Presidential guard organised Ponnambalam murder - paper
[TamilNet, Sunday, 11 November 2001, 23:21 GMT]
A former member of Sri Lanka's Presidential Security Division found shot dead earlier this month was involved in orchestrating the assassination of former Tamil politician, Kumar Ponnambalam, the Sunday Leader newspaper reported this week. The paper also named the assassin, said to be a former Police constable.
The newspaper said that Baddegana Sanjeewa, found dead in his car on Pagoda road, with six gunshot wounds on November 2, was the architect of the murder of Mr. Ponnambalam, a human rights lawyer and leader of the All Ceylon Tamil Congress (ACTC). Mr. Ponnambalam was an outspoken critic of President Chandrika Kumaratunga and in the aftermath of his death, his family accused her of ordering the killing.
"On January 4, 2000, Kumar Ponnambalam was shot dead at Ramakrishna Road, Wellawatte. Moratu Saman and a former police constable named Sunil Ranasinghe carried out the killing on the instructions of Baddegana Sanjeewa", the Sri Lankan broadsheet said, quoting police sources.
Sanjeewa's career had included being a bodyguard for senior military personnel as well as being a member of Kumaratunga's elite presidential guard.
"Following Kumaratunga's win, Sanjeewa befriended Nihal Karunaratne. The only favour he sought for services rendered during Kumaratunga's election campaign was to be enlisted in the Sri Lanka Police Force. His request was granted and Sanjeewa was accepted as a Reserve Police Constable and assigned to the PSD", the broadsheet said.
The paper suggested that Sanjeewa was one of Kumaratunga's trusted guards and a close confidante. "Despite his criminal record, President Chandrika Kumaratunga trusted Baddegana Sanjeewa implicitly and was comfortable in having him provide her body protection - confident of his loyalty to her, she felt reasonably safe under his purview," the weekly said.
The broadsheet also accused the former PSD bodyguard had links to organised crime rackets. "Backed by political masters, Sanjeewa became a ready and willing tool in a circle of systematic crime", the Sunday Leader said.
The paper alleged that there had been a cover up, protecting Sanjeewa from further investigation. "Even at this stage, the police made every effort to refrain from making public Baddegana Sanjeewa's name as being involved in this murder. Sanjeewa in fact shared a close friendship with SSP Bandula Wickremasinghe, so much so - that on one occasion, when a gang threw hand bombs at a club at Delkanda on September 29, 1999 the cops had captured the getaway car. The vehicle belonged to a friend of Baddegana Sanjeewa's and he personally visited the CDB headquarters on this occasion making a request that the car, be released", the paper said.