For press freedom by Sunanda Deshapriya
“Lasantha Killing: Arbitrary, Extra Judicial Assassination:
The Co-Deputy Leader of the United National Party (UNP) Hambantota MP, Sajith Premadasa spoke to Faraz Shauketaly on a matter that continues to astound international observers of Sri Lanka and continues to irk those wishing for justice, fair play and good governance: the investigation into the murder of the founder Editor of The Sunday Leader, Lasantha Wickrematunge.
Q: As the Deputy Leader of the UNP why is it that the UNP has been so silent, no longer even uttering the name of Lasantha Wickremetunge? After all, the man devoted 15 years of his newspaper career towards uplifting the UNP. Why do you not push for his killers to be found?
A: Certainly he was a stalwart. I can’t speak for others but on various occasions I have made speeches; I have mentioned the dire need in our country for the protection of human rights, civic rights, political rights, and elimination of arbitrary killings, media freedom and specifically Lasantha’s case which is a gross violation of human rights. I think we should all – not as a political party only – but as citizens of Sri Lanka, we should all fight for a proper transparent conclusion to the investigation and for the culprits to be brought to justice.
Q: Why have you not pushed for an enquiry? The matter seems to be dragging along for nearly two years.
A: Once again my clear position is that Lasantha Wickremetunge’s killing I believe was an extra judicial arbitrary assassination and must be probed and that the culprits must be brought to justice.
Q: The UNP actually did say that General Fonseka was responsible for the Lasantha Wickremetunge assassination but then chose Fonseka as the Common Candidate at the Presidential Election. Isn’t that a display of a shocking lack of conscience on the part of the UNP?
A: You will have to ask those that made statements to that effect. What I said in terms of General Fonseka was that I have been a supporter of the General in terms of the war effort in order to eliminate the LTTE terrorists. I still have that regard; I certainly did not say that the General was responsible for the Lasantha case. In fact it would be for the Sunday Leader to examine the Hansard (parliamentary proceedings record) and establish who said what in regard to the Fonseka involvement and who then did an about turn and promoted the acceptance of General Fonseka as the common candidate. That would be for you to do.
Q: Why have you not raised the Lasantha issue in parliament?
A: I have raised this issue in public speeches and I admit I have not done so in parliament. I will raise this matter up in parliament and give my wholehearted support to lobby and call for an enquiry.
Q: Will you support a call for a Parliamentary debate on this issue?
A: Most certainly .. I will give it my fullest support. It is usually done through party leaders and the Speaker. We could go for an Adjournment motion for example.
Q: What do you say to Lasantha Wickremetunge’s family and three children, who don’t have closure as yet? Can you assure them of closure?
A: To be honest one cannot have closure without having a transparent investigation that looks into the whole episode.
If one can come to a concrete conclusion one must be happy about the investigation. As far as I am concerned I am not happy with it. The LTTE terror menace was resolved so I am amazed that the Lasantha case has not been brought to a conclusion.
Q: Would you support a move for a full independent enquiry into the Lasantha case, in the absence of progress being made by the authorities?
A: Absolutely. Certainly. I fervently believe that one must have a transparent investigation before bringing closure. He was a man who contributed in his own style to the perpetuation of media freedom, democracy and human rights. I for one will support vehemently any initiative that brings about a transparent and ethical investigation.