(Following is the statement by Lal Wickrematunge, brother of slain The Sunday Leader Founder Editor-in-Chief Lasantha Wickrematunge, on the ninth anniversary of his murder. It was read out by Lal’s daughter Minal at the memorial gathering held on 8 January at Lasantha’s graveside)
Nine years have passed since Lasantha was done to death in the most dastardly fashion. Nine years have passed and justice has not been done. Murder, not restricted to Lasantha but of other journalists, was carried out with impunity at a time when apathy reigned amongst the people.
At present there is a sense of hopelessness at the manner the present administration is handling investigations. Should political authorities be guiding murder investigations, one may ask. Some may argue that it is the duty to do so since the very same murders have been used to garner votes at election time. Presently, the murders are used to remind people of how brutal a regime was when they occurred. But what about bringing the perpetrators to book?
Many such investigations are all but concluded. The need is to arrest the suspects and charge them for murder. Letting time pass by till it is convenient may turn out to be counterproductive, as history has evidenced.
The last regime was defeated on the backs of those committed journalists who lay down their lives when even those in Parliament were quivering before a marauding group in control of every sphere of human activity in our land. Justice need be done not as a favour. Justice need be done to prevent a repetition. Else, they would have died not for the people but for a chosen few to replace the defeated.
Murder, when it is committed by criminals outside of politics, is investigated in haste and convictions obtained in a couple of years.
Failure to bring to justice those responsible for the murder of Lasantha could even open the door to the prime suspect or suspects to be elected the President or Prime Minister of our land at a future date. Who knows?
We remember Lasantha who revolutionised the journalistic landscape of Sri Lanka at a time when none dared. He was brave, committed and resolute in his task to eradicate corruption within the halls of government. If the authorities cannot bring justice, let us commit ourselves to perpetuate his name amongst the people on whose behalf he lay down his life.
Lasantha was honoured posthumously by many a prestigious overseas organisation.
But that is to be understood. Honour is rarely bestowed outside a singular profession, in Sri Lanka. I thank all of you who have come each year to pray for the repose of Lasantha’s soul. Let us pray for him.