For press freedom by Sunanda Deshapriya
Sunday Leader editor Lasantha Wickrematunga, a courageous, talented and iconoclastic journalist, was shot dead in Colombo by a death squad two years ago tomorrow. His murder is still unpunished.
Reporters Without Borders is appalled by the fact that the Sri Lankan government is doing nothing to solve this murder and in fact is clearly preventing the truth from coming to light. By blocking the investigation and by fostering a climate of impunity and indifference, the government has become an accomplice. Wickrematunga’s murder dealt a major blow to media freedom in Sri Lanka.
The press freedom organisation voices its support for the editor’s family and colleagues, including his widow, Sonali Samarasinghe, and his brother, Lal Wickrematunga, who are themselves journalists.
“We urge President Mahinda Rajapaksa to launch an exhaustive criminal investigation by requesting the assistance of international experts, so that the person responsible for this horrible murder can be identified,” Reporters Without Borders said.
His brother, Lal Wickrematunga said: ” Lasantha was murdered two years ago and the investigation has not progressed beyond the perfunctory level. Although fingers have been pointed at Gen. Sarath Fonseka, the investigating arms seem to be waiting for a nod from politicians before making any significant moves. The arrests made thus far do not give the impression that an honest attempt is being made to find out who ordered the killing.
More than 50 hearings have been held before a magistrate’s court and the police still seem to be drawing a blank. Although 15 military intelligence officers were held for a brief period, they were released with no explanation being given to court. If Sarath Fonseka was responsible, as political analysts believe, the government should have charged him for murder instead of using military courts martial to try him for relatively a minor offence compared with murder. Lasantha’s family does not believe that the investigation is being conducted with any real purpose and it may take a long time, and a change of government, to get to the bottom of this heinous crime.”
Interviewed about the anniversary, a local investigative journalist told Reporters Without Borders: “It is sad and shocking to see that, although two years have elapsed, the government and law enforcement officers have still not been able to make any key arrests in Lasantha’s murder (…) All pleas by Lasantha’s editorial staff and his family for a thorough investigation seem to be falling on deaf ears.”
The journalist added: “There has absolutely been no progress in Lasantha’s murder investigation and this is quite surprising as government ministers such as Mervyn Silva had publicly claimed that he knew who was responsible for Lasantha’s assassination but would not divulge it. If ministers can make public remarks of this sort, then it is only right for the authorities to question them and get to the bottom of who is responsible for Lasantha’s murder.”
The editor’s family, friends and colleagues will gather at his tomb at 10:30 a.m. tomorrow to mark the second anniversary of his death.