The Christmas Midnight Mass assassination of Tamil National Alliance Parliamentarian Joseph Pararajasingham eleven years ago on 24 December 2005 in Batticaloa underscored the ‘trigger happy’ barbarism which had slaughtered politicians and journalists who had expressed their views against injustices.
Joseph Pararajasingham was a devout Catholic and being an ardent follower of late Illankai Tamil Arasu Katchchi (ITAK) Leader S.J.V. Chelvanayagam, vociferously expressed his views in defence of the political aspirations of Tamils of the Eastern Province.
For the first time in the judicial history in this country a bench sat through past midnight to deliver a verdict on the assassination of a leading Tamil Political icon.
Raviraj was assassinated a year after the gunning down of his senior colleague on 10 November 2006.
A statue of Raviraj was unveiled in his hometown of Chavakachcheri at a ceremony attended by Minister of Health Rajitha Senaratne and Nava Sama Samaja Party Leader Dr. Wickramabahu Karunaratne.
The function at which the statue was unveiled was presided by TNA Leader and the Leader of the Opposition R. Sampanthan. Tributes from Minister Rajitha Senaratne and Dr. Wickramabahu Karunaratne at the event were an indication of the admiration and high regard with which the slain TNA Parliamentarian N. Raviraj was held in high regard in respected political circles in the South.
The tri-lingual Raviraj’s fluency in Sinhala and the manner in which he expressed his political views to the Southerners also came in for unreserved praise by Drs.Rajitha Senaratne and Wickramabahu Karunaratne.
Raviraj along with his other TNA colleagues in Parliament struggled hard to convey to the leaders and populace in the South a clear picture of Tamil political aspirations at the height of the civil strife in the North and East.
Even the political stance of Joseph Pararajasingham, who predeceased Raviraj, was also viewed in a positive manner by intellectuals prone towards a liberal outlook in the South.
So the wee hours’ judgment on the Raviraj assassination by the Colombo High Court Judge Manilal Waidyatilake on 24 December releasing all six suspects has thrown up the question once again as to who killed Raviraj and his bodyguard in broad daylight ten years ago in 2006.
Until the collapse of the Rajapakse regime in January 2015, there was a virtual state of impunity regarding assassinations, abductions and intimidations were concerned.
The brutal killings of Joseph Pararajasingham and another former Parliamentarian T.Maheswaran, State Minister Vijayakala Maheswaran’s husband, at the places of worship in the presence of a large number of devotees were indications of how bold the assassins had become because of this impunity to gun down soft targets in pointblank range at will !
In the meantime, two weeks before the much anticipated judgment on the Parliamentarian Raviraj’s assassination, the Jaffna High Court Judge M.Illanchelian sentenced to death three members of the Eelam People’s Democratic Party (EPDP) who were found guilty of killing two persons and causing injuries to 18 others at Naranthanai in Kayts at a Tamil United Liberation Front (TULF) election campaign in 2001. The incident occurred much before the formation of the Tamil National Alliance (TNA).
The case which was heard for more than ten years was taken before Jaffna High Court Judge M. Illanchelian on 11 November with the trial taking place over 15 days.
Following evidence presented by several Tamil National Alliance members including the TNA Parliamentarians, the Jaffna High Court Judge delivered the verdict on 7 December sentencing three accused to death.
However, the Raviraj assassination trial lasted nearly one month and at the end all six accused have been acquitted by the Colombo High Court Judge following the unanimous decision of all seven Jurors.
TNA Parliamentarian and Attorney-at-Law M. A. Sumanthiran who represented the aggrieved family , commenting on the judgment said that while he will go for an appeal against the judgment, pointed out that the high profile trial of this nature should have been conducted on a trial-at-bar basis like the manner in which former Parliamentarian Bharatha Lakshman Premachandra’s assassination case was taken up in a trial-at-bar hearing before three High Court Judges. The Bar passed the death sentence on former Parliamentarian Duminda Silva who was a prime suspect in the case, along with four other accused.
The Bharath Lakshman Premachandra case lasted for nearly nine months and the verdict was passed in September this year.
In the meantime the TNA Parliamentarian Mavai Senathiraja expressing his disappointment about the outcome of the Raviraj murder trial around the eleventh death anniversary of Joseph Pararajasingham, a few days before emphasized that justice should be meted out when the murder trial of Pararajasingam is taken up for hearing.
Expressing his views further at Pararajasingam’s eleventh death anniversary event, Senathiraja said that the disappointment with the verdict on the Raviraj murder meant that the TNA was now in a position of emphasizing more its call for an international investigation into the alleged war crimes and human rights violations believed to have been committed during the previous regime and will submit its comprehensive report on Sri Lanka at the forthcoming 34th session of the United Nations Human Rights Commission in March 2017 on the implementation of the Geneva resolution which was co-sponsored by Sri Lanka in 2015.
Therefore since several high profile killings of not only Tamil politicians but even of journalists such as Lasantha Wickrematunge, Sivaram , Nadesan and a significant number of other journalists and media workers in the North and East still remain a mystery. The verdict in the Raviraj murder trial therefore leads us back to the old question: Who killed cock robin ?