End of dark era

2009: The year that was
By Dhananjani Silva and Thushara Kulatunga

The new year has dawned, but 2009 will remain forever etched in the minds of all Sri Lankans as the year when the long- festering separatist conflict was finally ended with Government forces defeating the LTTE. Months of bitter fighting and tortuous campaigns saw an end to the war in May 2009.

Amidst the widespread euphoria and celebrations that swept the country, concerns also centred around the plight of some 280,000 civilians caught up in the fighting who were placed in camps while demining activities were carried out in the North and East.

As the year drew to a close election fever took hold as Sri Lankans prepared to go to the polls once again to make their choice for President, the chief contenders being incumbent President Mahinda Rajapaksa and former Army chief General Sarath Fonseka.

Here’s a quick look back at the major events of the year that has passed.


January 2:
The Sri Lanka Army captures the LTTE’s former administrative capital Killinochchi which the terrorists had control of since 1998.

Three are killed and 22 civilians and 14 airmen injured in an LTTE suicide attack outside the Air Force camp at Slave Island, Fort.

January 6:

The studios of the Maharaja TV organization (MTV) comes under attack in the early hours of the morning when 20 men armed with grenades and T-56 assault rifles storm the Pannipitiya office and destroy equipment worth a million rupees. The main control room is completely destroyed in the incident.

January 8:

Chief Editor of the Sunday Leader Lasantha Wickremetunge is attacked on his way to work by a group of armed men on motorcycles who block his vehicle at Attidiya. Mr. Wickremetunga is rushed to hospital and doctors battle to save his life but he succumbs to his injuries at 2 p.m. after three hours of surgery. His death sparks outrage and condemnation and large crowds attend the funeral at Kanatte.

January 9:

Troops capture the strategic Elephant Pass.

January 11:

Troops of the 58 Division advancing into the LTTE held areas in the Wanni capture a vital LTTE airstrip and two hangars 5 kilometres west of the Mullaitivu lagoon.

January 16:

Civilians fleeing the conflict zones in the Wanni arrive at the Manik Farm IDP camp.

January 19:

Hundreds of angry Golden Key depositors stage a massive protest in front of the company’s head office at Duplication Road, Colombo, and force their way into the office to demand a refund of their deposits.


February 1:

Troops discover the LTTE’s key weapon sites including undersea craft at Mullaitivu.

February 4:

The last Sea Tiger base at Chalai is taken by the forces and fierce fighting ensues as LTTE cadres try to defend their shrinking terrain in Puthukkudyirippu.

February 5:

Spinner Muttiah Muralitharan sets a world record by becoming the highest One Day International (ODI) wicket taker when he bags his 503rd wicket during the fourth ODI match between India and Sri Lanka at the R. Premadasa stadium in Colombo.

February 12:

The government refuses the British Government’s request to send their special envoy Des Browne to study the humanitarian situation in Sri Lanka, resulting from the conflict.

February 14:

North Western and Central Provincial Council elections are held. The UPFA scores a resounding win polling 650, 203 votes and securing 36 seats in the Central Provincial Council and 668,743 votes and 37 seats in the North Western Provincial Council.

February 20:

United Nations Under Secretary General for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief Coordinator Sir John Holmes visits the Manik Farm IDP camp.

February 20:

Two people are killed and 58 injured when an LTTE aircraft on a night raid over Colombo crashes into the Inland Revenue Department building in Fort. Several buildings including the Trans Asia Hotel, Convention Centre and Air Force headquarters are damaged and many wounded. A second aircraft is shot down close to Katunayake.

February 21:

Sixteen villagers are murdered and 20 others injured in Karametiya, a village in Moneragala district by a group of LTTE cadres.

February 23:

Foreign Ministers of the EU issue a joint statement calling for an immediate ceasefire between Government forces and the LTTE to allow aid to reach the civilians trapped in the fighting.

February 26:

Ceylinco Group Chairman Lalith Kotelawela is remanded and an open warrant issued on his wife Sicille Kotelawela over the Golden Key credit card fraud.


March 1:

The goverment announces it is negotiating a US$ 1.9 billion bailout package with the IMF.

March 3:

The Sri Lanka cricket team on tour in Lahore, Pakistan comes under fire near the Gaddafi stadium when a group of unidentified gunmen attack the bus they are travelling in with rifles, grenades, and rocket launchers at around 8.40 a.m. Following a 25 minute-long gun battle between the security forces and the gunmen, six players and the assistant coach are wounded, though further harm is prevented by the heroism of the driver who takes the bus to the safety of the stadium. Six Pakistani policemen and two civilians are killed in the attack.

March 9:

Former TMVP leader Vinayagamurthy Muralitharan alias Karuna Amman is sworn in as a non-cabinet Minister of National Integration after he obtains SLFP membership with a group of other TMVP members from the East.

March 10:

An LTTE suicide bomber blows himself up at the inauguration of the Meelad-un-Nabi festival at the Jumma mosque in Godapitiya, Akuressa killing 15 and injuring at least 50 people including Posts and Telecomunications Minister Mahinda Wijesekera.

March 11:

In a crime that chills the country, a six-year-old girl Jude Reggie Varsha from St. Mary’s College, Trincomalee is abducted while waiting for the trishaw to take her home after school. The abductors demand a ransom from her mother who says she has no money to pay. Two days later Varsha’s mutilated body is found in a roadside drain in Trincomalee town.

March 12:

The Government announces the capture of Puthukkudyirippu hospital which was used by the LTTE as an artillery and heavy motor launching pad.

March 31:

Sri Lanka’s Olympic medallist Susanthika Jayasinghe gives birth to a son at a private hospital in Colombo.


April 1:

Troops of the 53 and 58 Division and the Task Force V111 capture the Pachchapulmudai junction completely cutting off LTTE links between the no-fire zone and forward defence line.

April 25:

Elections are held for the Western Provincial Council with the UPFA emerging victorious, securing 1,506,115 votes and 68 seats.

April 12:

The Sri Lankan embassy in Oslo comes under attack from LTTE supporters in Norway.

April 18:

Award-winning film personality and writer Tissa Abeysekera passes away at the National Hospital, Colombo after undergoing cardiac surgery.

April 22:

Former LTTE media chief, Daya Master and translator of slain LTTE Political Head Thamilselvan, George Master surrender to the military at Puthukkudyirippu.

April 24:

India's National Security Advisor K. Narayan and Foreign Secretary Shiv Shankar Menon arrive in Colombo for a meeting with President Rajapaksa over the civilian casualties in the war.

April 25:

The Government rejects the Indian call for an immediate ceasefire.

April 29:

Plans by three Foreign Ministers, Britain’s David Milliband, French FM Bernard Kouchner and Sweden’s Carl Bildt to visit Sri Lanka to look into the humanitarian situation and civilian issues in the continued fighting are thwarted when the Government refuses to grant the Swedish Foreign Minister’s visa on the grounds that he was not extended an invitation to visit the country.


May 4:

Heavy fighting continues between LTTE cadres Sea Tigers and Security Forces around the safe zone at Vellamullivaikal.

May 7:

Troops in final phase of the war rescue an estimated 17,500 civilians from the war zone and announce that plans for rescuing the last group of civilians are underway. Shell-shocked and starving civilians whom the LTTE had held as human shields cross the Nanthikadal lagoon on inflated tyre tubes, carrying their children and meagre belongings and are provided relief by Government forces.

May 19:

The body of LTTE leader Velupillai Prabhakaran is found on the banks of the Nanthikadal lagoon. Images are telecast on television channels and firecrackers are lit in the streets as jubilant troops and Sri Lankans in all parts of the country celebrate the LTTE’s defeat.

May 16:

Troops of the 58 and 59 Divisions link up on the last section of the beach held by the LTTE bringing all of Sri Lanka under the control of the State. President Mahinda Rajapaksa while addressing the G-11 summit in Jordan announces the historic victory, declaring that the Sri Lankan armed forces have defeated the LTTE militarily.


June 2:

In another blow to media freedom, senior journalist and Assistant Secretary of the Sri Lanka Working Journalists Association Poddala Jayantha is abducted and assaulted on his way home from work at Embuldeniya by a group of men in a white van. He is later dropped off by the roadside in Colombo.

June 3:

A colourful pageant is held to mark the war victory at Galle Face with parades highlighting the range of military might of the forces – supersonic fighter aircraft, helicopters, parachute jumping by the Air Force, fast attack crafts and warships.

June 5:

UN Secretary General Ban Ki Moon calls on the Government to conduct a probe on any human rights violations during the final phase of the war.

June 6:

For the first time in 20 years, the Yal Devi train makes her journey beyond Vavuniya and reaches Thandikulam railway station. A large number of passengers make this six-hour long journey.

June 11:

Canadian MP Robert Keith “Bob” Ray is denied entry into Sri Lanka when he lands at the Bandaranaike International Airport, on the grounds that he supported the LTTE. He is asked to sign a statement that he had made misinformed statements in order to reconsider his entry but he refuses and boards a flight to Canada after a 12 -hour stay at the airport


July 22:

A 14-year-old student of Museaus College hangs herself in the school toilet after she and other students are reprimanded for using mobile phones in school, the tragedy, triggering a huge debate over discipline issues.


August 4:

Nipuna Ramanayaka, a 22-year-old student attached to the Institute of Information Technology SLIIT in Malabe is assaulted by CCD men in Pittugala. The wife and son of a senior police officer are arrested over the incident.

August 6:

LTTE’s self-appointed leader after the annihilation of its top leadership and the organization’s long term international arms procurer Kumaran Pathmanathan alias KP is arrested in Malaysia following a joint intelligence and military operation by a Sri Lankan team.

August 8:

Uva Provincial Council elections are held with the UPFA securing 418,906 votes and 25 seats.

August 13:

Tension prevails in Angulana when residents of the area obstruct train services between Moratuwa and Colombo and confront police over the killing of two young men Dhanushka Udayanga Aponso (21) and Dinesh Tharanga Fernando (26) while in police custody. The victims were taken into custody by the police on the 12th evening at Podujaya school premises in Angulana for a minor offence.

August 16:

About 300,000 Roman Catholics attend the Madhu festival, the first to be held after the area was liberated from the LTTE. Travel restrictions are lifted to allow pilgrims to participate in the annual feast.


September 28:

Dr. P.B. Jayasundera is reappointed Treasury Secretary by the President after the Supreme Court grants him relief permitting him to resume duties. Mr. Jayasundera vacated his post on a Supreme Court ruling on an FR petition in 2008.


October 2:

J. S. Tissainayagam, the journalist serving a 20-year prison sentence is honoured with the first Peter Mackler Award for courageous journalism. His wife Ronnate Asirwatham accepts the award on his behalf in Washington DC.

The award is given in memory of a veteran AFP journalist who died last year.

October 10:

The UPFA sweeps to victory in the Southern Provincial Council elections, wining 804,071 votes and 14 seats.

October 29:

In a sadistic act that shocked the nation, a mentally imbalanced 26-year-old youth who had been throwing stones at a passing train near the Bambalapitiya railway station is chased into the sea and beaten up allegedly by a group of policemen. He idrowns. The tragedy is recorded and telecast on local TV news that evening. A policeman attached to the Bambalapitiya Police surrenders.

October 30:

The Ceylon Petroleum Corporation (CPC) and Lanka Indian Oil Corporation (IOC) announce a reduction in petrol prices.


November 1:

Chief of Defence Staff General Sarath Fonseka on a private visit to the United States is asked to face a “voluntary meeting” with the Department of Homeland Security.

Following high-level government diplomatic intervention, he returns to Sri Lanka without having to do so.

November 11:

Well-known actor Henry Jayasena, star of stage and screen passes away at Kalubowila Hospital after a brief illness. He was 78 years old.

November 12:

Chief of Defence Staff General Sarath Fonseka tenders his resignation from his post amidst strong speculation that he will contest the Presidential elections.

November 23:

President Mahinda Rajapaksa announces Presidential elections two years before they are due.

November 29:

Former Army Commander Sarath Fonseka, at his maiden press conference announces he will contest the Presidential elections under the ‘swan’ symbol as the common candidate from the opposition.


December 1:

  • The Government announces that IDPs will be free to leave their camps
  • Lanka’s Safe Bottle Lamp Project, the brainchild of surgeon Dr. Wijaya Godakumbura wins the prestigious ‘World Challenge-09’ competition conducted by Shell, BBC and Newsweek with the final result being announced in the Hague.

December 20:

Sri Lanka’s Olympic athlete Susanthika Jayasinghe’s bronze medal is elevated to a silver in the Women’s 200 metres of the Sydney Olympics in 2000 after gold medallist Marion Jones is stripped of her medal for having taken performance enhancing drugs.

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