Tiger bomb kills Jeyaraj
14 others including National Athletics Coach, ace
marathon runner killed:
Weliweriya: Highways and Road Development Minister Jeyaraj
Fernandopulle and 13 others were killed in a LTTE suicide bomb blast in
Weliweriya, Gampaha around 7.45 a.m yesterday, which also left over 90
The powerful blast occurred when the Minister was about to flag off a
marathon organised as part of the
Sinhala-Tamil New Year celebrations at the Kanthi playground in
Eyewitnesses told the Daily News that the blast occurred as soon as
the Minister, the Chief Guest, raised the flag to start the marathon in
the presence of over 500 people. Police are investigating as to how the
suicide bomber got so close to the Minister. They suspect that the
suicide bomber who targeted the Minister could have come in the guise of
a marathon runner participating in the event or posed as a keen observer
of the proceedings.
Police are trying to trace the owner of a camera found at the site to
check whether it has any link to the blast.
A severed head believed to be that of the bomber was found 12 feet
from the scene of the blast.
According to the Director of the Gampaha base hospital Dhammika
Mayadunne, over 50 injured persons have been admitted with eight in a
critical condition. Among them was Gampaha Police division SSP Hector
Four others have been transferred to the Colombo National Hospital.
Sri Lanka's National Athletic Coach Lakshman De Alwis and ace
marathon runner K.A.Karunaratne, who represented Sri Lanka at Barcelona
Olympics in 1992, were among the dead along with two other participants
in the race.
According to sources the race which was originally scheduled for 6.30
a.m had got delayed as the organisers were not ready. The Minister who
had arrived by the time had left the ground and returned to flag off the
race by 7.30 a.m.
Eyewitnesses said that the Minister had engaged in friendly
conversation with the participants before proceeding to the starting
point, where the renowned former marathon runner Karunaratne had handed
over the flag to the Minister.
The blast had occurred as the Minister first raised and then lowered
the flag to signal the start with bodies strewn all over the place in
the immediate aftermath.
The Defence Ministry yesterday said that the Minister was
assassinated in yet another cowardly LTTE attack in the face of growing
pressure in the Northern front where it has been cornered while facing
numerous defeats in the recent past.
A faithful Catholic, the Minister was a vociferous critic who
expressed his concerns on numerous occasions over the LTTE's occupation
of the world renowned sacred "Madhu" church and the removal of the "Madhu"
statue recently. Fernandopulle was the Chief Government Whip in addition
to being a Cabinet Minister.
He was also the SLFP chief organiser for the Katana electorate and
with the impending elections in the East was given the additional
responsibility of organising the polls campaign for the UPFA in the
An Attorney-at-Law, Fernandopulle began his political career in 1970
as a SLFP polling agent, and 14 years later was appointed as the chief
organiser of the SLFP for Katana electorate.
He has held several key ministerial portfolios.
He is survived by wife Sudarshani and two children.
Meanwhile, the investigations into the assassination of Minister
Fernandopulle and others had been taken over by the Criminal
Investigations Department said, Police spokesman Senior DIG N.K.
CID DIG Sisira Mendis had deployed a special team headed by a senior
CID officer to conduct the investigation.
Funeral with State honours on
A funeral with full State honours will be accorded to Highways and
Road Development Minister, Chief Government Whip and the Treasurer of
the Sri Lanka Freedom Party Jeyaraj Fernandopulle on Thursday.
The Government made this decision following a meeting held yesterday
under the patronage of President Mahinda Rajapaksa.
A committee has been appointed under the patronage of Prime Minister
Ratnasiri Wickramanayaka to organise the funeral arrangements.
Accordingly the remains of Minister Fernandopulle were brought to his
official residence in Colombo last evening and the remains will lie in
state in Parliament today from 10.30 am to 12.30 p.m.
Thereafter, the remains will be taken to his residence at Katana.