South Asia

SRI LANKA: THE UNTOLD STORY
CHAPTER 52: President blamed for assassinations

From June 11, 1990, when the second Eelam war flared up, Sri Lanka was turned into a killing field. Death and destruction became the order of the day. On the one side, the leader of the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) began to unleash terror with sickening regularity, targeting the security forces, including policemen and Sinhalese leaders as well as Sinhalese and Muslim civilians.

On the other side, the country's President, Ranatunge Premadasa, matched the LTTE leader Velupillai Prabhakaran with terror and brutality, which resulted in the decimation of Tiger cadres, as well as the death of civilians, including Tamils, Muslims and Sinhalese.

The Sri Lankan Government and the Tigers considered, and still continue to consider, falsely, that the ethnic turmoil in the country can be solved militarily.

To match Prabhakaran militarily, the Government promoted Denzil Kobbekaduwa as Major-General on January 9, 1990 and appointed him as the Commander of the Northern armed forces, with headquarters in Anuradhapura. Kobbekaduwa was a chauvinist, unhesitatingly bent on the destruction of the Tamils. For him, warmongering was his ideology and he planned assiduously for the capture of the Northern province and to rid the peninsula of the hold of the Tamil militant organization, at any cost, even at the complete extermination of the entire Tamil people.

Sinhalese in the south considered Kobbekaduwa a hero, and they made killing a virtue in the military campaign against the Tamil militants. And just as Prabhakaran was hated by the Sinhalese, whilst Kobbekaduwa was hated by the Tamils.

Nevertheless, although Kobbekaduwa fought to free the country from the hold of the Tamil militants, his mysterious death and the way in which it was handled - without even a post mortem - should not have happened.

Even today his death is a mystery, though a second and last Presidential Commission came up with highly speculative conclusions.

According to the Commission inquiry, General Kobbekaduwa was about to get into a Land Rover affixed with two stars (UH8752), at Kayts on August 8, 1992, when he saw Brigadier Wimalaratne standing near another vehicle. Kobbekaduwa called him and said in Sinhala, "we go in this vehicle". Kobbekaduwa got into the front passenger seat and Wimalaratne got into the driver's seat alongside Kobbekaduwa. Lt.-Col. Stephen was about to get out of Kobbekaduwa's vehicle, but the general told him to travel with him to Araly Point.

According to testimony, while proceeding towards Araly Point, about one-and-a-half kilometers from the Point, Kobbekaduwa made all three vehicles in the convoy stop. About 100 meters from where they halted was a wide open area, by the side of the track lay a typical Jaffna grassland without trees. It was at this location that, the blast occurred on their return journey.

Kobbekaduwa explained that, if the entire party went in three vehicles they might arouse the suspicion of the LTTE, who could observe them from the mainland, from where they had the firepower to attack. Accordingly, all those who were to die or be injured, including Corporal Upali and Captain Weerawatte, got into Kobbekaduwa's vehicle and proceeded to Araly Point - leaving the other two vehicles behind. At Araly Point, they had discussions. Captain Weerawatte in his testimony said that he showed Kobbekaduwa records of tides, depths, silt etc that he had been asked to maintain. According to him, Kobbekaduwa examined these documents. Commodore Jayamaha, the head of the navy in the Jaffna peninsula was with them. Weerawatte was asked to give the documents to the navy so that they could make a graph. Kobbekaduwa and the party remained there for about 45 minutes.

According to Weerawatte's testimony, Major Alwis asked him to give a message to Velany to hold up the helicopter, which had just passed overhead towards Velany, for 10 minutes. Therefore, Captain Weerawatte went into a bunker to call Mandaithivu to convey the message to Velany. While doing so, he heard the vehicle leave, but because he had a sudden urge to use the toilet he was left behind. According to the Commission report, Captain Weerawatte's story was not acceptable. It felt that Major de Alwis had a secure handset from which he could have spoken either to Palay or Velany, or else he could have used the communication equipment available in Brigadier Thilakaratne's vehicle. The Commission dismissed the idea that, there was a need for anyone to ask Weerawatte to make a call for the helicopter to wait for 10 minutes.

Captain Weerawatte testified that, as he went to the toilet, he was left behind and after a few minutes, he heard the explosion and ran out and discovered the tragedy. According to the Commission, it appeared that, Weerawatte deliberately avoided getting into the vehicle and he had given a false excuse for doing so in his evidence.

According to available reports, Kobbekaduwa had called for the helicopter from Palaly that morning to take him back to Palay. Therefore, the helicopter coming to pick him up would definitely have waited for him and there was no necessity to give a further message.

Major Weerasinghe was an army engineer, but he was a captain on August 8, 1992. He came to Velany brigade at Kayts from Welioya in June 1992, just two months before the explosion. He was from bomb disposals, which used bulldozers to make roads and bunkers. He had experience in bomb making, the use of explosives and bomb disposal.

The Commission reports, "Hence we have that; if an Improvised Explosive Device [IED] was indeed used, set in or on the blasted vehicle, there is a man on the spot capable of making an IED, transferred to Velany headquarters in Kayts just about two months before the blast, with access to the blasted vehicle parked in the adjoining compound to where Major Weerasinghe lived. Brigadier Thilakaratne was on leave. Lt-Col Stephen was the acting Commander of Velany."

Major Weerasinghe in his testimony told the Commission that, he knew how to dismantle a LTTE land mine. Anti-personnel mines were imported, he told. They are not manufactured in Sri Lanka. He also told the Commission that, he did not order two stars to be put on the vehicle to be used by General Kobbekaduwa. The Commission took into consideration the fact why Weerasinghe send a vehicle with one star to transport a general with two stars (a brigadier has one star) which was quite abnormal. Witness Buddy Samarasinghe earlier told the Commission that, he saw two uncovered stars on the vehicle in which Kobbekaduwa traveled to Araly Point. The Commission rejected Weerasinghe's contention.

Major Weerasinghe also told the Commission that, he did not know where Kobbekaduwa was and he said that he went in search of him. This meant that, he was not at Araly Point to meet and greet the visiting commanding general and the naval officials. By giving such evidence, it was easy to distance himself from a prepared vehicle. The Commission says, "But it is also consistent of an awareness that there was a concealed IED on the vehicle which was to be blasted en route".

When the Commission visited Araly in early 1995 and asked to be taken on the same route that Kobbekaduwa was taken on, the commissioners were taken past the police station through to the junction with Mandaithivu road.

It was the evidence of Major Weerasinghe that, at about 8am on August 8, 1992, Major Rodrigo told him that General Kobbekaduwa was coming to Kayts. This suggests that he had not heard anything about Kobbekaduwa's intended visit to Kayts the previous night. On the night of the 7th, the acting Brigade Commander of Kayts, Lt-Col Stephen, attended a conference at Karainagar with Kobbekaduwa. Stephen knew of the intended visit of Kobbekaduwa the next morning to Kayts.

Stephen went back to his station at Madathivu that night. As he was returning past Velany, the navy did not bother to send a special messenger regarding Kobbekaduwa's trip the next morning. Major Weerawatte said that Stephen did not return to Mandathivu by passing his camp, which means that Stephen would have gone past brigade headquarters at Velany.

Therefore, from all these circumstances the Commission drew inference that Stephen had to inform Velany headquarters that a vehicle had to be made ready for Kobbekaduwa, which he did, and to do so, he would have spoken with the senior officer Rodrigo and or Weerasinghe. Stephen had to decide which vehicles were to be sent to the pier, having regard to the number of persons.

The vehicle was parked next to Weerasinghe's Chalet in the adjoining compound. Weerasinghe and Major Rodrigo lived in the same chalet. So the Commission drew the inference in all those circumstances that Major Weerasinghe was not speaking the truth when he said that he learnt of the visit of Kobbekaduwa only on 8th morning and he was casually informed that a vehicle be sent to the pier and that it was not necessary to put on two stars.

Major Weerasinghe next told the Commission that, at about 9.10am Major Rodrigo, an artillery officer, who was at the brigade headquarters, told him to go and ask General Kobbekaduwa (1) Whether he would be going to Welioya from Kayts, and (2) If so, how he would be going as Palaly wanted to know - i.e., if he is going by helicopter to Palaly - Anuradhapura - Welioya or Palaly - Vavuniya - Welioya by road, to find out which of these two routes he intend taking. According to Weerasinghe, as he did not know where the general had gone, he went in search of him, as even Major Rodrigo did not know. The Commission took objection to Weerasinghe's statement. The Commission in its report states Rodrigo and Weerasinghe "both knew of the visit [General Kobbekaduwa] the previous night. We observe that Weerasinghe's evidence is tainted by frequent lies."

Major Weerasinghe continued his testimony - he said that he then went to Araly Junction (the junction of the Mandathivu Road and Araly Point - Velany Road). He asked the soldiers there who told him the party had gone to Araly Pont. So Weerasinghe set out in pursuit. He told that after having gone some distance towards Araly Point, he saw two vehicles parked by the roadside. He said that he stopped his vehicles five to ten meters away and walked up to and spoke to Major Rupasinghe and Major Induruwa, who were there. He told them about the message from Palaly to General Kobbekaduwa. It seems that Major Rupasinghe had told Captain Weerasinghe not to proceed to Araly Point.

At this point the Commission asked Captain Weerasinghe: "Why did you not use the radio at Velany to give the message?"

Answer: "I do not know why I was asked to go and give a message when there was a radio contact from Velanay with Thilakaratne's vehicle [Brigadier Thilakaratne's Land Rover was the one used by General Kobbekaduwa and others to go to Araly Point]."

Weerasinghe went on to say, "We could have radioed the vehicle, also there was a radio operator in the vehicle. We do not speak directly to generals - even Col Stephen could have been contacted through Mandaithivu."

In the light of the evidence of signals and communications networks in the Northern Command at the relevant time, Weerasinghe's evidence of being asked to physically take a message to General Kobbekaduwa was untenable, unconvincing, did not stand to reason and intrinsically unacceptable. The Commission rejected the statement as false.

According to the investigating Commission, that was one of the pillars on which a falsified picture of what happened in Kayts that particular morning had been presented to the general public of the country. The falsehood enabled Weerasinghe to pretend to be an innocent bystander at the scene of the blast.

To the Army Court of Inquiry held in August 1992, he had not mentioned one word of going towards Araly Point with a radio message for the general or waiting with Majors Rupasinghe and Induruwa, and of seeing the Land Rover returning from Araly, of being present at that time of the explosion or picking up five pieces of debris of a land mine and handing them over to Justice Ismail at the Committee hearings held in Palaly on 15 August 1992. He had failed to mention his presence at the blast. Before the One Man Committee of Inquiry, he has stated on 15 August 1992, as follows:

"I came to meet Major Alwis. I stopped my Land Rover 25 meters behind two Land Rovers which were stopped by the roadside. I saw Major Induruwa and Major Rupasinghe at that point. I gave a message asking Major Alwis to contact Palaly, as there was a radio message. Then I waited there chatting. Then I heard a noise of a helicopter proceeding towards Velany, then I saw this ill-fated vehicle coming at a distance of 500 meters ... then my vehicle turned to go back. Before I could get into my vehicle, I heard the noise of an explosion. I ran to this spot. The vehicle was on the other side of the road. I picked up some pieces of debris from the exploded land mine. There were about five pieces. I produced the five pieces."

To the three-member Commission of Inquiry (consisting of international judges) he has stated, "Captain Weerasinghe had come from Velany with a message to the general that there would be some delay on the onward flight arrangements from Palaly to Anuradhapura."

According to this statement, the present Commission noted that, in that statement of Captain Weerasinghe there was no mention of the route the general would take to get to Welioya. According to the contention of the Investigative Commission, Captain Weerasinghe's failure to disclose his presence at the scene of the blast to the Army Court of Inquiry was a very serious contradiction. His explanation that he was not asked about it was not acceptable. At such inquiries witnesses are expected to tell the court all the facts.

The Commission viewed that Captain Weerasinghe had withheld and had true reasons for his presence at the time of the blast. There must be a good reason for doing so. At this point, the Commission began to entertain suspicion that, it could be probable that he himself might have blasted the vehicle by radio signal. The Commission was confident of the fact that Captain Weerasinghe knew everything about making bombs and IED. They were fully aware that he had the knowledge to do so. He had undisturbed access to the vehicle previous night. There was every possibility for him to have fixed the IDE on the vehicle.

The Commission was of the view that, Weerasinghe told lies about the number of stars fixed to the vehicle and also that he knew nothing about the impending visits about General Kobbekaduwa and others - the victims. He further told lies about his presence at the scene of the crime.

The Commission further speculated about whether Captain Weerasinghe was purposely transferred to Kayts, two months earlier as a part of a criminal conspiracy by certain groups of army officers to plot to kill the general, and the reason for such conspiracy will be discussed later in this chapter. Overall, was he a tool in the hands of others obeying strategies of politicians bent on self preservation.

After the blast, Weerasinghe said that pieces of body were scattered everywhere. Commodore Jayamaha had fallen injured. General Kobbekaduwa was down. Brigadier Wimalaratne was in two pieces. He told that he remembered a navy person taking photographs. And according to him, no search was made for land mines at the scene after the blast before other vehicles came. Lorries and tractors came to the scene that day and removed debris of the blasted vehicle.

After Kobbekaduwa and Jayamaha were removed from the scene of the blast, Captain Weerasinghe said that he collected four or five pieces of metal. He said that one was warm. He said he collected it from near where Kobbekaduwa was lying. He said that later Brigadier Thilakaratne telephoned and asked for the preparation of a sketch. He left the scene about 1? hours after the blast and returned to make the rough sketch at about 4.30 pm. Weerasinghe said that Brigadier Thilakaratne wanted him to write things on the sketch as told by him. According to what Brigadier Thilakaratne had told him he wrote "disused Jeep track" as the track where the crater is shown in the sketch.

Later he told that, he went back to the scene with Brigadier Thilakaratne and Major Rodrigo and made some corrections to the rough sketch. Captain Weerasinghe said that he had not made any marks on the ground where bodies had fallen, or whose they are. He marked the positions of the bodies on the rough sketch from memory. Neither had he made any marks showing the place where the damaged vehicle had rested or where Corporal Upali fell or where he had found the pieces of metal he had picked up. The scene was completely cleared he said when he revisited the scene for the first time to prepare the rough sketch.

Captain Weerasinghe said that he showed the sketch to Brigadier Thilakaratne, who prepared the index. Major Rodrigo made the key. Weerasinghe said that he drew a bush. He told that Thilakaratne mentioned the boundaries of the scene for preparation of the sketch, i.e. the area of ground included in the sketch.

Brigadier Thilakaratne concurred that he instructed Captain Weerasinghe to write "disused jeep track" on the sketch. He explained that was because there were signs of grass between the track marks. Thilakaratne also told that he told Captain Weerasinghe to keep the metal pieces safely as they may be needed at an Army Court of Inquiry. He said that he was not shown the metal pieces.

Brigadier Thilakaratne in his disposition to the Commission said that, he did not order security or static guards to guard the crater or the scene. The damaged vehicle, he said, was at the SLEME workshop in Velany school compound and not with the Military Police.

He further said that, the antenna was broken in two, but not separated, but he could not remember if the radio was sill fixed to the dashboard. He informed that later the spare wheel and the signal equipment had been removed by the Signals NCO and stored in a room in his office building.

The brigadier also added that, the Land Rover UH 8752 was a normal Land Rover and not a modified vehicle, having a taller roof. He said that, they should have got his permission to use his vehicle as he had left for Colombo on the 6th. He said that it was improper that he was not told about - conduct abnormal as he could have been reached in Colombo on the night of the 7th.

The Commission reported about Major Franklin Rodrigo as follows, "29.1 (i) Major Rodrigo was at Velany at the time of the blast. Captain Weerasinghe says that it was major Rodrigo who told him to take a message to Kobbekaduwa. We are of the opinion that this story of a message was a mere pretext for Captain Weerasinghe to be present at the scene. Major Rodrigo must have known of the secure hand-held communication set. But that he had motive to harm Kobbekaduwa is not apparent on the evidence. Even if he had, we have been unable to find it, or that he did any other act of cover-up. Brigadier Thilakaratne goes off leaving him behind. Any evidence of complicity with the conspiracy to kill is inconclusive. The circumstances set out above are insufficient to reach adverse inference against him."

The Commission's conclusion about Captain Weerasinghe, now major, 29.2 (i) The evidence has been established beyond all reasonable doubt that it was not a buried land mine which exploded on the application of pressure that destroyed the vehicle and its passengers.

29.2 (ii) This officer was at the scene of the explosion at Araly at the time of the explosion. He was waiting there for the vehicle carrying the deceased persons and the injured one to return from the Araly Point. Whilst it was so returning on a track often used during that period, in a place which is a vast open space with excellent line vision, an improvised explosive device on board that vehicle exploded killing 10 of its passengers and grievously injuring another.

Considering all of the evidence before the Commission as to the conduct of this officer, Captain Weerasinghe, both before the blast and after it, of his expertise in regard to explosives and the explosive devises, of his transfer and placement in Kayts shortly before this explosion, of the fact he had easy access to the vehicle as and when he wanted, and other attendant circumstances, the Commission draws the irresistible inference that the evidence considered as a whole is consistent only with Captain W A N M Weerasinghe of Army Engineers as the person responsible for giving what must have been a radio command to explode the Improvised Explosive Devise placed in the vehicle."

The evidence is totally inconsistent with any other reasonable hypothesis that it was not him but someone else. Someone had to be there at hand to give this signal. As it was only the army that could have built or placed the IED on this vehicle in secret, then it is an army officer best suited to explode it. He does not need to hide. Everyone is taken by surprise. Conversely, the person who exploded it should know the mechanism of the bomb in undertaking an assassination of this magnitude. Captain Weerasinghe was there, as visible as anyone else, and he could have given the signal, probably by pressing a button or buttons.

29.2 (iii) The Commission had already recounted the evidence against him in serial. To summarize it: Weerasinghe was a trained bomb disposal field engineer of the army engineers; he therefore knew much about explosives, how to make bombs and delouse them etc. He was at Welioya before his transfer to Kayts. Brigadier Bohoran was Coordinating Officer at Welioya when Weerasinghe went there;

(a) He was transferred as a staff officer to Velany Headquarters Kayts in June 1992 shortly before this explosion; this give him time to familiarize himself with the island, to get to know his superiors and others, get to know the Araly area well. The Commission bears in mind that Brigadier Chula Senivaratne, then of the Directorate of Military Intelligence, says he had warned General Kobbekaduwa in June 1992 that, if an attempt on his life was made it would probably be in the North in Kayts and not in Colombo or Vettilaikerni, Elephant Pass, Palaly or Anuradhapura. He had also warned Major de Alwis, Kobbekaduwa's staff officer, not to permit the general to stay overnight at Karainagar and proceed to Kayts the following morning. There had been information that Kayts was the chosen ground for murder. It is army-controlled, no one can enter without permission. Movement to and from Kayts is restricted.

(b) We are of the view that, what he picked up from the ground were such remnants of an IED and not fragments of the metal casing of a LTTE land mine.

(c) Weerasinghe had handed over five metal pieces to Ismail J at Palaly on 15-8-92. He said he picked them as souvenirs. But five metal pieces are sent in an irregular and improper manner to the Govt analyst on 14-8-92 through the Defense Ministry the day before, said to be from this explosion at Kayts. What were those pieces? They cannot be the same that was handed over at Palaly by Weerasinghe the following day! The Govt analyst and Asst analyst Gunatilake decided that the Defense Ministry parcel was not significant and therefore no analysis would be done; but we find that Gunatilake does testify about them. All the evidence of a land mine casing is false;

(d) Weerasinghe deliberately lies to the Army Court Inquiry on 20 August 1992 when he pretends he only heard about an explosion at Araly and that one of their relief drivers died. He withholds the fact that he was at the scene of the explosion when it happened or that he picked up anything from the ground or that he gave any metal pieces from this explosion to be sent to the Defense Ministry before 15 August 1992. We have formed the view that the entire story about fragments of a LTTE land mine being recovered by Capt Weerasinghe and that more fragments were in the crater is false evidence invented to shield the real assassin.

(e) Weerasinghe deliberately lies to the Army Court of Inquiry on 20 August 1992 when he pretends he only heard about the explosion at Araly and that one of their relief drivers died. He withholds the fact that he was at the scene of the explosion when it happened or that he picked up anything from the ground or that he have gave it to the Ismail Committee on 15 August 1992 or that he sent or gave any metal piece from this explosion to be sent to the Defence Ministry before 15 August 1992. We have formed the view that the entire story about fragments of a LTTE land mine being recovered by Capt. Weerasinghe and that more fragments were in the crater is false evidenced invented to shield the real assassins;

(f) Weerasinghe together with Brigadier Thilakaratne deliberately misdescribes the track on which the crater was found as a "disused track" in the rough sketch provided to the Dfence Ministry by Fax which in turn reached the Surveyor General who sent his representatives to the scene of the blast to prepare a sketch as evidence for the Ismail Committee. The surveyor merely repeated that descriptions given in that rough sketch on this plan, but says it appeared to be in regular use. Several other witnesses such as the Police Officers at Kayts to whom General Kobbekaduwa has spoken that morning have contradicted the description in the sketch as "disused track " and stated it was in regular use at the time of the explosion."

(g) Weerasinghe had easy access to vehicle UH8752, which was parked unprotected next to his lodgings. Brigadier Thilakaratne was on leave between 31 July and 2nd August and again from 6 August afternoon. The usual driver of the vehicle Samaraweera was also on leave from 2 August to 20 August. The spare wheel and antenna have been removed from the vehicle, when Wimarathne visited on 17 August - vide photographs taken by them, but replaced; detonating mechanism ingredients could have been removed in the process.

(h) Weerasinghe's story about going in search to Kobbekaduwa to Araly to give a message is obviously untrue, as Kobbekaduwa and Major Alwis had a Sabre secure hand held communication set at their disposal wherever they were, even at Araly Point and any message could have been given to that set. Major D.J.R.Rupasinghe has informed the Commission by way of an affidavit after open court proceedings concluded at the end of March 1997, that he saw Major Alwis having the secure hand set in his hand, when they finally set out for Araly Point in one vehicle with 12 persons on board. Captain Weerawatte remained behind at the Point, as he had an urgent call of nature or so he would have made us believe. Weerasinghe has withheld his false story to the Army Court of Inquiry, that he was at the scene of explosion because he wants to give a message to Kobbekaduwa, whilst pretending he only heard of the explosion later obviously because, they would have queried such conduct which would have aroused suspicion on account of the availability of secure hand set;

(i) Capt. Weerasinghe had ample opportunity on the 7th night to prepare the vehicle, fixing two stars to it to entice Kobbekaduwa and his troop to get into it. These metal stars and their metal holders can easily be turned out at any Army Headquarters camp. There would always be sufficient stars to fix to senior officers vehicles. We say this because Lt.Col. Stephen attended the conference at Karainagar, learnt of the General's decision to visit Araly Point next morning, must necessarily have had to go to Velany headquarters on his return to Mandathivu which was on his way to give that information to Major Rodrigo the senior officer at Velany and to Captain Weerasinghe. We have evidence of driver Samaraweera that Major Rodrigo and Captain Weerasinghe lived in the same house used as their quarters at Velany and in the adjoining compound was UH8572 parked there in Brigadier Thilakaratne's absence.

As there has undoubtedly been a conspiracy to assassinate Kobbekaduwa, they would have been prepared with stars etc. Captain Weerasinghe has denied that, he learnt of the General's proposed visit to Kayts on the 8th and not on the previous night, but learnt of it only on 8th morning itself from Rodrigo. In view of the above circumstances both Rodrigo and Weerasinghe were sharing the same quarters and Stephen as acting Commanding Officer necessarily would have informed them of the visit, we conclude that Captain Weerasinghe has falsely denied knowing of the impending visit on 7th night;

(j) Major Weerasinghe testified before the Commission. The false aspect of his testimony was put to him. He was examined regarding contradictory positions he had taken at earlier inquiries on the self same fact (e.g.) his omission to tell the Army Court that he was present at the time of the explosion, that he was there because he carried message to Kobbekaduwa and that he picked up metal pieces from the ground; It was suggested that he had lied to the Army Court by telling them he only heard of this explosion afterwards; he was examined regarding the false description given by him to the track which had the crater; he was informed that his demeanor was unsatisfactory and warned.

According to the above position taken by the Commission, it decided to inform Captain Weerasinghe that it was of the opinion that he was implicated or concerned in the matter under inquiry. Furthermore, the Commission informed him of his right to be represented by one or more attorneys. The Commission further informed Captain Weerasinghe that he had already testified before the Commission and he might even file written submissions or file an affidavit, if he so desired. The Commission made this move as it wanted to conclude sittings by March 31, 1997.

In response to the communication of the Commission, Captain W A N M Weerasinghe submitted an affidavit to the Commission consisting of five short paragraphs in which he denied having had anything to do with the matter under inquiry. He failed to inform the Commission whether he would be represented by attorneys.

And as no attorneys communicated with the Commission on his behalf, the Commission decided to take into consideration his denial contained in the affidavit in the assessment of the evidence against him. Meanwhile, before concluding the case against Major Weerasinghe it is necessary to understand the views and the final decision of the Commission regarding those responsible for the assassination. In the words of the Commission:

25: Those responsible for the assassination:

25 (i) After careful consideration of all the evidence, real, direct and circumstantial evidence available to this Commission, oral, documentary and opinion evidence, of motive opportunity and preparation, previous conduct and subsequent conduct of all those persons whose conduct is relevant to this inquiry, this Commission is able to come to one conclusion only, and that Defence Minister President R Premadasa himself targeted Major General D Kobbekaduwa for assassination for the reasons discussed in this report and had his will and decision executed through those loyal to him or those prepared to do his bidding for whatever reason in the Ministry of Defense and in the army which resulted in mass murder. Ten people were killed. The evidence proves beyond any doubt that President R Premadasa was directly responsible for the assassination and causing grievous injuries to Cpl Upali. But the Commission failed to come up with the details regarding the preparations made to kill the deceased people.

The motive adduced by the Commission to physically get rid of Denzil Kobbekaduwa was as follows: 24:3 (iii) It is the view of the Commission that President Premadasa may well have believed that General Kobbekaduwa, who was a close relative of former SLFP Minister and who had been a Presidential candidate, at a previous presidential election [1982 contested against J R Jayewardene, in the first-ever presidential election], had political backing and may well be influenced into accepting a presidential candidature nomination at a future date, as the general was very popular and known as a fair minded, honorable person, who cared for the small man. He had all the attributes of an electoral winner. Military heroes of the Second World War became famous presidents in the United States of America and France. Premadasa must have been all too well aware of it.

This writer is of the opinion that, the Commissioners who wrote this motive must have been living in another world. In 1989, when the question of the presidential candidature arose within the ruling UNP and when R Premadasa, an ordinary person from the lowly gutters of Colombo, without any usual leadership social or feudal aristocratic background, was selected to compete against Srimavo R D Bandaranaike, from the Kandyan aristocratic stock, everybody thought that Bandaranaike would win overwhelming after 12 years of misrule by J R Jayewardene.

But despite all the odds, Premadasa won handsomely. The Commissioners wrote about the forthcoming presidential election, which would have to be held in the latter part of 1994 or early part of 1995, as the main reason for Premadasa to target Denzil Kobbekaduwa.

This writer had been in contact with President Premadasa from 1963 until 1977 and as far as this writer knows, he was a workaholic and he believed only in political achievements. He started his national politics in 1956 by contesting in parliamentary elections.

In 1955 he joined the United national Party and came forward to contest Ruwanwella seat, a rural electorate far removed from his Colombo base. Ruwanwella was the seat that had been represented since 1936, from the days of the State Council, by the redoubtable leader of the Lanka Sama Samaja Party (LSSP) - Dr N M Perera.

As a rookie in parliamentary politics and far away from his own turf, he contested and polled 7,885 votes against the winner Dr N M Perrera, who polled 14, 083 votes. After that, in the 1960 March elections, he was the third member of the three-member Colombo Central electorate, but he lost in the 1960 July elections. After 1965 he won all the elections he contested,.

Premadasa was identified with rowdy elements and managed his political campaigns with the help of such elements, but he ditched them after being elected as the president of the country. Therefore, it is difficult to accept the motive attributed by the Commission for targeting Denzil Kobbekaduwa.

Even the Inquiry Commission which alleged that President Premadasa was the chief culprit had second thoughts when it included the following observation:

32. (i) The Commission in its report has discussed only one aspect concerning President Premadasa relevant to the terms of reference. This does not include and is not meant to detract from other aspects of his political life or achievements over the years as MMC [Member of the Municipal Council] MP, Minister, Prime Minister and President. His achievements on other spheres of activity may be many. What we have had to say is not meant to be wholesale condemnation of the man, the politician, his vision, his objectives his administrative skill etc. It focuses on the aspect of his character of using power selfishly, without principle in some situations, which is amply demonstrated by the evidence. It left a permanent scar on the politics of that period. Nor was the army left unscarred.

It should be remembered that, in discussing an assassination there have to be initial preparations. There must have been, in the first instance, a small group of conspirators led by President Premadasa. The conspirators must have discussed many things connected with preparations to eliminate Kobbekaduwa.

Arrangements must have been made to watch the habits and movements of Kobbekaduwa. The place of the assassination would have to be determined and the means of eliminating the enemy finalized. Though we take it for granted that the place of assassination had been selected as Araly and the mode of destruction as IED, the Commission did not come up with any evidence of preparations, the nature, size, shape, power or precise placement of the actual explosive devise on the vehicle or how or when it was so placed. There was no evidence for these matters with the Commission. Nor was there any direct evidence as to who exploded it or in what manner. The Commission managed to infer from certain circumstances, and even conjecture, though the Commission denies it. It has to be presumed that one person may have made the IED, another placed it on board the Land Rover and a third person been responsible for exploding the IED. Unfortunately, the Commission did not level charges or accuse anyone for such criminal acts.

Yet according to the Commission's final conclusion:

29:2 (vii) This Commission draws the irresistible inference after deliberation and consideration upon the evidence taken as a whole that it is consistent only with the following: (a) Captain W A N M Weerasinghe was a member of a conspiracy with others in Government and in the army to assassinate General Kobbekaduwa and many others who may be present with him at that time;

(b) That the conspirators agreed that the assassination was to take place in Kayts island;

(c) That the assassination was to stimulate the explosion of a pressure-activated LTTE buried land mine; all evidence indicative of the explosion of a buried land mine is false having been fabricated and invented to conceal the true facts so as to protect the real assassins;

(d) That the assassination was to be by means of an explosion of an Improvised Explosive Devise on the vehicle in which General Kobbekaduwa was to travel;

(e) All evidence of an IED was to be destroyed thereafter, whilst a landmine explosion was to be invented; and false fabricated evidence presented to the public that the vehicle had driven over an old LTTE buried mine.

(f) Captain Weerasinghe was a person directly responsible for giving the command by radio signal to explode the IED, which was on board the vehicle in which General Kobbekaduwa and 10 others were traveling at the time; thereby causing the deaths of 10 persons and grievous injury to another and that evidence is totally inconsistent with any other reasonable theory or hypothesis that Weerasinghe was not a conspirator to assassinate Kobbekaduwa or was not a person directly responsible for exploding the bomb on the vehicle or that he had nothing to do with these killings.

29:2 (viii) We reiterate that we are of the view beyond all reasonable doubt that Major W A N M Weerasinghe was directly responsible for the assassination and causing grievous injury to another as set out in the warrant. He is also guilty of fraudulent acts in relation to the administration of justice as he has falsified and invented evidence of a land mine explosion in order to shield the Defense Minister President Premadasa and other conspirators from exposure as assassins of General Kobbekaduwa, General (Brigadier) Wimalaratne, Vice Admiral Jayamaha and all the others who died in the explosion and who suffered grievous injury.

29:2 (ix) But the Commission does not recommend that Major W A N M Weerasinghe be made subject to civil liability in terms of section 9 of Law 7 of 1978 as he has been involved in this transaction due to external influence and in the absence of evidence that he was in politics. The offences he has committed are punishable under the Penal Code, to wit: Conspiracy to murder, abetment and commission of murder. Disciplinary action may also be taken under the army act for his outrageous conduct. The attorney-general and the army commander may be sent copies of this report.

The Inquiry Commission also blamed Lt-Colonel Hapugoda Roland Stephen (deceased) as a member of the conspiracy to assassinate Gen Kobbekaduwa and all others who were with him at the time act was committed in consequence of which conspiracy all the deceased persons came by their deaths and Cpl Upali by his injuries by the explosion by radio command of an IED on board the vehicle in which they were traveling at Araly Kayts on August 8, 1992.

NOTE
This writer had a chance meeting with Mathy, the LTTE commander of Kayts before it was captured by Government forces led by General Kobbekaduwa in Operation Thrivida Balaya. This meeting took place in Bangkok some time in December, 1992.

Three Sri Lankan infantry battalions had successfully achieved the aim of strengthening Karainagar naval base by capturing Kayts and Mandathivu Islands.

As the ferocity of the fight was so intense, LTTE fighters were ordered to withdraw from Kayts and Mandathivu islands by their high command. Mathy sustained serious injuries, but before withdrawing from Kayts the LTTE laid land mines.

This writer was told that those mines were not pressure mines, but remote controlled ones. And when the LTTE learnt that Kobbekaduwa was organizing an offensive operation against them, an LTTE reconnaissance team informed of the activities on the island of Kayts and even of the arrival of Kobbekaduwa to Karainagar on the evening of the 7th, 1992.

Accordingly, on August 8, 1992, this writer was told by Mathy that, it was the LTTE who pressed the buttons of their remote to rid them of their long time enemy, General Kobbekaduwa, who had led Operation Liberation in 1987 at Vadamaradchy, during which LTTE supremo Prabhakaran had been trapped at Valvettiturai. It took 300 LTTE cadres to fight hand-to-hand battle with the surrounding Sri Lankan forces to get Prabhakaran out to safety.

So, more than anything, there was the desire for personal revenge on the part of the Tiger supremo to get rid of General Kobbekaduwa.
Chapter 51: Commission fails to contact the LTTE

CHAPTER 53: The Kilaly massacre

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Aug 10, 2002



 

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