By Dharisha Bastians
UPFA Kurunegala District candidate and ex-President Mahinda Rajapaksa yesterday pledged to investigate the alleged murder of popular rugby player Wasim Thajudeen, whose body will be exhumed for further forensic inquiry by a panel of judicial medical officers today.
“This should be properly investigated independently without politicising the issue and the truth must be revealed to the people,” Rajapaksa told a packed news conference at the Hilton Colombo Residence ballroom last morning.
The former President, who is locked in a fierce battle to reclaim power and assume the premiership, denied his son’s involvement the controversial death of the rugby player amid speculation that a love triangle involving his second-born had led to the sportsman’s death.
“I welcome an independent probe, it will help us to clear our name,” Rajapaksa said.
The former President accused the Government of timing the new revelations from the investigation to coincide with the polls campaign, in which he is contesting to be Prime Minister if the UPFA wins a majority in the 17 August election.
“They had six months to probe this. But they are taking the case up now to try and implicate me,” a defensive former President said.
His party spokesman and former MP Dilan Perera has also reacted defensively to the fresh probe into Thajudeen’s death, saying the exhumation of a Muslim was ‘haraam’ or forbidden under Islamic law.
The high-profile case was reopened by the IGP after Rajapaksa’s presidential election defeat in January, and CID sleuths made startling revelations that Thajudeen, whose death was first termed a car accident, had been tortured and suffered blunt force trauma before his death. Thajudeen died on 17 May 2012, during President Rajapaksa’s tenure.
The rugby player’s case was one among many controversial and politically charged cases reopened by the police following Rajapaksa’s defeat in the January poll.
Government Spokesman Rajitha Senaratne told reporters at the cabinet briefing last week that three members of the Presidential Security Division (PSD) were alleged to have been involved in the ruggerite’s murder.
The new revelations about the PSD prompted President Maithripala Sirisena to make sweeping changes to his personal security detail. Over the past 48 hours, the 5,000 strong PSD was to be dissolved and the police elite guard, the Special Task Force, was assigned to provide security to President Sirisena and his family, Minister for Public Order John Amaratunga added.
The decision was made after the PSD was found to have been involved in criminal activity, the Minister said.
The former ruling family’s association with the sport of rugby fuelled long-time speculation about Thajudeen’s mysterious death. In an interview with the BBC Sinhala Service this week, President Rajapaksa’s eldest son and Hambantota District candidate Namal Rajapaksa strongly denied his family’s involvement in the killing. “We don’t have blood on our hands,” Namal Rajapaksa said in an interview, in which he declared that Thajudeen had been a close friend of the family.
However, Daily FT learns that CID sleuths questioned the former girlfriend of a son of the VVIP family for many hours late last week. The CID is now investigating if the crime is linked to a case of sexual jealousy with the female in question, a former diplomat to a Sri Lankan mission in Australia, linked romantically to Thajudeen. She has however previously denied any association with the popular rugby star.
Daily FT learns that the CID has extracted damning evidence from her interview, with telephone records expected to reveal further information about the night of Thajudeen’s murder.
Close circuit television footage from an area close to where Thajudeens burnt remains were finally found in Colombo 05 showed the rugby player had been abducted prior to his death.
In another controversial twist, the vehicle appearing to abduct Thajudeen has been linked to the Siriliya Foundation, a charity chaired by former First Lady, Shiranthi Rajapaksa. The vehicle was reportedly gifted to her organisation by the Sri Lanka Red Cross.