An Eulogy: Mel Gunasekera

Filed under: Colombo Telegraph,Opinion,Popular Columns |
 

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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44 Responses to An Eulogy: Mel Gunasekera

  1. 33
    4
    Journalism seems to be the most dangerous profession in Sri Lanka!

    Rationalist
    February 2, 2014 at 3:35 pm
    Reply

    • 18
      2
      Not seems to be but it has become the most dangerous so long Rajapakshes oligarchs are there.

      Sirimal
      February 2, 2014 at 4:36 pm
      Reply

      • 1
        2
        If authorities cannot book the culprit, then it’s fishy.

        John
        February 2, 2014 at 7:59 pm
        Reply

      • 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.

        Ben Hurling
        February 2, 2014 at 9:50 pm
        Reply

    • 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.

      Amarasiri
      February 2, 2014 at 6:19 pm
      Reply

    • 0
      3
      The only country where masons murder journalists.

      crazyoldmansl
      February 3, 2014 at 8:42 am
      Reply

  2. 11
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    dear Dr Samarajiva, Pls accept my sympathies. May her soul rest in peace. Bensen

    Bensen Burner
    February 2, 2014 at 3:43 pm
    Reply

  3. 17
    4
    mahinda, gota combination has created a dangerous post war society. Let’s get rid of them soon

    Wathsala Premani
    February 2, 2014 at 3:57 pm
    Reply

    • 7
      1
      I wish another Somarama was born, to do this “justice” in time.

      punchinilame
      February 2, 2014 at 6:06 pm
      Reply

      • 3
        4
        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.

        Sirimal
        February 3, 2014 at 3:24 am
        Reply

    • 1
      2
      couldn’t have said it better !

      ruwan
      February 2, 2014 at 9:47 pm
      Reply

  4. 7
    3
    Something has to change politically in this country, The culture very much going towards East Africa

    Yoosuf
    February 2, 2014 at 4:27 pm
    Reply

  5. 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.

    Buddhi Galappatty
    February 2, 2014 at 4:29 pm
    Reply

  6. 4
    5
    C.T.: “An Eulogy” should be ‘A Eulogy.’ Eulogy begins with a consonant sound. ‘an’ before vowel sounds, ‘a’ before consonant sounds.

    Shabab
    February 2, 2014 at 5:23 pm
    Reply

    • 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.

      Spring Koha
      February 2, 2014 at 6:08 pm
      Reply

      • 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.

        Shabab
        February 2, 2014 at 8:40 pm
        Reply

    • 6
      1
      Heartless, Shabab, heartless. LOOK AT THE BIG PICTURE!

      Goraka
      February 2, 2014 at 6:51 pm
      Reply

    • 1
      1
      Fully agreed with Shabab. This is bad editing, and there’s nothing wrong in pointing that out.

      Gamarala
      February 3, 2014 at 9:08 am
      Reply

  7. 7
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    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?

    Spring Koha
    February 2, 2014 at 6:00 pm
    Reply

    • 0
      0
      Wait for another 100 years. This is a land of grass eating two legged animals

      Upali Wickramasinghe
      February 13, 2014 at 9:40 pm
      Reply

  8. 6
    1
    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?

    Matilda Ellepola
    February 2, 2014 at 6:02 pm
    Reply

  9. 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

    punchinilame
    February 2, 2014 at 6:30 pm
    Reply

    • 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.

      Kamal
      February 2, 2014 at 7:24 pm
      Reply

  10. 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 .

    Dr.Goebells
    February 2, 2014 at 7:31 pm
    Reply

  11. 2
    1
    Freedom of Press is still questionable in Sri Lanka. This had happened after the CHOGM.

    Citizen
    February 2, 2014 at 8:00 pm
    Reply

  12. 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.

    Sharmini Serasinghe
    February 2, 2014 at 8:09 pm
    Reply

  13. 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/

    Punitham
    February 2, 2014 at 8:11 pm
    Reply

  14. 3
    3
    ”The war brutalized us” ? NO. All what has been happening since 1948 till today has been brutalising us.

    Punitham
    February 2, 2014 at 8:19 pm
    Reply

  15. 1
    0
    RIP MEL. This is cruel.Deepest Sympathies to the family on their tragic loss.

    Marie
    February 2, 2014 at 9:07 pm
    Reply

  16. 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 .

    Abhaya
    February 2, 2014 at 9:28 pm
    Reply

    • 0
      2
      Jarapakses [Edited out] , Abhaya !

      ruwan
      February 2, 2014 at 9:55 pm
      Reply

    • 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 ?

      Sirimal
      February 2, 2014 at 10:09 pm
      Reply

  17. 1
    0
    Thanks Rohan. Rest in peace Mel.

    Anpu
    February 2, 2014 at 9:36 pm
    Reply

  18. 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…

    SAI
    February 3, 2014 at 12:24 am
    Reply

  19. 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.

    Grammarian
    February 3, 2014 at 6:54 am
    Reply

  20. 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.

    kabaragoya
    February 3, 2014 at 7:03 am
    Reply

  21. 1
    0
    Where Rohan your fake Prof. Position?

    Medical Specialist (Dr) Shamila Fernando
    February 3, 2014 at 9:18 am
    Reply

  22. 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…

    Lasantha Pethiyagoda
    February 3, 2014 at 10:50 pm
    Reply

    • 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?

      Palayang yako!
      February 7, 2014 at 3:47 pm
      Reply

  23. 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

    Kettikaran
    February 6, 2014 at 6:21 am
    Reply

  24. 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 ,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,

    asim akbaar
    February 13, 2014 at 2:12 am
    Reply

  25. 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.

    Eshan
    February 14, 2014 at 3:51 pm
    Reply

  26. 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.

    Eshan
    February 15, 2014 at 1:41 pm
    Reply

  27. 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!!!

    Eshan
    February 28, 2014 at 3:57 pm
    Reply

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