Last Updated: Tuesday, 22 July 2014, 14:56 GMT

Sri Lanka: Information on whether the police are still seeking the assassins of Democratic United National Front (DUNF) leader Lalith Athulathmudali who was killed on 23 April 1993 or whether they have closed the case; on the arrest of Atula (Athula) Ramanayaka Arachchige in relation to this assassination, and on the cases, trials, detentions or releases of the individuals arrested in connection with this assassination

Publisher Canada: Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada
Author Research Directorate, Immigration and Refugee Board, Canada
Publication Date 1 March 1998
Citation / Document Symbol LKA29046.E
Cite as Canada: Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada, Sri Lanka: Information on whether the police are still seeking the assassins of Democratic United National Front (DUNF) leader Lalith Athulathmudali who was killed on 23 April 1993 or whether they have closed the case; on the arrest of Atula (Athula) Ramanayaka Arachchige in relation to this assassination, and on the cases, trials, detentions or releases of the individuals arrested in connection with this assassination, 1 March 1998, LKA29046.E, available at: http://www.refworld.org/docid/3ae6aab330.html [accessed 23 July 2014]
DisclaimerThis is not a UNHCR publication. UNHCR is not responsible for, nor does it necessarily endorse, its content. Any views expressed are solely those of the author or publisher and do not necessarily reflect those of UNHCR, the United Nations or its Member States.

 

Democratic United National Front (DUNF) leader Lalith Athulathmudali was assassinated on 23 April 1993 during an election campaign in Colombo (Reuters 27 May 1993; Xinhua 24 Apr. 1993). Sri Lankan police investigating the assassination blamed the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE), a charge the LTTE "categorically" denied (Reuters 27 May 1993; Press Trust of India News Agency 25 Apr. 1993). The day after the assassination, the defence ministry offered a reward of 5 million rupees (US $105,000) for information leading to the arrest of the killer(s) (Xinhua 24 Apr. 1993).

According to sources, immediately following the assassination DUNF blamed then-President Ranasinghe Premadasa's government for Athulathmudali's assassination (Press Trust of India News Agency 25 Apr. 1993; Xinhua 24 Sept. 1993).

There had been reports that Athulathmudali's alleged assassin had been shot and killed by Athulathmudali's bodyguard (Reuters 27 May 1993; Xinhau 24 Sept. 1993). However, the post-mortem on an alleged assassin, a Tamil youth, concluded he had died not from gunshot wounds but from cyanide poisoning, a type of death generally associated with LTTE members who avoid capture (Reuters 27 May 1993; Press Trust of India News Agency 25 Apr. 1993).

In mid-May 1993, police took in three individuals for questioning for suspected links with Athulathmudali's assassin (Reuters 13 May 1993). In mid-June 1993, the Deputy Inspector of Police (Criminal Investigation Department, CID) stated that nine Tamil suspects had been arrested by the Crime Detection Bureau (CDB) and that another two suspects were to be arrested "shortly" (Lankapuvath 17 June 1993, 43).

A special two-person presidential commission known as the Lalith Athulathmudali Assassination Commission was set up by the government, consisting of Retd. Supreme Court Judge Tissa Dias Bandaranayake as chairman and Matara High Court Judge G.W. Edirisuriya (Daily News 7 Apr. 1997; Sunday Observer 24 Nov. 1996).

According to a 9 July 1996 article in the Colombo newspaper the Daily News, the suspects in the Athulathmudali assassination case were (1) Arambawalage Don Upali Ranjith de Silva alias Soththi Upali, (2) Janaka Priyankara Jayamanne alias Sudu Mahattaya, (3) U.L. Seneviratne, (4) Karunatilakage Nandasiri alias Nandana (5) and Wathudula Bandulage Somaratne alias Konda Some. Two more recent sources identified the alleged assassin as Janaka Priyankara Jayamanne alias (Wellampitiye) Sudu Mahattaya (Sunday Observer 24 Nov. 1996; Daily News 7 Apr. 1997).

On 4 April 1997 Retd. Supreme Court Judge Tissa Dias Bandaranayake, noted that "all investigations done by the police immediately after the killing [of Athulathmudali] were false." (Daily News 7 Apr. 1997).

On 7 October 1997, the Special Presidential Lalith Athulathmudali Assassination Commission submitted its reports to President Chandrika Kumaratunga, reporting that they "believed the then President R. Premadasa was directly involved" (Midweek Mirror 8 Oct. 1997). According to the Midweek Mirror of 8 October 1997,

the commission said it believed the assassination [of Lalith Athulathmudali] was carried out not by an LTTE suspect but by an underworld figure on contract. The report said the commission had heard evidence which pointed to the conclusion that Mr. Athulathmudali was killed because he was posing a major political challenge to the then President Premadasa. The commission felt Mr. Premadasa might have planned this move after Mr. Athulathmudali spearheaded an impeachment motion against him in August 1992. The commission said evidence of 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, whose body was found the next day on the nearby Mugalan Road, was not the assassin but he had been killed elsewhere and his body dumped near the meeting site to present a false picture.

For more information on the Commission's findings, please consult the 4 January 1998 attachment from the Colombo newspaper, The Sunday Times.

For additional information on the Athulathmudali assassination, please consult Responses to Information Requests LKA19856.E and LKA19857.E of 7 March 1995, which are available at Regional Documentation Centres. These Responses provide information on the findings of the Sri Lanka police and Scotland Yard in relation to the Athulathmudali assassination.

Information on the arrest of Atula (Athula) Ramanayaka Arachchige in relation to the Athulathmudali assassination case could not be found among the sources consulted by the Research Directorate.

This Response was prepared after researching publicly accessible information currently available to the Research Directorate within time constraints. This Response is not, and does not purport to be, conclusive as to the merit of any particular claim to refugee status or asylum. Please find below the list of additional sources consulted in researching this Information Request.

References

Daily News [Colombo]. 7 April 1997. Paneetha Ameresekere. "Lalith Athulathmudali Assassination Commission: Police Investigations Were False–Judge." [Internet]  [Accessed 30 Mar. 1998]

_____. 9 July 1996. "Evidence is Against Suspects for Court to Grant Bail, Says AG." [Internet]  [Accessed 27 Mar. 1998]

Lankapuvath [Colombo, in English]. 17 June 1993. "Police Official Notes Arrests in Assassination Cases." (FBIS-NES-93-116 18 June 1993, p. 43)

Midweek Mirror [Colombo]. 8 October 1997. Chaminda Gunasekera. "Premadasa Involved: Assassination of Lalith, Kobbekaduwa: Commissions Point Finger at Ex-President." [Internet]  [Accessed 30 Mar. 1998]

Press Trust of India News Agency [in English]. 25 April 1993. "Oppoosition Leader's Assassination: President Rejects Charges." (BBC Summary 30 Apr. 1993/NEXIS)

Reuters. 27 May 1993. BC Cycle. "Sri Lankan Police to Continue Leader's Murder Probe." (NEXIS)

_____. 13 May 1993. BC Cycle. "Eight More Held Over Sri Lankan Assassination." (NEXIS)

Sunday Observer [Colombo]. 24 November 1996. Paneetha Ameresekere. "Lalith Athulathmudali Assassination Commission." [Internet]  [Accessed 30 Mar. 1998]

The Sunday Times [Colombo]. 4 January 1998. Mudiyar. "It's a Hoax, It's a Hoax, It's a Hoax." [Internet]  [Accessed 27 Mar. 1998]

Xinhua. 24 September 1993. "Sri Lankan Police Confirm Killer of Opposition Leader." (NEXIS)

_____. 24 April 1993. "Sri Lanka Offers Over 105,000 Dollars to Catch Killers." (NEXIS)

Attachments

Daily News [Colombo]. 9 July 1996. "Evidence is Against Suspects for Court to Grant Bail, Says AG." [Internet]  [Accessed 27 Mar. 1998]

The Sunday Times [Colombo]. 4 January 1998. Mudiyar. "It's a Hoax, It's a Hoax, It's a Hoax." [Internet]  [Accessed 27 Mar. 1998]

Additional Sources Consulted

Electronic sources: Internet, LEXIS/NEXIS.

Copyright notice: This document is published with the permission of the copyright holder and producer Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada (IRB). The original version of this document may be found on the offical website of the IRB at http://www.irb-cisr.gc.ca/en/. Documents earlier than 2003 may be found only on Refworld.

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