LTTE has recently been banned from travel within the European Union for its alleged involvement in a number of recent killings, most notably the Aug. 12 assassination of Sri Lankan Foreign Minister Lakshman Kadiragamar. Kadiragamar, an ethnic Tamil, spent much of his political career lobbying for a worldwide ban of the LTTE as a terrorist organization.