18 August, 2017

An Eulogy: Mel Gunasekera

By Rohan Samarajiva

Dr. Rohan Samarajiva

Dr. Rohan Samarajiva

On the morning of the first Sunday of February 2014 I felt as though the ground I stood on suddenly disappeared.

I learned from a tweet that my friend and leading economic journalist Mel Gunasekera had been murdered in her home. How could this happen?

She was in the prime of her life. She was not sick. She was not run over by a bus.

She was stabbed and killed in her home, a place I had dropped her off at. How could this happen? Let posterity settle the why question. But how could this happen to someone so good, so vivacious, with so much to give?

I met Mel in 1998. I had come from the US and just started work at the Telecom Regulatory Commission. She was also recently returned from the UK after her degree and was working at the Sunday Times.

I recall her telling me how she walked home from work preferring the exercise to being groped in the bus.

Mel

Mel

I got to know a lot of journalists during my time at the TRC, but she and Asantha Sirimanne were special. In these young people I saw the possibility of an enlightened public discourse on economics, a subject sadly neglected by our media.

She then moved to Lanka Business Online to become its editor. She kept suggesting that I should write a column when we met on and off after my return in 2002.

And finally, a month after the 2004 tsunami over dinner at my house, I said yes. Thus began my Choices column in LBO, now going for almost nine years. What she told me in the nicest possible way about keeping it short and having lots of paragraphs, I followed. Mel will live on in my head, telling me to keep it short.

She should be writing my eulogy, not me hers. The young should not predecease the old. We should have built a country where a young journalist could take the bus with no fear and spend a Sunday morning in her own house without getting murdered. The war brutalized us. Killing became nothing.

We built fortified houses that were death traps should the perimeters be breached. What should we do? Put electric fences and fortify them further like my friends in South Africa have done? Or break down the walls and encourage eyes on the street?

I would have so loved to have this and many other conversations with Mel. Why were we too busy to enjoy her company while she was alive?

You lived well, Mel. We are bereft.

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Latest comments

  • 33
    4

    Journalism seems to be the most dangerous profession in Sri Lanka!

    • 18
      2

      Not seems to be but it has become the most dangerous so long Rajapakshes oligarchs are there.

      • 1
        2

        If authorities cannot book the culprit, then it’s fishy.

      • 13
        0

        Sri Lanka was blessed to have Mel as a daughter and as a citizen of our country. Even though for a shortwhile.

        We should be sorry as a society. We failed to protect her.

        But, values she represented and strived for, her hopes for our beautiful country’s future will prevail. At the end. She will triumph.

        Rest in Peace Mel.

    • 13
      0

      May Mel Gunesekera’s Soul Rest in Peace.

      Please accept our heartfelt condolences on the loss of your loved one.

      We are saddened to hear of the sudden loss and our hearts are with you in this time of sorrow, and words can’t express how saddened we are to hear of your loss.

      Please know that our thoughts and prayers are with you during this tragic time.

      Mel’s loss is a loss for All peace loving Sri Lankans.

      My thoughts roamed to Bob Dylan’s song, Blowin’ in the Wind, on the precarious security situation journalists in Sri Lanka under the current so-called “democratic” regime.

      ( ) are mine.

      How many roads must a man(woman) walk down,
      before you call him a man(woman)?

      How many seas must a white dove fly,
      before she sleeps in the sand?

      And how many times must a cannon ball fly,
      before they’re forever banned?

      The answer my friend is blowing in the wind,
      the answer is blowing in the wind.

      How many years can a mountain exist,
      before it is washed to the sea?

      How many years can some people exist,
      before they’re allowed to be free?

      And how many times can a man(women) turn his(her head,
      and pretend that he(she) just doesn’t see?

      The answer my friend is blowing in the wind,
      the answer is blowing in the wind.

      How many times must a man(woman) look up,
      before he sees the sky?

      And how many ears must one man(woman) have,
      before he(she) can hear people cry ?

      And how many deaths will it take till we know,
      that too many people have died?

      The answer my friend is blowing in the wind,
      the answer is blowing in the wind.

      The answer my friend is blowing in the wind,
      the answer is blowing in the wind.

    • 0
      3

      The only country where masons murder journalists.

  • 11
    0

    dear Dr Samarajiva,
    Pls accept my sympathies. May her soul rest in peace. Bensen

  • 17
    5

    mahinda, gota combination has created a dangerous post war society. Let’s get rid of them soon

    • 7
      1

      I wish another Somarama was born, to do this “justice” in time.

      • 3
        5

        I wish could turn to a suicide killer to remove Rajapakshe.

        See, how tragic the death of this lady today ? Tomorrow will be someone else. All these are becuase lack of rule of law in the country. The man who is accountable for all these is Rajapakse, nobody else.
        I really dont know why the US or other powerful allies still fail to bring MR before the international court. The day – we will see the man would be executed – the start of peace and reconciliation towards all folks in the country. The man is far brutal than Hitler.

    • 1
      2

      couldn’t have said it better !

  • 7
    4

    Something has to change politically in this country, The culture very much going towards East Africa

  • 6
    1

    My sympathies. May her soul rest in peace.

    Murdering in broad day time has become so simple in Sr Lanka, the Wonder of Asia.No matter who the person is to kill for these killers.

  • 4
    5

    C.T.: “An Eulogy” should be ‘A Eulogy.’ Eulogy begins with a consonant sound. ‘an’ before vowel sounds, ‘a’ before consonant sounds.

    • 13
      0

      Shabab: Of course you’re right but this is no time for being pedantic and, for some of us, good sense will always trump good grammar.

      • 6
        0

        I addressed it the CT hoping the editors would have the good sense just to change the word. Of course, the whole reason for this eulogy is heartbreaking and worrisome.

    • 6
      1

      Heartless, Shabab, heartless. LOOK AT THE BIG PICTURE!

    • 1
      1

      Fully agreed with Shabab. This is bad editing, and there’s nothing wrong in pointing that out.

  • 7
    0

    Mel Gunasekera, Rest in Peace. Once again, and once too often, someone decent and law abiding has to pay for the curse that has been unleashed on our Miracle of Asia. Thugs, crooks and murderers have been allowed to operate unchecked, with impunity, by a police force that is inept and incompetent and, worse, at the direction and with the blessings of crooked self-serving politicians. How many Mel’s, Lal’s and many others will have to be sacrificed before the forces of good rise and bring sanity to our island paradise?

    • 0
      0

      Wait for another 100 years. This is a land of grass eating two legged animals

  • 6
    2

    Folks,
    what is the cause of her killing?
    is it just a robbery from a drug dealer or like another Mandana Ismail like ‘govt sponsored robbery’ ?

    Are we going to hear the most expensive Presidents Council appear for the thief and expose a cooked up story about the deceased in the courts?

  • 7
    0

    This sad death is just another number as far as SL is concerned?
    Lest we forget the others, a humble repetition below:-
    2004
    1. Aiyathurai A. Nadesan – Journalist / 31 May
    2. Kandaswamy Aiyer Balanadaraj – Writer / 16 August
    3. Lanka Jayasundera – Photo journalist / 11 December2005
    4. Dharmaratnam Sivaram – Editor / 28 April
    5. Kannamuttu Arsakumar – Media worker/ 29 June
    6. Relangee Selvarajah – Journalist / 12 August
    7. D. Selvaratnam – Media worker/ 29 August
    8. Yogakumar Krishnapillai – Media Worker / 30 September
    9. L. M. Faleel (Netpittimunai Faleel) – Writer / 02 December
    10. K. Navaratnam – Media worker / 22 December2006
    11. Subramaniam Suhirtharajan – Journalist / 24 January
    12. S. T. Gananathan – Patron, Tamil News and Information Centre / 01 February
    13. Bastian George Sagayathas – Media worker / 03 May
    14. Rajaratnam Ranjith Kumar – Media worker / 03 May
    15. Sampath Lakmal de Silva – Journalist / 02 July – killed by Army Intelligence
    16. Mariadasan Manojanraj – Media worker / 01 August
    17. Pathmanathan Vismananthan – Singer and musician / 02 August
    18. Sathasivam Baskaran – Media worker / 15 August
    19. Sinnathamby Sivamaharajah – Media owner / 20 August
    2007
    20. S. Raveendran – Media worker / 12 February
    21. Subramaniam Ramachandran – Media personnel / 15 February
    22. Chandrabose Suthakar – Journalist / 16 April
    23. Selvarasah Rajeevarman – Journalist / 29 April
    24. Sahadevan Neelakshan – Journalist / 01 August
    25. Anthonypillai Sherin Siththiranjan – Media worker / 05 November
    26. Vadivel Nimalarajah – Media worker / 17 November
    27. Isaivizhi Chempian (Subhajini) – Media worker / 27 November
    28. Suresh Limbiyo – Media Worker / 27 November
    29. T.Tharmalingam – Media Worker / 27 November
    2008
    30. Paranirupesingham Devakumar – Journalist / 28 May
    31. Rasmi Mohamad – Journalist / 06 October
    2009
    32. Lasantha Wickrematunga – Editor / 08 January
    33. Punniyamurthy Sathyamurthy – Journalist / 12 February
    34. Sasi Mathan – Media worker / 06 March

    19 Journalists Killed in Sri Lanka/ Source: Tamil H.R. ( Paris)

    Shoba, O’liveechchu
    May 18 or 19, in Mullivaikkal, Sri Lanka
    Puniyamoorthy Sathiyamoorthy, freelance
    February 12, 2009, in Mullaitheevu district, Sri Lanka
    Lasantha Wickramatunga, The Sunday Leader
    January 8, 2009, in an area outside Colombo, Sri Lanka
    Rashmi Mohamed, Sirasa TV
    October 6, 2008, in Anuradhapura, Sri Lanka
    Paranirupasingham Devakumar, News 1st
    May 28, 2008, in Jaffna, Sri Lanka
    Suresh Linbiyo, Voice of Tigers
    November 27, 2007, in Kilinochchi, Sri Lanka
    T. Tharmalingam, Voice of Tigers
    November 27, 2007, in Kilinochchi, Sri Lanka
    Isaivizhi Chempiyan, Voice of Tigers
    November 27, 2007, in Kilinochchi, Sri Lanka
    Selvarajah Rajeewarnam, Uthayan
    April 29, 2007, in Jaffna, Sri Lanka
    Subash Chandraboas, Nilam
    April 16, 2007, in an area near Vavuniya, Sri Lanka
    Subramaniyam Sugitharajah, Sudar Oli
    January 24, 2006, in Trincomalee, Sri Lanka
    Relangi Selvarajah, Sri Lanka Rupavahini Corp.
    August 12, 2005, in Colombo, Sri Lanka
    Dharmeratnam Sivaram, TamilNet and Daily Mirror
    April 29, 2005, in Colombo, Sri Lanka
    Lanka Jayasundara, Wijeya Publications
    December 11, 2004, in Colombo, Sri Lanka
    Bala Nadarajah Iyer, Thinamurasu and Thinakaran
    August 16, 2004, in Colombo, Sri Lanka
    Aiyathurai Nadesan, Virakesari
    May 31, 2004, in Batticaloa, Sri Lanka
    Mylvaganam Nimalarajan, BBC, Virakesari, Ravaya
    October 19, 2000, in Jaffna, Sri Lanka
    Anura Priyantha, Independent Television Network
    December 18, 1999, in Colombo, Sri Lanka
    Indika Pathinivasan, Maharaja Television Network
    December 18, 1999, in Colombo, Sri Lanka

    6 Journalists Killed in Sri Lanka/Motive Unconfirmed
    http://www.cpj.org/killed/terminology.php
    Sahadevan Nilakshan, Chaalaram
    August 1, 2007, in Jaffna, Sri Lanka
    Sinnathamby Sivamaharajah, Namathu Eelanadu
    August 20, 2006, in Jaffna, Sri Lanka
    Sampath Lakmal, Sathdina
    July 1, 2006, in Colombo, Sri Lanka
    Vasthian Anthony Mariyadas, Freelancer
    December 31, 1999, in Vavuniya, Sri Lanka
    Atputharajah Nadarajah, Thinamurusu
    November 2, 1999, in Colombo, Sri Lanka
    Rohana Kumara, Satana
    September 7, 1999, in Colombo, Sri Lanka

    • 2
      0

      Thanks for the listing. Clearly with time one can see how the ethnicity of individuals has changed prior, during and after war.
      As you have mentioned this among many other politically motivated murders just numbers.
      Add salt to the wounds irresponsible/unqualified politicos make jokes about the dead individuals openly.

      We may never know the real reason behind this murder as well.
      May her soul rest in peace !
      What a tragedy, the person who is committing the murder does know why he/she is killing the victim does not know why he/she is being killed.

      Society is gone to dogs, there is no effort being done to correct the root cause. effluents are making merry as if there is no tomorrow. while the country is going to dogs. Greece like situation is not too far away if this continues.

  • 2
    1

    What a tragedy ! People must now understand that Sri Lanka is fast becoming the most dangerous place for ordinary , decent , law abiding people to live in .

  • 2
    2

    Freedom of Press is still questionable in Sri Lanka. This had happened after the CHOGM.

  • 7
    0

    If Mel had friends amongst the powers that be, her murder will be investigated, and the guilty brought to book.

    But, if she didn’t, the ‘investigation’ will go the same way, Lasantha’s did.

  • 1
    0

    Mel………………. I don’t know what to say.

    ”………Citizens of this country, while they may have different political affiliations, must not legitimise this erosion of democracy…. Consenting to this type of governance as a legitimate function of the Presidency when the Constitution and the laws of the land do not confer such powers on the President can only lead to a breakdown of democracy in our land” – Authoritarianism or Democratic Governance? Savitri Goonesekere (Emeritus Professor of Law, University of Colombo), 27 January 2014, https://www.colombotelegraph.com/index.php/authoritarianism-or-democratic-governance/

  • 3
    3

    ”The war brutalized us” ? NO.

    All what has been happening since 1948 till today has been brutalising us.

  • 1
    0

    RIP MEL. This is cruel.Deepest Sympathies to the family on their tragic loss.

  • 1
    4

    I think it is time the Military intelligence trys to get to the bottom of these incidents. It is very possible the Diaspora are paying thugs to do their bidding . There does not seem to be any reason for the govt to want to have these people removed .

    The Police obviously not equipped to handle these issues . they never were .

    • 0
      2

      Jarapakses [Edited out] , Abhaya !

    • 2
      0

      You need to wrap up warmly, days ahead will be darker than it appeared to be for all Rajapakses and you guys that are in covering mission.

      Right thinking ones must support come out of these dangerous situation the country.

      Putting them all on TD is yours and their excuses that have been common sofar. Besides, why should TD make efforts to kill any journalists ?

  • 1
    0

    Thanks Rohan. Rest in peace Mel.

  • 0
    0

    IN THIS COUNTRY WHEN JOURNALIST ARE SILENCED ..IT IS ALWAYS ALIBY ARE USED LIKE INTHE CASE OF THE SUNDAY LEADER RECENTLY…..PROFESSIONAL APPROACH BY THE AUTHORITIES……..SCOTLANDYARD OR FBI CAN SOLVE THIS BUT OUR LAW ENFORCEMENT IS COMPETENT BUT CURTAILED…

  • 0
    0

    “A Eulogy”, not “An Eulogy”

    As English standards slip among us Sri Lankans, it is especially important to be correct; for reading Sri Lankan writing on a regular basis – increasingly The Island and even The Daily News which was reliable at least for grammar once upon a time – I find my ears getting attuned to what the New York Times has called Barbarous English and, as result, making the same slips myself with growing frequency.

    Here is what NYT had to say over a century ago about An Eulogy:

    “English grammars require ‘an’ before any word beginning with a vowel or a silent h, and ‘a’ before all others. But some words begin with a vowel, though they have the sound of a consonant. So where this is the case ‘a’ must be used and not ‘an,’ for the rule is made for the sake of euphony.

    “Never mind what the learned professors say or write; common people who make the language and who know better, never make this mistake. Their ear or feeing guides them rightly. An European, an one, or an eulogy is barbarous English, for this practice violates the spirit of the rule while violating the letter.”

    Robert Waters
    Published: New York Times, March 9, 1906.

  • 0
    0

    I read with this great sadness, a young life with so much to give others cut off. We can only pray for her.

    I was struck by Rohan’s sentence that killing had become nothing. We have so many killing machines now in Sri Lanka.

    The list of journalists killed in Sri Lanka keeps mounting. It is difficult to believe that theft was the motive when similar facts show otherwise.

  • 1
    0

    Where Rohan your fake Prof. Position?

  • 1
    0

    It appears that a potential burglar had been unpleasantly surprised that the home owners had been home during his intrusion, and to avoid being identified, killed the journalist businesswoman, according to his own admission to police, say the Sri Lanka police spokesmen…

    • 0
      0

      Lasantha Pethiyagoda:
      You never cease to annoy with your attempts at “intellectualizing” everything. How the hell could the police have known that Mel “surprised the burglar” even BEFORE they had apprehended him? Did they have, like your leaders, an “Ananjanam Eliya” handy?

      Has nobody noticed that the man writing this piece, Rohan Samarajiwa (and his son) have been, for a significant time now, great supporters of the regime(s) under which law and order have disappeared? Isn’t that what is called hypocrisy?

  • 0
    0

    The poor girl was brutally murdered by the suspect – said to be a drug addict. The cause is likely to be drug addiction. It is those at the helm of affairs in the country known to be encouraging and shielding the kingpins of drug-trafficking and distribution in the country. Some of these drug lords are honoured with high Govt office. What more can you expect. Even school children are now into this because of easy and plentiful availability.

    It is believed the Govt has used the Army in the North to make serious drugs easily and readily available so that the young there can be destroyed over a period of time. Ironically, the plan has worked on the reverse and now the South is unable to rid itself of the menace.
    The coming of Big Casinos will mean more drugs coming into the country
    and the destruction of our youth of both sexes – Sinhala, Tamil, Muslim and others. It is regrettable the Mahanayakes, who lose no time in claiming they saved the nation and the religion for over 2,500 years, remaining otherwise silent and unconcerned in the comfort zone of their ample Temple sorroundings.

    Kettikaran

  • 0
    1

    Lets join hands as a nation and get rid of these rajapasa’s uneducated criminal corrupted thugs who came from hambantota impoverished family . Colombo 7 Elite has to wake up and smell the coffee as well in order to get rid of these regime all together . We can only do it an entire nation hold hands together then we can all live side by side in harmony tamils , sinhalase , and muslims . Lets do it ,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,

  • 0
    1

    The whole country weeps for you Mel. We never know who could be next.. Wake up Sri Lanka. Our heartfelt sympathies to the bereaved family.

  • 0
    1

    Sri Lanka has gone to the dogs. The dogs seem to be ruling and ruining the country, which was once a Paradise island. Why on earth did this have to happen to our beautiful island??? Mother Lanka has been eroded with crime and murders, not to mention murderers creeping into locked houses and slashing throats of innocent people, just to appease the powers that be… Oh dear, Oh dear, where are the guardians of the law??? Where is justice and fairplay??? Do we have something called Human Rights in sri Lanka??? Please …. we must do something to stop this mayhem.

  • 0
    1

    We would have been better off without gaining independence. If the powers that be cannot put an end to all this violence, whats the point ??
    The government in power must do something about this without turning a blind eye to whats happening. Its all happening under their very noses!!!

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