The 12th anniversary of the assassination of journalist Lasantha Wickrematunge was commemorated on Friday at the Batticaloa Media Centre under the chairmanship of V. Krishnakumar, Chairman of the Batticaloa District Media Organization.
The former lawyer, co-founder and editor of Sunday Leader was a staunch critic of the various human rights violations perpetrated by the Rajapaksa government and the corruption by its ministers. He was also vocal against the war efforts against the Tamils in the North-East.
Wickrematunge and his newspaper were particularly critical in the coverage of the then-president and current, war crimes accused Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa. A year before his murder, the President called him, screaming that he would be killed if he continued to criticise the state. He was gunned down in Colombo on 8 January 2009.
Though the Sirisena government pledged to take action on the killing, a trial is yet to take place. Last month, Wickrematunge’s murder trial was again postponed to 4 June 2021. Two officers, former OIC Sugathapala and the Senior DIG Prasanna Nanayakkara, are accused of concealing and destroying information relating to Wickrematunge’s murder and are key suspects in the case.
A report by the Criminal Investigations Department (CID), which was submitted to the court in 2018, found that the killers then abducted and murdered two Tamil youth in Vavuniya, in an attempt to frame the LTTE for the assassination.
Meanwhile, Shani Abeysekara, the senior official who oversaw inquiries into high profile cases implicating Sri Lankan state and security forces including Lasantha’s assassination was demoted and charged of discrediting the police force following Gotabaya’s return to power.
Former MP for Batticaloa District, Senior Journalist and Media Secretary of the Illankai Tamil Arasu Kachchi (ITAK) P. Ariyanethran, Mayor of Batticaloa and many others attended the commemoration event to pay tribute to the journalist.