The government yesterday vowed that it wouldn t succumb to LTTE terrorism after a male suicide cadre assassinated Chief Government Whip Jeyaraj Fernandopulle (55) at Weliweriya, Gampaha as he flaged off a marathon at 7.45 am.
Fernandopulle held the post of the SLFP Treasurer at the time of his death and was one of the staunchest defenders of the ruling coalition both in and outside Parliament.
A senior security official described the suicide cadre a human claymore mine. `It was a directional blast and hit the minister at point blank range. Even if he had worn a bullet proof west, he wouldn t have survived the blast.
Both President Mahinda Rajapaksa and Prime Minister Ratnasiri Wickremanayake issued statements vowing to militarily defeat the LTTE. Wickremanayake said the ongoing military campaign couldn t de derailed by political assassinations.
Fernandopulle first entered Parliament in 1989 from the Gampaha District. In August 1994, he polled over 100,000 and came only second to the then Prime Ministerial candidate Mrs Chandrika Kumaratunga. After joining the government service in 1972 as a science and maths teacher he had entered Law College in 1974 and passed out in 1977.
The Gampaha District MP died on the spot. Eleven others including the National Athletics Coach Lakshman de Alwis and K. A. Karunaratne lovingly called Marathon Karu who had represented the country at overseas competition and had brought glory to the country were killed. About 85 men, women and children received injuries. Among the dead and the wounded were several competitors taking part in the competition sponsored by Nestle.
Police headquarters said Fernandopulle had been protected by a contingent of elite police commandos and the Ministerial Security Division (MSD). His chief bodyguard Chief Inspector Kannangara of the STF who had been a veteran in counter insurgency operations in the East was among the dead.
In fact, Fernandopulle s security had been beefed up after the LTTE assassinated Puttalam District MP and Nations Building Minister D. M. Dassanayake near Ja-ela police station on January 8 this year, an expert in VIP security said. A section of the security apparatus had asserted the claymore mine blast which ripped through Dassanayake s vehicle would have been meant for Fernandopulle, one of the strongest critics of the LTTE.
Fernandopulle last week defended government s controversial decision not to disarm the breakaway LTTE group TMVP. The outspoken politician said the TMVP would continue to retain arms as long as the LTTE posed a threat to the breakaway group.