Crimes without Criminals

Parliamentarian Sivanesathurai Chandrakanthan alias Pillayan has been discharged and released over the Joseph Pararajasingham murder case. The Batticaloa High Court on January 13 acquitted MP Chandrakanthan and four other suspects, before the Attorney General’s department informed the Court on January 11 that it has decided not to continue with the case.

Former TNA MP Pararajasingham was shot dead on December 2005 at St. Mary’s Co-Cathedral Church in the Batticaloa town while attending Christmas prayers. Pillayan was part of the Karuna Amman-led Tamil Makkal Viduthalai Pulikal (TMVP) at the time Pararajasingham was killed. 
The current MP and the Batticaloa District Coordinating Committee (DCC) Co-Chairman was arrested almost 10 years before the murder and was in remand custody for 
five years. 

"Pillayan was part of the Karuna Amman-led Tamil Makkal Viduthalai Pulikal (TMVP) at the time Pararajasingham was killed."

The Attorney General did not give any reason for his department’s withdrawal from the case. The department might have good reasons for its decision not to continue with the case, but it raises several questions. The most important one among them is what happened to Pararajasingham. His murder was a fact. It really happened. There was no evidence to suggest that he committed suicide. If Chandrakanthan was not the murderer, there should be one. Would the police reinitiate fresh investigations?

History is full of such unresolved crimes; cases which were dumped before either the Attorney General informed the courts that he would not proceed with those cases or courts acquitted the suspects for want of sound evidence. Though there were recent incidents where cases filed against the leaders of the current government during the previous regime were dismissed by courts, similar incidents could be traced throughout the history. 

"He was arrested almost 10 years before the murder and was in remand custody for five years."

before considering a request made by the Attorney-General, Colombo High Court Judge Pradeep Hettiarachchi on July 11 last year ordered to release former Reconstruction and Development Agency (RADA) Chairman Tiran Alles, former North and Eastern Provinces LTTE Financial Head Emil Kanthan, Former RADA Chief Operating Officer Saliya Wickremasuriya, and Dr. Jayantha Dias Samarasinghe who had been accused of fraud, on the basis of contradictory evidence.

The Attorney-General had filed indictments against the four accused in connection with an alleged fraud during the implementation of the Jayalanka Housing Project for the construction of 800 housing units in the Trincomalee and Batticaloa Districts between December 1, 2005, and July 5, 2006 for the people affected by the 2004 tsunami. The case had been filed against them for allegedly conspiring to misappropriate Rs.200 million of public funds belonging to RADA.

If there had been contradictory evidence against the defendants, it is obvious that the court would release them. However, the question remains whether the treasury had released the said funds and whether houses had been constructed. If the answer to the first question is in the affirmative and the other one is in the negative, where has the money gone? Are the relevant authorities going to reinitiate the probe to find it?
During the administration of the previous government, the Bribery Commission had lodged a case before Colombo Magistrate’s Court against Johnston Fernando for allegedly using 153 employees of Lanka Sathosa in political activities while serving as a minister between 2010 and 2014 and incurring a loss to the tune of Rs. 40 million to the government.

"Raviraj was killed and the suspects were released and most importantly, this verdict was given during the previous govt."

The Colombo High Court has ruled on January 15 that the manner in which the Bribery Commission had filed its case against Fernando was unlawful. Accordingly, High Court Judge Manjula Thilakaratne directed the case to be referred to the Colombo Magistrate’s Court for further action. Here, it is only the manner in which the case had been filed that was ruled to be unlawful. 

On December 24, 2016, the Colombo High Court gave its’ verdict on the Raviraj murder case. Based on unanimous decision arrived at by exclusively Sinhala speaking Jurors, High Court Judge discharged all suspects including three former intelligence officers of the Sri Lanka Navy from all charges and released them. 
Nadarajah Raviraj and his security personnel were assassinated on November 10, 2006, while travelling in a jeep along Matha Road in Narahenpita. On June 20, 2016, charges were levelled against six suspects.

As exclusively Sinhalese Jurors were appointed, this verdict has created doubts in the minds of Tamil politicians and Tamils as a whole. The then Opposition Leader R. Sampanthan had at that time said, the process in which the jury is allowed to be selected can lead to a loss of confidence among victims. The issue here is even if the procedure is acceptable, Raviraj has been killed and the suspects have been released. And most importantly, this verdict was given during the previous government and no fresh investigation was initiated therebefore. 

Five students had been killed near the Gandhi roundabout in Trincomalee on January 2, 2006. The incident gained such importance that local human rights organisations and the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights cited the killings as an ‘emblematic case’ raising difficult questions about war crimes and accountability in Sri Lanka.
While the local media had been divided on ethnic lines in reporting the incident, the Criminal Investigation Department (CID) probing the case charged 13 suspects including 12 STF personnel, for ‘shooting the students.’ However, the Trincomalee Chief Magistrate on July 4, 2019 released all suspects, before clearing them of ‘all charges.’ Again one has to raise the question “Who is responsible for the gruesome killing.” Intriguingly, this acquittal was reported when the government of the day had cosponsored three resolutions at the UNHRC sessions.
Similarly, The Court of Appeal on November 20, last year annulled charges filed against Minister Janaka Bandara Tennakoon over a murder of a UNP supporter in 1999. 

"Cricketer Mahadevan Sathasivam accused of murdering his wife who was found dead at her home on October 9, 1951"

In the famous Sathasivam and Kularathna cases also the accused were discharged and released. In the first case All-Ceylon cricketer Mahadevan Sathasivam was accused of murdering his wife Anandam Rajendra, who was found dead at her home on October 9, 1951. He was acquitted before a twenty-month trial. In the second case Dr. Daymon Kularatna who was charged for the murder of his wife was also released and intriguingly in both cases the accused were defended by one of the Lanka Sama Samaja Party (LSSP) leaders. Dr. Colvin R. de Silva. 
Daya Master, the former spokesperson of the now defunct LTTE was released on bail on September 13, 2009, before the CID informed Colombo’s Chief Magistrate court that there was no evidence to suggest that the suspects had propagated the separatist cause. A writ petition filed by Janatha Vimukthi Peramuna (JVP) Parliamentarian Vijitha Herath seeking an order to institute legal proceedings against Velupillai Prabhakaran’s successor as LTTE Leader and its arms procurer Shanmugam Kumaran Pathmanathan alias KP was dismissed by Court of Appeal on December 5, 2017.

In all these cases the question “who is responsible” has been left unanswered and the authorities seem to believe that they did not have any more responsibility towards the victims of these cases before the courts acquit the suspects or the Attorney General withdraws the charges.  It is a serious flaw in the system which could be used for various manipulations.

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