Are Kumar’s Killers Beyond The Reach Of The Long Arm Of Law?
By V. Thangavelu
The damning revelations by the Insider in The Sunday Leader (December 23,2001) should cause no surprise to those who were following the ghastly murder of Kumar Ponnambalam before and after January 5, 2000. From day one, family members of Kumar made no secret about the real killer(s) who were behind his murder. Mrs. Yogi Kumar Ponnambalam, without mincing words, openly said she knew the person(s) responsible for the murder of her husband.
Not long after Kumar’s remains were brought home, PA Minister D.M.Jayaratne called to pay his last respects. He narrated to Mrs. Yogi Kumar his friendship with Kumar to the days they were together at Aquinas College. Having listened to the Minister, Yogi wanted to call his bluff and with justifiable indignation carefully chose her words and delivered with deadly effect at the Minister. She told him “Your government is responsible for the murder of my husband and I have no doubt about it.” Sensing trouble, Minister Jayaratne made a hasty retreat.
On the same day a Police Officer called at Kumar’s residence and spoke to Mrs. Yogi, this time offering security for the household, an offer she politely declined. “The only person who needed security in this house was my husband, after killing him what use is there for any security” Mrs. Yogi told the Police Officer.
The next VIP to speak to Mrs.Yogi was Ramani Ratwatte, wife of the then Minister Anuruddha Ratwatte. Ramani posed several questions, including questions about Shanta and details about events leading to the killing. Once again Mrs. Yogi politely told her that there was no point in asking all those questions since she knew the person (s) responsible for her husband’s murder. Naming a top personality in the government, Yogi bluntly told him "You go and say I said who is responsible for my husband’s murder. There is no point in asking questions now."
Now looking back did Ramani know or did she not know on that day that it was her own son who had commissioned Shanta to assassinate Kumar Ponnambalam? It is startling to observe that all three of her step-sons are suspects wanted by the Police in connection with at least a dozen murders. Can anyone be faulted if he thinks that the aristocratic Kandyan Ratwatte family consists of murderers who have taken up to part-time crime?
Not only Kumar Ponnambalam’s family, most Tamils rightly suspected that the government of President Chandrika Kumaratunga or some organs or state agency had a hand in the murder. When an organization styled “ National Front Against The Tigers” claimed responsibility for the killing of Kumar because he was a traitor, Tamils summarily dismissed it as a red herring drawn to divert attention away from the real killers.
Reports were also floated in the government controlled Daily News that the murder was carried out by the LTTE who did not like the rising popularity of Kumar among Tamils! To add authenticity to the story, the newspaper also claimed that witnesses told detectives that two Tamil youth believed to be militant gunmen had opened fire at point blank range through the front passenger seat window of Kumar Ponnambalam's air conditioned car. As a further diversionary tactic the murder suspect Shantha’s name was twisted to read as “Shanthan” by the Daily Mirror (January 06,2001) to look though he is a Tamil!
EPDP leader Douglas Devananda too telephoned Mrs. Yogi and suggested that LTTE was responsible for the murder only to be cut off abruptly.
Such insinuations rang hollow in the face of LTTE’s press release paying tribute to Kumar Ponnambalam as “an outstanding patriot who deeply loved his Tamil homeland.... supported the formation of an independent Tamil state based on the right to self-determination of the Tamil people." In recognition of his courageous crusade for the freedom of the Tamil Nation, the LTTE bestowed upon him posthumously its highest 'most eminent person' award, a rare honour and distinction.
In an unprecedented move, the LTTE also accused the Sri Lankan government and Tamil groups operating with the Sri Lanka armed forces of carrying out the killing.
Now exactly two years after the gruesome murder, the truth is out confirming the worst fears and suspicions of Kumar’s family as well as others. In a report dated September 7, 2000, just 9 months after the murder, Bandula Wickramasinghe, Senior Superintendent of Police, Director, and Colombo Detective Bureau wrote to President Chandrika Kumaratunga giving details of persons who planned and executed the murder of Kumar. The letter was captioned Re: Report on Mahen Ratwatte and Lohan Ratwatte, and submitted to President Chandrika at her own request. Here are excerpts from the report-
“On May 21, 2000 the officer in charge of CDB, IP Nuwan Vedasinghe received a call from RPC Ranasinghe and he had stated that the president of the All Ceylon Tamil Congress, Kumar Ponnambalam (Attorney-at-law) was murdered by his henchmen, namely underworld activists Moratuwa Saman and Sujeewa, on the instigation of Mahen Ratwatte. Few weeks prior to the assassination of Ponnambalam, Mahen Ratwatte had told Moratuwa Saman and RPC Ranasinghe in Singhalese “ayi yakko sinhala minissu marannay, puluwannam ara Kumar Ponnambalam jathi wadi wagay thadi demelek marapanko.” As per the instigations of Mahen Ratwatte, RPC Ranasinghe master planned the assassination and got friendly with Kumar Ponnnambalam, posing as one 'Shantha.'
On January 5, 2000 'Shantha' personally went to the house of Kumar Ponnambalam's around 8.30 in the morning and lured him promising ............. As arranged, Moratuwa Saman and Sujeewa waited for the arrival of Ponnambalam, and the both of them fired five rounds from their pistol. Ponnambalam succumbed to his gunshot injuries. After the assassination, the RPC immediately informed Mahen Ratwatte about the killing.
On May 21, 2000 RPC Ranasinghe contacted OIC CDB, from telephone number 08-223993 which is at the guesthouse belonging to the Petroleum Corporation at No. 15, Dumindu Mawatha, Watapoluwa, Kandy. I too contacted RPC Ranasinghe on the above telephone number and he informed me that the most wanted underworld criminal Dhammika Perera is present at the above guesthouse. RPC Ranasinghe promised to surrender to the CDB, and informed me and the OIC CDB to make him a crown witness. But however, he was prevented from surrendering by Mahen Ratwatte. I contacted Mahen Ratwatte and spoke to him requesting from him to surrender RPC Ranasinghe, but Mahen Ratwatte prevented his appearance and told me 'why are you worried, all the top people know about the assassination.' Though several requests were made to Mahen Ratwatte by me and my OIC IP Nuwan Vedasinghe, RPC Ranasinghe surrendered to the Mount Lavinia courts.
Besides the information provided by RPC Ranasinghe, my private informants have brought to my notice that Ranasinghe had been harboured by Lohan Ratwatte and Mahen Ratwatte and at present Dhammika is being kept at his mothers home on top of a hill close to Mahiyawwa cemetery, Kandy.”
Commenting on the report, The Sunday Leader said “This is an official report from the Director of the CDB to the president of Sri Lanka. He tells her succinctly-
(a) That Anuruddha Ratwatte's son Mahen commissioned two underworld thugs, Sudath Ranasinghe and Moratuwa Saman, to murder Kumar Ponnambalam. That a third assassin, one Sujeewa, also joined in the killing;
(b) That Mahen Ratwatte was harbouring Ranasinghe until he surrendered, in connection with another offence. That Mahen Ratwatte had the audacity to tell the Director of the CDB, 'Why are you worried? All the top people know about the assassination.' and
(c) That in addition to everything else, the Ratwatte family is harbouring and consorting with yet another criminal, Dhammika Perera, who is wanted in connection with no less than 17 other murders!
Now the questions to the NUF government in regard to this sordid episode.
(1) What was the President doing with this confidential report all these 15 months?
(2) Why she kept the report in her handbag without sending it to the IGP for immediate action in the face of serious allegations of murder and conspiracy to commit murder?
(3) In failing to take any action on the report did the President herself became an accessory after the crime of murder?
(4) Should not the President be arraigned before the courts of law on a charge of instigating murder by her inflammatory speech “Let all those who aid and abet terror be warned...let those who secretly or openly condone the path of violence pursued by the cowards of the LTTE be warned: the days of terror in this land are numbered, and that number is small” on January 03, just two days before the actual murder?
(5) Are members of Ratwatte Mafia family beyond the reach of the long arm of law?
These are some of the troubling questions for which not only the Tamil people, but also others who cherish human rights need honest answers from the NUF government sooner than later. (NamNadu-January 2002)