Journalists Killed  |  Sri Lanka

Relangi Selvarajah

Sri Lanka Rupavahini Corp.

August 12, 2005, in Colombo, Sri Lanka

Popular Tamil broadcaster Relangi Selvarajah and her husband, a political activist, were killed by unidentified gunmen in Colombo on the same day that Lakshman Kadirgamar, Sri Lanka's foreign minister, was assassinated. Political leaders blamed the rebel Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) for all three killings, charges the LTTE denied.

The attackers shot Selvarajah, 44, and her husband, Senathurai, in the office where they ran a travel agency. Sri Lanka's Sunday Times reported that the LTTE had criticized Selvarajah for broadcasting anti-LTTE programs.

Selvarajah was a radio and television host for 20 years, presenting news programs for the state-run Sri Lanka Broadcasting Corporation (SLBC) and more recently for the Sri Lanka Rupavahini Corp., according to the Free Media Movement, a local press freedom organization.

Local newspapers reported that Selvarajah also produced the SLBC program "Ithaya Veenai," a program known for criticizing the LTTE, and allegedly funded by the opposition Tamil political party, the Eelam People's Democratic Party.

Selvarajah's husband was affiliated with the formerly militant and now mainstream group, the People's Liberation Organization of Tamil Eelam (PLOTE), according to local news reports and sources. PLOTE is critical of the LTTE; the LTTE accuses PLOTE of attacking its members, according to The Associated Press.

Sri Lanka's Daily Mirror quoted police as saying that they suspected the couple may have been murdered because of Selvarajah's anti-LTTE programs. But their connection to PLOTE also raised the possibility that their killing may have been part of a larger cycle of violence and could be connected to the April murder of well-known pro-LTTE Tamil journalist Dharmeratnam Sivaram, local sources told CPJ. Sivaram was a former member of PLOTE who defected to the LTTE.

Political and ethnic factions began a series of revenge killings across the country last year when a Tamil rebel leader known as Colonel Karuna split from the LTTE.

The government declared a state of emergency on August 13 and President Chandrika Kumaratunga accused the LTTE of killing Kadirgamar, a critic of the LTTE.

Medium: Radio

Job: Columnist / Commentator

Beats Covered: Human Rights, Politics

Gender: Female

Local or Foreign: Local

Freelance: No

Type of Death: Murder

Suspected Source of Fire: Political Group

Impunity: Yes

Taken Captive: No

Tortured: No

Threatened: No


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