The story behind the bus bombs
By Ranee Mohamed
@ Sunday Leader / 20th February 2000
Whatever anybody may say, the suffering that the common man of Sri Lanka has to undergo to get to work and to get back home after work is known only to him. Many children going to a montessori school has to travel in our public transport and the hundreds of mothers and fathers, carrying their children, clutching their huge bags and having to watch whether their toddlers shoes fall off in the scramble, are all a part of daily life in Sri Lanka. While it seems to dawn only to a handful of people to question why this is so, a majority of Sri Lankans seem to take it all as part of life. Of late however, a new danger has entered the life of the bus commuter - that of bombs. The bus bombs have created fear, panic and a deep sense of frustration in the common man.
While we have all been wondering who is really behind these bus bombs, Crime Detection Bureau Chief, SSP Bandula Wikremasinghe claims he has found the answer. And he got it all from the horses mouth - they were the tigers, members of the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam who had ear-marked men, some of them from the estates, to carry out missions of creating havoc in the country.
Thirty-four-year old Periannan Rajeswaran from Bandarawela has been blessed with a look of innocence. Married, with a son aged one year, he wanted to get away from estate life because he had got three O/L passes. But his search for greener pastures, has got him into a police cell.
Having worked at a security agency for two years in Mattakuliya, Rajeswaran joined the Alert Security Agency and worked as a security officer at Hutchinson Telecom. in Bamabalapitiya. It was on October 12 last year that he received a call from his wife. She had told him it had been conveyed to her that there was a security job for Rajeswaran at the new school which would open on October 16 near an estate in Bandarawela.
But it took sometime for Rajeswaran to realise that he had been duped. For each time he went to see the people concerned, he was asked to come later. He then worked for the PA MP in Haputale for the elections. It was around early February that Rajeswaran was promised a job in a house of a planter of the plantation as a houseboy - to polish, clean and do the daily chores. He was asked to come there on February 10. It was then that things started happening for Rajeswaran. Friend and associate, Viswanathan, though living in the estate was allegedly a trained LTTE cadre from Wanni. "I will give you a parcel, can you deliver it to a friend in Colombo?’ Viswanathan had casually queried from Rajeswaran. He was told that it was merely a parcel. When he said no’, Viswanathan had told him the truth, - "This parcel is a bomb, if you do not go to Colombo and keep it in a highly populated area, your wife and child will be killed." When Rajeswaran left home on February 7 at 4.45 p.m. Viswanathan came with the parcel to the railway station. "He sat there at the bench near the toilet. The bomb was in a black bag and weighed less than 2 kg. He asked me to keep it in a bus halt in Colombo or in a bus that was crowded. There is a switch at the box and I had to switch it on before placing it," Rajeswaran disclosed.
After getting on the nightmail on February 7, he was in Colombo at 7 a.m. the next day. "I took bus no. 260 to Alwis Town, Hendala. I took the bomb and my bag with me to my security company in Hendala in order to collect my pay. I kept the bomb near a banana tree by a wall. I met Mr. Rosayro at Alert Security who asked me to wait for the MD. I was asked to come at 3 p.m. I came, Mattakuliya keeping the parcel where it was near the banana tree at Alert Security. I stayed with Thurairajah at Kalyani Gangarama Mawatha. I have earlier registered with the Modera police. On an earlier occasion I was caught on suspicion by the Sri Lanka army and handed over to the police," confessed Rajewaran.
On this day however, Rajeswaran had eaten at Thurairajah’s and taking his blue bag with him, took the 178 to Thotalanga and then the 107 to Alwis Town in Hendala. On reaching Alert Security he had to wait one hour, from 3 p.m. to 4 p.m, at which time he received Rs.1450. Thereafter, Rajeswaran went near the banana tree and collected the bomb which looked like a small cassette recorder. He had come back to Mattakuliya with the bomb and hidden it near a barbed wire fence in the grass. "I did not want to take the bomb home because Thurairajah might ask me what it was. I ate stringhoppers for dinner and told them that I am leaving. They asked me to go in the morning, but I left at 7.30 p.m. I was in fear that I might get caught for if I did not accomplish my mission I knew my family would be killed,"he said. From Mattakuliya, Rajeswaran brought the bomb bus no 145 to Pettah. In Pettah he did some shopping - buying himself a white shirt, a bic razor, four metres of white cloth, a pair of shoes a toy badminton racket for his son, two apples and two oranges.
Now it was about 8.30 p.m. Rajeswaran came to a small tea shop in the heart of the Pettah bus stand and had a cup of tea. Leaving the bomb on the bench, he went out to survey the situation. It was at this time the young teaboy (named Kumar) began to run after him carrying the bomb with him saying "You have left a parcel behind." Near the bus halt, Rajeswaran took both bags in one and looking around carefully put the switch on. "The conductor was outside the bus bound for Bandarawela, when I asked him whether there are seats he told me get in and wait and that he will let me know if all the bookings are accepted." I sat inside and waited. I kept my bag with the shirts, oranges, apples and toys in this bus. Then I took the bomb and got off this bus and got into the crowded Welimada bus that was parked ahead. I got in from the front and walked to the rear of the bus and placed the bomb in the corner of the back seat. I waited for about two minutes and then casually stepped out of the bus," he said.
As Rajeswaran was stepping out of the bus, the explosion took place, injuring him and countless other civilians. "There was blood all over and people were screaming in pain. I went back to the Bandarawela bus and got my bag. As we were injured we were taken in a police jeep to hospital," he said.
It was at the hospital that Rajeswaran was caught trying to run away. People in the bus too pointed out that he was the last to get into the bus and then leave.