FREEDOM OF EXPRESSION SRI LANKA

For press freedom by Sunanda Deshapriya

Govt. ‘covered up’ Lasantha murder


The government did everything to cover up the murder of Lasantha Wickramatunge says the widow of the slain editor of Sunday Leader.

“I am satisfied that the government did everything possible to cover up his murder and prevent even a rudimentary police inquiry from proceeding,” Sonali Samarasinghe Wickrematunge told BBC Sandeshaya.

She insisted that she does not know who killed her husband.

Breaking a two year silence, she questioned the motives of the Rajapaksa government.

There can be only one reason, she said, for the authorities to cover up.

“It is clearly to prevent those who murdered Lasantha, and those who ordered his murder, from ever being brought to justice,” added Mrs Wickrematunge.

No Political will

Lasantha’s widow accused the government of having no political will to initiate an independent inquiry.

“The apprehension of his murderers would have been child’s play” she claimed.

Though the cause of death was recorded as ‘due to gunshot injuries’, neither were spent cartridges found at the scene; nor a single bullet recovered from Lasantha’s body or shown on an x-ray

Herself, a respected senior journalist, now living in exile due to death threats on her own life, was responding to recent claims by government member of parliament Rajiva Wijesinghe.

Prof Wijesinghe, who was the secretary of the Ministry of Human Rights at the time of the editor’s murder, told the BBC that he was told by the British High Commission that they had evidence to say that former Army Commander Sarath Fonseka was responsible for the killing.

Samarasinghe says that she had information that there were witnesses who gave evidence saying that the assassins all rode a uniform make and type of motorcycle and appear to have communicated using cellular telephones over a period of several hours prior to the killing of her husband.

Despite the existence of numerous witnesses, no accurate description of the attack was ever made public by the police.

Samarasinghe who is also a qualified lawyer, questions the assumptions made by the investigative officers.

“Though the cause of death was recorded as ‘due to gunshot injuries’, neither were spent cartridges found at the scene; nor a single bullet recovered from Lasantha’s body or shown on an x-ray.”

Government’s “responsibility”

“Taken together, all this can leave little doubt in a rational mind that the murder has been the focus of an extensive cover up,” she added.

Mr Wijesinha, MP, said the UK authorities had evidence to link Sarath Fonseka to the murder

She also accuses the government of duplicity and of influencing the judicial process.

“In fact two years after Lasantha’s death on January 13th 2011 President Mahinda Rajapaksa told Sri Lankan editors and publishers at a monthly breakfast meeting that his government had no evidence to continue with an investigation into Lasantha’s murder”.

In 2010, several soldiers from the Sri Lanka Army’s Military Intelligence Directorate were detained for questioning by the Terrorist Investigations Department (TID) and the Criminal Investigations Department (CID).

These soldiers were separated from an original seventeen taken into police custody.

Sonali Samarasinghe say the move, during the presidential election campaign was widely seen as political in nature.

All seventeen have since been released.

“Police have also succeeded in taking into custody five mobile telephones, which on the day Lasantha was killed, moved in the same pattern as Lasantha’s phone,” said Mrs Wickrematunge.

Police have also succeeded in taking into custody five mobile telephones, which on the day Lasantha was killed, moved in the same pattern as Lasantha’s phone

Sonali Samarasinghe Wickrematunge

“The media has already reported that these phones passed through 11 cellular phone towers that day and have not been used before or since the day of the killing. However they have not been disconnected either”.

There were media reports that according to the police one of the five phones appears to have been used to monitor and control the entire operation.

A track path of the calls made between the five telephones indicates that they communicated regularly with each other constantly calling one particular mobile.

One of the five phone numbers indicated on the mobile path shows a call having been made at the exact spot Lasantha was attacked.

She says that it is not too late to begin an inquiry.

“Even at this late stage I would welcome an impartial, transparent and professional inquiry that will identify Lasantha’s murderers and bring them to justice.

In the absence of a proper investigation to-date, and given over 24 months of stonewalling by the Rajapaksa regime both the Sri Lankan public and the world would have arrived at their own conclusions as to who it was that killed Lasantha. The final responsibility for his murder lies with the government of Sri Lanka.”

BBC sinhala

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This entry was posted on April 14, 2011 by in features, news and tagged , , , , , .
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