By Ahimsa Wickrematunge –
January 8, 2009: a blood-drenched, day in the media and human rights history of Sri Lanka. A day when tyrannical rulers drunk with power decided they must kill the messenger and let loose their murderous assassins on an unarmed journalist. On that day, my father’s vision for justice and equality ended. The death knell of democracy rang loud and clear.
January 8, 2015: a day when those very persons responsible for Lasantha Wickrematunge‘s death are asking that a grateful and amnesiatic people re-elect them to power so their bloodlust may continue and thrive.
As the daughter of that journalist, since then, January 8 has been the hardest day of the year for me, and now, the sheer audacity of the Sri Lankan government’s decision to hold the presidential election on the 6th anniversary of my father’s murder, is abominable to say the least.
It is no secret who was behind his death and who gave out the orders. It’s public knowledge. And though I speak from a victim’s standpoint, I am also trying to speak out as a Sri Lankan who is greatly concerned for the welfare of her country. And irrespective of the history, politics and differences my family has had with this current regime, I only want what is best for my country and my people.
On my last trip to Sri Lanka about two months ago I was shocked and disgusted at how ridiculously high the cost of living is; I witnessed so much poverty and met so many families whose children go days without a meal. It seemed to me that while the everyday Sri Lankan struggles to educate and feed their children, their rulers are unconscionably living large on taxpayer money and induldging in extravagant expenditures, bribery and vulgar tamashas.
On that note, it really warmed my heart to hear that Opposition Presidential candidate Maithripala Sirisena has declared that certain proceeds from his campaign will go into a fund for kidney patients who can’t afford dialysis treatments.
The only improvements I saw in Sri Lanka seemed to be the beautification programs and the road developments but no amount of quick-fix cosmetic changes will ever justify all the human rights abuses that have and are taking place.
Never in the post-independence histroy of our country has there ever been a leadership that has so much blood and corruption on their hands and brought so much shame to our country’s name. Both Mahinda and Gota continue to take the cake as two of Reporters Without Borders’ Press Freedom Predators. Do not forget that it was this govenrment that was alleged to have deprived civilians in the conflict zone of humanitarian aid during the closing stages of the war. It has systematically attempted to intimidate and silence the media and other critics through a plethora of threats and actions. Only in a totalitarian country like Sri Lanka today would leaders who have been accused of war crimes and crimes against humanity be up for election for another term.
Even though I lost a father I know I’m just one amongst the hundreds of thousands that lost loved ones to the war. My heart goes out especially to the tamil people who continue to grieve in silence. Its time for us all to have some accountability
It is unimaginable that the 8th of January could be an auspicious date for some also considering that It is the birth anniversary of SWRD Bandaranaike and the 6th death anniversary of my father. This 8th of Jan will be even harder because there’s a chance those that took my father’s life will be up for another term. The present President’s astrologer deems it is “auspicious” for him to hold elections on this very same day.
The political party SWRD Bandaranaike founded is in fragments and so was my fathers’ body. Both under the present President who is seeking an unprecedented third term after promising to the people that he would abolish the cursed Executive Presidency.
It was this same President who on several occasions had informed my Uncle Lal that it was Gen Sarath Fonseka who killed my father. There is a case ongoing in the Magistrates Court of Mt Lavinia into my father’s death. I truly hope that he would go that short distance to place such evidence before court. Gen Sarath Fonseka when asked by a reporter from BBC accused the President and his brother Gota of killing my father.
After everything we have gone through as a country pre and post war, I think it’s really time for a change and nine years of what we have been through is enough. Nothing can stand in the way of millions of people calling for change.
If my father hadn’t been slaughtered in a high security zone in broad daylight, there would be no way he would have stayed silent about what has been happening in this “Dhammadeepa”. But of course he was summarily executed so the evils would remain skeletons firmly locked up.
Just like every right-thinking citizen my heart hurts for my country and my people. Let’s do what’s best for our children and our country. The choice to dispense with these blights on society and democracy is in our hands.
Note – This article first published on December 9, 2014