January 08, 2022 marks the 13th anniversary of the assassination of Lasantha Wickrematunge, editor of the Sunday Leader newspaper in the Attidiya area in Ratmalana.
It is a well-known murder that Lasantha Wickremaratunga was shot dead by unidentified gunmen in broad daylight in a high-security zone nearest Colombo and fled past several army checkpoints at that time. After the attack who can escape from those checkpoints. It is a well-known secret that everyone knows. However, Lasantha Wickramaratunga who was admitted to the Kalubowila Hospital after the shooting has passed away. That was on January 8, 2009.
ow assassins escaped after killing a Sri Lankan mainstream newspaper editor in broad daylight in a high-security zone is a serious question.
Journalists like Sivaram and Nimalarajan who were killed as well as journalists like Poddala, Keith Noyar, and Upali Tennakoon who were brutally attacked and the missing Prageeth have not been given justice.
Authorities must be urged to immediately expose the murderers and as well as the thugs who committed these heinous acts. Now the time has come for all citizens to line up. We feel that as long as there is no such intervention, it will continue to support the historical practice of impunity. Like these incidents, the fact that it must be rewritten is also worrying.
Lasantha Wickrematunge’s assassination has not been brought to justice for the past 13 years.
Two days after Lasantha’s murder in Attidiya, Ratmalana, P. Jesudasan, a resident of Nuwara Eliya, was arrested by the Terrorism Investigation Division as a suspect in the February 26, 2010 murder. On the same day, Kandegedara Piyawansa, a member of the Army Intelligence, was arrested by the Terrorism Investigation Division on suspicion of having links with P. Jesudasan.
In March 2010, the Terrorism Investigation Division interrogated 17 members of the Army Intelligence. Seven of them were detained, interrogated at length, and later released. Jesudasan, who was in custody on October 13, 2011, died suddenly in prison. Jesudasan’s relatives said his death, known as natural death, was suspicious.
On September 6, 2013, Kandegedara Piyawansa, a member of the Army Intelligence, was released from court due to lack of evidence. He filed a fundamental rights petition in the Supreme Court seeking a declaration that his arrest was a violation of his fundamental rights. Recognizing this, the court fined the head of the Terrorism Investigation Division Rs. 100,000 was ordered to be paid to Kandegedara Piyawansa.
At Lasantha Wickrematunge’s fifth death anniversary on January 8, 2014, Lasantha’s elder brother Lal Wickrematunge stated that President Mahinda Rajapaksa had repeatedly told him that “General Fonseka had killed Lasantha”. However, the former Army Commander denied the allegation.
The government of good governance which came into power on January 10, 2015 removed the investigation into Lasantha’s murder from the Terrorism Investigation Division and handed it over to the CID.
The then Minister of State for Mass Media and Information Rajitha Senaratne stated that all information regarding the manner in which Lasantha Wickrematunge was assassinated on January 21, 2015, and who ordered it has been revealed.
But the investigation was very slow. Therefore, Questioning the situation on August 6, 2015, former President Mahinda Rajapaksa questioned whether the present government was not investigating the assassination of Lasantha Wickrematunge because the suspects in the assassination were inside the government.
On February 17, 2016, the Sri Lanka Police released two sketches depicting two suspects in the murder of Lasantha Wickrematunge. Public support was sought to identify them. Accordingly, on July 16, 2016, an Army intelligence sergeant was arrested by the police on suspicion of being involved in the murder of Lasantha Wickrematunge.
The Army Intelligence Sergeant who was arrested on July 27, 2016, was identified by Lasantha Wickrematunge’s driver during an identification parade held in court as the person who threatened him the day after Lasantha’s murder.
The police were said, the soldier has also been charged with assaulting well-known newspaper editor Upali Tennakoonල Lasantha’s body was exhumed on September 27, 2016, for a new autopsy. But the relevant investigations were also in a state of stagnation.
The Rajapaksas family have returned to power with the collapse of the 2019 Good Governance Government. Gotabhaya Rajapaksa, who was then the Secretary to the Ministry of Defense, has now become the President of the country.
The good governance government has not taken steps to conduct a credible and transparent investigation into the disappearance and assault of any journalist, including Lasantha, during the Rajapaksa regime, or any other media institution that was attacked. But the government of good governance came to power promising to do justice to the people.
Therefore, 13 years after Lasantha’s assassination, we must write again and again about those horrible memories of the past when we made no effort for justice.
On January 8, the 13th anniversary of Lasantha Wickrematunge’s assassination, Lasantha celebrations were held in many parts of the country, one of which was organized by the Batticaloa Media Center in association with the Batticaloa District Tamil Journalists’ Association.
A floral tribute was paid to the memorial to the slain journalists in Batticaloa under the patronage of the District Tamil Journalists’ Association President V. Kanjrishna Kumar. Later, a memorial with a portrait of senior journalist Lasantha Wickrematunge was erected and a memorial service was held.
Writer – Sampath Jayalal. Member of the Executive Committee, Federation of Media Employees’ trade union.