The Sunday Leader

Lasantha, The President And Sarath Fonseka

Frederica Jansz

President Mahinda Rajapaksa has on numerous occasions with editors at closed door meetings said, “Everybody knows who killed Lasantha – yet, those very people who suffered as a result of his (Fonseka’s actions) later went and backed him.”

Lasantha Wickrematunge, Namal Perera, Upali Tennakoon, Keith Noyahr, Mahinda Rajapaksa and Sarath Fonseka

He added for good measure, “the two at the Nation and Lal.” Referring to the incident in which The Nation’s defence correspondent Keith Noyahr was abducted and brutally attacked, Rajapaksa’s comments referred to former CEO of The Nation newspaper Krishantha Prasad Cooray and its former Editor-in-Chief Lalith Alahakoon.
Cooray, despite having publicly accused Sarath Fonseka of ordering the assault on Keith Noyahr nevertheless at the last presidential election was an active member of Fonseka’s media contingent. The President’s reference also included Chairman of this newspaper Lal Wickrematunge and the latter’s decision to also support Sarath Fonseka at the last presidential election.  This despite the fact, according to the President, that it was Sarath Fonseka who murdered Wickrematunge’s brother and Founder Editor of this newspaper, Lasantha Wickrematunge.
A serious investigation into the attacks on journalists began only after General Fonseka contested the presidential election as the common opposition candidate. In the immediate aftermath of Wickrematunge’s murder, opposition leaders accused General Fonseka of responsibility.  The government initially simply stymied any investigation into the killing while the police remained impotent.
Following the presidential election in January 2010, I was told that investigators were inquiring into the possible involvement of General Fonseka into the murder of Lasantha after a very senior official at the Defence Ministry revealed that the former Army Commander told him, “I did not intend to kill Lasantha – I only wanted him hurt – but they killed him”. This is according to senior police officers conducting the investigation.
If the government is convinced that it was Sarath Fonseka who was behind the murder of Lasantha, why is it that he has not been charged with murder? Why has the government waited for so long to name him? It is also reported that the President had said that Sarath Fonseka was behind Lasantha’s killing to a senior editor of a Sinhala weekly, over a year ago. He had said that he was the army commander who was prosecuting the war and so nothing could be done. This places the government in a pretty tight corner.
Is justice based on time or circumstances depending on who sits favourably with the powers? Do the investigating arms of the nation respond positively only when the politician gives the nod as and when it is politically opportune?  Lasantha was murdered on January 8, 2009. Sarath Fonseka was taken into custody on February 8, last year on a vague charge of planning a military coup and later tried before a military court marshal for indulging in politics whilst being in the army and sentenced. The cries for the release of Sarath Fonseka being a political prisoner would not have been even a whimper, if he was charged with the more serious offences of the murder of Lasantha, and assaults on senior journalists.
This then is the question President Mahinda Rajapaksa must grapple with and answer before he pontificates and accuses his former army chief of carrying out a murder most foul.
On Thursday last week, May 12, a former army intelligence officer told the Mount Lavinia Magistrate Court that he was told by the Officer in Charge (OIC) of the Terrorist Investigations Department (TID) to claim that a top army official was involved in the killing of former Sunday Leader Editor Lasantha Wickrematunge.
The intelligence officer, Kandegedera Priyawansa, who is now in remand told open court that he was told to say that a top army official, whose name he did not mention in court, was involved in the killing of Wickrematunge, as well as in the assault of two senior journalists, in return for a chance to go overseas and security for his house in Sri Lanka.  Why Priyawansa chose not take the offer is not clear since he was not asked the question before being hurriedly led away. Will this revelation be investigated thoroughly or not, would be watched carefully.
Police have also arrested and remanded one Jesudason from Nuwara Eliya who apparently owns a garage.
All of the five telephones which according to sleuths were used in the attack on Lasantha were registered in the name of Jesudason. When quizzed by detectives Jesudason claimed he lost his Identity Card – which would have been required to purchase the SIM cards for the five mobile phones. Jesudason however never made a formal complaint to the police regarding the loss of his ID. He has however confessed to sharing a drink now and then with a soldier who he says identified himself as being a member of the Sinha Regiment of the Army. This soldier, Kandegedera Priyawansa at the time of his arrest was a member of the army’s Military Intelligence Directorate headed at the time by Major General Amal Karunasekera.
Last year, both Lal Wickrematunge and I met with SSP Chandra Wakishta, Director of the TID, when 17 army officers had been taken in and remanded for the killing of Lasantha Wickrematunge.  Seventeen army soldiers attached to the Army Military Intelligence Unit and also identified as having worked ‘closely’ with former Army Commander Sarath Fonseka were remanded and held by the TID/CID.
At this meeting Wakishta was confident they had narrowed the suspects down to six soldiers who he told us had carried out the chilling murder on Wickrematunge.
Showing us pictures of the 17 army men, he asked us if we could identify any.  He did this on the hunch that one or more of the killers may have been present at a candle lit ceremony held at Lasantha’s graveside one month after the killing on February 8, 2009.  But none of the 17 images were even vaguely familiar to either Lal or me. They have all since been released.
At this discussion, Lal told Wakishta of a strange meeting that took place in his office at Ratmalana. “It was mid February 2009 and barely over a month since Lasantha was killed, a small-made, dishevelled man turned up in office and said he wished to speak with  me. He went on to relate an amazing story explaining how Lasantha was killed and who was behind it.”
“Mr. X as I would call him had been released from Welikada Prison on an amnesty granted to prisoners on Independence Day in 2009. He was sentenced for embezzlement of state funds. Whilst in prison he was sharing a cell with a few others. Amongst those incarcerated with him were convicted murderers. He heard an inmate convicted for murder talking to another about a contract undertaken by him to kill someone and that the job was done on that day and had bragged as to how the operation was conducted. He said that this murderer had organised a ‘hit’ on someone called Lasantha and a sharp instrument was used to carry out the task. At that point he did not know who this ‘Lasantha’ was, but learnt later when he was watching Sirasa news on TV that night.  He said that he had met Lasantha together with Frederica once when he had a problem with higher authorities at the Buddha Sasana Ministry when he gave an interview to The Leader.”
Lal went on to recount that this man had said a politician had given the contract to underworld figures in the prison to carry out the murder of Lasantha.
A similar sentiment echoed by Sarath Fonseka when in an initial telephone interview I asked him who had killed Lasantha he replied, “kudu karayas working for a politician cum drug lord.” Pressed to identify the politician he said it was a politician from Kelaniya.
He once more articulated similar words when Lal and I met with Fonseka at his former Reid Avenue office on December 8, 2009, and Lal asked him the same question.
Lal brought Mr. ‘X’ to my office too since he had said he had met me together with Lasantha but I could not recall such a meeting nor having ever seen the man before.  I cautioned Lal against having any further dialogue or contact with the man, advising him to hand the man over to police officers investigating Lasantha’s murder. Which Lal did do, informing a police officer handling the murder investigation, but the man disappeared as a result.
Even as Wickrematunge related this story to Wakishta, the top cop was dismissive, displaying no enthusiasm to consider that this could be another possible lead, instead indicating that this was merely a red herring.  Wickrematunge even handed over to Wakishta a letter written by this man to him together with a stamped envelope and gave him a mobile telephone number from which the man had subsequently made more than one telephone call to Lal.
Wakishta went through the motions and a statement was duly recorded from Lal.  And there the matter ended.   He now no longer takes our calls.
At The Sunday Leader, both myself and other senior staff including Lasantha’s wife and co-editor at the newspaper Sonali Samarasinghe were more than convinced that similarly as in the case of Keith Noyahr of The Nation newspaper, Namal Perera from the Sri Lanka Press Institute and Upali Tennakoon, former Editor of the Rivira Newspaper (all three senior journalists were attacked by goons believed to be soldiers working closely with Sarath Fonseka) Lasantha too, had been murdered by this same hit squad. Which is why when asked by the management to lend editorial support to Sarath Fonseka and his political campaign senior staff and editors loudly and vehemently protested finally falling in line only because we were compelled to accept that the government too had pushed us against the wall by bringing one debilitating court case after another in an attempt to cripple the The Sunday Leader, despite the newspaper having paid the ultimate price of Lasantha’s murder.
The issue is this — if President Mahinda Rajapaksa himself is so certain that it was indeed Sarath Fonseka that murdered Lasantha Wickrematunge as well as ordered the attacks on journalists Keith Noyahr, Upali Tennakoon and Namal Perera, why does he then not use his executive powers and literally kick butt to ensure investigators do their job.  Over to you Mr. President.

28 Comments for “Lasantha, The President And Sarath Fonseka”

  1. Roshan

    The whole world knows that MR and his family and his kelaniya politico have blood on their hands. The truth will eventually come out. MR can’t lie and deceive anyone for too long. Time is closing in on him and is just a matter of time before he is exposed in right royal style.

    • Yehiya-Doha

      All the things weighted to fonseka. Then who is behind Sirasa media. all lies.

  2. Pervin

    Thy are trying to make General Sarath Fonseka the scape goat and are trying to take away his life like the way they did to Lasantha. This so called powers that be are deadly & uncivilized who were not even voted by the people of this country but came in like the way they usually do….. dishonestly.

  3. It is useless you ask this question finally to the president because the president himself is a murderer. He ordered the murder of former peliyathe Piradesa Saba Chief Mr. A.M.K. Gunaratna by using Chandi Malli and then killing Chandi Malli by using Underworld Gang leder Vambotta and then killing Vambotta by using an armed group who were very loyal to Mervin and to the President. And Now with his brothers Gotta and Basil and some others who hold their tail , the president has staged a very high level amount of murders which was the war without witnesses but modern world’s technology is exempted.

    • The story in the above comment is cofirmed in a website, as related by
      the IGP Mahinda Balasuria recently after he was berated by MR.

  4. ila

    Gadhafi might knows who is behind murdering Lasantha since Gadhafi has close relationship with the government. Most suspect who was behind war crimes is responsible for Lasantha’s murder. No good human ever try to kill Lasantha who lived to write.

  5. Lal.Fernando

    This is a great investigative article. Perpitrators should be brought to justice.I can smell the rat here. High ranking army officers and prominent parlimentarians are involved in murdering Lasantha. How sad and what terrible act this is. I hope perpitrators of this crime would be brought to justice (if there is a fair justice system in Sri Lanka) and given the punishment they deserve.So that Mr. Lasantha can rest in peace.

  6. Bruz

    Nice try, but do you really expect any action from any one ? I doubt. But thanks for the info.Mankind still beleive in god & let him take care of it.What else we can do ?
    All the deaths & destructions will never be justified & the dead will never come back again. Just can’t beleive this happening in Sri lanka, where the majority call themselves “Budhdhists”. They should put their heads down in shame.

  7. tony silva

    May those cowards who masterminded and carried out the murder of Lasantha, rot in hell. Obviously they do not come from decent families nor are they good buddhists.

  8. Punchi Singho

    Killing of Lasantha was a act no one will aprove. If Sarath Fonseka was the man who gave instruction to kill Lasnath, as the C-in-C Mahinda Rajapaksa should have consulted before this act , as lasantha was Mahinda’s friend. On the other hand if SF killed or ordered soldiers to kill Lasnath, as Mahinda is the one who lead the Army to anihilate the LTTE, he should have given that order. Recent Government spoke person told all the news papers that the war was lead by Mahinda and Gota, and SF worked under them.

    UNder the normal law any one working under the President obeyed any instructions given to him as the C-in-C the C-in-C also guilty of the same crime aliong with others. Lasntha was killed two or three weks after Charles Alahakoon dies of an heart attcak. Ranil was in Singapore with Lasantha to meet Charles and KP. Did Ranil used the LTTE connection to kill Lasnath to hide his connection to LTTE?

    As the article sugest. if SF was responsible for this murder, Mahinda and Gotabaya should not have charged him on frudelent and fabricated charges of speaking to poliiticians and not divulging a relation who never tendered for to supply Arms, without cahrging SF on this murder charge. If SF is charge for murder and the Police can bring credible witnessess none in the SF support group will support him. But as President is releasing all murderes and other he should have requested the AG to release SF alos from Prison after few months in the prison. If that happened SF should not have contested the lection and MR should have walked to the Presidency without any hinderence.

  9. Tamil circle

    You may same anything which may be true, but the king in court can’t make a mistake. Further war has been won, remember end justify the means. The UN has much confidence in our president that is why they want to investigate war crimes. Now we are sharing our experience with other nations how to win terrorism.

  10. Who gave orders to Drug addicts to kill Lasantha?


  11. Mark

    Why go thru the extraordinary charade of military tribunals when murder charges coudl be filed? Sounds quite strange. Even a dimwit will wonder is it because there is no case? The real culprit is hiding in plain site enjoying patronage?

  12. Moda Yaka

    if the government is convinced that it was Sarath Fonseka who was behind the murder of Lasantha, why is it that he has not been charged with murder?

    before you arrest someone you need a certain level of proof. especially for such a high profile case.

    My God!

    If you are going to accuse some one ‘ a politician from kelaniya ‘ why not just name the person?

  13. Sri

    Herein lies the tale of a badly failed state which belives in fairy tales!

  14. Brian

    Yes Mr President, we expect a response why dont you give the Leader an interview to answer these questions?

  15. Chandi

    If it was SF who did, who gave him the orders to kill Lasantha? That’s why Mahinda has taken it lightly as, if questioned their names whould be at the top of the list. But as SF says it is the work of a top minister’s golayas who did it, that’s the very reason this clow is kept in the cabinet no matter what he does/act or his acts of clownism! They are totally under obligation as otherwise the open mouth idiot will wash all the dirty linen in public. It’s a sin to accuse innocent military intelligence officers.

  16. Concerned Citizen

    Truth will come out one day. If not, we will see to our own eyes punishment meted out by the almighty.

  17. Bruz

    Please, who ever who can do something to at least stop this kind of murders happening anymore. Life is so precious and cannot be brought back. So many
    intelectuals’ lives are taken away by these rascals and the govt is doing just nothing.
    So many lives lost in the war for nothing. But govt & everyone is in the denial.
    Accept the reality,the fact, the mistakes, stop denying or sweeping under the carpet.
    The carpet is already full of hidden crimes & murders.Its too much to take it anymore. The noose is around the corner.At least stop killing & harassing now.

  18. Amrit

    brothers are instrumental of killing Lasantha. It is a well known fact. That’s why the case is kept closed and they are trying to find scapegoats.time is closing in on them. Sri Lanka will be free of this terrible curse soon.

  19. Malik

    Had SF killed LW, then SF would have been by now charged for murder of first grade and would be spending a jail term for that (MR & GR would have definitely made sure of that) and not for other reasons as in the present case. Therefore, it is logical to assume that since SF is not spending a jail term for LW’s killing, it must be someone else then. Who is that someone else………….is it THE politico from Kelaniya (according to SF) or is it G**a? Only time will tell. Dear Leader staff, you got to come to terms with the reality. What you see may not be what you really want to see or what is seen by others. It is very complex isn’t it?

  20. anuradha

    killers must be brought to justice. as Lasantha said it was the govt that kills him. why anyone else who wants to kill lasantha?

    we need justice now!

  21. Ane anichchan

    SF is in prison only for a short time but I have no doubt the the presidential cohort will do every thing possible and bring case after case with all their might to keep him behind bars.
    Gaddafi, Saddam, Mubarak are saints….. compared to our clan !

  22. A.D

    everyone knows who killed Lasantha.stop talking nonsense lady

  23. thanuja

    What I can say lasantha’s family and Sunday leader paper stop this, don’t you think it is enough talking about lasantha’s murder. I think you have better things to talk about than this subject. There are more burning issues in this country. Those days everyday we talk about war, I think now it is enough, we should move on, learn lessons from the past, not letting them to happen again, at least from today onwards try to have a piece full life. I think every body is trying to forget about the past and move on finally we have the won the piece back to our country. Otherwise those days on the tv, papers every day the subject is war, war war. So what I can say Sunday leader it stop digging this past and try to look forward in the future.

    And even during the war what Sunday leader did was to write on behalf of prabakaran, they didn’t help to get piece back to country, they helped and sympathized LTTE terrorist. They always write some thig bad about our Armey, I think it’s better to talk about our dead Armey Soldier; it’s more worth talking than Lasantha. Because Armey did lot for us to get the piece back to the country. Sunday leader never helped, present and past SLFP governments have piece of mind, and they all ways say some kind of “mud stories” and try to destroy the governments. And what I heard actually lasantha is not great full for his past, means Mrs. Srimavo Bandaranayke help him a lot, to come from where he is now. He always attack and attack on Bandaranayake’s in a very very dirty way.

    Do you think only Lansantha is the great man in this world and we should find his murder. Then there are more great people in this world we should find who are murders of them, like Abraham Lincoln, Mr. Bandaranayke, Kadiragama, Richad De Zoisa so on( he is the great journalist, very educated and intelligent, do you know that he has given his wisdom lot of school children in sri lanka, he was one of the best English Literature teacher, I think they are the people you can call great human beans), these people did some thing to the world and they country that they lived, what did Lasantha did? If you say lasantha is great journalist, I don’t know how to call Richad de zoisa.

    I think Sunday leader and Lasantha, their religion is not Buddhist, that why they don’t know about, compaction, forgive, gratefulness and they don’t understand every body is not the same, what Buddha thought us the basic, is five finger are not the same, so what you should understand is the way you think, you can’t make others to think the same way. In this world there is good and bad you can’t make everybody do good, then it’s not world and they can’t be human’s then you have to have robot. Any Human bean can do a mistake that’s why you call them, Human. What you have to learn is you learn from mistake and not let that happen again. Even one day one bad person can be a good person when they realize what they are doing wrong. As human beans you should be able to forgive some one who did bad to you.

    So finally what I can say is you should greatfull what Mahinda Rajapaksha did to finish the war, other wise it’s like a wound, all the past politician’s and Journalist earn from this war they never tirade or they didn’t have the back bone to take a decisions finish this war they were scared for western countries like USA, UK and UN. Also I want to tell you that without Sarath Fonseka’s brain, experience and his intelligence Mahinda Rajapaksha can not win the war. Maninda Rajapaksha also has to understand without both hands he can not clap. What we should understand is even though Sarath Fonskea is a bad man he did some thing to this country also Mahinda Rajapaksha did some thing to this country, than Lasantha Wickramathunga.

    Now Sri lankan people can live peacefully grateful to Mahinda and Sarath and Army soldiers and officers. Also I want to tell you I am not justifying the Politian’s and people who are doing wrong things. I hate politics and Politian’s they are the people who are destroying the countries and they eat from the poor people’s hard earn money and they live luxury life with power and money. Also I want to tell you end of the day even though I vote for certain political party, only because I think about the country, need some one to rule the country, otherwise I don’t gain anything, and I don’t go behind any Politian’s asking get me this and that. I work hard to earn a salary to feed myself. I don’t get anything for free.

    And it’s really unfair to blame the Armey intelligence officers and soldiers for this for this lasantha’s murder, we must not forget that we won the war because of our good Armey intelligence officers and soldiers so to accuse them for this useless person’s death so wrong. Do you know how many soldiers and officers families are suffering, they don’t have money, they lost there husbands or son’s and daughters but Lasantha’s family they have a good life and money even after his death. Also they have accused Armey intelligence officers and soldiers for the death of Lasantha and do you how difficult their families going through now, some soldiers are in prison and some are getting lot of harassment and bulling by the government and from the Sunday leader both. Some soldiers lost there jobs, some officers don’t get there promotions, after working hard, honestly for the country even not thinking of their life finally this is what they get , bad name.

    Finally what I can say is Lasantha is dead and war is over, let this country move on don’t create unwanted problems. As per Buddhism truth will come out, bad people will the punishment. Even Sunday leader didn’t do any good deed so this must be a punishment to write correct thing in your paper in future and use your words and mouth correctly and good way without harming people and the country.

  24. gune

    When S F was leading the war to get rid of the murderous terrorists ,You and your paper attacked and when he betrayed the Country and contested the president he became a hero over night,normal Sri lankan knows who you are and who is funding you and your paper,so keep on bragging and writing some thing to your Colombo 7 loom-pens to be happy and you can sell the paper. I know that this will not be published.

  25. Arakige_Miniha

    One of your news papers very clearly articulated ” Oluwatada wadune ” story. We have lot of materials produced by Leader Publications, that provide circumstantial evisence to direct us to surmise the men behind the game. Don’t try to create unnecessary things.

  26. Rohana

    Why don’t you publish the comments against this article ?
    you are not going to break the independent journalism of SUNDAY LEADER !!
    As i said what a talent of journalism you have to use Lasanthas death.
    sure this will not be publish .
    Thank you

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