Murder most foul
The Sunday Leader Editor Lasantha Wickrematunge was
gunned down by goons on that fateful day, it certainly
was a dark day for media freedom in this country. It
was an unforgivable crime for the editor's life had been
snuffed out in the prime of his life.
pungent comments, well directed pot shots, critiqu‚s of
top rung persons in the paper he edited, rang bells in
the heart and soul of the body politic in the country.
Fearless and forthright, The Sunday Leader though young
like its editor was a Gulliver among other
Lilliputians. It eclipsed others in its expos‚s and
criticism while in the process of disseminating news and
views - a weekly that brooked no nonsense.
reader of both The Sunday Leader and The Morning Leader,
I enjoyed not only the news but also relished the
editorials. The hard hitting editorials proved a thorn
in the flesh of the powers-that-be and left a bad taste
in the establishment past and present, so much so, The
Leader newspapers became a force to be reckoned with.
regular contributor, I have had an intense delight in
seeing my contributions published in both the papers,
showing that the editor was prepared to accommodate
dissenting opinion. The papers devoted a full page to
carry the point of view of a cross section of readers.
independent reader I can vouch for the fact that the
papers did a thankless job of calling a spade a spade.
The papers rarely sang hosannas and offered bouquets to
the high and mighty. Instead they were spiced with
biting criticism and brick bats aimed at those leading
'Jekyll and Hyde' lives, laced with humour and sarcasm.
Sunday Leader, true to its name was a 'Leader' when it
appeared in the newsstands on Sunday mornings with its
juicy stories, gossip columns and its unmatched
political column which revealed it all to the reading
public. No doubt it would have offended the high and
mighty on lofty pedestals.
Sunday Leader editorials thundered every week to the
chagrin of those that mattered. The sting in them
proved deadly and venomous. It stung them with force to
instil a sense of sanity in power crazy people. These
weekly write-ups became a bitter pill for the top guns
in the saddle. The paper was no respecter of persons
either and said what it had to say, come what may,
sometimes even getting entangled in defamation cases!
to form the editor took on the high and the mighty for
misdemeanours committed by them, criticised persons who
played ducks and drakes with anything and everything,
delved deep into transactions of tenders and other shady
deals, exposed commis kakkas, highlighted rampant
corruption, malpractices and financial mismanagement,
spoke about the fraudulent activities of the captains of
commerce and industry, and criticised the lords of the
drug mafia and underworld kingpins with commendable
Sunday Leader stood tall in exposing unsavoury episodes.
Naturally therefore he earned the wrath of a host of
enemies in the process. In fact, latterly, the editor
had an adversarial relationship with the top hierarchy
of the government. Various influential individuals at
various times shamelessly used their hirelings to
silence Lasantha and the newspaper.
chronology of such attacks on Lasantha and The Leader go
like this. In 1995 he was physically attacked by armed
goons. On June 17, 1997 his house was sprayed with
bullets. On May 22, 2000, The Sunday Leader press was
sealed. On October 16, 2005 an arson attack on Leader
Publications press. On December 28, 2006, there was an
alleged move to arrest him by the CID. On November 21,
2007, the printing press of Leader Publications was
Despite these onslaughts, the paper was never cowed and
neither did it waver. Instead it emerged strongly to
take to task the adversaries, thanks to the bold,
courageous and strong willed Lasantha Wickrematunge. He
wielded his pen to good effect on those who tried to
stifle him. However on January 8 this year the doughty
Lasantha was laid low with an assassin's weapon that
extinguished the luminous star for good.
may not have agreed with all what he said. Yet no one
could have questioned his right to say them. His brutal
killing can never be justified. Voltaire aptly remarked
300 years ago, "I do not like what you say, but I will
defend to death your right to say it."
is, the government stands on the dock. Even the
Opposition Leader has accused the government. The so
called investigations have to be completed and the
culprits have to be brought to book.
Hitherto, the miscreants who killed politicians and
media personnel have gone Scot free. People do not have
confidence in the government's probe. The many murders
committed before prove this; especially the murder of
the 17 NGO personnel in the east. The government's
opposition to a probe by international investigators
proves this point.
However, the President as the head of state owes it to
the people to hold a proper investigation into this
killing and bring the offenders to book instead of
looking for excuses.
M. Azhar Dawood
Retribution will surely come
Lasantha, perhaps you would not know how angry people
were, when they heard about your murder. They showed
their support, love and anguish at your funeral. There
were many more millions like us who just could not
attend your funeral to show our solidarity, due to many
reasons. Be assured that you have not died in vain.
Your killing has been nailed on to the hearts of those
who killed you and everyone who masterminded it.
guilty conscience, like a rusted nail within them will
cause them terrible suffering. We eagerly await to see
the punishment they will suffer. They will also suffer
for the killings, abductions and torturing of many other
journalists and ordinary, innocent citizens, the latest
victim being Rivira Editor Upali Tennekon.
joy, smiles and power they wield will be short-lived.
They will live with guilt and shame throughout their
lives and Sri Lanka will continue to bleed until they
receive the punishment they deserve.
will face gruesome agony much more than what you
underwent on that fateful day. That will not take
long. They will not experience immediate death, but it
will be slow in coming with painful, gruesome and
unbearable agony for days, months and years before they
finally succumb to their fate.
around them will not be able to bear to see the agonies
they undergo. Retribution is sure to overtake them.
According to the dhamma 'people such as these who attack
and kill innocents have no future. They will be
destroyed. The scriptures say: "you will observe with
your eyes and see the punishment of the wicked."
are one or two persons in your own profession who say
things against you. These they could not say when you
were alive. Cowards they are! It is terrible to be so
vindictive when you are not there to defend yourself.
These people doubt "the letter from the grave" that
appeared as the editorial in The Sunday Leader of
January 11 (three days after your death).
assured that everybody on this earth other than these
villains know and believe that it was yours, and that
every word in it was plainly yours. It was also
reported that this editorial was read out in the US
Congress and in the Australian Parliament.
Lasantha and all those who have been killed and maimed,
you can be sure that all these masterminds, killers,
abductors and liars will soon realise their folly when
the tide turns against them. We have seen it happening
around the world and we will see it happening here too.
Watch from above and you will see it happening here.
Setting up a Private Medical College
Readers would remember that about 20 to 25 years ago,
under the then UNP Government, a few individuals got
together and started a Private Medical College in Ragama.
This led to hordes of protests and eventually this
became one of the State Medical Colleges called the
Medical College of the University of Kelaniya.
Professor Carlo Fonseka stated that Professor Nandadasa
Kodagoda, Professor Colvin Gunaratne and he were
vehemently opposed to the establishment of a private
medical school at that time. He has said that now he
was not against the establishment of a private medical
school and has given his reasons for his stand. I am
sure Professor Kodagoda too, had he lived, would have
expressed his views courageously.
or two ago an advertisement appeared in a newspaper
about the establishment of a private medical college in
collaboration with a Russian university. This new
venture is to be started by Dr. Neville Fernando, a
gentleman known for his business acumen.
parent I would like it, if Professor Gunaratne and the
Medical Students' Unions express their views publicly on
this matter. No doubt the views of the Minister of
Higher Education Dr. Visva Warnapala and his government
would be immensely useful to parents who wish to admit
their children to this private medical college.
wish to admit my only child to this private medical
college, but do not wish to sacrifice the little money I
have, if there is going to be a hue and cry about the
establishment of this private medical college.
The notion of equality in Islam
in-depth study discusses the origin of evil and the
evolution of how humanity perceived it through time.
account of creation in the Quran clearly teaches that
people who exalt themselves above others, supposing
themselves to be better, are embodiments of Satan; they
bring about the wrath of God upon themselves. They lose
the blessings of God and with it the opportunity to
participate in the honours bestowed by God.
feeling that "I am better" does not allow people to give
recognition to another. In the vision of God, the one
who falls prey to jealousy and arrogance on such
occasion follows the path of Satan. The one who crushes
such negative feelings produced by Satan finds the
straight path, which leads to Heaven.
Muslims believe that all human beings were created equal
in the sight of God. None are born with the slur of
shame on their faces, nor has anyone come into the world
with a mantle of honour hanging around his or her neck.
one who is high and honoured is the one who is God
fearing and serves the people with good words and deeds.
Distinctions of birth and glory of race are no criteria
of greatness and honour. No consideration is given to
one's pedigree or parentage.
Muslims consider Jesus and Moses as two of the mighty
Messengers of God and revere them as much as Abraham and
Muhammad (peace be upon them all). Islam does not make
any discrimination in the fundamental rights on any
basis: race, sex, blood, nationality, wealth, or
apparent differences between various religions are due
to national characteristics and the varying stages of
intellectual growth of the people concerned, as well as
to the accretions, misrepresentations, and distortions
wrought by clerics.
human is free in the view of God and plan of nature.
racial equality does not and cannot mean that everybody
is physically or intellectually or spiritually equal or
can be made so.
does mean equal opportunities for all and no political,
economic, or social barrier should stand in the way of
any individual or group.
Therefore, natural justice demands that, not only equal
opportunities but also special provision for
educational, economic, and cultural growth must be given
to backward groups so as to enable them to catch up with
those who are ahead of them.
form a universal brotherhood. They spring from one
common origin. Their individual lives, their nations and
races, interbreed and blend, and go on to merge again in
one common human destiny upon this planet.
Islamic message of equality and social justice is
propounded in order to show humans thirsting for light
and freedom in a dark and narrow world, the way to break
their shackles and avail themselves of the priceless
bounties of nature that were scattered over God's wide
V. A. Mohamad Ashroff
start off this appreciation of my Loku Thaththa Neville
Siriwardene with much guilt as it has taken me exactly a
year to write a few words celebrating his life. He
passed away on February 28, 2008 following a brief
the eldest in a family of many brothers and sisters -
Olive, Enid, Earl and Vernon (my father). They were the
offspring of a distinguished couple in that era in
Wackwella, Galle - G. R. Siriwardene and Florence Agnes
Siriwardene. G. R. Siriwardene was a well known
personality. He was a teacher at Richmond College, Galle
and later Kingswood College Kandy.
According to my father, Loku Thaththa was educated at
Kingswood College, Kandy. He was a much loved science
teacher at St. Aloysius' College, Galle and later
Piyatissa Maha Vidyalaya, Galle. He enjoyed teaching at
the latter, specially teaching and doing a service to
the less affluent. He was a former librarian of the
Galle Fort Library.
remember most about him was his own library of books and
records in his house in Kaluwella.
were days in my childhood, when I was sick and was made
to rest in their house, Loku Thaththa and Loku Amma (the
late Clara Abeysekara Siriwardene - also a very kind
hearted lady who made a loving wife to Loku Thaththa)
took good care of me. I still remember those Hindi
records he used to play on his gramophone. He was a
great painter. Loku Thaththa lead a carefree life and he
was a familiar sight on his ladies' bike.
always with a smile and even the most serious topics he
used to talk about with a touch of humour. His love for
music persisted until the last days of his life.
told that his fingers were tapping to some rhythm he
must have heard subconsciously, in his last stages,
lying in the hospital bed.
took his violin with him where ever he went. He spent
Christmas 2003 in Galle, and we brought him to our place
parents and I really enjoyed ourselves as he played our
favourite carols and other Sinhala and Hindi tunes and
we had a sing-song. My mind goes back on how he stood up
from the chair, positioned the violin in style between
his chin and neck and played on. He too enjoyed himself
so much and we begged him to spend the night at our
those who were close to him might know, he preferred his
own way of sleeping, with the familiar surroundings,
with his self invented devices close at hand - so he
still remember the last time I met him. He was overjoyed
when I took a photograph of him with my son as I wanted
it to be kept as keepsake, for Raneesh had only one Loku
Seeya from his maternal grandfather's side. I regret not
seeing him afterwards as I never expected him to go so
soon. I admired his youthfulness even at the age of 89.
February 21, 2008, Anoma Akka (his daughter) called my
mother in the morning to say that he had got a stroke
and was unconscious.
grief stricken at the thought of him lying motionless in
a bed because in one instance long ago when I visited
him in hospital, he was lively and ready to crack a
joke. Scenes of him in my mind as a patient were rare.
Thaththa was the one who taught me my first letters -
the akuru - and my parents later told how I had said the
whole alphabet when he simply started with 'A' and how
amused he had been. Later when I was pursuing my studies
I was always reminded that it was Loku Thaththa who had
given me the first push. Thank you Loku Thaththa I am
ever grateful to you for that.
father was very fond of his Aiya and we all have a
passion for music especially those old Hindi numbers,
which I feel must have been inherited from Loku Thaththa.
every way he was a knowledgeable person and when I think
of him, I think of Goldsmith's lines
still they gazed, and still the wonder grew,
one small head could carry all he knew."
your soul rest in peace.
Nisha Siriwardene Peiris