Sri Lanka opposition lawmaker assassinated

(AP)  

 

An opposition lawmaker was assassinated at a New Year’s religious service near Sri Lanka’s capital on Tuesday. The legislator’s party blamed the government for recently reducing his security detail.

 

A gunman opened fire at ethnic Tamil lawmaker Thyagaraja Maheswaran of the opposition United National Party (UNP) at a Hindu temple near Colombo, police spokesman N K Ilangakoon said.

 

The lawmaker and one other person died of their wounds after they were admitted to Colombo National Hospital, the hospital’s medical director Hector Weerasinghe said. Ten other people were wounded, including the gunman, and were being treated at the hospital, he said.

 

It is unclear how the suspect was injured.

 

UNP’s General Secretary Tissa Attanayake held the government responsible for Maheswaran’s assassination because it recently reduced the number of security personnel assigned for his protection from 10 to two, after the lawmaker spoke out against the government’s alleged misdeeds.

 

“The government should take the responsibility for this tragic death. Maheswaran’s security was reduced during the last two weeks, making him vulnerable for an attack of this nature,” Attanayake said. “He spoke about corruption, malpractices, abductions, unlawful killings and blamed government for not taking effective measures to stop them.”

 

President Mahinda Rajapaksa’s spokesman Chandrapala Liyanage denied reducing the number of security personnel assigned to Maheswaran and said the lawmaker was given special protection whenever requested.

 

On Sunday, Maheswaran appeared in a private television interview and blamed government paramilitary troops for a spate of abductions, extortion schemes and unexplained killings in government-controlled northern Jaffna peninsula. He vowed to reveal the names of those involved when Parliament meets in the new year.

 

Hundreds of people have been abducted and killed under shadowy circumstances in restive northern Sri Lanka, where Tamil Tiger rebels are active.

 

Rights groups have accused government forces of conniving with armed groups, a charge the government vehemently denies.

 

Maheswaran survived a similar shooting three years ago while running for general elections.

 

He belonged to the minority Tamil community for whom the separatist Tamil Tigers have been waging a war against government forces since 1983. The conflict has killed more than 70,000 people.

 

In 2006, Tamil lawmaker Nadarajah Raviraj, another government critic, was also gunned down in Colombo. (AP)

 
 
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