On September 4, 1993, near the Khan Clock tower, Navy officers engaged in a routine check, were checking the passengers in a bus. Quite an innocuous operation that happens everyday.
Most Sri Lankans regard it as an ordeal that takes place till the next bomb explodes. To a foreigner this is an exhibition of men carrying lethal weapons checking passengers, which indicates a grave crisis and a war situation in the country.
But for Navy officer Kurukulasuriyage Jehan Sumiththa, it was one of those experiences that make parents trek to the temple for a Bodhi Puja for protection and blessing for their sons who are fighting a war that does not seem to end. It was one of those incidents that make him an instant hero, or if he is unlucky still a hero where his soul is posthumously promoted. When he checked a passenger, the passenger in a flash drew a 9 m.m and shot at him. He jumped and tried to grab the pistol and the bullet whizzed past his ear. The Naval officer was lucky, he was able to arrest him, but the other person who was with him escaped from custody. The Navy recovered the empty cartridge shell, two magazines, 16 live bullets and a 9 mm pistol. He is known as K. Lingeswaran, alias Rahulan, alias Palan, alias Kuna.
Lingeswaran was prepared to tell his story in bits and pieces. On September 10, K. Lingeswaran told the CID he was willing to cooperate and show where the weapons were hidden. The CID with the Army intelligence took Lingeswaran to Anuradhapura. He said that bombs and other arms were buried in the jungles of Karuwalagaswewa but the Army intelligence knew the terrain and found that he was lying. It became obvious to the CID that this was a ploy used by Lingeswaran to escape.
Then after a futile search when the security forces found it was an attempt to hoodwink them, they got him repent to and relent. Then he finally admitted that there were no weapons in the jungles of Anuradhapura but buried in Colombo. He was then taken by the CID officers with the intelligence unit of the Army to a house at St. James Street Colombo 15, where he had rented out a small room from one Wijesinghe Arachchige Alice Nona.
Lingeswaran did show to the Army and the CID where he had concealed the other weapons. He had buried the weapons just outside his room under a cement step. The CID officers were able to dig the floor with the aid of a mammoty and unearth two parcels. The larger one contained four hand grenades and the other four hand grenades and 22 cartridges. The hand grenades were of the following makes: 1 SFG 87 and 3 M 73 and 22 live cartridges of 9 m. m. automatic pistol. Alice Nona, 56, said Lingeswaran came in search of accommodation, with a person called Sekar who was known to her and told her that he was waiting to go abroad. She had no room in her house but said she could rent out a small room made of timber for nine hundred rupees. Lingeswaran had told her, if he had to go abroad suddenly, to hand over his goods to his friend Sekar.
The first chapter of the story of K. Lingeswaran was concluded with this recovery of weapons.
Alice Nona, a humble Sinhalese woman, believed the story of Lingeswaran. On September 11, 1993, one week after he was arrested, he made his first revelations about his involvement with the LTTE. He told the CID he is known as Lingeswaran, alias Rahulan, alias Palan, alias Kuna and he was introduced to the LTTE by two of his friends, Gunapalan and Pathmanathan and he was trained by the LTTE at "Palali" and at 'Sarath Babu Base". Then he spoke of one Ramesh, and told the CID the weapons that were buried in his room were weapons given to him by Ramesh. He also said that one Neelan, an assistant of Pottu Amman, had wanted him to meet Kumar and then he described how they planned to kill Nadarasa, the Chairman of the Palmyrah Development Board. Later Lingeswaran was handed over to the Crimes Detective Bureau. Ramesh was also known as Raghunathan.
Later, Lingeswaran admitted, first to the CDB and then to the Chief Magistrate Colombo, that he was the main accomplice in the killing of Lalith Athulathmudali. At the CDB, ASP Gnanaratna recovered one JR hand grenade and 12 live cartridges which were hidden in a pillow case. The CDB having concluded the investigations submitted a report on April 26, '94, with the extracts of the investigations, to indict Lingeswaran on many counts, with the main count being the murder of Mr. Athulathmudali.
The investigation of a crime requires an open mind, and the investigator should be able to analyze the source of information without any bias. The indictment of Lingeswaran before the High Court of Colombo did not take place. Instead, the investigators became the suspects. The interdiction of these officers who were responsible in interrogating the Tamil suspects may give the feeling that some officers of the CDB might be the main accomplices in the Athulathmudali assassination. Therefore, it may be contended that the real intent of the officers was to extract a confession from Lingeswaran to implicate himself and exculpate any suspicion that could be levelled against them. Kandiah Lingeswaran, instead of defending a charge under the PTA or the Emergency regulations, was brought before the Commission and this is what he said under oath.
He was a fisherman and had come to Colombo to go to Switzerland. He was never a member of the LTTE. He knew a person called Kumar. He knew that he was a member of the LTTE. Kumar gave him Rs. 25,000 to pay as an advance to rent out a house. He came to occupy the house at St. James Street in March 1993. Kumar used to give him money whenever he wanted. Kumar in turn gave him a pistol which was kept in a box, and wanted him to keep it in safe custody. There was a big stone near his house in a passage. He hid the gun and the magazine under the big stone.
On the day he was arrested he was taking the gun to be handed over to Kumar. He never knew Pottu Amman or Ramesh or Raghunathan. He never got a training and never attended classes under the LTTE. He made a confession at the instance of Nilabdeen. He told me to say this. He therefore said it because he was frightened that I would be handed over to the Army for further interrogation. Therefore he made a statement to the Magistrate. He repeated what he was told by police to be told to the Magistrate. He was innocent. He was never a member of the LTTE. When he was taking the pistol to be given to Kumar, he was arrested by some Navy officers, and they took him into custody as he did not have proper papers.
This is the plea of an innocent man framed by the police to be a member of a terrorist organisation, a man like many others in Jaffna who had come to Colombo. He was arrested because he had with him a toy (9 m.m.) gun, and the police wanted to exculpate themselves on many lapses they have committed in probing into the assassination of Lalith Athulathmudali. But I do not know how the perpetrators of this hideous frame-up found 4 hand grenades and 21 live cartridges from the place in his compound. This was done to show that it was a massive conspiracy by the LTTE to kill Lalith and put the blame on the southern political leaders for the killing.
Unfortunately those who propound this theory have forgotten that it was not the CDB but the CID with the Army intelligence that discovered the productions. It was only a few days after his arrest that Lingeswaran admitted to the CID many aspects regarding his connection with the LTTE. He was handed over to the CDB as he confessed to his involvement in the assassination of a powerful person.
If Lingeswaran's statement to the commission is to be accepted then we have to accept that the CID and the Army intelligence unit introduced 4 grenades and 22 live cartridges. When these weapons were unearthed it was done in the presence of the landlord and many others. Why did the CID officers take Lingeswaran to the Anuradhapura jungles in search of weapons. Why did Lingeswaran agree to take the gun to be handed over to Kumar? Why could not Kumar take away the gun by coming to his place at St. James Street? Who has fooled whom?
This is the unfortunate tragedy in this episode. The LTTE has found allies amongst us who were willing to ignore the fact that arms and explosives were found in Colombo, in St. James Street.
Did the Army intelligence collaborate with the CID to fix Lingeswaran? Did not the Magistrate when he recorded the statement, which was recorded for more than two days see that this man was lying. Can a person give all these details, like where he was trained and how many Army camps he attacked and graphic descriptions and particulars of his involvement with the LTTE, by memorising what has been told to him by Mr. Nilabdeen. Have we ignored the fact that with the discovery of productions to corroborate his testimony he would have been found guilty in High Court?
Sivabalan Barathi alias Kannan, alias Kumar, was arrested on November 15, 1966 at Vavuniya. He has made a statement to the Police and has said he joined the LTTE through a school mate of his called Neethan, who was the leader of the intelligence section of the LTTE in Vanni district. He has said that on several occasions he was moving with one 'Palan' and he had identified the photograph of Lingeswaran and had given a description of how Lingeswaran was arrested by the Navy. Kumar according to Lingeswaran's testimony, is a member of the LTTE. If Kumar is brought before any tribunal he will deny his involvement with the LTTE and deny any knowledge of Lingeswaran.
The statement of Kauseelan is extremely interesting. His name is Pedurupillai Jebaneshan, alias Jerrad. The name given by the movement is Kauseelan. Witnesses Deva Radhi and her husband Velayuthan Ravichandran who said that Kauseelan came to Colombo to go abroad and they never knew his name other than the name given to him by the LTTE. According to his statement he has been trained at Jaffna as a special commando and had got training as a Black Tiger. From 1989 to 1990 he was the chief of the elite commando unit chosen by Prabhakaran as his body guards. He had taken part in attacks on the Kilinochchi Army camp, Navakkuli Army camp, and also attacked the IPKF. He was responsible for the attack on an IPKF camp and was responsible for the killing of Colonel Bakshi. After this attack Prabhakaran had a special dinner for him. In 1991 he was expelled from the LTTE but rejoined the LTTE in 1992 and was under the command of Sokkan.
Even if this story sounds like a fairytale, and that this may be the imagination of the officers at the CDB to implicate these innocent Tamil brethren who had come to Colombo to escape the war and go abroad in search of greener pastures can one ignore the other circumstances like the revelations he made not only to the CDB but also to the Counter Subversive Units in Chilaw. At Udappuwa a large number of explosives were found buried in the shore.
No one knew how these explosives came there. After the arrest of Kauseelan he spoke about Udappuwa and said he was sent by the LTTE to set up a small boutique in that area so that he could assist in smuggling items to the North and bring in arms and ammunition to Udappuwa, which is a convenient transit point. Kauseelan was later taken to Udappuwa and he was able to identify 10 hard-core terrorists who were masquerading as fishermen. It is only a few days ago that a large cache of arms, and a vest filled with metal balls and explosives was recovered. Is it possible for the CID, NIB and SID officers to question this suspect and for him to give an identical statement to all these officers. Then why did not the government apply the same yardstick that it applied to the CDB officers and interdict the other officers who recorded this impugned confession? Did not these officers who are experienced investigators find that the confession recorded by the CDB is coloured and will not stand scrutiny. Did they implicate Kauseelan falsely so that the alleged findings of the Commission will be subverted?
Did the CDB plant a confession by Lingeswaran in order to subvert the truth? This was done long before the Commission was appointed. The Magisterial inquiry had been concluded. The eye witnesses account and the forensic evidence clearly established that Raghunathan was the killer. Then what was the necessity for the CDB to further exacerbate the situation by putting into the mouth of an innocent civilian that he was the accomplice of Raghunathan. If the CDB was anxious to put the blame on the LTTE and close the file, why wait till Lingeswaran was arrested. They could have easily found a LTTE suspect and get him to implicate Raghunathan as the killer and that person could have been made the accomplice. Soon after the murder, at Kurunegala Police division, a Tamil youth was arrested and a lot of publicity was given to the arrest connecting him with the murder of Lalith Athulathmudali. This suspect was brought to Colombo and was interrogated by Nilabdeen and Jeyaratnam under the supervision of Lionel Gunathilaka. Within a few hours Nilabdeen found that this was a hoax and shortly afterwards discharged him.
It is accepted the world over that special laws are needed to fight terrorism. As the world becomes engulfed by acts of terrorism, freedom fighters and militants become naked terrorists. The evidence found by investigators in the cases involving terrorists, is so weak that it would not stand the scrutiny of the normal laws. Special situations demand special laws. To combat the LTTE, which is the most ruthless terrorist organisation, we need not only special laws like the PTA, but investigators with extraordinary skills. These skills cannot be taught at the Police training school. They cannot even be trained by the Mossad or similar secret governmental organisations. The skill comes mainly with their experience of questioning terrorists.
The LTTE intelligence network is so widespread and has successfully infiltrated into the intelligence establishment of government and its secret service agencies that it is in a position to filter any information that is anti-LTTE and give it a distorted meaning. Double agents work not only for the KGB, CIA, Mossad but also for the LTTE.
Recently the Canadian government prosecuted an LTTE agent who has infiltrated into their intelligence establishment. The interdiction of Lionel Gunatillake, SSP CDB or for that matter the removal, suspension or interdiction of the IGP or even the Army Commander will not be international news unless there is some undertones or connections with the ethnic war, violence or the LTTE. But the interdiction of Lionel Gunatillake became international news when "Asiaweek" published the story on the page entitled 'Frontlines'.
This is how it reads "PURGED: Lionel Gunatillake, Sri Lanka's senior superintendent and Crime Detection Bureau director, Chief Inspector M.N. Nilabdeen and Sub-Inspector T. Jeyeratnam on Feb. 1. They were fired because they released information about the assassination of a Tamil leader that was revealed in a closed Presidential Commission hearing."
To any patriot the kind of distortion that has taken place in planting this story must be obvious.
The reader would come to the obvious conclusion that a Tamil political leader was assassinated, and these officers who truthfully released the news, had been interdicted. This news item may have gone to the Internet and dissemination of misinformation by the LTTE about the government killing a Tamil leader, would have been taken seriously by the Tiger human rights activist. But "Asiaweek" would never have published the correct news item which ought to read as follows; these officers were interdicted for having released to the media news about the assassination of a Sinhalese Leader by a Tamil separatist terrorist quite contrary to the views expressed by witnesses at a Presidential Commission.
The LTTE is able to distort the truth to such an extent, that we have become more gullible than those who support the cause of Eelam in the West. We will peddle this thinking until the south of Sri Lanka gets subverted, and becomes a subject state of the Tamil Confederation. By our action we are speeding the cause of Eelam and the terrorists.
Go to Military Column
Return to the Editorial/Opinion contents page