Nadarajah Raviraj (June 25, 1962 – November 10, 2006) was a prominent Sri Lankan Tamil politician and human rights lawyer. Born in the Jaffna district in the North of Sri Lanka, he served as a Member of Parliament for the Tamil National Alliance, which is backed by the LTTE, until he was shot dead by gunmen in Colombo, Sri Lanka, on November 10 2006. TNA and others alleged that the Sri Lankan government was involved in this assignation. The Sri Lankan government denied responsibility and strongly condemned his killing.
On November 9, 2006, one day before his assassination, he led a protest demonstration in front of the UNICEF office in Colombo regarding the Vaharai bombing by the Sri Lankan Army of a school that led to the death of 45 civilians.
During the last few months Raviraj participated in the Civil Monitoring Committee (CMC), working with Mano Ganesan MP (Colombo District), Vasudeva Nanayakara MMC, Dr.Vickramabahu Karunaratne, and Appapillai Vinayagamoorthy to monitor extra judicial killings, abductions and disappearances. Raviraj MP has participated in conflict resolution workshops hosted by the Institute of Federalism in Switzerland, the Konrad Adenauer Foundation in Germany and the Peace Institute in Austria among others.
Throughout his career, Raviraj was admired by all communities in Sri Lanka at large, for his moderate views. He was severely critical of the Sri Lankan Government, particularly in the weeks leading up to his murder, highlighting, amongst many things, forced disappearances of many civilians and the food and medicinal blockade imposed by the Sri Lankan Government on Jaffna, starving the people. The day before he was killed, Raviraj and other TNA parliamentarians took part in a demonstration in front of the UN offices in Colombo to protest against the killing of Tamil civilians by the military and the mounting toll of abductions and extrajudicial killings. Although Raviraj spoke in favour of the LTTE, and his party, the TNA is believed to be supportive of the rebel group, he also was critical of them.
Yet recently, just before his death, Raviraj publicly criticised the LTTE leadership for sending their children abroad to be educated in luxury while poor Tamil children were suffering in their homeland. In an interview given to the Asia Tribune on October 14 2006 he reportedly said of LTTE leader Velupillai Prabhakaran "LTTE leader Prabhakaran's children live a comfortable life abroad, poor Tamil children have to wait in long queues all day without even going to school to get a piece of bread"
Raviraj was always supportive of Tamil self-rule and a leading campaigner for Tamil self-rule. Another MP of the TNA claimed that "This is a clear message to Tamil parliamentarians ... Don't open your mouth" and supported the TNA's allegations on the government. .
The shooting occurred around 8.45am as he was proceeding to the Elvitigala Road from Martha Road (6°54'7.11"N 79°52'38.26"E) in his vehicle. The assailants escaped leaving behind a T-56 rifle and a few rounds of ammunition in a bag. The site of the attack was within the Manning Town Complex and was opposite the Sri Lankan Military Police headquarters.
Upon a request by the Sri Lankan government, the Metropolitan Police Service (from Scotland Yard) agreed to send a team of forensic experts to assist the investigation into the killing. The investigations have not yet concluded. However, a local human rights organization has accused that the killer is known to the Government and remain free. It further alleged that the killers belonged to paramilitary TMVP cadres. Many accused the government of not showing any interest in finding the real killers behind this assassination.
R. Sampanthan, leader of the TNA, a political party widely believed to be a proxy of the LTTE, blamed the government for the murder and claimed "It is government forces or forces aligned to the government, there can be no question "and argued "This is an attempt to stifle... and silence those who can justifiably espouse the Tamil cause." Selvam Adaikalanathan, a fellow TNA MP said "A democratic voice of Tamils has been silenced in Sri Lanka's capital today," and charged that resourceful Tamil politicians, journalists and activists (see State terrorism in Sri Lanka) are being systematically killed in Sri Lanka. "Raviraj tirelessly worked to improve the conditions of the people living under economic embargo to relieve the humanitarian catastrophe. He had a convincing way of dealing with even the crude bureaucracy of this failed state," Mr. Adaikalanathan said.
The chief spokesman of the LTTE condemned the killing and blamed the government of Sri Lanka for the assassination. The LTTE released a statement mentioning "As a parliamentarian he worked tirelessly for the Tamil nation. He spoke loudly to the world about the Sinhala Buddhist chauvinistic state terror. He shattered the false propaganda of the Sinhala state infusing his arguments with his legal expertise." The LTTE's eulogy to Raviraj added "Death never destroys the great souls who lived their life for truth. They will live for ever in our nation’s soul as heroes of our history."
Nimalka Fernando, a leading human rights activist in Sri Lanka remarked "We are fast becoming a country of widows". "These killers and the mighty terror of the state are making us a killing field." and the "gunmen got away after stopping traffic in front of a military installation, without fear of being arrested."
United National Party organizer S.B. Dissanayake, member of the main opposition to President Rajapakse's Sri Lanka Freedom Party blamed the Sri Lankan government for the killing, claiming the blame cannot be passed onto the Karuna group or any other organization. Dissanayake remarked "It was impossible for such assassinations to take place in broad daylight in the city (Colombo) without the knowledge of the state."
The Asian Human Rights Commission expressed shock at the killing of N. Raviraj and remarked that in Sri Lanka, "the rule of law machinery has been in a state of collapse now for a long time it is no surprise that things have gone out of control" and observed "these deaths are just part of a continuous situation of assassinations done by all parties to the conflict" and "the parties to the conflict claim justification for the deaths they cause and there is no regret in any quarter about what is taking place."
The US State Department deplored the murder of the Tamil MP and urged the Sri Lankan government to promptly investigate, arrest and prosecute those responsible, claiming "It is critical that crimes such as the murder of Nadarajah Raviraj do not go unpunished." and the "The people of Sri Lanka have been unjustly robbed of his energy and talent."