Despite winning the so-called second Independence by eradicating terrorism in 2009, the worst and most brutal form of terrorism ever experienced in Sri Lanka – state-sponsored terrorism – continued to raise its head unscathed and unhindered during the last 10 years under the Mahinda Rajapaksa regime.
Although the regime was defeated on January 8, the tentacles of the power-hungry and corrupt dictators along with their monarchy-worshipping bandwagon are still visible in order to resurrect their glorious leader.
Meanwhile, a peaceful election campaigning carried out was hindered by the shooting incident in Kotahena on July 31..
Ill-omened July 31
The history has proved time and again that the month of July is notorious; it continues to garner that dubious reputation at present. It was 11.30 a.m. on July 31 when Finance Minister Ravi Karunanayake’s supporters were mercilessly attacked by two unidentified gunmen while they were engaged in election campaigning. The unprovoked act of violence is shrouded in deep mystery.
Two unidentified gunmen who came in a car had suddenly opened fire at the peacefully campaigning group along Bloemendhal Road, Colombo 13 (Kotahena), killing one person and leaving another 11 injured. Another person eventually succumbed to the injuries, bringing the body count to two.
The two gunmen had fired at the crowd with a T-56 assault rifle and a pistol as the car carrying the assailants was moving in the opposite direction to the group of people. At the time when the gunmen had opened fire, the group was moving towards the Sugathadasa International Stadium.
The shooting left 42-year-old Shaik Siddi Nasima dead on the spot, and another 11 injured people being admitted to the Colombo National Hospital. Another victim, 36 years old Bulathsinghalalage Niroshan Sampath succumbed to his injuries on August 3,while being treated at the Colombo National Hospital. He was residing in Grandpass at the time of his untimely death.
Preliminary police investigations led to the speculation that the shooting might be a result of a longstanding clash between two underworld factions.
Unverified reports alleged that the clash has taken place between the supporters of Pathum (a Dematagoda Chaminda’s accomplice) and ‘Bloemendhal Sanka’; the former was alleged to have carried out the attack on the latter.
Sketchy reports surfacing in the public domain alleged that several supporters of Bloemendhal Sanka were injured in the shooting. He was reported to have come to Sri Lanka after spending several years abroad because of the threats to his life from ‘Dematagoda Chaminda’. The case was handed over to the Criminal Investigation Department (CID) for further investigation.
The CID along with the police officials of the Colombo North Police Division, launched a massive operation on August 1 at the Bloemendhal Housing Scheme to arrest ‘Army Sampath’ – a supporter of Bloemendhal Sanka who was reported to have attended the rally. The search began after finding a hybrid car parked at the Bloemendhal Housing Scheme, and which was believed to be the one used to carry out the shooting. Sleuths also have found a T-56 magazine inside the car. So far, the suspects have not been arrested.
Meanwhile, political parties are accusing each other of what took place at Kotahena.
The UNP holds the UPFA responsible for the incident where as the UPFA in return accuses UNP of trying to tarnish its (UPFA) image and conceal the party’s internal discords.
Many believe that this unprovoked attack was planned to defame Minister Karunanayake by the main opposition party.
Speaking at a media briefing on July 31, Karunanayake condemned this organised attack, which he believed was carried out at a time when the government was giving precedence to implement election laws. He accused former President Mahinda Rajapaksa of being the mastermind behind this incident. Addressing a news conference on July 31, former UPFA MP Dilan Perera alleged that UNP candidates’ underworld figures had clashed because of the competition for preferential votes in the fray.
The public is worse confounded by these contradictory statements.
While Karunanayake accuses former president Rajapaksa and the UPFA of a possible conspiracy against him, the UPFA accused the UNP of attempting to tarnish its image; not to mention many other speculations revolving around the incident.
Speaking to The Sunday Leader Police Media Spokesperson ASP Ruwan Gunasekara said they have not yet identified the gunmen. However, he said, the CID is looking into the incident from various angles.
“There have been two possibilities identified so far,” said ASP Gunasekara. “One could be that the shooting is a result of a political discord; the other could be a result of a clash between underworld factions.”
Several reports allege that the suspects involved in the shooting are attempting to flee the country. When asked whether investigations have confirmed that suspects have not fled the country, he said the CID has taken security measures to thwart their attempts.
Unconfirmed reports also alleged that some underworld gangsters were present at the rally, and that they were the targets of the gunmen (Bloemendhal Sanka and his henchmen). When asked whether Karunanayake has filed a complaint about the shooting incident, ASP Gunasekara said that due to the large number of complaints they received, they have not yet been able to verify them. Some reports accuse election candidates of deploying gangsters in their campaigns, and that the Kotahena shooting was a fine instance.
Not only had this incident hindered the smooth functioning of election procedures, but it also may amount to an election law violation if it is a result of a political discord.
Meanwhile, in a statement, CaFFE Executive Director Keerthi Tennakoon has said the Kotahena shooting incident was not election-related, but a clash between two drug gangs led by Dematagoda Chaminda and Kudu Lal. The CaFFE also said that at least two ruling UNP candidates could have deployed underworld figures in their respective campaigns.
PAFFREL stated that by August 7, his organisation has received 851complaints/incidents about 901 electoral law/ general law violations. Of them, 98 are acts of violence, and 113 are electoral/ general law violations. 44 hospitalisations have also been reported. In the Colombo District alone, two killings, one shooting incident, one assault and four attacks on political party/candidate offices (arson and damage) have been reported. The highest number of incidents (10) has been recorded from Kandy.
PAFFREL Executive Director, Rohana Hettiarachchi further told The Sunday Leader that complaints received against the two main political parties (UNP and UPFA) are almost equal in numbers.
Campaign for Free and Fair Elections (CaFFE) Executive Director Rajith Keerthi Tennakoon told The Sunday Leader that his office has received 961complaints about election law violation by August 4morning. Of them, 74 cases were acts of violence with 887 cases of misusing public property and non-violent election law violations. Tennakoon told The Sunday Leader that a majority of the complaints are against the UPFA.
However, complaints against the UNP in relation to misusing state authority are marginally higher than those against the UPFA. For instance, while 45 complaints have been reported against the UNP on August 4 on misusing state authority, 39 complaints have been received against the UPFA. Nevertheless, Hettiarachchi also claimed that compared to the last two elections, there has been a considerable reduction in the number of election law violations this time.