01/10/2020, 15.46
SRI LANKA
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Advocacy groups calls for justice for murdered Christian journalist

by Melani Manel Perera

In 2009 Lasantha Wickrematunge was assassinated in broad daylight on his way to work as editor of the Sunday Leader newspaper. He had criticised abuses under former President Mahinda Rajapaska as well as Tamil Tiger violence.

Colombo (AsiaNews) – Sri Lankan advocacy groups and intellectuals are demanding justice for Lasantha Wickrematunge, a Christian journalist killed 11 years ago in broad daylight as he made his way to work. His murder is still unsolved.

The International Press Institute (IPI), a global network of editors, media executives and journalists promoting press freedom, renewed its call on the Sri Lankan government to investigate the matter and bring those responsible to justice.

Wickrematunge, who was the editor of the Sunday Leader newspaper, was killed on 8 January 2009. From the pages of his newspaper, he bitterly criticised former President Mahinda Rajapaksa. The latter is Sri Lanka’s current prime minister, and brother of recently elected President Gotabaya Rajapaksa, and has always denied any involvement in the assassination.

The journalist had exposed human rights abuses committed by the army against ethnic Tamils during the civil war, as well as the violence by Tamil Tiger rebels.

He himself had predicted his own murder in an editorial published a few days before he was shot dead by killers on a motorcycle. “When finally I am killed, it will be the government that kills me,” he wrote.

Addressing then Sri Lankan President Rajapaksa directly, he said: “In the wake of my death I know you will make all the usual sanctimonious noises and call upon the police to hold a swift and thorough inquiry”.

He believed however that any investigation into his death would drag on for a long time. In fact, following the assassination, the Criminal Investigation Department arrested a suspect, who mysteriously died in police custody.

In 2016 the suspect's body was exhumed for medical examination on the request of investigators. A media report noted that although he officially died of gunshots, the body had stab wounds.

For IPI Director of Advocacy Ravi Prasad, “The Sri Lankan government has failed to investigate the murder of one of the leading journalists of his time, who exposed corruption in the highest echelons of the government. The government should expedite the investigation and hold the killers and those who masterminded the murder to account.”

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