Tribute To Lasantha:Lawyer, & Journalist Martyr of Media Freedom

The awful shadow of some unseen Power
Floats though unseen among us,—visiting
This various world with an inconstant wing
As summer winds that creep from flower to flower,…
Like clouds in starlight widely spread,—
Like memory of music fled…
Of human thought or form,—where art thou gone?
Why dost thou pass away and leave our state,
This dim vast vale of tears, vacant and desolate?...
Why aught should fail and fade that once is shown
Why fear and dream and death and birth
Cast on the daylight of this earth
Such gloom,—why man has such a scope
For love and hate, despondency and hope?....
Love, Hope, and Self-esteem, like clouds depart
And come, for some uncertain moments lent….”

(Hymn to Intellectual Beauty- P.B.Shelly)

by T.C.Rajaratnam

(January 10, Colombo, Sri Lanka Guardian) I was deeply shocked and sad to learn from a news alert that Lasantha Wickrematunga was assassinated in broad daylight.Bullets fired by despicable murderers put an end to the glorious and eventful life of a fearless Lawyer and Journalist. As time passes, the pain, shock and outrage over the terrible murder may grow and result in chaos.

I have known Lasantha since 1978. We have travelled to many places together during the early eighties as law students. We have had combined studies throughout the nights for years. Our families have had a close relationship.

I have been his guest at many of his TV Talk shows. On one occasion at the TNL studio in 1999 prior to the Presidential election campaign I was amongst his other guests Rauff Hakeem, Keheliya Rambukwella and Major General Algama (who was assassinated a few days later). In 2005 when Jeyaraj Fernandopulle wanted me to lead the English Media Unit of the Media Observation Unit of President Mahinda Rajapakse’s Presidential Election Campaign, he invited me to a Newsline programme on MTV with two other guests, Ranil Wijesinghe and Raviraj (TNA MP). Although we were friends, he interviewed me as if he was interrogating me. I was defending and supporting the candidature of President Mahinda Rajapakse. Soon after the live program, he said “T.C. don’t take it personal, there are no permanent enemies in politics” He also said that Politics is the second largest profession in the world and that it has a striking resemblance to the first. That was Lasantha.

Lasantha was had a very cordial relationship with the Diplomatic community, the Cabinet of Ministers and High Officials in the Government. He was unaware of fear. He knew so many people at so many places. He was a close friend of Jeyaraj Fernandopulle as I remember during his tenure as the Chief Government Whip of Parliament. They both contested the same year in 1989.

His assassination is a deliberate attempt to create political chaos at a time when the Government has been successful in the war and moving towards political stability. Lasantha was confident that no one would harm him. This was evident by the fact that he was freely moving around. He had numerous friends in the Government. Due to the recent victories by the Armed forces in the North to eradicate terrorism, this may have been an act by the Terrorists themselves or any Tamil Armed group which have exploited successive Governments by their treacherous acts of violence for their own survival.

However, this is not the time to point fingers at one another but to pay tribute to a great man who by his own right was exercising media freedom. We must get together and pay tribute to a famous journalist of our times. He suffered many assaults and these assaults were during various regimes. We have seen in the recent past that he has had cordial relations with those whom others thought were responsible. Lasantha has entered martyrdom – his life was sacrificed for Media Freedom. I urge the Government to erect his statue in his memory at the place of the tragedy and name Attidiya Road as Lasantha Wickrematunga Mawatha.

In each human heart terror survives
The ravine it has gorged
The loftiest fear
All they would disdain to think were true
Hypocrisy and custom make their minds
The fanes of many worship now outworn
They dare not devise. for man’s estate
And yet they know not that do not dare
The good want power, but weep barren tears
The powerful goodness want; worse need for them
The wise want love; and those who love want wisdom
And all the best things are thus confused to ill.
Many are strong and rich and would be just
But live among their suffering fellow men
As if none felt: they know not what they do.”
( Prometheus Unbound- P.B.Shelly)

(Dr.T.C.Rajaratnam LL.B(SL)., LL.M(Lond)., Ph.D(Lond)., was the Co-ordinating Secretary to the Chief Government Whip of Parliament, Late Jeyaraj Fernandopulle; The Member in charge of the English Media of the Media Observation Unit founded by Late Jeyaraj Fernandopulle for the Presidential Election Campaign of President Mahinda Rajapakse in 2005; Candidate for the Colombo District for SLFP-PA in the 1994 Parliamentary General Elections; Author; Former Lecturer in Laws, Member of the World Lawyers & Poets Society ; International Legal Consultant; CEO of the Chambers of Academic & Professional Studies] E mail:
- Sri Lanka Guardian