killers of scribes and activists roam free
| by Pearl Thevanayagam
(January 03, 2014 - London - Sri Lanka Guardian) The burglar who robbed Mangala Samaraweera of his laptop and foreign liquor was soon apprehended by the police. But killers of human rights lawyer Kumar Ponnambalam and Sunday Leader editor Lasantha Wickrematunge whose death anniversaries fall on January 05 and January 08 respectively are roaming scot-free.
Kumar received a telephone call on January 05, 2000 to come to Wellawatte to meet someone and he chose to drive his car himself and was shot point-blank in broad daylight. Lasantha was brutally murdered on his way to work in a high security zone on January 08, 2009 by several armede men who used revolvers and truncheons to bash down the car windows in broad daylight when he drove the car himself instead of his driver as was his custom.
Prageeth Ekneliyagoda, the cartoonist who disappeared in January 2010, is still missing and feared dead although CJ Mohan Peiris let it rip to the international media he had sought refuge in a European country on the flimsy evidence from a lowly government MP who heard it from someone who said he had seen him in France. Neither can pinpoint where he is.
Killers of Richard de Soysa, the first journalist to be murdered by the government in 1990, were apprehended and subsequently released. His ‘crime’ was sending video-tapes of Black Cats (notorious and brutal killer squads led by DIG Udugampola who roamed the length and breadth of Southern Sri Lanka in the dead of the night) under President Premadasa abducting and murdering JVP youth to DPA, an international News Agency. They were men in army fatique.
K.Sivaram alias Taraki, Aiyathurai Nadesan, Relangi Selvarajah, Ketheeswaran Loganathan, BBC’s Nimalarajan , Puniyamoorthi and Isaipriya among other journalists sacrificed their lives in the call of duty at the hands of killer squads and to date not a single killer had been arrested or charged.
To date almost 40 media personnel have been killed by successive governments and their sins were exposing bribery and corruption, human rights violations, nepotism among other irregularities by government agents and top and not so important politicians all cocooned and feathered by the governments in power.
Iqbal Athas, a well respected journalist who wrote the defence report for Sunday Times and CNN correspondent was hounded out through intimidation, attack and threats on his life and those of his wife and daughter.
The exodus of journalists intensified after Mahinda Rajapakse and his family ascended the throne of parliament.
This is not happening in Communist North Korea, China or Russia where such crimes are the prerogative of the ruling powers; this is happening in the Democratic Socialist Republic of Sri Lanka once known as Serendib meaning peaceful isle.
As we mark the eighth anniversary of university students who were brutally murdered while relaxing on a beach in Trincomalee and question the impunity with which the government sends out is agents to kill at will as they did with the French aid workers in Batticaloa we can only stand aside and keep mum for fear of being bumped off.
Media in Sri Lanka be it state or otherwise is under the total control of the state as long as the reporting is from within the country.
The islanders are known for their bon-homie and hospitality but lurking under this façade is a nation tainted by mass graves of dissenters, murky underworld killer squads (consisting of government security forces and paramilitary groups supporting the regime) directly under the supervision of the governments who would kill for a few lakhs of rupees and corruption at all levels of governance only matched if not being superceded by its neighbouring India.
There is much work for international investigators of Sri Lanka’s notorious history of mass murders, war crimes and media suppression and we have less than three months before all the evidence is presented prior to the UNHRC sessions in March. Could 2014 bring relief to the victims of the violent regime? Only if we act fast and furiously.
(The writer has been a journalist for 24 years and worked in national newspapers as sub-editor, news reporter and news editor. She was Colombo Correspondent for Times of India and has contributed to Wall Street Journal where she was on work experience from The Graduate School of Journalism, UC Berkeley, California. Currently residing in UK she is also co-founder of EJN (Exiled Journalists Network) UK in 2005 the membership of which is 200 from 40 countries. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org)