On the trail of LTTE terror mastermind Morris...
SPECIAL REPORT : Part 122
By Shamindra Ferdinando
Arrest of Selvaraja Kirubakaran, alias Morris, in Colombo, in early August, 2009, by the Terrorist Investigation Division (TID) shed light on the alleged involvement of ASP Senarath Lakshman Cooray in LTTE operations, targeting top military officers and politicians in the South.
ASP Cooray had been an important member in the team, led by Morris, during eelam war IV (April 2005 to May 2009). In spite of the conclusion of the conflict, in May 2009, the LTTE rump continued operations. They made an abortive bid to assassinate the then President Mahinda Rajapaksa on August 5, 2009, at Badulla.
Although Morris swallowed two cyanide capsules, on a Colombo street, when a TID team, led by the then OIC of the unit, trapped him, doctors at the National Hospital saved his life. The TID arrested ASP Cooray, on August 12, 2009, within days after Morris recovered and revealed operations undertaken by him. The writer dealt with the role played by Morris in the attempt on the then Army Chief, Lt. Gen. Sarath Fonseka’s life, on April 25, 2006 inside Army Headquarters grounds, assassination of Highways and Road Development Minister Jeyaraj Fernandopulle, on April 6, 2008 at Weliweriya and attempts on the life of the then President Rajapaksa, in December, 2007 in Matara, February 2009 in Kurunegala and August 2009 at Badulla.
The arrest of Morris and Cooray was made possible by information received by a Sub Inspector, attached to the TID (during temporary assignment, in Vavuniya, in late July or early August, 2009). Under interrogation, they revealed the circumstances under which the LTTE had lured Minister Fernandopulle to Kanthi grounds where a male suicide cadre blew up the minister as he was about to flag off a marathon, to mark the Sinhala and Tamil New Year. The blast claimed the lives of 16 persons, including K.A. Karunaratna, one-time national marathon champion and South Asian marathon gold medallist, as well as Luxman Alwis, the national athletic coach.
ASP Cooray had been instrumental in enticing Minister Fernandopulle to visit Kanthi grounds regardless of strong objections by his security contingent, and wife, Dr Mrs Sudarshini Fernandopulle.
State Minister for City Planning and Water Supply, Dr Mrs Sudarshini Fernandopulle, revealed ASP Cooray reassuring Minister Fernandopulle of security, over the phone, on the day before the assassination. In a brief interview with the writer, State Minister Fernandopulle said: "Jeyaraj inquired from ASP Cooray about security. ASP Cooray wanted Jeyaraj to go ahead with the scheduled event at Kanthi rounds, on the following day. I never suspected ASP Cooray to collaborate with the LTTE to assassinate my husband."
Dr Mrs Sudarshini Fernandopulle had been travelling with Jeyaraj, escorted by bodyguards, when the phone conversation took place.
Dr Mrs Fernandopulle said that until the shocking revelations, made by ASP Cooray, following his arrest, nearly one and half years after Fernandopulle’s assassination, it never crossed her mind the police officer’s involvement with the LTTE. Obviously, Cooray had been an LTTE agent, masquerading as a policeman, hell bent on causing death and destruction, the State Minister asserted.
Soon after the assassination, police headquarters initiated an inquiry into security lapses that led to the assassination. ASP Cooray, as one of the senior officers responsible for security at Weliweriya on that day, had been asked to explain the failure on his part to thwart the LTTE operation. Having helped the LTTE to assassinate Minister Fernandopulle, who threw his political weight behind the corrupt police officer, Cooray sought Dr Mrs Sudarshini Fernandopulle’s help. She said: "ASP Cooray pleaded with me to request the police to drop the inquiry. Cooray felt I could save his career. I swiftly intervened on his behalf. The police abandoned the investigation."
ASP Cooray had paid his last respects to the slain Minister, at his Welihena residence. According to State Minister Fernandopulle, ASP Cooray had been among those at Minister Fernandopulle’s alms giving at the Welihena residence. "ASP Cooray urged me to join the fray in the Gampaha district parliamentary elections. He offered to financially back my campaign."
The State Minister acknowledged that ASP Cooray would have been still in service if not for the police making a breakthrough into clandestine LTTE operations in the South. Cooray had been one of those police officers who had brazenly exploited his close friendship with Minister Fernandopulle to his advantage. At the end, ASP Cooray used his friendship with Minister Fernandopulle to entice him to a spot where the LTTE could finish him off.
ASP Cooray wouldn’t have sought Mrs Fernandopulle’s intervention without informing Morris. Perhaps, ASP Cooray consulted Morris in respect of all matters connected with LTTE operations in the South.
Under the patronage of State Minister Dr Mrs Fernandopulle, a commemorative event was held at the Kanthi grounds, on April 6, 2016, to mark the eighth death anniversary of Minister Fernandopulle. UPFA General Secretary Mahinda Amaraweera, MP, was among those present. Mrs. Fernandopulle warned of dire consequences unless tangible measures were taken to counter possible threats to national security. She was addressing the gathering at the commemorative event. Responding to recent recovery of explosives at Chavakachcheri and subsequent arrests, the State Minister stressed the pivotal importance of immediate remedial measures.
State Minister Mrs Fernandopulle said that there couldn’t be a better example to highlight the LTTE’s capacity to infiltrate the government, compromise law enforcement officers, military officers or any other official to achieve its objectives.
Milad-un-Nabi festival attacked
Morris had been one of the most successful LTTE undercover operatives if not the most successful assigned for operations outside the Northern and Eastern Provinces. Morris also revealed his spearheading role in a suicide attack carried out at Akuressa on March 10, 2009. The attack, directed at the National Milad-un-Nabi festival at the Jumma Mosque, at Godapitiya, Akuressa, was meant to cause a massive backlash in the South. The LTTE obviously believed communal violence could impede ground forces offensive on the Vanni east front. Morris had moved the suicide cadre tasked to cause mayhem at Akuressa.
Among those who escaped unhurt were Ministers A.H.M. Fowzie, Mahinda Yapa Abeywardene, Ameer Ali, Pandu Bandaranayake and Chandrasiri Gajadeera.
Approximately 5,000 persons, led by several ministers, had been proceeding to the Mosque in a procession to attend the main event held in celebration of Prophet Mohommed’s birthday when the suspected LTTE suicide bomber struck.
Then Minister of Fisheries Mahinda Wijesekera who was participating in the event, as the Guest of Honour, was seriously injured in the blast and was later airlifted to Colombo. Minister Wijesekera never fully recovered from the blast and had to quit politics.
Morris had the services of several Muslim youth, in addition to ASP Cooray. Muslim youth had been also involved in the Akuressa attack. A TID investigation revealed plans made by Morris to use a motor cycle, fitted with an explosives-packed fuel tank, to mount an attack.
Maithripala Sirisena targeted
Morris made an abortive bid to assassinate then Agriculture Development and Agrarian Services Development Minister Maithripala Sirisena during the second week of October, 2008 at Pirivena junction, Boralesgamuwa.
A female suicide cadre blew herself, targeting Minister Sirisena’s motorcade, at Pirivena junction, around 1.15 p.m. when he was returning following a Government function in Bandaragama. The Minister escaped unharmed though one of the cars in the convoy had been caught in the suicide attack.
Under interrogation, Morris revealed that a female suicide cadre was assigned to target the minister when he was on his way to Bandaragama. Morris felt that she had a better chance of success if the target was taken in the morning.
The blast claimed the lives of one civilian and wounded five, including the then Deputy Minister Siripala Gamlath and newly appointed Ministry Secretary Ranjith Wijethilaka.
An unlucky Wijethilaka had taken oaths earlier in the day, in the presence of Minister Sirisena.
Polonnaruwa District MP Sirisena had been among those who had been high on the LTTE hit list. The LTTE continuously targeted senior SLFP politicians as ground forces pushed towards Kilinochchi. The LTTE remained in control of Kilinochchi until last week of December, 2008. Task Force I and 57 Division secured Kilinochchi on January 1, 2009.
Suicide cadre at doctor’s residence
Morris revealed the circumstances under which he had to abort a suicide attack for want of a suicide vest. According to an investigator, a suicide vest, made available to a female suicide cadre, had been too small for her, hence the decision to call off a planned operation. Acting on information provided by Morris, the TID arrested the female suicide cadre who admitted her true identity. She had been employed as a servant by a Tamil doctor and his wife living at Thimbirigasyaya. The doctor hadn’t been aware of the girl’s mission. Morris had several suicide cadres, both men and women, under his command and was tasked with taking some of the most difficult targets. In fact, Morris had experienced and had overcome much more difficult situations than the LTTE operative, identified as Sivarasan, who was tasked to assassinate former Indian Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi.
Indian anti-terrorism counter measures had been so poor, an LTTE suicide cadre was able to walk up to Gandhi and assassinate him as she garlanded the Congress leader. Indian police hunted the LTTE group for three months before seven persons, including the chief suspect, committed suicide as the police closed in on their hideout in the southern city of Bangalore. Gandhi was killed on May 21, 1991 at Sriperumbudur, India.
Morris and ASP Cooray were produced before Gampaha High Court judge Nissanka Bandula Karunaratne, on April 25, 2016. The elite Special Task Force (STF) brought Morris from Boossa detention camp, while ASP Cooray was brought from Welikada prison. High Court judge Karunaratne put off the case to August 8, 2016.
The High Court judge directed the then SSP, Gampaha, Hector Dharmasiri (now retired) and Gampaha SP (I) Dinesh Karunanayake to appear before him on August 8, 2016.
Field Marshal Sarath Fonseka recently urged President Maithripala Sirisena to exercise his executive powers to pardon Morris. The appeal was made close on the heels of President Maithripala Sirisena releasing a convicted LTTE cadre.
Sudarshini compares Weliweriya blast with Boston attack
Dr Fernandopulle said the terrorist attack on the Boston marathon, in April 2013, was the first attack on a sporting event in the world since the assassination of her husband as he was about to flag off a marathon.
The Boston attack was a grim reminder that terrorists could strike in any country, regardless of its political and military might, she noted.
The international community had reacted angrily to the Boston outrage, with the US swiftly tracking down those responsible. But, unfortunately, Western powers had conveniently ignored the Weliweriya suicide blast, she said, adding that the Colombo-based international media, and a section of the local media, too, failed to highlight the LTTE taking advantage of a sports event to eliminate a high profile target.
The State Minister pointed out that those demanding accountability on the part of Sri Lanka for alleged atrocities committed during the conflict had been silent on sordid LTTE operations.
State Minister Fernandopulle said that those who had carried out the Boston bombing would have reached their target as ordinary civilians. "May be they were there as spectators or perhaps as competitors. What we have to realise is that even the best of security measures in place can be manipulated by those masquerading as civilians. We experienced, on many occasions, the horrors caused by terrorists in disguise. They were never in uniform during clandestine operations in the city and its suburbs," Dr. Fernandopulle said.