Colombo Telegraph

Gota Is The ‘Mentally Disturbed, Most Awful And Unpleasant Man’ I’ve Ever Met: SLMM Chief

A new book describes Gotabaya Rajapaksa as “mentally disturbed and the most awful and unpleasant person” A book about Sri Lanka, with a focus on the situation for journalists covering the conflict, will be released in Sweden in February. Lasantha Wickrematunge, one of the many journalists murdered in Sri Lanka, is on the cover of the creative non-fiction book called “When They Kill Journalists”.

The book, first to be released in Swedish language, is based on Johan Mikaelsson’s experiences, visiting Sri Lanka from 1997 on. As a journalist Mikaelsson has been writing for daily newspapers, news agencies and magazines, mainly in Sweden, and also made a Sri Lanka documentary in 2002.

Many of the people interviewed in the book have spoken about the roles of the two main press freedom murder suspects Gotabaya Rajapaksa, the Defence Secretary, and his older brother President Mahinda Rajapaksa.

One of them is the outspoken Sri Lanka Monitoring Mission Head Ulf Henricsson, a former Swedish Colonel. In 2006 he experienced how monitors were stopped by the military and the Defence ministry to investigate crime whenever the armed forces were behind them and how the police was forced to fail with its investigations. The most gruesome example is the killing of the 17 aid workers in Muttur.

Henricsson in a quote in the book describes Gotabaya Rajapaksa as “mentally disturbed and the most awful and unpleasant person I have ever met”. Henricsson added he had met quite a few awful people in various war-zones, Mikaelsson explained.

The last few years Johan Mikaelsson made fresh visits to the island and covered events in the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva, when Sri Lanka was on the agenda.

Mikaelsson said he had hoped the book could be released January 8th, as a commemoration of Sunday Leader’s slain editor Lasantha Wickrematunge.

– I was surprised to see that this day was chosen for the presidential election, as the present administration is suspected to be behind the murder and have done nothing to solve it, Mikaelsson said.

The reason for writing the book, Mikaelsson said, is that impunity is unacceptable.

– Many journalists got in harm’s way in Sri Lanka. This is a country with impunity on targeted crimes against media institutions and journalists. That is completely disastrous, if you don’t want to kill democracy that is, Mikaelsson said.

From his first visit he saw the quite obvious cover-up of the real situation in the north and east of the island. The state wanted full control and did its best to stop both local and foreign journalists from visiting those areas.

– I can’t compete with the local journalists. My perspective is the outsider’s. I have tried to see and hear all, but it is clear that the Tamil side has suffered immensely in Sri Lanka and continues to take a beating as long as the northern areas are heavily militarized and there is no real political solution to the conflict, Mikaelsson said, adding that most journalists killed were Tamils.

The central characters in the conflict are either interviewed or were heard at press conferences. Several journalists, among others Dharmeratnam Sivaram and Iqbal Athas, were interviewed when the conflict was on-going. After the end of the conflict Mikaelsson has interviewed peace monitors, peace brokers, human rights lawyers, government representatives, activists, journalists and a LTTE peace secretariat official, who came out alive from the war zone.

Events where Mikaelsson attended, for example Prabhakaran’s press conference, peace talks in Europe, CHOGM and the crucial sessions in Geneva are also covered.

– I have finished the manuscript in Swedish. Now it is time to start translating it to English and to find a publisher in England, the U.S or Canada, he said.

Many of the people interviewed in the book have spoken about the roles of the two main press freedom murder suspects Gotabaya Rajapaksa, the Defence Secretary, and his older brother President Mahinda Rajapaksa.

– One of them is the outspoken Sri Lanka Monitoring Mission Head Ulf Henricsson, a former Swedish Colonel. In 2006 he experienced how monitors were stopped by the military and the Defence ministry to investigate crime whenever the armed forces were behind them and how the police was forced to fail with its investigations. The most gruesome example is the killing of the 17 aid workers in Muttur.

Henricsson in a quote in the book describes Gotabaya Rajapaksa as “mentally disturbed and the most awful and unpleasant person I have ever met”. Henricsson added he had met quite a few awful people in various war-zones, Mikaelsson explained.

Together with photographer Olle Melkerhed he made a documentary in 2002 about the peace process and the situation in the war-torn areas, called “The Year of Peace in Sri Lanka”. Mikaelsson in 1999 wrote a master thesis in journalism on internal war reporting, called “Building Bridges or Adding Fuel to the Fire”.

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