The Sunday Leader

Danger: Journalist Killers Freely Roam The Country

Murder, particularly political murder, demands that justice should not only be done to the victim but also casts a burden on society to unearth the killers lest they return to the killing fields for more killings or to cover their tracks.

Lasantha Wickrematunge, the founder editor of this newspaper, was killed on January 8, 2009 by unknown gunmen on Attidiya Road. Despite the damning condemnation by the international media, world leaders and an appeal made even by the Secretary General of the UN Ban Ki-moon to bring the killers to face justice, even after six years the killers roam freely.

Before him Richard De Zoysa, a well-known journalist, writer and dramatist was pulled out of his house by thugs at dead of night on Feb 18,1990. His body was found floating in the sea the next day.

After Richard de Zoysa, it was ‘Taraki’ Sivaram Dharmaratnam’s turn. He was dragged into a white van by unidentified persons while waiting at a bus stop opposite the Bambalapitiya police station on a night in April 2005.His body was found the next day on an embankment of the lake by parliament.

Nirmalarajan Mylvaganam, a journalist covering Jaffna, was killed on Oct 19, 2000 and the killers remain free.

Prajeeth Eknaligoda, journalist and cartoonist, disappeared into thin air on Jan 24, 2010 and has not been seen again

These are some of the prominent journalists who were murdered or presumably murdered by persons, some of whose associates have been identified but not even arrested.

Threats to journalists have more or less ceased and the scribes have ceased looking over their shoulders for some time. It is presumed that the hunting season for journalists is over. But in this fickle world of Sri Lankan politics where political leap frogging and cut-throatism is abound, nothing can be taken with certainty for journalists who live  with danger.

Since  the day Lasantha was stopped  while coming to work and his life terminated,  this journal has been calling out loud and clear for the normal course of justice to prevail but all our efforts have been futile. The call made by Lasantha’s colleagues both here and abroad, statements issued by world leaders demanding justice be done have fallen on stone deaf years.

Sri Lankan journalists seem to have forgotten not only the long period when they worked with death threats hanging over themselves but also those who were killed in cold blood and others who fled abroad. It would not be out of order to ask the present government to investigate the killings of all journalists and bring the killers to book. Lasantha’s killing was obviously for political motives.  In his unique editorial written anticipating his killing, he stated very clearly that he would hold the government at that time to be responsible for his death. It is not often that a person identified who his killers would be before his murder. But given such a wide opportunity, the investigators it appeared were stymied or reluctant to proceed with investigations. We do not claim to be criminal investigators but since the professionals have not been able to make headway, may we suggest that they begin by inquiring  why previous investigators were unable to succeed in their task.   Investigators now on the job may find many political road blocks on their way, and if politics is involved both President Sirisena and Prime Minister Wickremesinghe should help clear the political blocks without getting involved in investigations.

Lasantha’s case appears to be one of criminalisation of politics and even politicisation of crime.

If one or the other happens, it would be disastrous to the police and nation. If both factors are in operation, it is absolute disaster. If politicians use criminals for committing crimes or criminals influence politicians, the law and order process crumbles and no legal police action is possible.  A Mafia takes over.

Lasantha’s killers – be it those who physically killed him on the road and if some others sitting in cool comfort gave such orders to kill – are freely roaming the country, they may be tempted to commit similar acts for purposes of their own. Killers should not be permitted to roam the country as they like.

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