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Confessions of Vijaya's killer

(By Sunday Leader -Frederica Jansz)

One hundred and forty one closely typewritten pages of the confession of the man who gunned down Vijaya Kumaratunga, today serves as a spine chilling reminder that the Janatha Vimukthi Peramuna (JVP) 16 years ago, meticulously planned and executed the assassination of Sri Lanka's best loved political leader.














The killer Lionel Ranasinghe alias Gamini alias Mahinda

For many, it is still hard to stomach President Chandrika Kumaratunga's alliance with the JVP.Sri Lanka has not forgotten the brutal murders, the deadly 'chit system' of  the JVP -which crippled both state and private sector administration - and above all the execution of Vijaya Kumaratunga who for various reasons had incurred the wrath of the JVP in 1988.

What is diabolical in the backdrop of Chandrika Kumaratunga's pact with the JVP, is her inane, politically motivated utterances accusing the UNP of having a hand in Vijaya Kumaratu- nga's death.

She does so, despite the documentary evidence available via 141 pages of a confession made by Vijaya's killer. Chandrika Kumaratunga for mere political gain has placed the bloodied body of her husband and father of her children on a sacrificial altar, accusing another political party for this heinous crime and thereby consciously benefiting the real perpetrators - the JVP.

Removed obstacle

By her absolving the JVP of this terrible atrocity, Chandrika Kumaratunga has succeeded in removing one of the most important obstacles to the JVP's rebirth in Sri Lanka's political arena - the assassination of her husband, Vijaya Kumaratunga.

Vijaya with his two children Yashodara and Vimukthi

The confession of Kumaratunga's killer is a brutal reminder that on February 16, 1988 a man known as Pahalamullage Lionel Ranasinghe alias Gamini alias Mahinda alias Jayatilleka whose occupation was a peanut seller, was transformed by the JVP into a killing machine.

He is responsible not only for Vijaya's assassination but also for the murder of Prof. Stanley Wijeysundera, Terrence Perera and Nandalal Fernando who were among the more exalted citizens murdered by this assassin among other lesser known civilians.

Lionel Ranasinghe alias Gamini was 27 years old at the time he gunned down Vijaya Kumaratunga - a film idol and popular political leader at the time of his death.

In his confession to the CID, Lionel Ranasinghe alias Gamini when asked by a CID officer why he killed Vijaya Kumaratunga replies: "I killed him because of orders I received from the Deshapremi Janatha Viyaparaya (DJV) of the Janatha Vimukthi Peramuna (JVP)."

According to Gamini's confession the DJV came into operation following the signing of the Indo-Lanka Accord on July 28, 1987 with the chief purpose of opposing the accord and the IPKF.Gamini maintains in his statement to the CID that at a meeting at the San Michele Hotel in Dampe, Piliyandala the DJV's Colombo District Leader, Jayantha, met with him and another JVP cadre called Herath and there planned the killing of Vijaya Kumaratunga.

Assassination plan

Gamini states that he together with Herath, a man called Asoka, who was another leading JVP cadre and Jayantha while sipping Coca Cola and sitting under a cabana at the San Michele Hotel planned the assassination of Vijaya Kumaratunga.

In his confession Gamini says, "Jayantha told Herath and myself that we will be assigned a special task.He said Vijaya Kumaratunga has to be removed. Jayantha further said Vijaya Kumaratunga supports the Indian Peace Accord; he supports the provincial councils; he is holding meetings island-wide explaining things to people.Because of his popularity youth are going for his meetings. Because of this the bankrupt Left parties have formed a front with him. The JVP party is opposed to the Indian Peace Accord and provincial councils.We are fighting arms in hand against the Provincial Councils Act. Vijaya Kumaratunga's front is being trained by the EPRLF and PLOTE. They will be used against us to protect Vijaya Kumaratunga's front. Jayantha said Vijaya Kumaratunga has been warned by letter. He is working disregarding those (warnings). He has even been sent the final warning. Therefore he has to be removed." 

The then General Secretary, Sri Lanka Mahajana Pakshaya (SLMP), Premasiri Perera described by Vijaya's mother as Vijaya's closest friend and political acolyte has been quoted recalling, "Vijaya knew that the JVP would kill him one day. On February 14, 1988, two letters threatening to kill Vijaya were sent to my house and Vijaya's mother's house.On the 15th Vijaya and I went to Ratnapura together. When I warned him about the danger he said, 'let them kill me. If the JVP kills me use my death to carry on the struggle.'"

Vijaya's words were uttered less than 24 hours before he was gunned down in cold blood outside his home at Polhengoda in Kirulapone.

According to Lionel Ranasinghe alias Gamini, after he was given the order to kill Vijaya by Jayantha, he spent the next two days making preparations for the assassination. He says that after the meeting at the San Michele Hotel he and Herath were shown Vijaya's house as well as Vijaya's mother's house by another JVP cadre. They were told that everyday between 6.00 p.m.-6.30 p.m. Vijaya went to his mother's house (maha gedera) in the car. Gamini states that they stayed in the area that day until 6.30 p.m but did not see Vijaya.


The next day, Gamini in his confession states that another JVP contact - Asoka - took Gamini and Herath and showed them different byroads and lanes around Vijaya Kumaratunga's house.Asoka had told them to come everyday around 6 p.m. and to wait for Vijaya. Gamini says in his confession, "I came for about a week but we did not see Vijaya Kumaratunga even once. On some days Asoka would come to our house and ask whether we saw Vijaya Kumaratunga. We told him we didn't see Vijaya Kumaratunga.He then told us to go in the morning and see whether Vijaya comes during daytime. One day Herath and I saw Vijaya Kumaratunga coming from the Kirulapone side in a blue car.He stopped the car by the roadside in front of his house and got down and went inside. The time was around 10 a.m. Asoka came that evening.I told Asoka that we saw Vijaya Kumaratunga coming home during the daytime. Then Asoka said to do the job even in front of the house on the road.I told Asoka that there is an army camp near the house. Asoka said that before the people in the camp get ready we can do the job and get away."

He goes onto state in his confession, "After two days Asoka came to our house on the motorbike.He came in the evening. Asoka told me that a little way away from Vijaya Kumaratunga's house there is a boutique and that he will get it for me to do the job. He said to pretend to renovate the boutique, keep the gun there and when Vijaya Kumaratunga came in the car, to shoot and get away."

Gamini then describes how he was thereafter taken by another JVP cadre identified as Pala. The latter was the owner of "Pala Garage" situated close to Vijaya's house.Pala, according to Gamini had taken him to a house behind the Kirulapone Library and told him that once the job is over to leave the gun in the house. 

Pala had introduced the inhabitants in the house to Gamini and Herath and told them, "these two will bring a bag. Keep it safe." Pala had also shown Gamini and Herath a place to keep the motorbike, which was to be used in the assassination. The bike was to be kept at another house opposite the first.According to Gamini all this took place on February 15, 1988 - a day before the killing.

That evening, Gamini says in his confession, Asoka took him to the house of the owner of the boutique they were going to rent. This house and boutique were situated close to Vijaya's place.Asoka paid money and said that they will come to occupy the boutique the next morning. Gamini says that Asoka had told him that the weapon will be kept in Pala's garage and that Pala will bring it over to the house of another JVPer, known as Thambi.

The next day, February the 16th, Gamini and Herath came to Kirulapone in the morning. According to Gamini while he waited outside the Kirulapone Library, Herath went to the second safe house and got the motorbike.They went to the house of the owner of the boutique Asoka had rented the previous day, left a hammer and saw they had brought in a chair, and told the daughter of the owner that they had come to renovate the boutique. They had also told her that they were going to take a look at some wood and would be back shortly. Telling Herath to wait for him, Gamini states he went alone to Pala's garage.

His confession reads thus: "There was a long black bag with a gun and a grenade. Gamini told Pala to keep the bag in a place close to Vijaya's house. The bag was then taken to Thambi's house and kept there."Having attended to this task Gamini went back to the boutique where Herath was waiting for him. The time was around 11.30 a.m.

The killing

Gamini then states: "half an hour later Vijaya Kumaratunga came in a car. I cannot remember its make. A white double cab was parked in front of the gates to Vijaya's house.The car was parked near a tree by the roadside. That was near the sentry box. Vijaya Kumaratunga got down from the car and went into the house. Vijaya Kumaratunga was driving the car.Herath said that Vijaya Kumaratunga came. I also saw Vijaya Kumaratunga.Herath asked me: 'Vijaya Kumaratunga will come out of the house soon. Shall we do it then?' At that time the bag containing the T56 and the grenade was at Thambi's house.Then I asked Herath how we can bring and keep the bag as the army camp was close by? Then Herath said, 'We'll bring the bag, keep it on the motorbike inside the compound, where the boutique is and we will wait near the road.' I agreed with him."

Gamini states that he and Herath then got the bag from Thambi's and kept it on the motorbike parked inside the compound. They waited near the road. Gamini recalls: "After we had waited by the roadside for 5-6 minutes we saw Vijaya Kumaratunga coming out of the house - he came out alone and started talking to a person who was standing near the gate. That person was wearing a trouser and a shirt. Then Herath and I got onto the motorbike. I kept the bag on my lap, opened the zip, released the safety catch and took the gun in hand.Herath stopped the motorbike by the roadside, about 20 yards away from where Vijaya Kumaratunga was. Vijaya Kumaratunga was standing in front of his gate.He was carrying a file. He was standing talking to this person. I shot Vijaya Kumaratunga twice in the back with the T56 while sitting on the motorbike. He was standing with his back to me. At those two shots he fell down. I got down from the motorbike and went upto him and shot him several times in the head. When I was disembarking from the bike the person who was talking to Vijaya Kumaratunga ran towards the house. I shot at him.He ran to the house. There was a double cab parked by the roadside. There was a person in the back seat.I shot at him also. Herath had turned the motorbike towards the Kirulapone side and was waiting. I took the file near Vijaya Kumaratunga and checked it. Some pieces of paper fell out. I put down the file. When I shot him at close range the wig he was wearing on his head fell off. I did not touch it.After that I went upto where my bag was, picked it up, put the gun in the bag and got on the motorbike. The motorbike went down Polhengoda Road."

The killer states that they rode directly to Dampe, Piliyandala and that night stayed at a house the JVP had rented in Dampe. He recounts how the T'shirt he was wearing was stained with blood and he changed his T'shirt for a white long sleeved shirt instructing another JVP cadre to burn the T'shirt. He says in his confession that he believes his T'shirt got stained with blood as a result of him picking up the file that had fallen out of Vijaya's hands and was lying in a pool of his (Vijaya's) blood.

The CID officer then questions Gamini - "Why did you go upto Vijaya Kumaratunga and shoot him after you shot him from the motorbike?"

Gamini answers: "I thought the shots didn't really hit Vijaya Kumaratunga. Therefore, I got down from the bike went upto where he had fallen and shot him in the head repeatedly."

Q: "How many times did you shoot Vijaya Kumaratunga?"

A:  "I cannot remember."

Q: "Why did you shoot Vijaya Kumaratunga?"

A: "I shot Vijaya Kumaratunga because of the order from the Deshapremi Janatha Viyaparaya of the Janatha Vimukthi Peramuna."


On the day of Vijaya Kumaratunga's funeral, the DJV issued a leaflet under the title, "Why was Vijaya dispatched?" The reasons given were Vijaya's support for the Indo-Lanka  Accord, the IPKF and the provincial councils.Vijaya was also accused of propping up the UNP, and training a 600 strong army to attack the JVP. The JVP also issued a leaflet on the same day slandering Vijaya and accusing him of being a CIA agent.

The JVP began its campaign of violence against Vijaya Kumaratunga and the Sri Lanka Mahajana Party (SLMP) in early 1986. Vijaya's house was bombed and several SLMP meetings attacked when Vijaya was on stage.

A special correspondent at the time wrote that the JVP's anger towards Vijaya intensified after he took a firm and principled stand against the JVP's campaign of murder. When the JVP claimed its first victim, the leader of the Independent Students' Union of the Colombo Campus, Daya Pathirana, Vijaya said, "The JVP, which is talking about the Sinhala nation has killed a Sinhala boy from the south."

When the JVP killed Nandana Marasinghe in October 1987, Vijaya not only attended the funeral but delivered a scathing attack on the JVP, naming the killer by name.

A born killer

The life story of Vijaya Kumaratunga's killer is hardly any different to that of thousands of other southern youth who responded to the siren song of the JVP. In his confession, Lionel Ranasinghe alias Gamini describes himself as being the eldest son of lower middle class parents.

He studied upto A Levels. He got involved with the JVP in 1978, and under the influence of a schoolmate joined the party in 1981.He attended the standard "5 classes" of the JVP as well as a lecture on "The National Crisis." During the local government elections of 1981 he was actively involved in the campaign of a JVP candidate - Abeysinghe.

In late 1981, his mother took exception to his political involvement and sent him to his aunt at Kekirawa.Lionel Ranasinghe spent the next two years there working in his uncle's chenas. Returning to his home in Horana in 1984, he worked as a vegetable seller at the Horana Thursday and Sunday polas.

He was employed as a security guard for three months at the Eagle Security Company and since then worked as a peanut seller on the Horana pavement. In late 1986 Lionel Ranasinghe met an old acquaintance from the JVP days, Batagoda Gamage Jayawardena.

By the time Lionel Ranasinghe re-joined the JVP in late 1986, Vijaya Kumaratunga had been born as the new political star. By this time also Vijaya had come round to the view that there was very little to choose between the SLFP and UNP and formed his own party, the Sri Lanka Mahajana Party (SLMP.)

In mid December 1986, Lionel Ranasinghe was sent for military training to a JVP camp at Bambarakanda.This involved physical exercises, training in the use of firearms, grenades etc., as well as political indoctrination. In late 1987 he was sent for advanced training to a JVP camp in the Siripada jungles. The training lasted for five days. On April 6, 1987, Lionel Ranasinghe alias Gamini left the camp for home.

Gamini began his short career with the JVP by executing robberies. He was involved together with other JVPers on an aborted attempt to attack the army camp on Borupana Road in order to obtain weapons for the JVP.

His next call of duty came the day before the signing of the Indo-Lanka Accord. At a house at Hokandara he together with 15 other JVPers were given a lecture about the need to oppose the accord and given instructions to form groups of five and incite people to take to the streets.They were also given arms.

Gamini's entry as an assassin for the JVP began when he was tasked to assassinate SP Terrence Perera. After carrying out the murder he escaped on a motorcycle with another JVP cadre called Ranji Malli.

It is after Perera's murder that Gamini was assigned to kill Vijaya Kumaratunga.

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