8 am on the morning of January 8 Lasantha Wickrematunge was at
his residence in Nugegoda when he was to get
a call from his wife Sonali Samarasinghe
asking him to come to their home in
Battaramulla as the domestic assistant there
had taken ill.
He had arrived at their Battaramulla home at
about 8.20. It was even as he alighted from
his car that he was to receive a call from
the Sunday Leader office that some people
had observed suspicious activity and that he
was being followed.
His driver who was at Nugegoda had been
warned by one of his friends - a three
wheeler driver, that two persons on a motor
bike pared at a nearby boutique had acted
suspiciously and no sooner than Lasantha had
taken off in his car one had been heard to
say to the other , Eya pittath wuna (he has
left now). At which point one of the two who
was smoking had butted out his cigarette and
they had been seen following Lasantha's car.
The driver had immediately gone to The
Sunday Leader office in Ratmalana but
finding that Lasantha had not arrived yet he
was to quickly go into the office and call
Lasantha on his mobile phone. Lasantha was
in Battaramulla at the time. The driver's
mobile phone was in Lasantha's car.
Lasantha and Sonali left for a nearby
pharmaceutical shop to buy medicines for the
servant. Even on their way, Sonali had
noticed a motorbike following the car. She
however lost sight of it, as a three wheeler
However, once they neared their house, a
large black motorbike with two persons had
whizzed past the car and had gone into the
land next to the house which is a dead end
in a suspicious and intimidating way.
Alerted Sonali had first alighted from the
car and immediately pulled Lasantha into
their house locking the doors. However after
some time Lasantha was determined to go to
office to commence writing his column and
also to take steps against this new threat.
Since Sonali had to still see to some
domestic matters he said he would go on
ahead and that his wife should come in her
car. He also said he wanted to investigate
the whole motorbike incident and make some
calls on the matter.
Wickrematunge, on his way to the office had
asked his driver to meet him in Nugegoda. He
handed over to him some documents and then
proceeded towards office.
It would turn out to be the deadliest ride
to work he would ever take.
His wife meanwhile not 15 minutes after they
parted was to hear the dreaded news and
quickly rush to the Kalubowila Hospital. The
driver too, received the news through an
employee at the Leader office.
One of the people, who witnessed the attack
on The Sunday Leader Editor, Lasantha
Wickrematunge and volunteered to take him to
the Kalubowila Hospital said that he was
checking a stock of printing goods prepared
for delivery that day when the incident
He (name withheld on request) said he came
out of his office on Attidiya Road, upon
seeing a lot of activity on the road.
"I saw some motorbikes speeding off and
people started to move towards a car that
was parked on the other side of the road. I
too walked towards the car and saw that the
window on one side was smashed with damage
to the main windscreen as well," he said.
He had then peered into the vehicle and
found a person lying across the two front
"I saw that he was finding it difficult to
breathe. Then I called on some of the people
standing around to carry him to a van that
was there. We carried him into the van. He
was bleeding heavily from the head," he
The eyewitness said that while Wickrematunge
was being taken to hospital, his mobile
phone, which he had been holding on to
firmly, had started to ring.
"The phone rang. Since I was holding the
injured person with another, the person on
the front passenger seat answered the phone
and told the caller that if he knew the
owner of the phone, to come to the
Kalubowila Hospital immediately," he said.
Amidst all the chaos, it was not till the
van reached the hospital that they all
realised that the injured man in the vehicle
was none other than Lasantha Wickrematunge.
"We have always admired him as a fearless
man who stood for the rights of the people.
We were all sad to find out that it was this
man who was shot," the eyewitness said.
Nadhan, driver of the van that took
Wickrematunge to the hospital said that he
was on his way to Avissawella for a delivery
when the van was held up in a traffic jam in
"We saw people surrounding a car, but they
looked afraid to go near. They may have been
afraid to get close as it was a shooting
incident," he said.
Nadhan said that while most people looked
on, vehicles passed by without even stopping
to have a second look.
Rushed to hospital
"We stopped to look and when we heard there
was an injured person , we allowed the
people to carry him to our van. Along with
two other people and my sales manager, we
drove straight to the Kalubowila Hospital,"
Like the other eyewitnesses, Nadhan also
recognised the victim only upon reaching the
"When Wickrematunge's phone rang in the
vehicle, we informed the caller of the
One of the others who saw the incident as
Wickrematunge was being taken into the van
was Lakmal Nanayakkara, who works at Irudina,
The Sunday Leader's sister paper. "I was in
the bus getting ready to get off when the
bus all of sudden got stuck in traffic," he
"First I thought it was an accident, then we
realised that something else would have
happened when we saw a man dressed in dark
trouser was taken into a van, injured. I saw
his head move inside the car when the people
opened the door. I saw the vehicle and
called office and asked Mr. Mohan (Lal
Piyadasa, editor of the Irudina) whether Mr.
Lasantha was in office, whether his car was
there. He said no. Then I told him that
there was a shooting and Mr. Lasantha was
being taken to hospital. I got off the bus
and tried to get in the van that was taking
him but I could not."
Director, Colombo South Teaching (Kalubowila)
Hospital, Dr. Anil Jasinghe said that all
efforts made by the medical staff at the
hospital and the other specialists brought
into help Wickrematunge were not fruitful
due to the severe injuries sustained by the
victim to his head.
After three hours of extensive surgery,
Lasantha succumbed to his injuries at around
2.30 p.m. last Thursday (8).
Meanwhile, Police Media Spokesperson, SSP
Ranjith Gunasekera told The Sunday Leader
that the IGP had assigned four teams to
investigate into Wickrematunge's
He added that the teams have found some
clues that would lead to the suspects.
However, he said that he had not yet been
given a detailed report, as the
investigating teams did not want details to
be revealed since it would hamper the
progress of the investigation.
He said that SSP Mt Lavinia Police was
heading the four teams.
Our Great Leader bids good bye
'Wifey, I love you'
It is not immediately apparent that Lasantha
is a romantic. He is also incredibly shy for
a person so much in the lime light. He would
often squirm uncomfortably as scores of
people would walk up to him at restaurants,
malls, on the street, and admire his life
Perhaps in life there is no greater gift
than marrying your best friend. And today as
I look upon his lifeless frame I feel
blessed for that. Little was I to know when
we carefully eliminated beef from the modest
menu to be served at a small reception for a
few relatives and friends that two months to
the day my best friend would lay murdered in
a pool of blood.
'The trouble with us,' he would often say,
'is that we are both strong personalities.'
True. We clashed over everything. He said
tomayto I said Tomaato. But in many ways we
were much alike. He was the youngest of an
amazingly united family of six. Ditto for
me. He was left handed. Ditto again. He was
a lawyer. Likewise. We both had a passion
for writing. We loved kids. We adored
animals and yes, we were both bleeding
And yet, we would sometimes have intense
disagreements on a story line, a policy
issue at first glance. Ergo the Editor of
The Sunday Leader and the Editor of The
Morning Leader would have to thrash an issue
out in our office and we came to an
understanding every time. We always did, but
not before some heated words. It was a
stimulating journey. Never boring, never
Lasantha was also an honourable man. Work
was work, personal relationship was quite
something else. And never the twain did
meet. At work we were˙ neither best friends
nor husband and wife. It was this sense of
fair play and honour that was to endear him
to his staff.
It was this sense of fair play and justice
that he would bring to his newspaper and his
"Never," a friend told me, "had I seen
Lasantha happier than I did at your
reception." That was 13 days before he was
brutally gunned down. Yes. Come to think of
it, I think he may have been. On 31st
evening he loudly sang a lengthy medley of
songs in a mix of Sinhala and English, some
of it quite flat, in the bathroom.
I giggled uncontrollably outside as he
warbled on in tremulous tones and quietly
reaching for the room phone dialed our best
and darling friends Ajita and Khema De Costa
to share the moment with them. "He must be
happy," whispered Ajita.
It was Ajita and Khema to whom he and I
would turn when we were most stressed. It
was to their home we would go to relax. To
talk of higher things and contemplate on
Keats and Byron.
After wedlock it was Ajita who read us a
verse from Kalil Gibran on marriage.
"You are a strong woman, don't give up," he
would always encourage me when work would
sometimes take its toll. Somehow, I don't
want to be strong today. I want to think of
how kind and gentle he was. How funny and
mischievous. How incredibly joyous he could
be. Those mushy things he pretended he had
no time for.
On January 8, 2009 he and I knew we were
being followed. We attended to some other
work in the morning he then dropped me home
advising me to come to office in my own car
as we still had to attend to some domestic
matters as he wanted to address the grave
situation and also get to office quickly to
start on his Suranimala column. I begged him
not to go as we had already been alerted
about the thugs but to at least allow me to
come with him. But he was adamant and
determined. Later I got to know he called
many people along the way to inform them he
was being followed.
It wasn't 10 minutes after we parted that I
got the call I had always dreaded. My
fingers hurriedly slid over my phone digits
as I hastened to call him, more in hope than
anything else. In my haste I pressed a wrong
button. On the screen appeared a message I
had received from Lasantha just hours
"Wifey," it said, "I love you."
Farewell my Chief
By Romesh Abeywickrema
We journalists sometimes have to do the most
unpleasant of things. While we are chocking
with emotion and in no fit and proper state
to write with a thousand thoughts flooding
the mind, yet we must, for deadlines are
deadlines and Lasantha was the first, week
after week to remind us of that.
Its close upon 13 years now that I have
constantly heard him call out, 'copies
copies.how's the story. pages pages!' and as
I sit today staring at the door to his empty
office, knowing that no more will that
cheery baby face be peeking out from it
shouting something or the other, no more
guidance on how to get about things, no more
constant jokes, no more his copyrighted
brand of humour, no more the pat on the back
when the going gets tough.that I slowly
realise that life as I know it is never
going to be the same again.
Having worked by his side all these years,
everything I know about this delicate art is
what I had the great privilege of learning
from him. He was not one to spoon feed, you
had to learn on the go, and there was no
question of falling back, no question of
offering excuses, what had to be done had to
He set the benchmark not only for us at the
Leader, but for journalism itself in this
country. He took it to a higher place, a
place that no journalist had dared to go in
this country. Those high standards it is now
our responsibility to maintain.
Lasantha was a great believer in people. He
would thrust great responsibility on us and
would not for a moment doubt our ability to
deliver. We, and I mean every one of us in
The Sunday Leader, The Morning Leader and
Irudina editorial offices went out of our
way to see that what was delivered was
indeed more than what was expected. Such was
the esteem the Chief was held in.
Lasantha was probably the greatest motivator
I have ever come across. There was nothing
in this world or in any other that could put
the man down, which probably is what
eventually led to his tragic end, for when
he had known he was being followed that dark
morning, yet he chose to come to work in the
place he fathered and so carefully nurtured
through thick and thin.
Heaven knows he went through hell to bring
out that Sunday read week after week, year
after year. Many have been the attacks both
on him and the establishment, but when most
other human beings would have packed up and
run for dear life, not Lasantha
Wickrematunge - fighter to the bone. He
didn't fight or take on the powers that be
to be popular or to play to the gallery as
it often is the case, Lasantha fought for
what was right and nothing could compromise
that. He probably lost many a friend and
much advertising revenue over the years for
taking that stance but in the end all that
mattered to him was the cause that he stood
for - that the truth be told - friend or
As his body was brought to The Leader
Publications office last Friday morning,
there was not a dry eye among the hundreds
of ever grateful co-workers who had gathered
from early morning to salute their hero on
his final journey. It was a sight that spoke
a million words, yet there was pin drop
silence except the constant sobbing.
Much could be said about our beloved true
hero - not the cardboard kind that rules
this country, but deadlines are deadlines.
Lasantha will live on at the Leader.
Farewell my Chief.
He had the thirst to reveal the truth
By Minal Wickrematunge
'My Turkeys' he would yell, much to the
embarrassment of my sister and I. This was
my uncle, a fun loving, happy-go-lucky guy
sometimes even bordering on eccentricity. I
have too many memories of the crazy antics
this little man would get up to.
For as long as I can remember my uncle
Lasantha was the clown of the family, always
ready to fool around and up for a good
laugh. Many a time he would call up my
mother on April Fools Day with a ridiculous
story. My mother of course was finally
sensible enough to expect this annual˙call
and I'm pretty sure she looked forward to it
My phone would ring... "Hello there Minal!
this is (a certain boy's name, miraculously
he would always get the right name much to
my dismay), I would like to take you for a
candle lit dinner tonight. Are you
interested?" This would leave me in fits of
Raisa and I would constantly make fun of his
sense of style, often commenting that his
full denim get up, resembled that of a
carpenter of some sort! To this he would
yell 'NO! I am a COOL COWBOY!' I remember
how he would come for family dinners and
sneak into the kitchen to have 'starters.'
He was also the first to dart to the food
and start serving, constantly complaining
that 'You always serve dinner so late men.'
Uncle Lasantha was a determined man, he
would get what ever he wanted and knew
precisely when and where to turn on his
charm and charisma. Often referring to
himself as my BROTHER, he even left an
impact on waiters in a restaurant in
Singapore, that he would take my sister and
I to whenever he was in the country.
I recently went back to this restaurant and
they asked me where my uncle was. I am not
shocked at all that they would remember him,
as he was a bundle of joy that could make
I'd often complain that his sole purpose in
life was to make my life miserable with his
mischievous ways. He was ever ready to burst
into dance and song, often in the middle of
a hotel lobby. Pirouetting around making an
absolute fool of himself, he'd claim that he
was a better dancer than me! Whenever he was
bored he would decide to do 'background
checks' on any boy involved with Raisa and
On many occasions he actually called up
relatives of these boys (as he inevitably
knew someone connected to the boy) and ask
for a detailed analysis! This would leave my
sister and I absolutely MORTIFIED. Yet I
know that he did it because he cared.
Yes, my uncle was an investigative
journalist at heart. He was driven with the
thirst to reveal the truth and did it with
utter bravery. I now write this engulfed
with grief and shock. It is unfair that
someone could take the life of a man so
great and with such a big heart, leaving
brothers, sisters, parents, nieces, nephews,
a wife and three children in misery. I am
half expecting to wake up and find this
whole saga to be a terrible, terrible
nightmare. Despite this, I know I have to
come to terms with reality, albeit with
intense pain. Being away from home and away
from my family is very hard. Yet I have been
told to remain strong. It is what uncle
Lasantha would have wanted from me.
I write this now as a tribute to a great
man. I do not want him to be remembered as
Lasantha Wickrematunge, victim to a
horrendous shooting, but Uncle Lasantha, one
of Sri Lanka's best investigative
journalists and most importantly, for the
fun loving man he was. He˙will forever hold
a special place in my heart and it is with
utmost pride that I will remember him and
all the success he has achieved. His
determined nature at meticulously
discovering facts will now motivate me too.
One day I hope to be half as good a
journalist as he˙was and do him proud.
I will miss you always Uncle Lasantha. I
You gave me courage and confidence
By Nirmala Kannangara
The brutal assassination of my dearly
beloved boss and colleague left me in an
untold sea of sorrow and I'm yet to come out
of the shock I received on hearing of the
attempt on your life.
Rekindling memories of my very first meeting
with you, my mind races back four years, to
the day that I first walked into The Sunday
Leader editorial at Ward Place. Although I
was nervous before this most knowledgeable
and gifted journalist in the world, you were
able to make me comfortable within a few
My dear Lasantha, there are no words to
thank you for giving me an opportunity to
become a journalist working for your
esteemed journal The Sunday Leader although
I did not have any journalistic experience
or for that matter any work experience
Every single word uttered during my job
interview still reverberates in my mind.
When you asked me about the salary I
expected, and hearing that I only needed to
be occupied even without any remuneration
since I was battling hard to overcome the
loss of my dearly beloved mother, you
offered me the job instantly. It is not that
you neglected to pay me a decent salary.
Lasantha, I trust I have not let you down in
whatever task I was assigned and never
failed to accomplish any tough assignment
that you entrusted to me. Although my first
mission was to protect the dignity of my
late parents, I always made sure that your
dignity and that of the paper too was well
safeguarded and will continue to do so in
your absence as well.
Your sudden demise was a great blow to me
personally and life at the Leader editorial
will never be the same again. I will miss
your perpetual smile, the loving and caring
words and the usual welcome words'Good
Morning Nirmala,' every morning which gave
me courage to face the day's task with
Although your assailants and those who were
behind this cowardly act wanted to stop you
from exposing their corruption we at The
Sunday Leader pledge to continue your
mission by exposing corruption and standing
firm to uphold what is right whatever the
consequences may be.
My dear Sir, although your voice has been
stilled and you lie in a coffin devoid of
your customary warm smile, I pledge I would
not leave Leader publications for any reason
till I go on retirement, to show my
gratitude to you even after your death.
Good bye Lasantha, and May Your Soul Rest in
Farewell dear friend
By Dilrukshi Handunnetti
We have a young colleague who referred to
Lasantha (with undiluted veneration) as God.
I used to object to that often reiterating
that he was not God, but a God like man. I
am sorry Ruan, you were right and I was
What enrages me today is how some paid goons
and their political and military masters
have played God with Lasantha's precious
life and denied all of us his guidance and
warmth. And now I like to think of him as
some God, still watching over us, as we
drench this newspaper edition with our
I have known Lasantha for long, but I
remember running into him as he was
preparing to undertake the greatest
challenge of his life - to launch a
He was scouting for young reporters to join
The Sunday Leader in 1994 and with his
characteristic smile, he inquired about a
young colleague of mine and asked me whether
we both would like to come for an interview.
The other did and I somehow did not have the
heart to leave my first job.
Almost eight years later, I found my way to
The Sunday Leader. He instantly employed me
and immediately released me - to
Johannesburg, with letters of recommendation
Dynamic and charismatic, Lasantha brought in
an energy into our editorial and created a
spirited team that remains committed to the
same ideals - pluralism, parity, a corrupt
free society that is founded on good
That he relentlessly pursued these ideals,
and this time to the point of personal
destruction might make him appear na‹ve to
some. But instead, we all accepted what he
had was incomparable zeal and commitment,
and a desire to make Sri Lanka an inclusive
place. He was the unrepentant idealist.
To achieve those higher ideals, he also
created a brand of journalism that was not
institutionally practiced- investigative
journalism. Then he nurtured us and enabled
us to carry it forward.
From examination blues to loss of a parent,
to journalism awards to paying for wrong
decisions made, I found strength to carry
through as Lasantha stood by me. And his
mirth was the antidote when in tears, as his
smile was the reward for a job well done.
What some may not know is that he made us
feel sheltered, loved, and looked after. At
The Sunday Leader, he was the binding force,
the silken rope, our very roof. And that's
what the assassins managed to blow away.
His respect for others was so complete that
never did he change a comma in a copy
without discussing it with even the junior
most reporter. After 15 years in journalism
at three media institutions, I am qualified
to say that it does not happen elsewhere.
His respect for individuality was such that
he and I had shared opposite pages writing
on the same issue but expressing divergent
views. That's one of the reasons why
Lasantha was a phenomenal editor. He
extended the highest courtesy to all
Like a doting father, he also helped us
grow. As much as we were a team, he allowed
us to spread wings and exulted as we found
our own identities.
Lasantha courted controversy and often chose
to stand alone. His brand of journalism,
fiery and path making, brought him both
friend and foe. That's a risk he took with
his characteristic smile.
On the day MBC/MTV stations were attacked,
he appeared on television making strong
statements of condemnation. And he professed
attacks would not cease fast. Perturbed that
some assassin would wish to snuff his life
out for such strong views, I sent a text
message: "You were shown on TV too many
times. Please be safe." The answer was a
grinning Smiley and the words: "You worry
too much. I am fine."
But 48 hours later, I had the misfortune of
seeing a blood soaked Lasantha struggling
for life on a hospital emergency bed. Seeing
that I lost courage, but my heart refused to
accept that Lasantha would give up so soon.
Or that his injuries were so fatal.
With Lasantha, journalism was a way of life.
This editorial was energised by his spirit
as much as by the loving bonds he created.
The Lasantha I knew wrote scathing pieces on
powerful but corrupt and abusive people. But
one thing stood out-for all that impassioned
writing, he never really hurt even a fly.
In this land where angels are shot with
impunity and flowers are crushed by venomous
jackboots who refuse to allow dissent,
Lasantha stood like a beacon of light.
His tragic end is proof that the price one
pays for wielding a pen is to receive a
bullet run through one's head. It may have
silenced him physically, but his mission
cannot be defeated.
Farewell dear friend, our brightest light.
Though we won't see that smile, that quick
gait, there is a corner within all our
hearts which is forever yours.
The Lasantha I knew
I was at The Sunday Leader during 1996-1998.
I had ventured into the field of journalism
to learn of it and was a reporter on
business and economic matters.
I never really had face to face or one to
one dealings with Lasantha, probably because
I was writing on business and economics and
Lasantha was a stalwart in political
matters. The other gap of Editor-Reporter
also existed. Of course he would tell us in
lighter vain anecdotes and incidence that
made us laugh and it has passed us by.
During that short period Lasantha taught me
what it was to be brave. At that time, to me
he seemed almost a fearless person. I am now
convinced he was. Often times when I was
afraid of writing on the negative side of
the economy he would ask me to write anyway.
So, I wrote anyway.
I doubt if he was a person who indulged in
deriving pleasure in de-humanising
defamations of other's characters. To me he
was person who spoke (wrote) on behalf of
those persons who did not have the courage
or the ability to write the injustice, the
criminality of the behaviour of others. He
wrote for justice, to bring about a balance
in the system of power-play. He stood out
I wrote about this spirit of his sometime
ago in a The Sunday Leader Supplement,
although not as elaborately as I have done
now. I am glad that I did then and with
renewed courage I write of it again. The
courage of spirit of Lasantha that rubbed
against me at that time will remain with me
for ever. I am glad that I met him in my
life journey, even though only for a brief
My brother Lasantha
By Lal Wickrematunge
loved him more than most would ever know.
This sentence perhaps would be sufficient if
repeated over and over to fill the space
allotted to me.
Lasantha perhaps was the only journalist who
to the point of foolishness flew close to
the winds in search of creating a perfect
society. Our civil society is hurtling down
at an alarming speed and we don't want to
accept, let alone take corrective action. At
times, he made the rules, on his journey.
Yet, never to physically harm anyone but to
take short cuts to get to his destination
quicker. This time around, he knew he would
be cut down mid stride.....he told me so. He
said, it would be a smiling assassin,
duplicitous and ruthless garbed in white,
silken linen. He was partially wrong. The
wrapping was black though the core was as
Lasantha said.... white silken linen. We all
It was a roller coaster ride with Lasantha
at the Leader. He set new standards and his
own style which got under many a skin. He
believed that once one accepts public office
he/she, was open to criticism in equal
measure to that of self-glorification. He
was right. He paid the price. We all did.
Lasantha would expect us at the Leader to
complete the journey he undertook. We
promise to do so. If not he would have laid
down his life in vain. His˙assassination
would remain unsolved. The perpetrators
would draw a red herring and also defend
themselves. They will fool the people at
large for a while till the bell tolls for
them too. We as a nation have embarked down
a slippery slope of no return. Lasantha laid
down his life to reverse it. He has done his
part. Its now up to you. Yes, all of you.
I loved my brother more than most would
Those who carried out this attack know what
they did. Those who gave the orders and
sanctioned the operation riding on recent
highs, know it too. Lasantha is now beyond
our realm somewhere watching over us.....and
them. They all pay the price....in this
life. History has proven this, even though
it would remain as an unsolved crime.
"Anything if you say"
By Mandana Ismail Abeywickrema
Lasantha meant so much to me. He was my
second father and The Leader was my second
When I first walked into the office in
October 1998, just a month after my A/Ls, I
was unaware of what I was getting myself
into. Walking into Lasantha's office in an
old pair of jeans and a T-shirt, hopeful
that he would not be interested in employing
me, I was in for a shock when he asked me to
start work from the following day.
The doyen of courageous investigative
journalism a brand hitherto experienced in
small measures - he dedicated an entire
newspaper to that.
From then on, it has been a hell of a ride,
filled with excitement, terror and
togetherness. It was Lasantha who made me
into the journalist that I am today. It was
he who pushed me to achieve things that I
thought were impossible.
Whenever hope was lost and I was ready to
give up, his words of encouragement and warm
smile gave me the strength to believe that
anything was achievable.
It was just last Friday (2), when I was
exhausted after typing over 8,000 words for
the Sunday newspaper that he told me with
his trademark smile, "See, if you put your
mind to it, anything is possible." I laughed
and said, "Anything if you say."
As a treat for the hard work, he promised a
chocolate on Monday. On Monday, he said that
he remembered his promise and gave the cash
to a peon to get anything I wanted. As a
result, the whole editorial feasted on
patties and chocolate cake from Fab.
Lasantha ate with us, as always.
On Thursday morning, my worst nightmare came
true. I was on my way back to office from an
assignment, but there was a traffic block on
Attidiya Road. Upon asking the people in the
area, they said there was a shootout.
I ran towards the junction and saw
Lasantha's car, with blood and glass
everywhere. I started screaming, asking the
people where he was. They showed me a van
speeding off, saying he was being taken to
the Kalubowila Hospital.
We soon managed to get to the hospital and
from then on, we gathered around and waited,
hoping beyond hope for some good news.
But 2.30 p.m. January 8, 2009, will always
remain a day I will never forget - the day I
was told that my second father had left us
all, forever. But he will always live in my
An exceptional editor
By Paneetha Ameresekere
Lasantha Wickrematunge was an editor who
worked hard and expected his journalists
also to work in the same vein, which, yours
truly, more often than not, fell far behind.
But it was a learning experience, to put it
mildly, to work for him.
He was always full of ideas, and never
appeared to tire. There were many a times
that he polished my copy, especially the
opening para or kick off and gave catchy and
His knowledge of what was happening in the
business world, though, he was mainly
identified as a political journalist, was
amazing. "It was difficult to keep pace with
him," is putting it very mildly.
His plethora of news contacts extended
beyond politics and into business and
beyond, Wickrematunge was truly an all round
journalist, and I will miss his constructive
criticism and inputs to improve the business
pages of both The Sunday Leader and The
He was a man who worked hard, and, at the
same time expected his journalists to be
productive as him. Wickrematunge gave me
several inputs to try to make the business
pages of the above publications more
relevant and topical.
He helped me to try to keep my copy short
and punchier. Wickrematunge was a natural
journalist, with ink running in his veins.
He was not afraid to advise me to go to the
"edge" in my writings, as long as the matter
Wickrematunge tried to instil a sense of
dynamism to the business pages, whilst at
the same time being amenable and
accommodative to what little inputs I was
able to give.
Despite his seriousness when it came to
work, he never lost his sense of humour and
was full of witticisms and jokes, even when
He was a man who spoke to the point and
truly The Leader Publications was a "one man
show," built by his blood, sweat, toil and
Wickrematunge, though he was a person who
drove his journalists to perform, was also a
very humane person.
The spontaneous outpouring of grief of his
staff, beginning from the minor staff, was,
but a reflection, of how much he meant to
them, and that their affection to him,
extended beyond that of an employer-employee
relationship, to something that which was
more personal, more humane.
He was more than an editor to me
By Amantha Perera
Lasantha was more than a editor to me. He
was the man who gave me the first break in
I walked into The Sunday Leader on that
early January morning of 1998, I did not
know the man. He did not know me, but he
knew my father. Based on that recommendation
I got the job. What Lasantha gave me was not
a favoured position, no special legacies, no
hand out stories, what he gave me was
I can remember when the ceasefire came I
told him I wanted to travel in the conflict
areas, he readily gave the vehicles and the
money. It became big boost to my fledging
career, four years later my travels would
result in him requesting me to write the
weekly defence file.
Me and Lasantha hardly agreed, there were
occasions when arguments would lead in cold
stares for weeks and no words. He always
wanted to rub it in by telling me that in no
other newspaper would I be able to argue
with the editor. I would hit back saying
"Well man I don't work for any other
newspaper, nor do I have the intention."
Of late I had restricted my contributions to
the Leader. In fact I relinquished my duties
as a full-timer last December, and was only
contributing the weekly column. But where
ever I went, whatever I do, he was the man
who moulded me as a writer, as someone who
went out there to the world to tell the
stories of the voiceless.
In death Lasantha's demise has been turned
into a political stunt. His body only
remained at his beloved Leader office half
hour or little more. I fought back tears and
took pictures. As media colleague debated
what to do next his funeral was showing
signs of becoming a political circus. A
politician was making moves to get a coffee
machine fixed where the remains lay.
Lasantha would be made into a political
issue, a political assassination. But he was
much more. Yes, once another colleague said
that he gets a high on politics, but
Lasantha brought in that thrill of the chase
in journalism, that sense the weakest, the
voiceless, had a chance.
May be he outlived that idealistic image,
may be, but to me he would always be the man
who thought me the ropes of how to write a
news story. He is the man who signed at my
wedding and who had the gumption to tell me
to have it on a Saturday night. "Bugger, we
have to put a newspaper together."
He was a second father
By Arthur Wamanan
The maximum that could happen to us is
death. When that happens, we will not know
what's going on around us. That's it. This
is what Lasantha told me about death just
over a year ago. This was how he looked at
death. He is undoubtedly the most courageous
person I had ever met. I never even dreamt
that he would actually go away from us in
such a tragic manner.
He was actually like my second father. I
used to go to him for advice on almost
everything. Be it work or my personal
It was at The Sunday Leader that I learnt
many things the hard way, and Lasantha was
always there for me whenever I wanted. He
guided me safely through the hard times I
faced and helped me overcome each and every
obstacle that came my way.
Four years down the line, I feel that I have
changed, matured and in a position to handle
difficulties, thanks to my beloved editor.
But sadly, he is not with me anymore.
Now, I feel exposed. I feel that the shield,
which was protecting me taken away. But, I'm
sure that Lasantha will always be with each
and every person at the Leader publications
and will continue to guide the paper. May
his soul rest in piece.
By Mirak Raheem
Lots of articles are being and will be
written about Lasantha's contribution to the
media and society in general. So there is
little I could add apart from my personal
impressions. He was my first boss. I joined
The Sunday Leader as a cub reporter soon
after leaving school in 1997 and worked
there for a year before going to university.
Every morning as he raced through the office
to get to his room he would bring with him
an energy that forced all of us to speed up.
He created strong impressions but my
strongest memory is when he called me into
his office to discuss a special assignment.
He had a crazy idea of doing a scoop on
Colombo's first (apparently) strip show for
He already had a title for the article in
his head. He managed to cajole and bully me
into going under cover, along with two
female journalists. When the article did
come out he was thrilled and wanted me to
start covering parliamentary debates which I
refused because I was already working for
four other sections. Of course I regret it
now as it would have been a perfect excuse
to talk politics with Lasantha and to hear
some of his vast collection of anecdotes.
Working for the Leader it was difficult not
to be infected by Lasantha's spirit. He was
a source of encouragement and spurred on all
his staff. Despite all the difficulties the
paper faced, be they financial, political or
violence, Lasantha would energise the office
to keep going and to not be cowed.
The morning after his house came under
grenade attack Lasantha walked in with his
charismatic cheeky grin and defiant. I might
not have agreed with his politics or his
spin of facts but I still admired his
tenacity and the strength of his convictions
and feel richer for having known him.
The last time I came to Kalubowila Hospital,
where Lasantha was taken to, was in August
2006 when Kethesh Loganathan was shot.
Kethesh was my boss at the Centre for Policy
Alternatives before he joined the Government
Peace Secretariat. It is difficult not to
compare the two even though they seemed to
share little in common - their contrasting
personalities and even perhaps in their
With their killing the similarity is thrown
into sharp relief. They were in search of
the truth - different truths perhaps but
both fiercely determined to present to the
public a counter narrative. They pursued the
truth not for its own sake but in protection
of critical values like democracy and
In both cases they were killed in order to
silence them forever. They were killed
because they not only spoke out but also
because they were symbols of dissent who
gave strength to others yearning to
The only fitting way to honour their memory
and so many others, activists, journalists,
and politicians who sought to protect
democracy and human rights is to not submit
to the self censorship and the culture of
Lasantha changed the face of journalism
By Frederica Jansz
I have never believed in or adhered to
lauding and singing the praises of a man or
woman after they are dead. It is a practice
I have abhorred and I will not, even at this
juncture, paralysed as I am with shock at
the brutal assassination of Lasantha go
down that road. If I never told Lasantha
during his lifetime that he was a near
perfect human being and an ace fighter for
media freedom, I am not going to sully his
memory by saying so now.
I will instead put down here what I have
told Lasantha to his face and repeated, to
many who knew and were closely associated
with him, as I was.
Lasantha was one of the most professional
Editors I was fortunate enough to meet and
work with. During my five year tenure at
The Sunday Leader he not only fine-tuned my
journalistic skills but shared my passion
and commitment for investigative
journalism. As I have at all times
acknowledged to him and anyone else who
would listen, I could never have
progressed as I did reaching a peak in my
career if I did not have the full backing
and support of Lasantha as my Editor. He
believed in me; he stood by me
unconditionally and was at all times one of
the most professional men I knew in the
Lasantha not only honed my writing skills,
he also supported my foray in television
journalism encouraging me to help co-host
his once popular 'Good Morning Sri Lanka'
show on MTV.
Lasantha changed the face of journalism in
Sri Lanka. He not only possessed a keen
nose for stories that exposed bribery and
corruption, but also displayed amazing
courage and strength of character, as well
as the ability to publish an 'Expose' with
gusto - on many an occasion, in the face of
Lasantha was consistently subjected to legal
harassment and acts of violence and
intimidation since he co- founded The Sunday
Leader in 1994, together with his brother
Lal. In fact many such acts against him
remained largely invisible to the general
public, while casting a long, insidious
shadow on free expression.
One incident in particular which emphasises
this point is when Lasantha last year was
threatened by President Mahinda Rajapakse in
abusive language on the telephone. On
another occasion the current government
ordered his arrest but did not carry it out.
Lasantha fought against a recurring pattern
in this country in relation to the
exploitation of government advertising and
related services to secure favorable news
coverage and discourage critical reporting.
Lasantha refused to be silenced or bow down
to such strong armed tactics. Including,
behind-the-scenes government interference
with media freedom and editorial
This "soft censorship" and its pervasive
chilling effects had no effect on Lasantha's
style of reporting. An ardent believer in
journalistic freedoms and independence -
Lasantha's sole vice in this area -at a
professional level - in my view-was his
dalliances with politics and politicians.
A view I have freely expressed during his
lifetime and watched his foray's in this
department with dismay.
For, as a colleague and independently
thinking journalist it saddened me to see a
fellow journalist of Lasantha's calibre
sacrifice professional journalism on the
altar of politics.
This, of course, in no way justifies his
As I lay tribute to Lasantha's memory, I
recall this quote by Alan Cohen which to me
is the epitome of Lasantha. "It takes a lot
of courage to release the familiar and
seemingly secure, to embrace the new. But
there is no real security in what is no
longer meaningful. There is more security in
the adventurous and exciting, for in
movement there is life, and in change there
Whispering by Lasantha's deathbed
By Kshanika Argent
Throughout it's history, every outspoken
article published in The Sunday Leader has
come with a price.
I wasn't there when the press was sealed by
the former regime or all those years ago
when Lasantha was first shot at, or when he
was pulled out of his car and beaten by
thugs. It was the price he was willing to
pay for his freedom of speech and ours - and
our right to know.
I was there however on both occasions the
press was attacked. No matter what happened,
Lasantha refused to throw in the towel.
I've been there long enough to see just how
he stood up for the freedom of expression,
the freedom of the press, and that of his
colleagues, whether his own or rival
Everyone I interviewed would greet me with,
"Ah The Sunday Leader! Which dirty
politician is Lasantha exposing this week?'
I watched people move around like ghosts at
Kalubowila Hospital, hearing snippets of
conversation. "He's dead. He's dead. I said
he's dead!' mutters one lady quietly on the
phone to someone who either couldn't hear or
I was standing around like everyone else, in
shock, amongst the Police and STF there
safeguarding the politicians who dropped by.
Many walked passed me muttering "What good
are they (the police) now? He's gone. Too
little too late..."
Back at editorial we burrow into a familiar
hole called getting-the-story-out. It's only
a mater of time until we hit the hardest
fact; we're on our own now. As we work to
put out The Sunday Leader without Lasantha
questions are raised, who writes what, how
many words, how many pages? No one asks the
big question though. How does The Sunday
Leader go on without him? We just do what he
taught us to do, we keep writing.
As I write this, my mind wanders back to the
words a man said to me at the hospital. I
never got his name.
Shaking his head he muttered, "He did so
much no? For freedom, for our freedom." He
looked at an STF guard standing a few feet
away and the words said still ring in my
ears. "Funny how things turn out. After all
he did for us, we're still whispering in
corners." I like to think those cops were
laughing at the irony.
Lasantha is one of a kind who can never be
replaced. He was a great person who stood by
his principles. He was extremely courageous
and was the perfect gentleman. Sri Lanka has
lost one of its greatest sons.
It won't be the same without Lasantha
Dressed in white and wearing his best
smile, Lasantha Manilal Wickrematunge
strode into the world of journalism in
1980. It was his first day at the Sun/Davasa
newspaper located in Gunasena Mawatha,
Hulftsdorp where he began his extraordinary
journalistic career. His British based
education and enthralling personality got
Lasantha the job as Sub Editor on the Sun
Interviewed by internationally acclaimed
Editor (Sun/Weekend) Rex de Silva, Lasantha
Wickrematunge was asked to start work
With a news desk of about 26 reporters,
Lasantha Wickrematunge found himself
assigned the heavy beats - from the police
and court rounds to political news, and
Lasantha strode on. He was a young reporter
but made the headlines with ease, competing
with the veterans of that era.
He made many contacts who respected his
insightful news reporting.
Passed with flying colours
After a period of dedicated service working
through the days and nights at the Sun and
Weekend newspapers - Lasantha Wickrematunge
continued his career at the Island
newspaper where he became News Editor.
In his early 20s, Lasantha entered Law
College, and juggled serious law studies
with equally serious investigative
journalism. It was not a surprise that he
passed with flying colours.
Soon Lasantha Wickrematunge became a
household name. A prolific writer, he wrote
for hours with his left hand. That
unmistakable scrawl was special to him. He
wrote pages and pages, never getting tired
of writing by hand. Time and again he would
pause to hold the back of his neck and turn
his head. His eyes were always red-rimmed;
there was tiredness about him. Life was hard
for him but he was determined to forge
An editor, writer and newsman and as serious
as Lasantha Wickrematunge was, he remarkably
was able to enjoy the lighter side of his
working life. He laughed his way through
life, making happy comments about special
relationships, soft corners and crushes.
King of Kung Fu
He laughed as we blushed, but he never
laughed at us. He was extraordinarily
tolerant of human weaknesses and never bore
a grudge. A teetotaler, he let others enjoy
a drink as he pursued his weakness for
chocolates. He was a king of Kung Fu, and
also a soft-hearted artist at heart.
Lasantha's great strength of character
made him magnanimous and broadminded. He
never queried or questioned us on complaints
or accusations. He bore it all and never
hurt us in any way. Letting us do our work
in our own stride, Lasantha Wickrematunge
was a true journalist who never interfered
with our copy or style.
There was never any pressure when working
for this great Editor. He refused to believe
the worst about people, but saw the best in
us all instead. Lasantha always discussed
events and happenings. He never discussed
There was never any petty questioning or
queries when working with Lasantha, never
any 'letters of explanation' or attempts to
stop any articles that were written by our
experienced journalists. These are truly the
qualities of a good editor and Lasantha
Wickrematunge had them all.
His staff was precious
To him his staff was precious; he protected
us, led us and ensured within his means that
we were all well and happy.
When our Sports Editor the late Gamini
Senadhira was ill, Lasantha kept a close
watch on him. It was Gamini who told me that
Lasantha had taken him to see an ayurvedic
doctor. Gamini lived in Malabe and Lasantha
had personally taken him to the doctor and
requested the doctor to do everything
possible to cure Gamini.
Despite his journalistic load, Lasantha
found time to play the Good Samaritan - a
role which he played frequently, and few of
us knew about. Lasantha Wickrematunge found
more jobs for people than an average
employment agency would have in its first
year. He used his powerful contacts to help
the poor and the helpless.
In times of trouble, Lasantha was always
there. He was generous with his offer of
'lifts,' and offers to order pizza, biryani
Lasantha's greatest weakness was that he
could never say 'no.' Thus every request was
granted, our every wish fulfilled.
Lasantha Wickrematunge was moved beyond
words by human suffering. Human interest
stories were given generous space. In
December 2007 Lasantha Wickrematunge
personally intervened to publish an article
on tsunami children before Christmas, just
so that they will receive food, gifts and
clothes. He was especially sensitive to the
suffering of little children. Thus
underprivileged children suffering from
illnesses and hardship got great prominence
in The Sunday Leader. The plight of refugees
moved him to tears.
He was a loving and caring father to his
own lovely children, looking after their
every need with an exceptionally strong
sense of bonding and commitment. They
brought him great happiness and he always
had their photographs at hand to ease his
heart and mind during the long hard hours.
Lasantha walked with his hand in his pocket.
Readily he would give unbelievably generous
amounts of money to the injured, ailing or
suffering and he did this despite his own
commitments. Lasantha Wickrematunge was
never interested in making money. To him
life was about relationships and not about
material gain, power and position.
Moved him deeply
Death made Lasantha Manilal Wickrematunge a
sad man. He endured the anguish of several
deaths which moved him deeply - Gamini
Athukorale, T. Maheswaran, Gen. Janaka
Perera, Dr. Johnpulle and wife, Sripathi
Sooriyaarachchi, are but a few of them -
each tore into the very being of this good
And a quality that will always live on is
the fact that he never forgot his departed
friends. The moment a death occurred
Lasantha would call immediately: "Write a
tribute. Make it a full page," he would
stress sadly. Thereafter, he remembered
Lasantha Wickrematunge hailed from a
respectable and prominent family in
Kotahena. He had his education at St.
Benedict's College and the love he had for
his school grew stronger with time. Living
in a large mansion-type house since his
childhood, Lasantha enjoyed every comfort in
His mother Chandra and father Harris doted
on their youngest child. Smothered by
parental love and secured by a strong
bonding with his brothers and sisters,
Lasantha was able to look at life as a
clear portrait. It is based on this clarity
that he made his sound and clear judgement
later on in life.
Crusade for justice
Clearly, Editor Lasantha Wickrematunge had
no need to carry on his relentless crusade
for justice. He was comfortable in life. His
ancestral affluence was enough to give him a
life without want. Yet those didn't detract
him from the causes he fought for in the
interests of the common man.
Lasantha's excellence and his guidance got
The Sunday Leader a bonanza of awards each
year. At most times, articles written under
his pen names were always picked out and
lauded. But Lasantha like all great
journalists preferred to remain in the
background and applaud while his journalists
received the awards.
It was Lasantha's quest for justice that saw
the birth of The Sunday Leader in 1994. For
14 years, Lasantha worked, sometimes
single-handedly to mould The Sunday Leader
into the celebrity newspaper status it
His excellence made him an enigma on News
First and his Good Morning Sri Lanka made
him an intellectual celebrity on television.
He had a great regard for MTV/MBC and worked
closely to produce masterpieces.
A full time job
Lasantha's bravery also got him the
prestigious Transparency International
Award, a credit which he once again wanted
to share with us.
Writing investigative reports, and his
political column 'Suranimala,' Lasantha
worked well into the wee hours of the
morning at most times without meals. His
life was not easy, his task was even
harder. To Lasantha Wickrematunge, fighting
corruption was a full time job.
'Take care Lasantha," I have told him many
times. One day he told me "Don't worry
Ranee, you die only once. I am not afraid to
die. Anyway, I have you to write an article
about me when I die."
It was a day I dreaded. It was a day I
wished would never come. But on Thursday,
January 8, just when I expected him to tap
on the glass of our Computer Room and give
me the happy wave that he always did, came
the news that Lasantha had been shot.
The Sunday Leader was Lasantha's very heart
and soul and he put his hard work and sweat
to keep it alive.
And it was last Thursday, January 8, dressed
in white that he sealed his commitment with
blood, tears and his last breaths.
Lasantha, it was you who kept us inspired.
It was for you we worked with a deep sense
of commitment. But they took you away and
you had to go, reluctantly we know. It was
so sudden - even without a goodbye. Lasantha,
a thousand editions may pass, but your image
will remain etched in gold in my heart and
Goodbye dear Editor - till we meet again,
"Beginning of the sound of silence" - Rex de
Rex de Silva, former Managing Editor and
Editor-in-Chief of the Sun and Weekend
newspaper and presently Managing Editor of
the Borneo Bulletin who partially resides in
USA, speaking to The Sunday Leader from New
Jersey said that the slaying of Lasantha
Wickrematunge is the beginning of the sound
of silence for the press.
"I recruited him and showed him the first
steps of investigative journalism. I feel so
sad," said De Silva.
"Lasantha Wickrematunge was a very good
journalist. He was going to expose wrong
doings, corruption and abuse of power. He
did a good job for the country. He also
trained other people to take on his good
work and I hope his colleagues will continue
the good work," said award winning veteran
Editor, Rex de Silva.
After the victory comes the celebration
By Qadri Ismail
Clearly, this government has decided to
celebrate what it deems a victory over the
LTTE by piling murder upon murder. By
turning its guns on those it deems its other
Last year, J. S. Tissainayagam was merely
imprisoned for expressing his opinion. Keith
Noyahr and Namal Perera were brutally
assaulted. This year, just a few days after
capturing Killinochchi, Lasantha
Wickrematunge is killed for the same crime.
What makes it truly terrifying to be in Sri
Lanka today is the conviction that there
will be others. Many others. Journalists,
lawyers, rights activists of all kinds. For,
in Sri Lanka today, the Sri Lanka run by the
Rajapakses, dissent, the pivotal constituent
of a free society, has been made a crime.
Clearly, this government intends to
intimidate, terrorise and, where that fails,
eliminate all forms of dissent by murder.
The only question one could ask is: how does
one stop it? But that question can wait.
Honour a life
For, while one mourns a death, while one
protests a murder, while one vows to resist,
one must also honour a life.
From his early days as a journalist,
Lasantha would work his butt off in pursuit
of a good news story. As a young reporter at
The Island I was, quite frankly, jealous of
his success; but then I figured it out - and
decided to learn from him. It seemed people
couldn't resist talking to him for some
magical reason, but that wasn't quite the
Like every good journalist, Lasantha worked
without regard to the clock. (And unlike
them, stayed sober while he did so!) Always
a charmer, he nevertheless cultivated his
sources carefully, diligently, patiently. If
people talked to him, it was because of his
tireless effort. He ignored no source.
Consequently, when he investigated a
scandal, it wasn't surprising that he
uncovered its every detail, however trivial.
That was the strength of his work: he
convinced you not just by making extravagant
accusations against the powerful, but by the
weight of the detail of his reporting. At
his best, Lasantha convinced you that there
couldn't be another side to the story.
What moved him, however, was not the scent
of a good story, but the possibility of a
sensational headline. Lasantha believed, of
course, that the freedom of expression must
never be diluted. More importantly, though,
he was compelled by a strong sense of
A sense of responsibility
The more powerful he felt, especially in
government, he had a sense of
responsibility. They were elected, or
appointed, to do a job of work - not inflate
their bank balances. And certainly not to
treat the law as nonexistent. If they did,
they had to be called to account.
This takes courage in any political system.
It takes unflagging conviction in one like
ours. For, if one did not believe
passionately in what one did, one would
always be tempted to compromise. But that
word didn't make Lasantha's lexicon. If you
have conviction you will have courage, or
find it, and Lasantha never lost it.
Most importantly, of course, in the cause of
peace. He never advocated war as a solution
to the national question. And I urge - nay,
I beg - those appalled by his murder, but
otherwise supportive of this government to
reflect, today, upon the relation between
both kinds of violence.
Lasantha advocated peace as a matter of
justice. He heard the voice of the underdog.
He stood for the kind of free and equal
country we want Sri Lanka to be, not the
corrupt, intolerant, dictatorial one it is.
Just a few weeks ago, this newspaper carried
a stirring editorial in support of gay
rights. And it surely couldn't have escaped
the attention of Sri Lankan feminists that
The Sunday Leader, of all our English
language newspapers, was the least likely,
pictorially, to objectify women, to display
them meagerly clothed.
Yes, The Sunday Leader was sometimes
irritatingly one-sided. But that side was
never that of the powerful.
And our powerful might well be reminded,
today, of Ranasinghe Premadasa. Unburdened
by a war in the north, his once popular
government terrorised the south. It killed
hundreds of Sinhalese, including my good
friend the journalist Richard de Zoysa.
At Premadasa's death, the people celebrated
Free media's darkest day
By Nirmala Kannangara and Arthur Wamanan
Subsequent to the brutal killing of the
Editor-in-Chief of The Sunday Leader, civil
society, human rights activists and
politicians among others expressed their
shock and dismay over the foul murder and
urged the government to hold an impartial
inquiry to bring the assailants to book
An unidentified gang of eight assailants on
four motorcycles shot Lasantha Wickrematunge
on his chest and head on Thursday, January 8
in a high security zone in Attidiya, in
close proximity to the Ratmalana Airport and
the Air force Base.
A little over 48 hours after the MTV/MBC
network was completely damaged by a well
organised gang of about 20 people, Lasantha
Wickrematunge who was on his way to office
was shot in broad day light amidst many
onlookers. Three hours later he succumbed to
his injuries while undergoing surgery at the
Colombo South Teaching Hospital.
"By the time he was brought in he was in a
stable condition and the medical team did
their utmost to save the life of
Wickrematunge but failed in their attempt,"
Director, Colombo South Teaching Hospital
Dr. Anil Jasinghe told the media.
Meanwhile Media Minister Anura Priyadarshana
Yapa at the cabinet press briefing later
that day told journalists that the
government was shocked to hear of the
assassination of The Sunday Leader Editor
and said that the President had ordered a
full inquiry into the killing with a view to
bringing the killers to book at the
"It was the President who ordered to send
the best medical team to the Kalubowila
Hospital where Wickrematunge was getting
emergency treatment," the Minister said.
However opposition parliamentarians and
heads of media institutions were critical of
the government and said that the government
incited hatred against Wickrematunge and cut
short the life of the most talented and
courageous journalist in the country.
"It was the work of the Rajapakse brothers
and the government should take the sole
responsibility for the assassination and
bring the killers to book immediately," the
Following are views of a cross section of
people on the assassination of Lasantha
Death knell of democracy
- Ven. Maduluwawe Sobitha Thero
The Chief Incumbent, Naga Viharaya Kotte,
Ven. Maduluwawe Sobitha Thero told The
Sunday Leader that the assassination of
veteran journalist and Editor of The Sunday
Leader Lasantha Wickrematunge was the death
knell of the country's democracy and added
that Sri Lanka has now become a state of
murderers and was no longer a dharmadvipa.
"Although we have seen the continuous
attacks on journalists over the past few
years the brutal assassination of Lasantha
Wickrematunge in broad day light is the
severest blow the country has ever
witnessed," Ven. Thero said.
According to Ven. Sobitha Thero those who
were behind this cowardly act have not
gunned down Wickrematunge but the country's
"The late Editor's work will be continued
but the country's democracy is in great
peril. People should have the liberty to
express their views and talk without any
restrictions. It is sad to note that those
who promised to safeguard media freedom are
now assassinating the unbending media
personalities in the country. If this
continues it will be a threat to the
country," Ven. Thero claimed.