Cool murder trail to Germany?
Posted on February 10th, 2019

By Shivanthi Ranasinghe Courtesy  Ceylon Today

On 17 January, it was reported from Germany that their authorities had arrested a person suspected to be directly involved in the murder of Lakshman Kadirgamar. The then Foreign Minister of Sri Lanka, Kadirgamar, was killed in his home in 2005. The assassins took advantage of Kadirgamar’s reluctance to allow his security detail to disturb his neighbours. Though the killing shook the Nation to the core, the murder trail, over the years grew colder, until now.

The breakthrough on the case comes nearly 14 years later with the arrest of the 39-year old Navanithan by the German Police. His last name is withheld because of Germany’s privacy laws. The Police had also searched his home in South Western Germany. It is not clear for how long this man had been residing in Germany. The Federal prosecutors are strongly suspecting him of being a member of a foreign terrorist organisation and linked to the murder of Kadirgamar and the attempted murder of Eelam People’s Democratic Party (EPDP) leader Douglas Devananda. Since then, not many details have emerged about the arrest.

Lack of interest

Incredibly, though this news made headlines in mainstream media, it failed to attract the excitement of any kind in Sri Lanka. This is a very important clue to the Nation that is being beleaguered by international bodies, including the UN, over missing persons.

In 2016, the Sri Lankan Government too acknowledged that we have one of the largest case loads of missing persons in the world. The Cabinet was told, then, that for the past 23 years, since 1994, the number of missing persons is around 65,000. It was claimed that this number has been tabulated from various Presidential Commissions. This is the figure the Foreign Ministry also upholds. However, the Paranagama Commission that dealt with cases of missing, since 1983, sharply differs in their findings.

The Paranagama Commission was established about two years after the war against terrorism was successfully concluded. According to the Chairman of the Presidential Commission to Investigate Complaints Regarding Missing Persons, retired High Court Judge Maxwell Paranagama, the number of complaints received was about 19,000. This is after recording complaints from various parts of Sri Lanka. The complaints are not confined to only the disappearances of civilians, but also of nearly 5,000 Military and Police personnel, whose remains were never recovered.

The ICRC Colombo had noted that according to the figures computed by its offices in Sri Lanka the number of missing cases recorded since 1990 is about 16,000. According to their records, about 5,200 families from the Army and Police have requested the ICRC to trace their loved ones who never returned home.

On 7 June 2016, the Cabinet approved the draft legislation to allow the issuance of certificates of absence to the families of the missing. The investigation of those claimed to have gone missing will be conducted by the Office for Missing Persons (OMP). At the time this draft legislation was passed through the OMP was still in the process of being established. With its establishment, the National Peace Council called for a credible transitional justice mechanism to investigate the cases of the missing, which they calculated to be around 20,000.

The West applauded the establishment of the OMP that came into being primarily because of their championing for those families of the missing. Yet interestingly, these very countries have refused to cooperate with the Sri Lankan Government to share information of those who are now domiciled in the West. They thus refuse in the guise of protecting the privacy of those who had sought asylum and citizenship. Their hard stance severely restricted the progress of the Paranagama Commission. Without sharing this information, the Sri Lankan Government cannot ascertain the actual fate of those reported by their families to be missing.

Tamil expat groups in Europe estimate that over one million Tamils have left Sri Lanka to escape the war against terrorism. Though a number of years have passed since the war ended, Tamils continue to leave Sri Lanka and they often do so clandestinely and claim political asylum. In August 2010, an LTTE ship MV Sun Sea entered Canadian territory carrying 490 persons. Up to date, the Canadian authorities have not shared any information of those who thus entered Canada.

Immigrant status

It is in this background that the German Government owes an explanation to the Sri Lankan Government as to how Kadirgamar’s suspected assassin Navanithan came to live in Germany. Whether he is a legal or an illegal immigrant is a very important fact that must be established. Equally important to establish would be the possible links with the LTTE, of those who are now domiciled in the West, might have had before leaving Sri Lanka.  Without this cooperation, it will not only be difficult for the OMP to proceed, but also to conclude various investigations to crimes such as the murder of Sri Lanka’s Foreign Minister.

In this context, the obstinate refusal by Western countries to cooperate with the Sri Lankan Government is indeed questionable. Rear Admiral Sarath Weerasekera points out that this is not the only obstacle to trace the missing.  The OMP is only concerned with those who had disappeared from the North and the East during the war. This would largely comprise the terrorists, he noted. However, a number of LTTE terrorists perished either in the battleground or while committing various atrocities. Without any other information to ascertain as to what might have happened to them, to their families, they would be missing”.

For instance, noted Rear Admiral Weerasekera, the identities of the suicide bombers, who killed Jeyaraj Fernandopulle; or the woman who tried to kill, the then General, Sarath Fonseka; or the one who targeted the then Defence Secretary Gotabaya Rajapaksa, are unknown.  There was also an attempt on Karuna Amman’s life when he was in Colombo, recalled Rear Admiral Weerasekera. From the remains of that suicide bomber, his telephone chip was recovered. When it was traced, it was found that the owner had lived in Trincomalee disguised as a Muslim. The morning he left for Colombo, his mother had registered a complaint with the Police that her son was abducted by a gang who had come in a white van.

Kadirgamar’s suspected assassin Navanithan is not the only story to have emerged that highlights the need for other countries to cooperate with the Sri Lankan Government to trace the exact fate of those listed as missing. The main character of the French thriller, Dheepan, was played by the former LTTE terrorist Anthonythasan Jesuthasan. He apparently escaped the LTTE after been conscripted by force to the terrorist organisation. Though he would have preferred to have settled either in Britain or Canada, he could only get a fake passport to France, he admitted.

In May 2014, Indian authorities arrested Thayapararajah Uthayakala and her second husband Kathiravel Thayapararajah. Uthayakala had functioned as a human smuggler and had charged as much as USD 2000 per person. Thayapararajah had been listed as ‘missing’ since September 2009. His ‘disappearance’ had been blamed on the Directorate of Military Intelligence by certain media units and INGOs. Even Robert Blake as the then US Assistant Secretary of State for South Asian Affairs had inquired about him.

However, other countries cannot be blamed for failing to cooperate with Sri Lanka if we do not pay attention to these developments and make a clear case out of it. The lacklustre reaction to the arrest of the man suspected to have killed Kadirgamar speaks volumes of our focus on this issue.  Kadirgamar rendered yeoman service to our country and he was killed for it. The least we could do to respect his greatness would be to ensure that his killers are brought to justice.

One Response to “Cool murder trail to Germany?”

  1. Hiranthe Says:

    Things are pathetic with our people.

    If we set up a special unit in CID to monitor the missing persons and surfacing of them in other countries while maintaining a Database, thing can be monitored and counter claim to UN can be made.
    But the problem is, anyone can be bought by the big money of LieTTE similar to highly respected SC Judges and politicians these days.

    When love to the country and patriotism lacks, even the so called intelligent offices can be vulnerable.

    The place to correct this shortcoming is at our own hearts. Patriotism should be taught from the childhood. Love to the mother country should be taught from the childhood. Then, no matter where one live, he or she will have allegiance to the mother land, which cannot be bought for money.

    If we have a true patriot at the top position, only thinking about the country and not about grooming his sons and daughters to the position, or helping his buddies, this patriotism will flow down toward the ordinary folks in a matter of months…

    I can only see such a true leader in Gota for the Presidency. But can he do it with the surrounding people and also with the executive powers vested in the Parliament?

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