Cablegate: Leading Tamil Announcer and Husband Murdered In
This record is a partial extract of the original cable. The full text of the original cable is not available.
UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 02 COLOMBO 001451
DEPT FOR SA/INS (BRENNIG, SIM) SA/PD (SCENSNY, ROGERS);
SENSITIVE BUT UNCLASSIFIED
TAGS: KPAO PTER EAID OIIP PREL CE LTTE
SUBJECT: Leading Tamil Announcer and Husband Murdered in
Daylight Hours Shortly Before Kadirgamar Assassination
REFTELS: A) Colombo 812; B)Colombo 832
1. (SBU) Summary: Following the high-profile April 29
murder of Tamil commentator Dharmaretnam Sivaram (Ref A)and
several alleged death threats received by other prominent
Tamil journalists (Ref B), a well-known Tamil radio and
television personality and her husband -- a former member
of the People's Liberation Organization of Tamil Eeelam
(PLOTE), a rival group to the LTTE -- were murdered at lunch
time on August 12, 2005,in the travel agency they owned in
Colombo. While police continue to investigate, some local
news media have blamed the LTTE for this double murder.
Tamil newspapers and websites that support the Tamil Tigers
have suggested their murders were linked to a financial
dispute. End Summary.
2. (U) Senior announcer at Sri Lanka Rupavahini Corporation
(SLRC) and Sri Lanka Broadcasting Corporation (SLBC) Mrs.
Relangi Selvarajah (45) and her husband, Mr. Sinnadurai
Selvarajah (48) were killed by unidentified gunmen on
Friday, August 12, at around 12:45 P.M., several hours
before Foreign Minister Lakshman Kadirgamar was
assassinated. The murders occurred in a travel agency the
couple owned in Colombo, while all four employees were
reportedly out of the office for lunch. Their murders
occurred several months after the April 29 murder of pro-
LTTE senior journalist D. Shivaram and reports of death
threats against other Tamil journalists.
3. (SBU) The Tamil media published Mrs. Selvarajah's
obituary as a celebrated drama and media personality, (she
had received a best actress award for a 1978 Sri Lankan
film), while also reporting the couple's connection to PLOTE
in a matter of fact manner. One Tamil contact told
Information Officer Mrs. Selvarajah's radio and television
broadcasts, including "Idaya Veenai" ("Music to the Heart")
and "Uthaya Dharasanam" ("Morning Vision") had been
staunchly anti-LTTE and therefore he was not surprised she
had been killed. He further stated both Mr. and Mrs.
Selvarajah campaigned actively for the PLOTE cause despite
ending official ties with the organization some fifteen
years ago. The source went on to allege the couple had been
involved in trafficking of Sri Lankan Tamils to Canada and
other western countries.
4. (SBU) Many of Relangi Selvarajah's former colleagues
concur with the allegation that the LTTE committed the
double murder. According to a reliable veteran political
commentator Relangi Selvarajah's radio programs were very
anti-LTTE, and very pro-EPDP. (Note: The Eelam People's
Democratic Party, led by LTTE-rival Douglas Devananda, holds
one elected seat in Parliament. The LTTE alleges the Sri
Lankan government supports an EPDP paramilitary and the LTTE
is suspected of several attempts on Devananda's life amidst
heavy government-provided security.) Her programs focused
on development of the northern areas, purportedly part of
EPDP MP Douglas Devananda's portfolio. A colleague of Mrs.
Selvarajah at Rupavahini stated: "Relangi was openly
criticizing the LTTE in her TV programs, and because of her
roots in Jaffna," had knowledge with which she "helped the
Sri Lanka Army with their logistical arrangements" in the
North. The Rupavahini colleague said he believed she and
her husband were killed by the LTTE. Sri Lanka Broadcasting
Corporation reporter Lafir Mohammed, however, offered a
different motive, asserting the murders were "due to a
personal dispute regarding their travel agency."
5. (U) Most Sinhala newspapers ran headlines such as "TV
broadcaster and husband shot dead," with the exception of
Sinhala nationalist daily Divaina, sister paper to the
English language Island, which portrayed the victims as a
Tamil couple caught up in internal Tiger politics. Divaina
bannered (8/13), "Tigers crash into Wellewatte business to
kill Tamil couple," emphasizing an ethnic angle. Reporters
Sans Frontieres released a statement on August 16 condemning
the double murder.
6. (SBU) With approximately fifty percent of the island's
audience, the state-owned broadcast media conglomerate,
including Rupavahini (SLRC) television and Sri Lanka
Broadcasting Corporation's (SLBC), has a larger television
and radio audience than do independent stations, with many
regional broadcast centers. Like other state-run media
organizations, SLRC and SLBC generally function as the
government's mouthpiece. Although government and state-run
media sometimes publish the statements of rival Tamil groups
such as the EPDP and TULF (Tamil United Liberation Front),
the independent Tamil media do not openly criticize the LTTE
nor take positions regarding other political parties.
Nevertheless, some Tamil observers claim that recent Tamil
language programs on state-owned TV took a distinctly anti-
LTTE, pro-EPDP stand.
7. (SBU) Comment: As a broadcaster for the state-owned
media, Relangi Selvarajah did not practice the self-
censorship evident in independent Tamil journalists'
reporting on the LTTE and Tamil politics. Combined with her
husband's PLOTE connection, the couple's outspokenness
against the LTTE likely provoked their double murder. The
LTTE brooks little dissent from Tamil journalists considered
traitors to the Tigers. The murder of another prominent
Tamil journalist and her husband will only add to many Sri
Lankan journalists' fears about the freedom they have to
publish or broadcast their views. End Comment.