By Marianne David
It was three years ago on this day (January 8th ) that former Editor of “The Sunday Leader” Lasantha Manilal Wickrematunge was brutally murdered in broad daylight on his way to work by “unknown”assassins.
Lassie Boy as I called him was my Friend,Colleague and Editor. The death of this fearless Editor has created a vacuum in Sri Lanka’s Journalistic sphere that may never be filled.
Some of his friends, associates, colleagues and family members paid tribute to his memory today by gathering at his graveside in the morning and lighting candles.Later in the evening there was a remembrance service held at “The Sunday Leader” office.
Though living in Toronto I was in Colombo with them in spirit , commemorating Lassie Boy.
Among those who participated in the remembrance events was journalist Marianne David who is now Deputy-Editor at “Daily Financial Times”. She began her journalistic career as a sub-editor at the “Leader” with Lasantha as Editor. Marianne used to sub my weekly articles at “The Sunday Leader” those days.
I requested Marianne to write a short piece about how Lassie Boy was remembered and she has kindly obliged.
Likewise Arthur Wamanan of “The Nation” who took some photographs of the event has sent some.I am posting a few of them. . Arthur too began his journalism under Lasantha at “The Sunday Leader”.
I am posting both Marianne’s article and Arthurs pictures on my blog now as part of my tribute to Lassie Boy.
I end this introduction by quoting Marianne on “Lassie Boy”.
“Lasantha was unbowed and unafraid to the very (brutal) end. He will always live in the hearts of those of us who love him, sporting that unforgettable smile”
Here then is the article along with pix, Friends – DBS Jeyaraj
Remembering Lasantha, with love
By Marianne David
Pix by Arthur Wamanan
8 January 2012: On the third anniversary of Lasantha’s brutal murder in broad daylight, this morning a few of us gathered in remembrance of Lasantha at his graveside.
There weren’t many of us there, less than 20 actually. His brother Lal and his family had already visited, lit candles and placed flowers. It was 10 a.m. Sunday morning, the time we had decided to meet at Kanatte, mostly Sunday Leader and former Sunday Leader friends and colleagues.
Looking around, it struck me how strange it was that even in death, it was still Lasantha who kept us bound together, as he did back then. How his graveside has become the only place where those of us who were there at Leader with him now gather and talk and talk and talk.
Irrepressible memories come to the fore again, of the truly unforgettable Leader life, with Lasantha at the helm.
The things he said and did, his sense of humour, how he laughed and made us laugh – it all comes alive again, especially as Marwaan and Amantha speak to those gathered, saying a few words in his memory.
They recall who he was and how he was and what he did both as an Editor and also as the person we knew and loved on a personal level. How he enabled and inspired, shared and cared. The enormity of what he did in war-torn Sri Lanka, for the country and for the media industry.
On a lighter note, Marwaan tells us how, as he prepared to go to the north on war coverage while at Leader, Lasantha would tell him to remember to file copy first in case he got shot at – typical Lasantha-style humour. Amantha remembers the father figure we knew, the friend.
We remember, as candles flicker and the sun beats down, what he taught each one of us, how he made us work, showed us what we could do and made us believe as much as he did, in ourselves and in The Sunday Leader.
Most of all we believed in you, Lasantha. Your loss still runs so deep. You were The Sunday Leader, the public figure, but you were also a father to us, our guru and our friend, our much-beloved Editor-in-Chief.
Arthur sings ‘Amazing Grace’ – he’s barely gotten through the first verse when tears fill his eyes – and we bow our heads in prayer, light more candles. With quite a few photojournalists present, including Gemunu (AP) and Dinuka (Reuters), the clicking of cameras continues incessantly.
We talk some more and as we recall those shared memories of Lasantha, we find ourselves again – our Leader selves – as we gather in his name, minus the hundreds who once gathered as he was carried to his grave.
Lal at Leader office, during the service
In the evening, we meet once more – this time at the Leader office, where Frederica has organised a service in remembrance.
Around 50 people are present, mostly staff and some former staff members. Afterwards a few of us we sit around – on tables in the Editorial, like we used to when Lasantha was alive – and talk about him.
A while later Lal plays a video that contains several clips of Lasantha. For someone who hasn’t realised in these three long years that there are video clips of him, it hits me that here is a way to see him again.
Here he is; I see him talking and smiling and laughing again after many years, even if it is only thanks to technology. It’s a strange feeling, sorrow mingled with joy; not knowing whether to laugh or cry. I ask Lal for a copy of the CD and when he gives me one, I feel like I am holding a priceless treasure in my hands.
It’s easier this year to remember Lasantha, to talk about him. And that’s exactly what we do; we talk about him, all of us, endlessly.
Later on in the night as we say our goodbyes, Romesh turns to Lal and says that Lasantha must be looking down and smiling. It feels right. I hope he is.
Lasantha was unbowed and unafraid to the very (brutal) end. He will always live in the hearts of those of us who love him, sporting that unforgettable smile.