The Sunday Leader

Finger Pointed At The Military?

  • Lasantha Wickrematunge assassination

By Nirmala Kannangara

Sketches of two suspects released by police

Seven years and one month after the Founding Editor of The Sunday Leader Lasantha Wickrematunge assassination, the Police Headquarters last week released a draft sketch of two suspects of Wickrematunge murderers seeking public assistance to make a breakthrough.

According to police, the sketches were drawn based on the statements given by witnesses. The suspects are believed to be around 35 years to 40 years. The suspect in the first sketch according to the police communiqué is fair in complexion and around 5 feet 8 inches in height, whilst the suspect in sketch number two is hefty, dark in complexion and around 5 feet and 10 inches in height.

With the much anticipated investigation now underway, there are new hopes that the police department that failed to make any progress into Wickrematunge’s assassination investigation since January Eighth, 2009 up to January 8, 2015 would bring the murderers and those who gave instructions for the killing to book very soon irrespective of their statuses or their political affiliations.

Wickrematunge was brutally assassinated in broad daylight in cold blood at Attidiya high security zone in close proximity to the Ratmalana air force base, by a killer squad of eight riding in four motor cycles. He was on his way to work on that fateful day.

Number of journalists were murdered, assaulted and disappeared during the previous regime but not a single investigation was conducted although the then regime promised to bring the murderers before the law. Since the defeat of the Rajapaksa regime, the Criminal Investigation Department (CID) initiated an investigation into the disappearance of Senior Journalist Prageeth Ekneligoda and arrested military intelligence officers for his abduction and his alleged murder.

Since the release of the two draft sketches of Wickrematunge’s murder suspects, there are ray of hopes that investigations into all journalists who were murdered or assaulted too will be initiated very soon.

After Wickrematunge’s murder investigation initiated last year, Assistant Supirintendent of Police (ASP) of the CID B.S.Tissera received a threatening call for conducting the investigations.

ASP Tissera had received the threatening call on Wednesday October 21 at 7.42am while on his way to the Attorney General’s Department for an official work. Although ASP Tissera had first ignored this call he had later checked to find out who the caller was, as it could help him in his investigations.

Meanwhile according reliable CID sources, many vital details into Wickrematunge’s murder are now unfolding and added that they hope to receive public assistance to nab the two suspects in the draft sketch released by the Police Headquarters last week.

Meanwhile, in October last year Mt. Lavinia Magistrate ordered the Judicial Medical Officer (JMO) of the Colombo South Teaching Hospital, Kalubowila Dr.Sarath Kumara to produce Wickrematunge’s post mortem report to the courts since the JMO failed to produce the report to courts since Wickrematunge’s death in January 2009.

“If there wasn’t any interference, the JMO could have submitted his report to the courts after the cause of death was substantiated. What made the JMO to delay in producing the report to courts for more than six years? It was the same with rugby player Wasim Thajudeen’s murder as well. It was only after the fall of the Rajapaksa regime Thajudeen case was re-opened. Although Thajudeen died in May 2012, the then JMO Prof. Ananada Samarasekera did not submit his report to courts until the Colombo Additional Magistrate Nishantha Peiris instructed Prof. Samarasekera to submit his report last year. If there was a political backing, the JMOs come under pressure and do not submit the reports for investigations. That was why the Colombo South Hospital also failed to produce Wickrematunge’s report until the Mt. Lavinia Magistrate instructed the JMO to submit the report,” CID sources said.

Year 2009 started off with horrifying beginnings with state oppression of the media at its highest. Two days before Wickrematunge was assassinated an arson attack was carried out on MTV/MBC network in Depanama Pannipitiya. Following these two incidents, Rivira Editor Upali Tennakoon and his wife was assaulted and sustained injuries. In 2007 Deputy Editor and Defence Columnist of The Nation newspaper Keith Noyahr was abducted and assaulted allegedly for insightful reporting on the conflict. So many other journalists were also under physical attack during the Rajapaksa regime.

Although the investigations are now in progress in to Wickrematunge’s murder and are seeking public assistance, the CID is yet to question the then Defence Spokesman MP, Keheliya Rambukwella. Three weeks after The Sunday Leader Editor’s death, Rambukwella at a media briefing said that he and the then President Mahinda Rajapaksa is aware of the identity of the murderers and that Rajapaksa would make the facts known on February 15, 2009. Neither Rajapaksa nor Rambukwella revealed the names of the killers as promised.

Wickrematunge, was a vocal critic of abuse of power and corruption of the then government, was subjected to intimidation on several occasions. The newspaper was once sealed followed by continuous bomb attacks on the press to stop him from carrying out investigative reporting on nepotism, corruption and abuse of power in the country.

Later in connection with Wickrematunge’s assassination, two suspects believed to have had a link to the murder were taken into custody with Wickrematunge’s mobile phone that went missing after the attack.

Out of the two suspects taken into custody, Pitchai Jesudasan died while in custody, and the second suspect Kandegedara Piyawansa was released by the police due to insufficient evidence.

Piyawansa, former military intelligence personnel, was released on bail in 2010 after he claimed in open court that he needs to make a dock statement on Wickrematunge assassination. He was then taken to the Magistrate’s chamber where he had made a statement. He was released on bail afterwards.

Although lawyers appearing for Wickrematunge interests made several attempts to get a copy of Piyawansa’s statement it was denied. The CID had said the statement had to be sent to the IGP to conduct further investigations.

The case was then handed over to the Terrorism Investigations Department (TID). Repeated requests by the lawyers for a copy of Piyawansa’s statement were denied by the TID claiming it would hamper the progress of the investigation.

After Piyawansa was granted bail, and The Sunday Leader reliably understands that Piyawansa is back in the army intelligence unit and all attempts made by the CID to question Piyawansa to obtain more details has been prevented by the Sri Lanka Army as they do not allow the CID to question the suspect.

“Like how Sri Lanka Army is preventing information being given to the CID, in the Ekneligoda murder case, they may not want to expose Piyawansa as well who too was a military intelligence unit member. It has now been revealed how military intelligence unit members were alleged to have been involved in Ekneligoda disappearance,” sources alleged.

Questions have also been raised as to why the CID has so far failed to question former Minister Mervyn Silva although he has lodged a complaint accusing Gotabhaya Rajapaksa for Lasantha Wickrematunge’s murder.

When we spoke to Mervyn Silva to find out whether the CID questioned him based on his complaint in regard to Wickrematunge’s assassination, Silva said that after he lodged the complaint to the  CID soon after the defeat of Rajapaksa regime, he was not summoned to the CID to give any statement.


2 Comments for “Finger Pointed At The Military?”

  1. raj

    If the government is genuine in their investigation, they would have arrested Gothabaya Rajapaksa based on the interview given to BBC upon Lasantha’s murder. Does the government afraid of arresting him?

    The new government is powerless to arrest Gothabaya Rajapaksa either for war crimes or Lasantha murder


    This murder was contracted out by Gota to Sarath. Fonseka’s death sqad that silenced anybody that criticised the military.That was why Iqbal Athas fled the country.They should give the third degree treatment to the accused and bring the Rajapakses to trial.

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