He asked “why
are you silent”; the next day he was silenced
Despite the much bragged-about tight security
in Colombo, a leading Tamil politician was gunned down in broad
daylight, underscoring the volatile situation in the capital.
Nadaraja Raviraj, the outspoken Tamil National
Alliance parliamentarian, was killed on Friday morning at Borella
and the assassination took place against the backdrop of rising
abductions, disappearances and killings that have raised alarm in
international human rights circles.
Mr. Raviraj, a former mayor of Jaffna, was elected
to parliament from his hometown Jaffna. During his short tenure
as MP, he played an active role as a champion of Tamil rights. He
participated in television debates where he was seen as the voice
of the Tamils and was in the forefront of protest rallies against
human rights excesses. A day before his tragic death at the hand
of a mystery killer, who managed to escape after committing the
heinous crime, he attended a TNA demonstration outside the United
Nations’ Colombo office, carrying a board which read “UNHCR-UNICEF
why are you silent” (over the killing of scores of Tamils
in Vakarai in the Army shelling on Wednesday and the worsening humanitarian
situation in Jaffna).
|Raviraj participating at the TNA demonstration
outside the United Nations’ Colombo office one day before
he was slain. Pic by Athula Devapriya
Mr. Raviraj who often went around with only one
bodyguard from the Ministerial Security Division had on many occasions
come close to harm’s way.
In April this year, he made a complaint to the
Kantalai police saying his car was pelted with stones by a mob when
he was returning from Trincomalee after attending the funeral of
V. Vignesvaran the president of the Trincomalee District Tamil Peoples
The incident took place at Abeyapura, a Sinhala
settlement in the suburbs of Trincomalee where the mob had stopped
the car in which Raviraj was travelling.
Though he was a member of the TNA, a political
mouthpiece of the LTTE, he had criticised the rebel group, especially
on issues related to children in the north.
In an interview, Mr. Raviraj said that LTTE leader
Prabhakaran's children were leading a comfortable life abroad, but
poor Tamil children had to wait in long queues all day to get a
loaf of bread without even going to school.
"This is the sad plight that has befallen thousands of children
living in the country's North. While children of bigwigs live a
plush comfortable life on foreign soil. That inlcudes the children
of LTTE leader Prabhakaran," he said.
|A family in shock and grief. Pic by Berty
On Friday morning, Mr. Raviraj, a lawyer by profession,
after finishing an interview with Derana television, left his home
at Matha Mawatha, Narahenpita for his office in Hulftsdorp in his
Purple Prado. He had made a turn to come to the opposite lane where
the gunmen had been waiting.
According to eyewitnesses, the assassins had come
in a three wheeler and fired at the MP and then escaped on a motor
cycle. They had brought the T-56 assault rifle hidden in a cricket
After emptying the magazine on the MP, the assassins
had dropped the weapon and fled the scene. Minutes later soldiers
had arrived at the scene and had taken the injured MP and his bodyguard
in a van that was parked on the side of a road. They cleared the
path for the driver to go to the National Hospital. Mr. Raviraj
who was critically wounded died minutes after he was brought to
hospital while his bodyguard is believed to have died on the spot.
In the wake of Friday’s assassination, LTTE leader Prabhakaran
has conferred the group’s highest award, Mahamanithar (Great
Human being), on Mr. Raviraj for his work and dedication with which
he served the Tamil people.
“In recognition of, Mr Nadaraja Raviraj’s
love of freedom, his patriotism and his services to our freedom
struggle, I am proud to bestow the title of Mamanithar on him. Death
never destroys the great souls who lived their lives for truth.
They will live for ever in our nation’s soul as heroes of
our history,” Mr. Prabhakaran said in a statement.
The assassination of
the firebrand TNA parliamentarian Nadrajah Raviraj has drawn
widespread condemnation from leaders, political parties and
the international community.
President Mahinda Rajapaksa: The killing was “a cowardly
and heinous act'” by “those opposed to dissent
and political pluralism in a democratic society.”
The US Embassy: “We express our deepest sympathy for
this loss to the family of Raviraj, to his parliamentary colleagues,
and to the people of Sri Lanka, who have been unjustly robbed
of his energy and talent. It is critical that crimes such
as the murder of Raviraj not go unpunished."
Opposition UNP Leader Ranil Wickremesinghe: “it is
of paramount importance that an independent inquiry should
be held on the killing and the culprits apprehended”.
The JVP: “We don’t agree with the political
views of Mr. Raviraj. However, we respect the democratic right
he has to hold such views. It is the political heritage of
murderous separatist Tiger terrorists to savagely murder their
The EPDP: “The party under no circumstances believes
that problems whether ethnic or otherwise can be solved by
resorting to violence or killings.”
The Socialist Alliance: “This senseless killing brings
to the fore the suspicion that an unforeseen hand is operating
to further complicate the efforts to find a speedy solution
to the ethnic problem”.