Sri Lankan leader pardons man who attempted to kill him

Ex-Tamil rebel was found guilty of planning to assassinate Sirisena 10 years ago when rebels fought government forces.

Sri Lanka - President Maithripala Sirisena
President Sirisena has pushed for reconciliation with the Tamil minority since coming to power [Lakruwan Wanniarachchi/AFP]

Sri Lanka’s President Maithripala Sirisena has pardoned a former Tamil rebel who attempted to assassinate him 10 years ago at a ceremony marking the government’s first year in office on Friday.

Former rebel Sivaraja Jenivan was found guilty of targeting then cabinet minister Sirisena’s convoy by planting a claymore mine on the roadside in 2005 in Polonnaruwa, 180km northeast of the capital, Colombo.

Jenivan, a former member of the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) – under the alias Mohommadu Sulthan Cader Mohideen – was sentenced to a 10-year jail term last year after a lengthy trial.

“The president has released him using his executive powers,” a senior official of the presidential office told DPA news agency.

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The pardoning was announced at an official ceremony held in Colombo to mark the first anniversary of the president’s time in office.

Jenivan was invited on stage and shook hands with Sirisena before being informed he had been pardoned, live television coverage of the event showed.

Sirisena, who successfully challenged former president Mahinda Rajapaksa in 2015 elections, has survived two other assassination attempts by the banned LTTE – also known as the Tamil Tigers.

Since he came to power last January, Sirisena has pushed the policy of reconciliation with the Tamil minority and promised to investigate war crimes charges committed during the civil war.

The 1983-2009 war ended when government forces finally crushed the Tamil Tigers, who fought to create a separate state for ethnic minority Tamils in Sri Lanka’s north.

At least 80,000 people were killed – and possibly many more – in the decades-long war, including as many as 40,000 civilians in the final months, according to UN estimates.

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Source: Al Jazeera, DPA