Justice denied over Lasantha assassination : Ahimsa

Justice denied over Lasantha assassination : Ahimsa

Justice denied over Lasantha assassination : Ahimsa

Written by Staff Writer

06 Mar, 2021 | 7:32 pm

COLOMBO (News1st): Ahimsa Wickrematunge, the daughter of slain journalist Lasantha Wickrematunge has told The Washington Post that Sri Lanka’s leaders have denied justice over her father’s assassination 12 years ago.

In an opinion piece published on the 2nd of March, Ahimsa Wickrematunge recalled the incidents related to her father’s killing and the investigations that ensued into the matter.

The daughter of the slain editor said it seems that killing a journalist is just another rite of passage for emerging autocrats, given the murders of journalists in the likes of Anna Politkovskaya and Jamal Khashoggi as well.

It was in the early hours of the 8th of January 2009 that Lasantha Wickrematunge, the editor of the Sunday Leader newspaper, was assassinated on his way to work in Attidiya.

The murder was believed to have been carried out by two individuals on a motorcycle who had been following Lasantha’s vehicle on that fateful day.

Investigations revealed that Lasantha Wickrematunge had recorded the number of a motorcycle on his notebook, minutes before his tragic killing.

Similar incidents took place in the country, during the weeks that followed, stoking serious concerns among the masses.

In February 2009, the charred remains of two youths who were abducted from the Settikulam area in Vavuniya were recovered in the Gammiris Gas Wewa area in Anuradhapura.

The motorcycle believed to be used in Lasantha’s killing was spotted at a marsh in Attidiya. Lasantha Wickremetunge’s driver was also abducted during investigations and was later released.

Although the Mount Lavinia police launched preliminary investigations into the brutal murder, further action did not seem to take its course.

As the Criminal Investigations Department uncovered crucial details surrounding the assassination, the responsibility of carrying out the probe was transferred to the Terrorism Investigation Division.

An individual identified as Jesudan was arrested in 2010 in connection to the killing based on inquiries made into telephone records. He had died in remand in 2012.

No other suspects were arrested in connection to the killing of Lasantha Wickrematunge until the change of government on the 8th of January in 2015.

That year, the Criminal Investigations Department was once again entrusted with the task of investigating the horrific murder.

An extensive investigation then unfolded under the eyes of the CID’s Director SSP Shani Abyesekara, ASP Sisira Tissera and IP Nishantha de Silva.

The remains of Lasantha Wickrematunge were exhumed in September 2016 for a forensic investigation. Investigators then confirmed that the murder had not taken place due to a shooting.

Between 2016 and 2017, investigation units uncovered a connection between the killing of Lasantha and the groups involved in the attacks on journalists Upali Tennakoon and Keith Noyahr.

Accordingly, a suspect arrested over the attack on newspaper editor Upali Tennakoon was named as one of the accused in the abduction of Lasantha Wickrematunge’s driver as well.

The CID launched investigations into the Tripoli camp that was believed to have functioned as intelligence operations at the time of Lasantha’s killing, and also probed incidents surrounding attacks on journalists.

Although SEVERAL military personnel were arrested with regard to certain attacks against journalists and subsequently released on bail, Lasantha’s murderers are yet to be identified.

The officer-in-charge of the Crimes Division at the Mount Lavinia Police and the Deputy Inspector General of Police in charge of the area were charged in court for concealing evidence over the killing.

But they too have been released on bail.

Three senior officers of the Criminal Investigation Department who spearheaded investigations into the murder of Lasantha Wickrematunge were removed from their positions after the present government came into power.

Shani Abeysekara, the former CID Director, has been remanded, while ASP Sisira Tissera has been given a service transfer. Police Inspector Nishantha de Silva has fled overseas seeking political asylum.

The case on the murder of Lasantha Wickrematunge is to be taken up for hearing again at the Mount Lavinia Magistrate’s Court on the 4th of June.

In her opinion piece on The Washington Post, Ahimsa Wickrematunge observes that UN human rights chief Michelle Bachelet has also presented a report that offered a devastating verdict on human rights abuses in Sri Lanka.

Lasantha Wickrematunge in addition to being the Editor of The Sunday Leader was part and parcel of the MTV/MBC/News 1st Media Network, and his murder in broad daylight, 12 years ago, remains shrouded in unanswered questions.

The long arc of the truth, however, always bends towards justice.

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