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Remembering Raviraj - 14 years on and still no justice

Today marks 14 years since Tamil National Alliance (TNA) MP and human rights lawyer, Nadaraja Raviraj was assassinated in Colombo. 

Mr Raviraj was shot in Colombo at close range by unidentified gunmen on a motorbike at around 8:30am on November 10 2006, as he got into his car after giving an interview. The MP died later in hospital. His bodyguard was also killed. 

A police constable who gave evidence in court, alleged that Sri Lanka's current president, Gotabaya Rajapaksa who was serving as Defence Secretary at the time, had arranged a payment of Rs. 50 million for the assassination of Mr Raviraj. The police constable of the intelligence unit Liyanarachchige Abayaratne, giving evidence before Colombo Additional Magistrate told the court that Gotabaya had known about the murder and arranged a payment to the factions associated to the Karuna group.  

A witness, Sampath Prithiviraj, in an inquiry into the assassination of Mr Raviraj alleged that Sri Lankan navy intelligence officials were involved. The witness said the officials associated with the navy intelligence office in Gangarama had planned the killing. 

In 2016, following a month long trial, Sri Lanka's top court acquitted and released the five accused of assassinating Mr Raviraj. An all Sinhala jury aquitted three navy intelligence officials and two members of the Karuna paramilitary group accused of the murder. 

The decision by the jury was based on reasoning that the five accused cannot be convicted solely on the fact that witnesses in the case identified them.

State witnesses gave considerable details on the murder plot – including details of who pulled the trigger and the subsequent escape plan.

Despite 14 years passing since his assassination, no one has been held accountable for the murder. 

Maamanithar award 

Statue of former MP Nadaraja Raviraj in Chavakachcheri

Mr Raviraj was widely respected and was conferred the highest civilian honour of the LTTE, the Maamanithar award, in 2006.

LTTE leader Vellupillai Pirapaharan's statement conferring the LTTE's highest civilian award: 

A great soul who carried the ideal of the liberation of our homeland as a burning flame in his heart has been made a victim of the Sinhala oppression. The shock waves created by this tragic news has descended into the depth of our hearts like an earthquake. It has shaken the soul of our nation. It has heaped further grief on a people facing death and destruction at the hands of Sinhala oppression on a daily basis.

Mr Nadaraja Raviraj was a great man. He possessed rare characteristics. He was not one to be pushed and pulled for personal gains. He had a deep affection for the Tamil homeland and its people.

He was an exceptional politician. He understood law and justice in its true sense. He possessed a progressive spirit and a desire to follow novel approaches. He was brave and he possessed a purity of heart. His youthful energy with all of the above stole the hearts of all who came in contact with him.

His clarity and level of consciousness about the freedom struggle was born by observing the tragic living conditions of the Tamil people. This awareness inevitably pushed him on the path of freedom struggle. Along this path he whole-heartedly accepted the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam and their goals and served the nation. He contributed on several fronts in this freedom struggle.

As a parliamentarian he worked tirelessly for the Tamil nation. He spoke loudly to the world about the Sinhala Buddhist chauvinistic state terror. He shattered the false propaganda of the Sinhala state infusing his arguments with his legal expertise. He stood firm and fought injustice in the face of threats from paramilitary violence.

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 Maamanithar on him. Death never destroys the great souls who lived their life for truth. They will live forever in our nation’s soul as heroes of our history.

 

 

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