For press freedom by Sunanda Deshapriya
Journalists for Democracy in Sri Lanka (JDS) remember and honour the ultimate sacrifice Nimalarajan made for freedom of expression. Ten years ago today, Nimalarajan was shot dead in the middle of a High Security Zone in the Northern Jaffna peninsula during curfew hours.
Nimalarajan was a freelance journalist who worked for many media outlets, including the BBC Sinhala and Tamil services, the Tamil-language newspaper,Virakesari, and the Sinhala-language weeklies Haraya and Ravaya. He was killed by an armed group on 19 October 2000, in his home while he was writing a news report. In the absence of any independent media in war torn Jaffna, Nimalarajan stood out as the lone, courageous correspondent who exposed state repression, human rights violations and the undemocratic acts of the Sri Lankan Armed Forces and politicians.
Nimalarajan was brutally murdered solely because he reported the truth as a professional journalist. He was killed while listening to the BBC on the radio in his family home in the evening. The killers not only shot him, but also tossed a hand grenade in the sitting room, injuring a child and his mother. The gunmen acted as if they were sure they would not be apprehended even though Nimalarajan lived in a highly secure militarized area with many check points. The Sri Lankan army never made any attempt to interview the men on duty at those checkpoints that night, who must have witnessed the killers moving in and out of the area. Indeed the family took over an hour to transport the dead and injured to the hospital, waving a lantern at every checkpoint to be searched on route Ė a sign of how heavily secure the location was.
Although ten years have passed since the murder of Nimalarajan, consecutive governments of Sri Lanka have not taken any significant steps to bring the culprits to justice. International pressure has also failed in bringing about any prosecutions.
Since Nimalarajanís killing, scores more media workers have been killed and many have fled the country. It does not come as a surprise that almost all of them were journalists who exposed government misdoings and the horror of war.
JDS views the killing of Nimalarajan as one of the first killings aimed at suppressing news of the atrocities committed in the Sri Lankan conflict. The killers of Nimalarajan have enjoyed impunity. Nine years after his death, the Tamil community that he was a part of, suffered massive bloodshed as the Sri Lankan military declared victory over the Tamil Tigers.
Today, there are statements calling for reconciliation in Sri Lanka. We believe that genuine reconciliation cannot take place if victims like the Nimalarajan family are denied justice.
While the call for justice and respect for human rights in Sri Lanka has become louder than ever, with the UN Secretary General appointing a panel to advise him on Sri Lanka, it is regrettable that institutions as such as the International Monetary Fund, which are part of the UN, have granted financial assistance with no questions asked. If the global community calling for the upkeep of human rights also supports a government that has acted with impunity, we believe a decade from now Nimalarajanís family will still be waiting for justice.
We believe Nimalarajanís name is a symbol of the tens of thousands of Sri Lankans now denied basic justice.
Journalists for Democracy in Sri Lanka