Lanka court acquits child soldier-turned-lawmaker in ethnic Tamil leader's murder case

Colombo, January 13 (PTI): A former LTTE child soldier-turned-politician was acquitted by a court in Sri Lanka on Wednesday in the 2005 murder case of a senior ethnic Tamil lawmaker at the height of the country's bloody civil war.

Sivanesathurai Chandrakanthan, 45, was accused of killing Tamil National Alliance (TNA) lawmaker Joseph Pararajasingham.

Batticaloa High Court Judge S Susaidasan ordered the dismissal of the case filed against Chandrakanthan alias Pillayan who had earlier been released on bail, media reported.

Four other suspects in the case were also acquitted.

Pararajasingham was killed by unidentified gunmen when he was attending a Christmas midnight mass at St Mary's church in Batticaloa in 2005.

On Monday, the senior state counsel appearing for the Attorney General informed the court that there is no need to file evidence in the case and proceed further.

Chandrakanthan was a former child soldier in the Tamil Tiger rebel group that fought a three-decade civil war to create an independent state for Sri Lanka's ethnic Tamil minority in the island's north and east.

He was recruited by the Tamil Tigers as a child soldier in 1990 at the age of 16.

Chandrakanthan broke away from the Tamil Tigers in 2004 and became the deputy leader of the breakaway faction renamed as the Tamil Makkal Viduthalai Pulikal (TMVP).

Under his leadership, the TMVP contested in elections to elect members to Sri Lanka's Eastern Provincial Council, as part of a wider coalition which went on to win the elections. Chandrakanthan, who obtained the most number of preferential votes in the Batticaloa District, was sworn in as first-ever Chief Minister of the province in May 2008.

With the change of government in 2015 when the then president Mahinda Rajapaksa was defeated, Chandrakanthan was arrested in October that year. He was in remand since November last year when he was granted bail.

Chandrakanthan was elected to Parliament in the August 5, 2020 general election and immediately became part of the current government of president Gotabaya Rajapaksa, the younger brother of Mahinda Rajapaksa, of the Sri Lanka Podujana Peramuna (SLPP).

Mahinda Rajapaksa was sworn-in as prime minister in August last year.

Pararajasingham's murder was a high profile case of human rights abuses blamed on the Rajapaksa government before 2015.