Shyamlal’s death: The mystery deepens

By Leon Berenger

The United Nations has changed its earlier claim that its staffer, Sri Lankan lawyer Shyamlal Rajapaksa, was murdered in Tanzania and now says the death was due to natural causes.“I have a correction to make to an answer I gave concerning the death of prosecutor Shyamlal Rajapaksa.

According to spokesman, for the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda Roland Amoussouga - to whom I spoke to this morning, the investigation had ruled out any foul play,” a UN spokesperson said.
The Sri Lankan government is assisting the Tanzanian authorities in a high-level probe on the death of Shyamlal Rajapaksa after the UN Headquarters in New York said on Monday the victim had been allegedly murdered.

Outgoing Foreign Secretary Palitha Kohonna said the government was providing assistance to the Tanzanian authorities involved in the probe but declined to give further details.

Police spokesman Nimal Mediwaka said that no request had so far been made for Sri Lankan police assistance although relatives of the victim could make such a request.

At the beginning of the probe the UN said the victim had died of a massive heart failure and that the matter was not up for further discussion. This drew an angry reaction from the immediate family. Lalitha Rajapaksa, the mother of the victim told this newspaper last week that there remained serious doubts on the true cause of her son’s death and accused the UN of a cover up.

“Either the UN is trying to dodge the insurance payment or finding a way out of embarrassment”, Ms. Rajapaksa said. At the time of his death my son was in possession of a damning report on the Rwanda genocide that took place some 15 years ago, she said.

Mr. Rajapaksa, the son of former Health and Fisheries Minister, George Rajapaksa and sister of Nirupuma Rajapaksa Nadesan, a Member of Parliament, was a prosecuting attorney for the UN tribunal probing war crimes in Rwanda and had prior to his death he had informed the UN that his task of compiling a report had been accomplished.

According to initial reports two unidentified visitors had been with the victim at his apartment for some two hours, and his family believes that they may have been responsible for his death.

“Perhaps they were looking for this report and may have roughed up and threatened my son. This may have led to a heart attack,” Ms. Rajapaksa said.

She said the UN or the Tanzanian authorities were yet to comment on the whereabouts of this report compiled by her son.

Two close family members have already left for Tanzania to gather first hand information on what really took place. They are due back tomorrow.

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