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 Post subject: Kumar Ponnambalam
 Post Posted: Tue Aug 02, 2005 11:34 pm 
Kumar Ponnambalam

By Amantha Perera
@ Sunday Leader / January 9th 2000

On 5 January 2000 Kumar Ponnambalam was shot dead in broad daylight in his car in Colombo.

Police officers at the scene of the incident and conducting the investigations told The Sunday Leader that whoever Shantha was, he had gained the confidence and trust of the ACTC leader so much so that Ponnambalam left with him even without notifying his family of the destination.

Kumar Ponnambalam was a man with certain tastes. He had a penchant for Mercedes Benz cars. The garage behind his house down Queen’s Road was full of them. His ancestral home was a virtual museum of antique furniture. He wore a thick gold bracelet around his right wrist and a gold chain with a talisman around his neck.

On January 5, he forgot the talisman and wore a black band around the bracelet as he left the house around 9.45 am in the company of an unidentified person known only as Shantha. An hour later his body was recovered in Wellawatte. He lay dead on the wheel of one of his beloved Benzs. Two 9mm bullets had been fired from very close range, piercing his neck and the lower part of the head.

Ponnambalam had died on the spot.

The assassination had taken place barely within an hour of a suicide bomber blowing herself up at the entrance of the Prime Minister’s office in Colombo 7. The initial suspicion fell on Shantha. According to family members, a person using the name of Shantha had been calling Ponnambalam quite often of late. When another member of the family had answered the phone, Shantha, who spoke in fluent Sinhala, had replied that he was a friend of Ponnambalam’s. Last week over dinner, Ponnambalam’s son, fondly called Thamba’, had inquired from him as to who this Shantha was. "He is a client that I am doing some work for," was Ponnambalam’s reply.

On the fateful day also, Shantha called Ponnambalam in the morning. After that he arrived at the Queen’s Road residence and told a domestic that he was there to meet Ponnambalam. Family members told The Sunday Leader that the All Ceylon Tamil Congress (ACTC) leader was not to leave the house that day as he had planned to rearrange his room. However, Ponnambalam having talked to the man in his chambers left the house with Shantha not long after the latter’s arrival. From that point onwards till the discovery of the body down a by lane of Ramakrishna Road, Wellawatte the details are sketchy.

According to a security guard posted at a building site right next to the spot where the vehicle was found, the black Benz had been there at around 10 am as well. The body had been first discovered by three children who were collecting money for a charity. The security guard told The Sunday Leader that he did not hear gun shots, however a Sinhala newspaper quoted the same person as saying that he had heard sounds similar to crackers but had not taken any notice since the Vel Cart was due to pass that way.

Police officers at the scene of the incident and conducting the investigations told The Sunday Leader that whoever Shantha was, he had gained the confidence and trust of the ACTC leader so much so that Ponnambalam left with him even without notifying his family of the destination.

There were two possible scenarios as to how the actual shooting took place. Shantha got off from the vehicle and fired the shots at close range while talking to his victim who had put his shutter down. Or else he left the vehicle and returned and shot Ponnambalam dead as he put the shutter down.

There is also the theory that Shantha left on his bike followed by Ponnambalam to Wellawatte. And at the location approached Ponnambalam who put down his shutter and was shot.

There was no sign that Ponnambalam had struggled. His seat belt was still around his waist when the body was discovered around 11 am. The vehicle had been parked at the spot and the shots were fired while the vehicle was stationary.

Police found two empty 9mm shells inside the car and believe that five shots had been fired most probably using a silencer.

Curiouser and curiouser

Around 1 pm on Wednesday, Ponnambalam’s residence received a call from a person who said that he was Shantha. The caller had identified himself as the person who accompanied mahathaya in morning and inquired whether he had returned home. A domestic at Ponnambalam’s residence told the police that he was in a position to identify Shantha if he saw him.

Ponnambalam had been warned by friends and relatives to be careful during the past few days. He had brushed aside the warnings saying, "I have to do my duty, if God wants to take me he will." But on another occasion he had told a close relative, " They will not allow me to live," referring to powerful groups operating in the south.

Initial suspicions were mixed. The obvious targets were powerful elements in the south who wanted to silence Ponnambalam who had been taking a pro-Tiger not allowed Eelam stance. "By this approach...the Tamils have decided not to be pawns in the game between Sinhalese and have decided to live with self-respect and dignity as they are an independent, proud and separate nation," he wrote in an unpublished article referring to a Tamil boycott of the December 21 poll.

Following President Chandrika Kumaratunga’s address to the nation after her re-election Ponnambalam wrote an open letter to her. The tone of the letter had been such that a close relative had requested him not to go ahead with it.

The assassination was well planned and the groundwork had been laid some time back. And the assassin was well versed in fire arms and a getaway was at his disposal immediately after the hit was carried out.

Intelligence officers were however not willing to totally rule out an LTTE hand or even the involvement of another armed Tamil group in the assassination. "It could have been a psy-ops hit since the blame was going to fall on the government," one officer said. He alleged that Ponnambalam who usually appeared for LTTE suspects, had refused to appear in several cases recently.

The immediate concern of the investigation was the reason for Ponnambalam’s visit to Ramakrishna Road. Though he has a building that is on rent down the same road, investigators have found out that he had not visited the building for three months. "He had been sending his driver to collect the rent," they said. They were also focusing on determining whether Ponnambalam had arrived directly at the byroad from his residence or whether he had turned to the by-lane to avoid traffic.

One investigator told The Sunday Leader that they were also checking at what point Ponnambalam was left alone in the car and why. "There might be a chance that this Shantha had promised Ponnambalam that he would put him through to another person."

The family in the meantime was to request the investigators to locate the origination of the so-called Shantha phone calls. If the calls are traced, it might lead to vital breakthroughs in the case.

On Thursday afternoon, police headquarters received a fax from an anti-Tamil, Sinhala extremist group claiming responsibility for the murder of Ponnambalam. The message had warned that the same fate would befall any one who supports the cause of Eelam. The letter had been faxed from an agency post office in Town Hall.

The letter that was received at the IGP’s command room was sent by a group calling themselves The National Front Against Tiger (it was spelled National Front Against Tigers) and was signed by one Vijaya Ranabahu, commanding officer of the movement. It said that Ponnambalam had been killed due to the statements he made to Tamil Net and Ravaya, for acting as an agent of the Tigers, for bringing the armed forces into disrepute and for attempting to set up separate state. Intelligence officers however were circumspect about the hitherto unheard of group. This is the first time a Sinhala extremist group had claimed responsibility for the murder of a Tamil leader.

Kumar Ponnambalam felt that the stars were against him. "I don’t think I will live to see through year 2000," days before the murder he told his wife Yogi. Even he wouldn’t have expected the words to come to pass so soon.

Kumar Ponnambalam's killer nabbed


Two underworld criminals have been traced by the Colombo Detective Bureau (CDB) yesterday in connection with the assassination of All Ceylon Tamil Congress leader Kumar Ponnambalam.

A Reserve Police Constable named Sugath Ranasinghe had telephoned the CDB headquarters and informed that he was responsible for giving the contract to two gunmen Moratuwa Saman and Sujeewa to kill Mr. Ponnambalam.

Mr. Ranasinghe told police that he knew Mr. Ponnamblam for a couple of months and had associated with him closely under the name of Shantha, revealed Director CDB Senior SP Bandula Wickremasinghe.

On the day of the incident, January 5, 2000, he had requested Mr. Ponnambalam to come with him to go to Ramakrishna Road on an errand of a personal nature.

As arranged earlier, Saman and Sujeewa had followed the Mercedes Benz car in a three-wheeled scooter.

Some distance down Ramakrishna Road, Shantha had asked Mr. Ponnambalam to stop his Mercedes Benz. The two gunmen had then shot Mr. Ponnambalam dead.

One of them had fired three shots with a 0.9mm pistol while the other pumped two bullets from a revolver.

All shots had been fired at Mr. Ponnambalam's neck. Later the three of them had got into the three wheeler and escaped.

Kumap Ponnambalam's handphone which was in the car was taken and dumped into a canal on their way home, Ranasinghe told police.

This has been recovered by detectives.

Ranasinghe has told the CDB director that he would soon surrender to the CDB.

But Mr. Wickremasinghe had told that he had deployed a special police team to arrest the suspect reported to be hiding in Narahenpita.

Police are also looking for two weapons said to have been used by the killers and the three wheeler driver.

The CDB Director said that a check with the Reserve Police headquarters revealed that RPC Ranasinghe had had his enlistment cancelled as he had not reported to work for several months.

Investigations revealed that RPC Ranasinghe had used his police T56 weapon which he had in his possession to allegedly commit two murders and several armed robberies along with his two accomplices.

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