Parami killing: Police on trail of Tiger spy

By Asif Fuard

Police probing last Monday’s LTTE suicide attack that snatched the life of the Army’s Deputy Chief of Staff, Major General Parami Kulatunga (posthumously made Lt. General) and three others, are following leads to track down an LTTE intelligence operative who had apparently been monitoring the movements of the slain officer.

According to CCD detectives the LTTE spy from Vavuniya had been assigned to monitor the times that Lt. General Kulatunga left and returned to his quarters in the Panagoda Army camp and that he had found employment close to the Panagoda camp to be able to keep a close tab on his movements.

Symbols of a courageous combat veteran stand as final testimony to life and mission of Lt. Gen. Parami Kulatunga. Pix by Gemunu Wellage, M.A. Pushpa Kumara and Dinuka Liyanawatte

In February this year the LTTE youth had found employment in a bakery close to the Panagoda camp and he had taken a room on rent which was also close to the Army camp. The youth has gone missing since the day of the suicide attack.

The bakery owner on being questioned by the CCD has reportedly said that the suspect youth used to to go to Vavuniya often, saying that he had to go and see his sick mother. The owner also said that he did not object as he mainly worked during the night.

Other workers at the bakery told CCD officers that the youth used to hang around outside the bakery between 7 and 7.30 in the morning. According to CCD sources this was the usual time that the Lt. General left his quarters.

The bakery owner had also said that visitors occasionally came to see the youth and he claimed they were relatives.

Four days before the suicide attack, the suspect youth had a frequent visitor. Investigations have revealed that this associate too was an LTTE suspect wanted by the police.

A salute from Lt. Gen. Parami’s alma mater Trinity College

A bakery- worker has told investigators, that on the night before Lt. General Kulatunga was killed, this LTTE suspect had stayed over at the bakery. However, that same night the two of them had disappeared. The suspect youth’s associate had apparently come to the bakery on a black hero Honda bike which detectives say looked similar to the one used in the suicide attack.

On that fateful day, Lt. General Kulatunga had left around 7.20 in the morning in his silver Peugeot 406, that he usually travelled in with his backup vehicle.As he travelled along the Panagoda-Pannipitiya road he was trailed by the LTTE suicide bomber.

The bomber overtook the General’s back up vehicle and rammed into his Peugeot at the Pannipitiya junction.

The car immediately burst into a ball of flame. Parts of flesh of the suicide bomber was scattered all over.

Schoolchildren paying their respects

The other two who were killed along with Lt. General Kulatunga were Sergeant Gomez the driver and Budhika Madhuranga who was travelling with him. A resident of Pannipitiya Siemon Sirisena who was on his way to buy a newspaper was also killed.

The Officer In Charge of the Maharagama police, Inspector N. Zoysa said that eight houses and six vehicles were damaged in the blast.

According to police the Hero Honda motorbike believed to have been used in the suicide attack, bore the number plate WP MB 4089 and the bike had been registered under the name of Mohammed Shafras.

Shafras has been working as a chartered accountant at a British Company in Dammam, Saudi Arabia since May this year.

He had previously been the managing director of a ticketing cum foreign employment company Air Model Travel Plan (Pvt) Ltd in Sea Street, Pettah for about two years.

According to police, one week after Shafras left for Dammam he had spoken to his wife and wanted her to sell his motorbike .

The final salute from the Army to a fallen hero

He had reportedly quoted Rs. 150,000 for the bike. Meanwhile a colleague of Shafras, from his Sea Street days had introduced a broker identified as Ravi Chandrakumar to Shafras’s father-in-law.

On June 11, Chandrakumar had brought a Tamil buyer and a deal had been reached for Rs.145,000. However the deal didn’t come through as Shafras’s farther in law had been out.

The buyer had then been asked to come the next day (June 12) and the transaction tool place. Chandrakumar and the buyer had both come to seal the deal. Shafras’s father-in law- had told police that he did not know who the buyer was but he could not ride the bike as he had brought a lorry to transport the bike. Police have arrested Chandrakumar and another suspect. More than 70 people have been questioned over the suicide attack.

Police are also probing the anonymous call that the telephone operator at the National Hospital had received warning them to keep the morgue ready for the body of an Army General.

Why did they treat him this way?

By Marisa de Silva

Relatives and friends of Lt. General Parami Kulatunga - a man who gave 35 years of his life to safeguard his country, were forced to wait for more than seven hours until his body was released last Monday.

"We had to stand outside the mortuary for more than seven hours, without even being offered a chair or a glass of water," lamented Priyamali Oduman, the late officer's first cousin. Another close relation of the General, who had also worked under him said, "not one single politician or army official came there to even try to speed up the process. His body was just kept there from 8.30 a.m. till 4 p.m. until the magistrate arrived." Once the magistrate arrived, it only took her about 15 minutes to release the body, she added.

"I'm not saying that we should have been given any special treatment but, at least there should have been the basic dignity that any human being is entitled to, let alone a man who's done so much for his country and had even lost his own life in the process. Attending to his final arrangements and ensuring that everything ran smoothly wasn't too much to ask for in return?" she added.

"There was no point giving him all the honours at his funeral, if they couldn't protect him while he was alive. The appearance of politicians at the funeral was just a publicity gimmick," she charged.

"He was more than a brother to me - he was always ready to help . When my son had an accident at school, Parami immediately rushed the two of us to Colombo to seek treatment," Mrs. Oduman said. He was always kind hearted and never thought about himself. He was an honest officer. Although he was probably the most decorated officer after the Commander, he was so humble that we didn't even know about most of his achievements till we heard them on TV after his death," she said. He had also been quite the "family man" she said "We as a family have decided to look after the people who served him and the families of soldiers who have been killed in the war, in his memory," she said.

All those who worked under him had loved him. "When we went for his driver's funeral on Thursday, his father told us that if the Lt. General had a son he would have killed himself through grief," she said.

"I have no more tears left; all I'm left with is a lot of anger at the way he died. Usually a soldier dies an honourable death on the battle field fighting for his country…what was this?" she questions.

There were about 100 people guarding his body at the National Hospital, five truck loads and five jeep loads of soldiers were on guard outside the funeral parlour and about the same number escorted his body from the parlour to his home in Kelaniya and yet another grand escort was given at his funeral. However, when he was alive and in service, he was only provided with one measly back up vehicle as security, said another grief-stricken relative of Lt. General Parami Kulatunga.

With determination to save their lives she drove on

By Vidushi Seneviratne

It was around 7.45 a.m. and another regular Monday morning. Colombo was waking up to a busy week ahead and it was peak rush-hour as people headed for work and children hurried to get to school on time. Sapthala Ranasinghearachchi, a busy mother of three, had just begun her daily routine. Dropping her kids at school, she detoured from her usual route to attend to a business matter and suddenly it turned out to be a day she would never forget.

Sapthala relating how she took the injured in her vehicle. Pic by Dinuka Liyanawatte

She was heading towards Homagama and nearing Pannipitya when she suddenly noticed a man covered with blood, fallen by the side of the road, and driving a little ahead, she saw a car ablaze, with tyres and other debris scattered around. Thinking it was a motor-accident, she slowed down and offered to take any injured persons to hospital. “I have never before been a witness to even an accident, but the first thought that crossed my mind was to save the lives of whoever was injured,” said Ms. Ranasinghearachchi. By this time, she had been told that a bomb had just exploded and a high-ranking army officer had been its target.

Within minutes two army personnel along with civilians carried three critically injured individuals and placed them in the back of her van. “One army personnel got into the passenger seat of my van and told me to get these three people to the Army Hospital as soon as possible. He leaned his entire upper body and weapon out of the vehicle window and at times even got out of the vehicle to clear the road for me.”

At moments like this, according to Ms. Ranasinghearachchi, an amazing strength that you otherwise didn’t know you possess, comes to the fore. “I switched on my hazard lights and placed my left hand continuously on the horn, while steering with my right. The determination to get these people to hospital as fast as I could, and if possible save at least one life, gave me the strength to do what I did. These were the only thoughts that ran through my head and so I didn’t feel any apprehension,” she said.

Inspite of her daring deed and determination all three people in the vehicle had already succumbed to their injuries. She was told that one of the victims was the Army’s Deputy Chief of Staff, Parami Kulatunga posthumously made Lt. General. “I found it hard to believe that these people were dead. But for me, what was most impressive was how dedicated these army personnel were to their General, and though he was gone, the respect and adoration they had for him made them want to give him the due respect he deserved, even in death. This inspired me to get them to their destination as fast as possible,” said Ms. Ranasinghearachchi. Eventually given police escort, she got them to the National Hospital in about 20 minutes .

When faced with a situation such as this, the basic instinct of a human being would be to leave the place as fast as possible, especially considering the present security situation in the country. So what made her do the exact opposite? “Death comes to all of us at some point in our lives. When you are helping people, you can’t think of the repercussions or risks involved,” she said.

A second year law student, Ms. Ranasinghearachchi says her life has changed somewhat as a result of her actions that day. Her family and friends have been very supportive and at the end of the day, she is happy that she was able to do something in return for the brave men who strive to make this country a safer place to live in.

A tower of strength that was taken from our midst too soon

Lt. Gen. Parami Kulatunga RSP USP USAWC

That fateful Monday, I was in Jaffna. The sad news of your demise at the hands of a suicide bomber shocked and saddened me. We have both remained conscious that facing death in our battle against terrorism, to protect our fellow countrymen and nation, was very much a part of our destiny. Yet, you had to leave when so much remains undone.

Your help in these troubled times was a great consolation and a tower of strength, that I have lost both and a dear friend weighs heavy on my mind.

I met Parami for the first time in 1971 as an Officer Cadet. He was junior and had to fall in line for breakfast roll call and other routine chores day in and day out. I remember the many occasions when he took punishment meted out to him with great humility. It was the same when he was praised for good conduct. The cherubic smile you sported on both occasions was to become a hallmark of your character.

As second lieutenants (young officers) we were close friends. When he visited my home for the first time my parents took such a liking to him that he became very close to my parents, brothers and sisters and became a household name. My mother used to ask me regularly about “Parami Putha”.

He was a man with a large heart who loved children. Dear Parami how much you loved my son and daughter. All of us are unable to bear the pain of your demise. I have a hard time at home consoling them.

Among the many trips abroad that we made together the most memorable one was to Malaysia, in 2001. We met the Jayasekeras my school buddies during this trip, and they became so close to you in no time.

Doris Jayasekera the Malaysian wife of Senarath Jayasekara was weeping on the phone when I was still in Jaffna, a few minutes after the tragic incident. Our good friend Bernard Seck rang me the same night and said he had advised him to move out of Panagoda because of the distance and apparently he had said with a smile, “ I am ok Bernard, I am ok.”

I know the reason. You kept your Panagoda home spick and span. You enjoyed mowing your lawn. Shari and I were there on your last birthday in October. What a wonderful night it was, with your friends, relations and you did not forget your batch mates. You did not fail to organise batch get togethers every year, which we could not do.

Lately I loaded you up with so much work and you accepted everything with a smile. Did you not tell the Navy Chief of Staff on board the New Zealand vessel, “The man,” pointing the finger at me, “when the Chief of Staff rings me and says Para… that means work, work, work and work.” How affectionately did you say those words. You took over 60% of my workload willingly and with a smile.

Before I boarded the Air Force aircraft to leave for Jaffna, I told the Ratmalana Base Commander for you to deputise for me at the meeting at the Ministry of Defence, and I was told when I returned by the Base Commandeer of the SLAF that my message was the last call to you on your mobile phone a few minutes before your demise.

You had a large heart and an affectionate smile, which will be remembered by me forever. In laying down your life for a most noble cause, Parami you touched the hearts of all peace loving Sri Lankans. The enormous public anger and sympathy bear testimony to your great sacrifice.

You will be remembered by the millions of Sri Lankans for whose wellbeing you fought valiantly and fell victim to a dastardly act of terrorism.

May you attain Nibbana.

Major General Nanda Mallawaarachchi, RWP USP NDE PSC
Chief of Staff



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