| by Pearl Thevanayagam
(October 27, 2014, Bradford UK, Sri Lanka Guardian) Nimalarajan was BBC stringer in the troubled North and he was murdered on October 19, 2000 for his exposure on a Tamil politician who was in cahoots with the government. BBC has dedicated a whole room with a plaque in memory of this great Tamil journalist in its new building in Marble Arch where it relocated from Bush House.
He was murdered by the above-mentioned Tamil politician who is riding roughshod with the government to mask his nefarious activities such as white-van abductions and awarding sand-mining contracts to his acolytes not to mention interfering in varsity appointments through the back door much to the chagrin of qualified academics such as Prof. Ratnajeevan Hoole.
Priyath Liyanage and Chandrakeerthi Bandara of the BBC donated funds for his extended family to migrate abroad with the help of Frances Harrison, a former BBC correspondent in Colombo.
K.Sivaram alias Taraki and Aiyathurai Nadesan were also murdered for reporting from the frontline. Their exposures of government security and LTTE atrocities reached the four corners of the world but their families are still struggling to come to terms with their untimely deaths. The BBC staff in Tamil Service collected funds to Nadesan’s family which lost a breadwinner.
Many a journalist have been murdered for their courage in exposing government incompetence and corporate mis-governance including Lasantha Wickrematunge, the editor of Sunday Leader, who dared to challenge powers.
Iqbal Athas was hounded and his family came under serious threat for his unrelenting exposure of corrupt governance but he was also a target by social media who could not stomach his recognition in international media and the green-eyed monster reared its ugly head in castigating him for living in a comfortable house. Iqbal got no favours from the government or corporate bodies and it is his relentless pursuit in investigative journalism which made him what he is today; an intrepid journalist with conscience.
With well over 37 journalists murdered by successive governments since 1990 when Richard De Soysa was dragged out of his home by uniformed men under direct orders of the late President Premadasa, killed and his body dumped in the sea since he sent videotapes of JVP youth massacred in 1989/1990 to a foreign news agency, Sri Lanka has seen many journalists seeking exile abroad.
Journalism in Sri Lanka is sliding on a slippery slope with maverick journos turned pseudo international terrorism experts like Rohan Gunaratne who sold out their journalistic ethics and dis-information counsellors who became pawns under successive governments for diplomatic perks.
There is absolutely no clue as to what happened to Prageeth Ekneliyagoda who disappeared in 2010 and his wife Sandhya is still persevering with her search without success. The current AG Mohan Peiris declared Prageeth was hiding in France on flimsy evidence given by a dubious character with a vivid imagination and he could not prove his theory.
Are there any compensation from the government to Pragaeeth’s family? Does the government care? Can it care for Sandhya and her children enough to make some monetary contribution in the absence of their bread winner?
Conspiracy theories abound in this land of make-believe where journalists, human rights activists, lawyers and champions of justice are perceived as opposing regimes which want to exert their hegemony at the expense of hoodwinking the populace on whose back they rode.
The 2015 budget passed without a muster begs belief in that where the hell is the President going to get the funds to fulfil his promises of paying bonanza to public servants and private employees. Sri Lanka is being sold to China and India which are providing massive loans only the country can pay for decades to come.
Can CB governor Ajith Nivard Cabraal wave his magic wand and pretend SL economy is all hunky dory when it is beholden to the World Bank and IMF which will seek its pound of flesh for the loans and not grants and it will be the people and not the politicians in power who would pay the price through rising cost of living.
Were it not for some journalists with ethics and conscience, the governments would have got away with their empty promises such as the recent budget of Mahinda’s proclamation that all citizens of Sri Lanka would enjoy his munificence of a people-friendly budget whereas the reality is the funds should be pulled out chanting abracadabra since the government coffers are empty to say the least and the debt burden passed on to its citizens for decades.
This situation makes it vulnerable to foreign forces such as China and India to take advantage of and plant themselves on our shores with their investments and businesses at an exceeding pace. The beneficiaries would be politicians and their supporting local businessmen and not the average Sri Lankan.
The government will pay for its antagonism towards just journalists both living and murdered and UNHRC is only the beginning.
(The writer has been a journalist for 25 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)