January 1, 2008 / 7:15 AM / 11 years ago

Sri Lanka opposition parliamentarian shot, killed

(Updates with suspect arrested)

By Ranga Sirilal

COLOMBO, Jan 1 (Reuters) - A prominent Sri Lankan opposition Tamil parliamentarian was shot dead on Tuesday, the military said, as the opposition charged that a lack of security made the government responsible for the death.

Main opposition United National Party (UNP) parliamentarian T. Maheshweran was shot in a Hindu temple in Colombo on Tuesday morning. The military said a suspect was arrested after being wounded by a security guard.

"The government had reduced (Maheshweran’s) security after he was being critical of the government and the president, so the government should be held responsible for his killing," said UNP general Secretary Tissa Attanayake.

"Maheshweran was voicing (concern) over the recent abductions of Tamils."

The military said the suspect was an ethnic Tamil. Police are investigating.

"The police had arrested a person from Jaffna. One of (Maheshweran’s) security personnel had fired at him, and he was also admitted to the hospital," said Military Spokesman Brigadier Udaya Nanayakkara.

The military said Maheshweran died after being admitted to the hospital.

Hospital authorities said another civilian also died after being admitted, and 11 others were admitted with injuries from the firing.

Maheshweran, from Sri Lanka’s minority Tamil community, was a former Hindu affairs minister and party chief district organiser of the army-held northern Jaffna peninsula.

The killing came as fighting between government forces and Tamil Tiger rebel fighters has escalated with near daily land, sea and air clashes.

In 2005 a Tamil National Alliance member of parliament, Joseph Pararajasingham, was shot and killed at a church in the eastern district of Batticaloa while attending Christmas Eve prayers, and another parliamentarian from the same party, Nadarajha Raviraj, was shot and killed in Colombo a year later.

More than 5,000 people have been killed in fighting between the military and Tigers since early 2006 alone, taking the death toll since the war erupted in 1983 to around 70,000.

Military analysts say there is no clear winner on the horizon, and fear the war could grind on for years.

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