Lasantha’s murder: A factual analysis
Posted on April 21st, 2019

By Udaya P Gammanpila Courtesy Ceylon Today

It was a memorable post found in Facebook towards late 2015. It said May aanduwen godagiye dennayi. Ea Lasanthayi Thajudeenuyi vitharayi meaning Only two people have come up under this government. 

They were Lasantha and Thajudeen because their bodies were taken out from their graves”. The deaths of Lasantha and Thajudeen were hot topics during the Presidential Election campaign in 2015. 

Their so-called friends forgot about them after being elected to power. All of a sudden, they have become the focus again after the dissolution of Parliament. Their bodies were taken out from the graves. Soon after the Election, they were able to rest in peace again. 

They became a topic once again only at the last local authority Election held in February 2018. As usual, they were conveniently forgotten soon after the Election. Since the Presidential Election is round the corner, Lasantha’s murder has begun to generate events and news again.


Unethical journalism


Some may be critical of his unethical journalism. I was also highly critical about his politically motivated journalism in which he distorted or suppressed material facts for the advantage of the UNP. Since I closely associated with him, I was about to directly tell my views to his face. 

A few chose the most productive option of challenging him before a court of law. However, nobody had the right to grab his life just because he has unjustly hurt him.


It is unfair by Lasantha for me to mention only the dark side of his journalism. Lasantha should be credited for disclosing several massive corrupt deals and deceptions which were not disclosed by other Media due to fear or favour. If he conducted his investigative journalism without political bias, he would have been honoured by the entire nation with great enthusiasm.


When I allege that Lasantha’s writing was politically motivated, he should be given the opportunity to defend himself. Hence, the truth should be determined by an impartial court after giving a fair hearing to both sides. I have no right to hear my own case and punish Lasantha. Hence, Lasantha’s murder is not a mere homicide, it is an attempt to destroy Media freedom.


Lasantha’s murderers have not been identified yet. However, nobody has doubts about the person behind the murder. Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe, then the Leader of the Opposition made a revelation about the person responsible for the murder, within 24 hours. 

Addressing Parliament on 9 January 2009, He said that Lasantha was murdered by an army unit directly under Army Commander Sarath Fonseka. He has repeated the same with diplomats on the same day according to a cable sent by then US ambassador on 13 January. This cable is now available on the WikiLeaks website.


Military unit


The UNP had been maintaining the stand that there was a military unit under General Fonseka which abducted and tortured journalists. The then Chief Opposition Whip, Joseph Michael Perera informed Parliament on 8 January 2008 that there was a trend of abducting, torturing and killing journalists. He further said that General Fonseka was behind these illegal activities.


Not only the UNP, Lasantha’s family had identified General Fonseka as the person responsible for the murder. In an interview with ‘The Independent’ of UK in February 2013, Lal Wickrematunga, the brother of Lasantha, said that he had informed the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights in writing that General Fonseka was responsible for the murder of his brother.


Ardent UNP supporters


Just like Lasantha, his family are also ardent supporters of the UNP. Not only UNP leaders even Lasantha’s family loved the UNP more than Lasantha as evinced by subsequent events. President Rajapaksa had decided to call for an early Presidential Election to exploit the advantage of the military victory. 

In order to prevent President Rajapaksa receiving the advantage of the military victory, another war hero should be fielded by the Opposition. As President Rajapaksa was ranked the Number One war hero, former Defence Secretary Gotabaya Rajapaksa and Army Commander Fonseka were ranked second and third respectively. 

The Opposition did not in their wildest dreams expect Gotabaya Rajapaksa to contest against his own brother. Hence, they targeted General Fonseka.


Conspiracy


As a result of a massive operation, which can also be dubbed as a conspiracy, Fonseka agreed to be the Opposition’s presidential candidate. 

Nine months was just not enough to erase the memory of Lasantha who sacrificed his life for the cause of the UNP. Surprisingly, the UNP chose Fonseka as their candidate and who had been identified by the UNP itself as the person responsible for the murder of their beloved Lasantha. 

The genuine surprise came from Lasantha’s family. They surprised the entire country by deciding to support Fonseka’s candidacy. Fedrica Janz, the successor to Lasantha at Sunday Leader, testified before the court that the Sunday Leader management decided to support Sarath Fonseka at the presidential election, at a meeting chaired by Lal Wickrematunga.


Murdered


Lasantha was murdered in broad daylight. Nobody says he committed suicide. Hence, the UNP and the Wickrematunga family had to find a scapegoat to acquit Fonseka of the unpardonable allegation. Their scapegoat was Gotabaya. The UNP considered Gotabaya as the biggest threat at a future Presidential Election. 

Hence, they transferred the charge from Fonseka to Gotabaya. However, they were cautious not to conduct a genuine investigation because if they did so, police dogs would reach UNP headquarters along the leads to find the true culprits of the murder.


legal action


Meanwhile, Lasantha’s daughter has filed legal action against Gotabaya in the US when he was there, for the murder of her father. Being a US citizen, Gotabaya had visited the US so many times since Lasantha’s murder. 

He visited the US three times within a year in 2018. Lasantha’s daughter never wanted to  file action against him during any of those opportunities. Does she have a specific reason to file action this time around? Of course, yes. 

Gotabaya announced his intention of running for presidency in January 2019. He filed an application for renunciation of his US citizenship in March 2019 which is a pre-requisite for the candidacy. The UNP now wants to prevent Gotabaya from contesting the presidency. In the least they want to sling mud at him.


There is no impact whatsoever on Gotabaya’s renunciation of US citizenship caused by the legal action filed by Lasantha’s daughter. In their attempt to insult Gotabaya, the UNP has insulted itself by shamelessly selling Lasantha’s murder once again for political gain. The UNP is attempting to run with the hare while hunting with the hounds. I genuinely feel sorry for Lasantha since his loved ones have also become a part of this dirty game of politics!

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