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Remembering Lasantha, with love

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By Marianne David

Hello Friends

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.

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  1. I really feel sorry and sympathy with a Journalist who wrote something which were acceptable or not!

  2. After 3 years, the government has not found the killers of Lasantha. But the people of Sri Lanka know the man who ordered the killing and the people who carried out.

  3. Journalist is an independent thinker who analyze multi side of the event and bring his/her own view about it. It is absolutely reader’s choice whether accept or not. If Journalist does not justify his side arguemts, he will be disappear from the radar. Why should he/she be killed in cold blood? Who ever did this murder must be brought to light and condemned.

  4. lasantha’s wife said at the anniversary,that the government is yet to investigate his murder.After 3 years if they can’t do it and find the culprit,it is obvious who the culprit is.How can the police arrest the president himself. He is above the law no due to his divine status.For example could the japanese or even the americans for that matter have arrested hirohito,a divine being whose ancestry can be traced to the sun itself as depicted in their flag.So we can say goodbye to anyone being arrested for this murder,unless and until there is a regime change.

  5. You are not worried about a Journalist but thinking of sending Rajapakshe to gallows. Did you ever think how LTTE killed Tamil journalists? Who will send the LTTE morons to gallows?

    Remember LTTE started the killing of journalists. The first kill was my friend I.Shanmugalingam of EELAMURASU in 1989.

    No one there to sing Hosanna to my friend because he was a Tamil and not an ENGLISH media person!

  6. Thanks DBS J for posting this item in your blog; provides an opportunity to share some views, or concerns rather with the readership and convey condolences to loved ones of Lasantha’s.

    Used to read his articles without fail, and thought he was the bench mark for investigative journalism in SL in the recent past. Does not matter who have involved in the matter he has been investigating, Lasantha would try to get down to the bottom to do a thorough job. This pursuit obviously puts him as a prime target for the vultures that never understood any of these: why he does this, what is at stake here, who are stood to benefit and what it takes to do such a job. Such talents are hard to find. Ironically, terminating his life at the peak of his career was a tragedy for the country, let alone for his family. His murder was shocking for me as well. One day these cowards will definitely pay for all this sins.

    Hope time has healed his family from the shock and sorrow that they endured due to this fearless and smart journalist’s untimely death. Although Lasantha was taken away cruelly from among us, he will live for ever in the hearts and minds of people who wished a better future for this beautiful island like him. On the name of patriotism or pretext of it, you may justify killing a person who carries a gun but not one with a pen. They say truth is bitter, the fact he created bitterness in these corrupted monsters to the extent to kill him explains what he wrote was nothing but truth. Writing truth is not acceptable in a country where its extreme elements have always been the habit of comparing their country’s deeds to nothing less than to western countries where journalists of Lasantha’s motives would be having a ball- this is a stark contrast.

    For Lasantha’s loved ones, please accept heartfelt condolences- we all share your grief and sorrow, May he rest in peace. The serpents that did this heinous crime will rot in the hell sooner or later.

  7. My deepest sympathies to Lasantha’s 3 children.

    They are the ones who miss him most. As I’ve heard he was an adoring father.

  8. Lasantha, prageeth egnaligoda, Joseph pararajasingam and white flag murder classic example of current regime brutal assasinastion.

  9. diyasena

    So why is fonseka behind bars on trumped up charges,when there is a nice juicy one here to string him up with? And why did they try hard to frame him with lasantha’s death by trying to bribe a intelligence officer in remand to implicate fonseka in the murder?The officer spilled the beans at courts.

  10. LTTE started many moronic killings. MR destroyed those morons. when we compare LTTE and MR, MR get the pass marks.

  11. When LTTE kill Tamil people, it was OK for you. Isn’t it? LTTE destroyed all the FREE medias in Jaffna and killed Journanists long ago!

    You mention Joe Pararajasingam. Where is Sam and Kala Thambimuthu? Is it justifiable if anyone killed by LTTE goons?

  12. Thanks for remembering him DBSJ,

    Its a tragedy that he raised his voice far too early.

    We need him alive today……………

  13. Any type of killing is not justifiable. There is no doubt killers have to be punished for their crimes. Sivananthan proves LTTErs are killers and also proves MR as well. So far, no killers have been brought to the justice.

  14. What do you mean by ‘We’?. You may be thinking that way, not other tamils in Sri Lanka, excluding Karuna, Pillaiyan and DD.

    Have you forgotten what Sinhalese did to Tamils since 1958? Do you know how many Tamils were killed in those riots and how many of them burned alive? If you do not know this, ask elders in your family.

    I doubt it that you are a Tamilan, but a racist Sinhalese hiding in Tamil name.

  15. Killings of any kind cannot be justified. When Tamil people started to justify killings of their own people, we showed the world that we are barbarians.

    Once a young Tamil man was beaten and killed by LTTE. His body was tied to a lamp post. I asked the people why. They said a placard hung around his neck and something written on it. I went closer and read it. It said “he was a cattle thief”, he sentenced to death.

    I got angry and shouted “Is cattle theft a big crime to punish with death”. One man came and said in my ear ” those PODIYANS are looking at you”, better leave this place. I felt the trouble and left.

    These kind of incidents were jusitified by Tamil people. Later KILLERS became leaders. They never respected any one. Their killing power of unarmed was mis-judged for POLITICAL/MILITARY power.

    When they faced the REAL military and political power, they had to run. They built castles on the sky to fool the people. All of them vanished in the thin air. But who really lost the wealth, lives etc.? The people!

    What is the legacy of the so called Tamil liberation? Limb-less, widows and orphans. Who will look after these people? Tamil diaspora or Mahinda Rajapaksha?

  16. But LTTE killed more Tamils than any others. Riots come once in few years but LTTE was killing Tamil people on daily basis.

    I saw how Batticaloa boys belong to TELO were burned alive at Thirunelvey Junction. Is it OK for you? Dr.Rajani Rajasingam Thiranagama was killed by LTTE. For what? How can we swallow that crime?

    when we calculate the number of riot victims, it is a pea-nut to the number of Tamils killed by LTTE.

    For example nearly 900 EPDP members/supporters were killed by LTTE during the so called PEACE time. Diaspora justify these killings.

    Then what is the morality we have to talk against “MURDERS”?

  17. Idiot it is not the answer for the question!
    when we are talking about state terrorism you
    put your nose like ‘Munthirikoddai’ about non
    state parties. Is that meen you are on the GOSL
    Payroll? Have I said anywhere all LTTE killings are Ok
    or justifiable ?

  18. You are a donkey and thinks others too the same. Tamil LTTE terrorism is the worst than the so called state terror.

    Why are you crying when I mention the murders of LTTE?

  19. It is look like a sided argument blaming opposite party for anything happened. MS might be Story Teller or an innocent affected by LTTE atrocities. And, also imaginable to a witness at court, blaming the accuste should be punished at any cost with or without proof.

    If LTTE is cruel, what about their enemies? who made them as such? Did all tamils support them or scared to die? Does the blame game help to find a solution to remaining tamils?

    If answers are there for all these questions, can be believed there is a solution. If not, it is time for meditation.

  20. Stupid ,It is you started to crying about one side and hide over 200,000 killing of the state terror since 1948 and always jumping on so called “LTTE Terrorism” like ignorant monkey.

  21. Other groups never killed any “JORNALIST” so far. They have some respect to journalists.

    But LTTE killed everyone who questioned them. LTTE did not spare academics like Neelan and many others.

    Only LTTE guys are crying here about “justice” while they justify all the murders of LTTE.

    In the case of Lasantha, Fonseka was blamed but Tamil leadership asked the Tamils to vote him. Is it a kind of reconciliation?

  22. Murder/killings can not be justified in any way. Just because LTTE killed journalists doesn’t mean others get a free pass to kill a journalist or two.
    LTTE is no more in “unified” Sri Lanka, if you still want the LTTE punished please raise your question with MR as he has Karuna and Pillayan on his boat. They are the only commanders left after the complete wipe-out of LTTE. I believe that’s a fair statement? no!?
    As for LTTE’s punishment for cattle thief, nothing can beat the EPDP’S same style of punishment for chicken thief. Again i repeat, any killings can not be justified.

    RIP Lasantha, you’ll be remembered forever! My sympathies are with your family & friends!

  23. The tragedy shoud not be happended.

    GOSL not showing any genuine step to investigate his murder as usual.

    Think forward, Sri Lankans should work hard to come out all the evils to make prosperity.

    Saw the Pongal photos here and my colleague send me from Jaffna and Amparai. People are little relief from all weopens threat.

    Worrying about the Delft Island, still the Island is used by EPDP killers shelter with the protection of Sri Lankan Navy.

    Jaffna seems normal, but Bussiness people are really worry about the EPDP and other paramilitary operatives.


  24. Lasantha was a great friend, Lawyer and Journalist. We knew each other since we were 19years of age. We studied together, roamed together travelled together and shared our views. He has invited me as a frequent guest for his political talk shows in the TNL and MTV. Only God and he would have known who killed him and for what reason he had to be silenced. But whoever who did it will have to pay the price soon. Justice in Sri Lanka is a dismal thought an illusion. Divine Justice is great. Lasantha is still amongst us. Only his body was killed. The Truth will be revealed perhaps by the supervening circumstances by Lasantha himself. Lasantha is still amongst us.

  25. Dr.Rajaratnam

    Only God and he would have known who killed him
    You kidding? Everyone knows who killed him. Can anyone bump off a well known figure like lasantha without the express permission of the president? Why do you think even after 3 years after the assasination nobody has been arrested?don’t try to be a new born here.

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