Bharatha killed, Duminda wounded in poll-day gun battle

Dusk-to-dawn curfew clamped in Mulleriyawa; army called in
By Leon Berenger

A presidential advisor was killed and a ruling party strongman parliamentarian was among those seriously injured when violent intra party clashes broke out yesterday during elections for the Kolonnawa Urban Council.

A police curfew was imposed in Mulleriyawa area till 6 a.m. today to curb the violence. Bharatha Lakshman Premachandra, a presidential advisor on trade unions and former parliamentarian, was killed in a gun battle with a rival group led by Duminda Silva, a Colombo District UPFA MP. Mr. Silva also suffered serious head injuries and was rushed to the Intensive Care Unit of the Sri Jayawardenapura Hospital where he underwent surgery. Mr. Silva serves as the MP monitoring the Defence Ministry which comes under President Mahinda Rajapaksa.

Also killed in the clashes were three others said to be Premachandra supporters. Criminal Investigations Department (CID) detectives were assigned within hours of the incident to probe the incident which took place yesterday afternoon. The incident was reportedly linked to the killing of a Premachandra supporter at Kolonnawa the previous night.

The two UPFA politicians are known to have been rivals for some time, and they often pitched into each other while on the campaign trail, investigators said. Meanwhile as the news of Mr. Premachandra’s death spread, mobs began attacking police personnel and state media crews who had gone to the scene of the gun battle. The mobs also torched a police vehicle.

The authorities called in army reinforcements to assist the police in restoring law and order as the dusk-to-dawn police curfew was clamped. The injured are being treated at the Sri Jayewardenepura and the National hospitals. Several senior Cabinet Ministers later visited the wounded at the hospitals.

Mr. Premachandra was a former member of the Sri Lanka Mahajana Pakshaya and entered politics in 1979 where he was elected a member of the Kolonnawa Pradeshiya Sabha. He was elected to the Western Provincial Council in 1988 and once again in 1993. He entered Parliament in 1994 as a member of the SLFP-led People’s Alliance (PA).

Meanwhile Mr. Silva was placed on life support later in the evening after doctors removed two pellets that were embedded in his skull following a four hour operation, Sri Jayewardene Hospital Director General Dr. S. A. K. Gamage said.

He said two surgeons had operated on the injured MP and further surgery was necessary to remove a third pellet from his skull. Dr. Prasad Ariyawansa, National Hospital’s Director in charge of Accident Service, said that of the five people who were admitted to the hospital one died after being admitted to the Intensive Care Unit while three others were in critical condition. Mr. Premachandra and two others died at the scene of the incident.

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