Lasantha’s last hurrah! A clarion call for racial unity

by Victor Karunairajan
Courtesy: Lanka Radar

(January 10, Toronto, Sri Lanka Guardian) Lasantha Wickrematunge’s last editorial in the Sunday Leader of January 4, 2009 is a journalistic classic of our time that spoke from his heart a vision of a nation that could live in peace and harmony but for the evil forces that have become entrenched in the country. This relatively young journalist, warm, brave, courageous and to whom Sri Lanka’s is a blessed isle and its people whether Sinhalese, Tamils, Muslims, Malays or Burghers are one Sri Lankan nation of brothers and sisters, voiced with passion and utter dedication the need for all our people to live in peace and harmony.

Bombing Wanni from the skies may not have bothered the forces let loose on the civilian population there just because the LTTE was among them. They may have even considered it just as a matter of routine in the fight against terrorism. But Lasantha Wickrematunge and his endangered and fast disappearing species of genuine journalists have seen it differently as an outrage against humanity. They are the human beings among us who have absolutely no voice whether it was the devil plaguing them or the Deep Sea ahead of them. This has been Sri Lanka’s nightmare for too long a time.

Since when did the ordinary people of Sri Lanka have had a real voice in the affairs of the country? The landowners, the Colombo elite and their political offshoots who rode on the “Apey Anduwa” disastrous doom of racist nemesis have held the entire population to ransom to ensure holding on to their political power. They made the masses whistle and dance to their tunes impacted with insanity terror-packed with racial and religious fanaticism.

During the early years of independence even the Tamils of this urban upper class were party to the exploitation of the masses and a consequence that began with racism proceeded on to terrorism and the victims are the masses. Where in the world a people of a land will tolerate a cabinet of hundred-odd ministers, some of them buffoons and brigands? Where in the world will an army chief have his way even after saying that the minority population lives at the grace of the majority which also means the minority lives at the mercy of the majority?

Where in the world a country would disfranchise a part of its population soon after achieving independence from a colonial power? By and large politicians have utterly misbehaved in Sri Lanka. This was possible because they succeeded in misleading the masses. Why was it necessary to rush in legislation like Sinhala Only? Why was it necessary to penalize members of the minority and make them “less citizens” than the others?

After five decades of independence, thousands of young Sri Lankans and nearly all of them from the majority community have been rendered slaves in foreign lands and they work under atrocious conditions. This factor alone is a pointer to the failure of successive governments to serve the country and also an indicator that racism and religious bigotry have destroyed the very fibres of a national community. We are in a terrible and pitiable state.

Sri Lanka has become the dumping grounds for arms of so many kinds many of them naturally obsolete, which some industrial powers are determined to dispense with and pile up in countries where the masses are poor and are entirely dependent on forces they cannot control. When ploughshares should mark the productive lands of the country, camps of the armed forces and rebel elements dominate them with their destructive arms and the people who have no voice whatsoever, live in utter fear and dread. They cannot farm; they cannot fish; they cannot lead normal lives. This has gone on for too long a time.

Emergency 58 of Tarzie Vittachi which should have been an eye opener and put the politicians on the proper path. That brilliant book which portrayed the disgusting, devastating and debilitating racial intolerance of the time should have sufficiently warned the politicians not to fool around with the emotions of the people. Those who raised the racial hell should have been ashamed of what happened in the country in 1958. But they were not and never learnt. Corruption had begun to root in the country firmly by that time.

Even the very sentinels of democracy, the Fourth Estate, progressively became the victim of these rancid and rotten elements bent on seeking power at any cost using racism, religious fundamentalism and even terrorism as the means. Today in Sri Lanka, and this has been for some years now, any voice expressed in criticism against the powers that be is treated as one that has to be silenced. Sadly, even the informed and the educated cannot understand the role of the media that is critical; they lay it aside with malevolent indifference and damn it as accusations because such a stand serve their ill-intentioned iniquities.

Many journalists have been put away with the gun. One night, there was a knock on the door of a suburban home and those who arrived there were not a gang bent on robbery or any other kind of violent invasion. They wanted to take away a man of great honour and respect, a journalist on the pretext of an inquiry. Next day, one of Sri Lanka’s finest sons, was found murdered on the beach. The callers that night were from the security forces as was learnt later.

On Wednesday, Sri Lanka lost another such journalist, dedicated to the creation of a country of peace and harmony among the diverse communities. His last editorial was an example of the dream he entertained for the entire people of Sri Lanka especially for the masses who, irrespective of what community they belong to, survive with fear and dread at the mercy of the politicians.

We are not only an impoverished nation but every one of our sons and daughters live in fear they could be taken away and armed to kill their own people. They live without hope that they will have the wherewithal to survive as decent citizens, have their families and be the determiners of their future and the country.

Lasantha Wickrematunge had the right to dream a future for his fellow citizens. As a journalist he was also under obligation to serve the finest attributes and elements of the Fourth Estate. He could not have served it better. His last editorial will remain a classic of political literature forever in the country. It is hoped his clarion call will become the inspirational seed that will one day bring his dreams to reality. And this has to be realized with speed; the country cannot wait any longer for what could appear to be a miracle under the current circumstances to materialize.
- Sri Lanka Guardian