A relatively peaceful pre-election period was dramatically shattered on July 31 (Friday) when an election campaign procession led by Minister of Finance Ravi Karunanayake was shot at by an unidentified group while travelling on Bloemendal Road, Colombo 13 in the vicinity of the St. Benedict’s College ground.
The attack left one female dead, while 11 others were admitted to the Colombo National Hospital for treatment after suffering gunshot wounds. Speaking to the media Director of the National hospital Dr. Anil Jasinghe said two of the admitted were in critical condition. The deceased, named by the United National Party (UNP) as Ifthika was a 55-year-old mother of three who was a supporter of Minister Karunanayake. However the minister, who was in the crowd, escaped unhurt. A vehicle believed to have been used in the crime was recovered on Friday evening.
Four masked assailants wielding firearms had arrived in a Black Toyota Prius. There were unconfirmed reports of a second vehicle involved in the attack. “Currently we have no information regarding the vehicles,” Police Spokesperson ASP Ruwan Gunasekara said. The group had opened fire at the unsuspecting victims when fire crackers were being lit in the area.
Speaking regarding the incident at a special press briefing held on Friday evening, Minister Karunanayake said information was received that the Prius had tailed the group of 500 – 600 supporters including him from the Kotahena Kali Amman Kovil up to Bloemendal Road. “There were various sightings of the vehicle recorded in cameras carried by media personnel covering the procession” he said.
“This is an act of political terrorism,” he claimed adding that the act was possibly carried out by certain parties who are now politically bankrupt. The minister denied claims that the incident was due to any intra-party conflict or a criminal act of the mafia.
According to the minister the perpetrators have taken a direct shot at the government. “I believe that target was our government and it’s good work” he said while refusing to say if he was the target of the gunmen.
The minister said despite various attempts to inflict fear in them by various groups they will continue in their attempts to form a government for the people. He also urged his supporters as well as party supporters to remain calm and not fall victim to such fear mongering.
According to Police Department sources the investigation has now been handed over to the Criminal Investigations Department (CID).