22 July, 2024


Hague Tribunal: ‘MiG Deal Revelations The Main Motive For Lasantha’s Murder’ – Ex IP Nishantha Silva

“As a result of my investigations into the Lasantha Wickrematunge’s murder case, I believe the MiG deal revelations in The Sunday Leader formed the main motive for his murder,” former Inspector of Police and lead investigator into Wickrematunge’s murder told the People’s Tribunal on the Murder of Journalists at the Hague, Netherlands on May 12.

Lasantha’s day in court

IP Nishantha Silva detailed among other things how cell phones used by the murderers were identified by combing through cell tower records and that after journalist Keith Noyahr was abducted on May 22, 2007 and subsequently released, the chain of telephone calls that led to the release began with businessman Krishantha Cooray and editor Lalith Allahakoon and ended with then Secretary to the Ministry of Defence Gotabaya Rajapaksa and Army Intelligence Officer Major Prabath Bulathwatte.

On, May 12, the People’s Tribunal in The Hague began hearings into the assassination of Lasantha Wickrematunge, based on an indictment presented by a coalition of international press freedom organisations. A Safer World For The Truth is a collaborative project between three leading press freedom rights groups , Free Press Unlimited, Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) and Reporters Without Borders (RSF), to pursue justice for murdered journalists.

The hearing featured testimonies from journalists and witnesses who worked with Wickrematunge who spoke at length about the many obstacles faced by journalists in Sri Lanka in the pursuit of their craft.

The case also heard evidence and testimony on the murder itself and attacks on other journalists from key witnesses Sandhya Ekneligoda, Bashana Abeywardena, Dilrukshi Handunnetti and former CID inspector Nishantha Silva. The proceedings began with an overview of the media climate in Sri Lanka by Executive Director, Centre For Policy Alternatives Dr Paikiasothy Saravanamuttu.

Sandya Ekneligoda, wife of cartoonist Prageeth Ekneligoda who disappeared in January 2010, provided context to the repressive and hostile conditions under which journalists operated at the time and explained in detail the events that led to his disappearance. Referring to her closely shaved head and black attire, the mother of two boys explained she had made a decision to not grow her hair again or wear anything but black until the case of her husband was solved.

Prabashana Abeywardena, a journalist who fled the country in 2006 and lives in exile after he was targeted for his writings especially on the war effort, gave an exhaustive and detailed account of what journalists in Sri Lanka, especially Tamil journalists, suffered during the brutal 2005-2015 period.

Journalist Dilrukshi Handunnetti who worked with Wickrematunge up until his assassination, explained her role in the first article in the series of exposes on the MIG deal and her memories of working with an editor who created space in the newsroom for divergent viewpoints.

The People’s Tribunal does not have the official judicial authority to hold perpetrators of these crimes legally responsible. However, its hearings and decisions may provide some solace to victims and victim families who have been denied justice in their own countries. It may also serve as political pressure for more formal judicial processes and offer support to the journalistic community.

Human Rights Attorney Nushin Sarkarati who testified at the hearings and represents Ahimsa Wickrematunge opened the hearing with a statement that was read on behalf of Lasantha’s daughter.

Excerpts of the statement:

“As I speak to you today, remarkable and truly historic events are taking place in Sri Lanka. After years of suffering under the tyranny of Rajapaksa misrule and despotism, the people have risen in one strident voice and are demanding that these abusive leaders exit from government.

It was under the Presidency of Mahinda Rajapaksa that my father Lasantha Wickrematunge was assassinated in cold blood on the streets of Colombo on the 8th of  January 2009. At the time, the current President Gotabaya Rajapaksa served as the Defence Secretary in his brother Mahinda’s government. It was a dark and repressive era in the history of Sri Lanka, and the rulers assumed that the murder of this trail-blazing journalist would be but a small distraction in the jubilant celebrations of a war victory. They could not have been more wrong. My father’s assassination caused outrage, not only in Sri Lanka but across the world….

Even though a murder investigation was initiated in Sri Lanka soon after his assassination, nothing came of it. When the government changed in 2015, both Sri Lanka and our family finally hoped that justice would finally be done and that Lasantha Wickrematunge’s killers would finally be held to account.  But it was not to be. Members of the new government were more interested in covering for the killers than seeking to punish the perpetrators of this crime.

For so many years, courts and governments have slammed the door on families of murdered journalists who seek nothing more than to bring those who killed their loved ones to justice. Now, the People’s Tribunal on Murdered Journalists in the Hague have taken up the case of my father, together with two other slain journalists from Syria and Mexico, Nabil Shabarji and Miguel Angel Lopez Velasco. It is heartening that 13 long years after my father’s assassination, the People’s Tribunal is providing families like mine something resembling a day in court. My thoughts and prayers are with the families of murdered Sri Lankan journalists Prageeth Ekneligoda, Dharmeratnam Sivaram, Mylvaganam Nimalarajan as well as with journalist Keith Noyahr who was subject to brutal torture and many others who paid a high price for speaking truth to power. Perhaps when the tribunal lays out the full brutality of these murders, the bell will finally toll for those who killed journalists like my father – those who might have imagined they would never face the consequences of their barbarity.

My father’s assassination, just like the killings of all other journalists, was not only a heinous crime that denied his family of a wonderful father, but also robbed the people of Sri Lanka their right to the truth. In that last editorial he wrote, “I hope my assassination will not be seen as a defeat of freedom but an inspiration for those who survive….I hope it will galvanise forces that will usher in a new era of human liberty in our beloved motherland.’ Those words are indeed coming true before our eyes today as the people of Sri Lanka rise in unity against years of corruption, misrule, state sanctioned murder and impunity. We can dare hope that my father’s vision of transparency, impartiality, tolerance and liberty is within reach.“

The verdict on the trial is set to be delivered sometime in June.

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Latest comments

  • 28

    Justice……Long overdue
    “Gotabaya will never ask pardon for my father’s death” Ahimsa Wickremetunga’s letter to Ranil Wickramsinghe.

    • 3

      Today they the buddhists celebrate VESAK in that part of the world. On this very day, they commemorate the birth, enlightenment, and death of Siddhartha Gautama, who is commonly known as Buddha. Real buddhists and all other pseudo buddhists that are self-proclaimed to be as such celebrate it by illuminating lanterns in their close vicinities.

      On this very day, to raise this question, an editor had to pay his life is special. I cant forget the manner that then small girl child of Lasantha fought like an iron lady opening the eyes of the silent masses before Gota was elected as the Prez.


      Had srilankens respected the thoughts and warnings of this young lady, things would no thave reached to this levels as we face it today.

      Mercy cows dominated srilanka would NOT care much but let they betray doing anything and everything on and on, withhout counting the consequences.
      Daughter, Ahimsa Wickramathunge, we are always with you. Truths will reveal and Karma will punish the murderers sooner than later. Mahinda Rajapakshe will land in the dangerous part of the hell – if that would not be the case, this life should not have a meaning.

  • 41

    Absolutely emotional …..how pathetic!!!

    Lasantha fearlessly fought for a corrupt free society…to get rid of the biggest rogues of the land – Rajapakshas! So was Prageeth..!!

    And supported Ranil unconditionally to get that job done ….How stupid Lasantha was on that…!!!

    How ironical Ranil has become the obedient servant of the very gang that killed Lasantha….!!

    SHAME has no limits….!!!

    • 10

      By the time, Lasantha was assasinated, his girl child, Ahimsa was a little girl. This girl as a young lady warned the srilankens shortly before last PE in Nov 2019, if Gota would be the president, the situation nation would be beyond all ethics and morals. That is exactly what have been experiencing today.

  • 34

    Even though lots of happening in Sri Lanka, none of the existing political parties are committed to punish those who murdered the number of journalists including Lasantha because they are also part of the crimes against journalist or afraid to face the anger of powerful Fundamentalists.

    • 5

      This comment was removed by a moderator because it didn’t abide by our Comment policy.

      For more detail see our Comment policy https://www.colombotelegraph.com/index.php/comments-policy-2

  • 22

    How can you call this Executioner of enmies GOTA who violteed Interntional laaw a BUDDHIST He caaries lotus flower to Viharra and prays in front of Lord Buddhha satue, All acting like his brother Mahinda Rajaokase who kissed the land at the Airport. To cover up the fraud aacting s needed to divefrt the aaterntion ofmaasses. They used the ethnic issuea as a weapon to decrive the ignorant poor singhala maases. Tha is how he came President by staging Easyter Sunday attacack Now the cat is out of the Bag as GOTA GO GAMA
    The best wording is GOTA GO CEMETRY

    • 9

      This comment was removed by a moderator because it didn’t abide by our Comment policy.

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    • 3

      “Tha is how he came President by staging Easyter Sunday attacack.”

      What a dumb assumption!
      Why did ‘Yahapalana’ dong keys allowed Gotabhaya Rajapakshe to stage a terrorist attack using Muslims to win the Presidential election?
      Do you think Wahhabi Muslim Fundamentalists will blow them up to elect a Sinhala Buddhist as the President?

      • 0

        These Colombo Telepraph pages record Lasantha’s brother as saying that it was not about journalism, that was not the reason he was killed. Can we trust CT? Search for the article.

        The Yahas did not think ‘it would be such a big attack’ and had prior warning. This is a matter of public record. So why did they not do anything about it? There are many possibilities, but readers can imagine only one. So be it.

        Why were so many training camps allowed to be built and operated under the Yahas?

        All while keeping their legitimacy.

  • 17

    If I am not mistaken, Ranil capitalised Lasantha’s murder politically but filed to keep his word once elected, maybe it was peer pressure but he lost credibility massively. Now he is PM once again & the burning question is abuse of power & massive corruption for which the people, rightly, want justice, & he has the power to do the right thing & investigate the allegations, not another white wash. It’s RW’s last opportunity to stand tall & do the right thing. He can gain respect & prove his critics wrong or be condemned as just another opportunist, a failed leader.

  • 19

    I took time again to read Lasantha’s parting editorial to Gotha. Each and every word of Lasantha, in the current context (prevailing situation) is prophesy. Lasantha was a great journalist and a human being. Hope the family will get justice.

    • 2

      If interested see more information in 18th Daily Mirror. ” five phones that followed Lasantha before his murder” by Amantha Perera, based on foot print investigations, specializing in cell site tracking /satellite mobile phone mapping

  • 11

    Ranil W being the leader of the UNP wants to keep that position for ever or hand over to one of his relatives.
    The Uncle & Nephew Party is as bad as Rajapaksas in that they have destroyed the country economically.
    They ARE the Economic Terrorists.
    I am eagerly waiting for a True Singhalese Buddhist STATESMAN to arise from the current STRUGGLE (Aragalaya) and for him /her to apologise to the MINORITIES for all the HARM caused to them and for that person to PROTECT the constitutional RIGHTS of the minorities for ever & ever in SL.

  • 10

    Well Ranil is a master of deception. If you look at this whole drama and the picture from 10,000 feet high you can see few interesting acts.
    1. Sajit Premadasa is a corrupt and a crook. He is an opportunist who wants to be the President at any cost. He knew he will not be able to do that unless Gota goes. The young protesters does not want him as the president.
    2. Gota asked Sajit to be PM but he wats Gota to resign then he will become the president but Gota did a number on him and offered the PM to Ranil. One man party UNP. For Ranil to survive he needs Gota and Gota’s party MPs to show majority. Gota got his puppet. Ranil is not talking about investigating the corruption or arresting any Rajapaksas. Ranil will get western world to come to his aid and get the economy moving.
    3. Once we get all the fuel, food and medicine Ranil hoping to make a come back. Ranil call for new election in 6 or 8 months.
    4. Premadasa is the loser in this game. I wonder if he will make it in the next election.
    I wish all the young protesters all the luck and confidence. Hope they come up with a leader who can win the election and clean the SL politics. Throw all of them in jail for 30 years.

    • 1

      Luck? Hope? This is the problem with the ever – dreaming voters – dreaming of Vistas of Splendor again. We need something more that Utopianism, which Communism in disguise.

      Throw them in jail? So we now we have politically motivated legal processes – good leaders ahead.

  • 20

    Ranil will now work overtime to protect any criminal hiding under his cloak. No justice will be done in Sri Lanka. Crimes need to be punished by forcibly rendering accused criminals to the international criminal court even without state approval. There is no other way.

  • 13

    Anything that keeps the focus on HR abuses, war crimes, and crimes against humanity, is welcome. Sri Lanka can get better only when there is some accountability. Forgetting and moving on may be convenient to politicians and some businessmen, but the people can’t do it.

  • 4

    Murderers are still pulling the strings and Rani W is a mere puppet and dancing to the strings being pulled.

    Thambi said that the sinhalas will make the sinhala land the graveyard of the sinhalas and this has now happened. International Beggar Land sinhala land!

  • 4

    Now “GOTA” and “RANIL” (as President and Prime Minister) combination has “BASTARDIZED” the whole Political, Executive, and Judiciary of the country. I am so amazed to hear how the so-called “Big Powers” such as the USA, Germany, France, UK, etc. preach “Democracy”, “Human Rights”, “Independent Judiciary” and make statements of their “Appreciation” of Ranil W becoming the PM of Sri Lanka? It is nothing but “Hypocrisy”. Ranjan R was correct: “Mun Okkama Yaluwo Malli”.

    Lasantha’s “MURDER” will only be another “CHAPTER” of Sri Lanka’s “BASTARDIZED” political culture and the Judicial and Law Enforcement System.

  • 2

    ‘war crimes, and crimes against humanity,’
    It’s been more than a decade since the end of the war and Tamil politicians and civil society are STILL unable to criticize Prabhakaran. Tamil society has a major problem.
    Contrast that with Sinhalese who have no problem in criticizing and lampooning their leaders, making caricatures of them including those who ended the war.

  • 1

    Freemason journalists, are actually among the worst criminals in the world.
    They are largely responsible for deceiving humanity and creating a false reality, with almost endless lies and half truths.
    Mark Alan King and his gematria research, has found that there will be a world wide man hunt in the near future, where journalists are going to get hunted down, captured and jailed.

  • 4

    Lasanthas brand of investigative journalism could not survive in Sri Lanakas deception. Prageeths Satire was not up for appreciation either but they will live as a flame in the hearts of men.
    The fourth estate is but one of the victims of this countries governing philosophies.
    If alive, it would have exposed what this court does now.

    They say “one of the first casualties of war is truth”.
    At least we called it a great “war” and have “Heros”, “War heros”, Traitors and “Patriots”

    At the Hague, they are wondering why we called fighting minorities a war, couldn’t fight our neighbours, but are borrowing from them and leaving debts for the young.
    Once bankrupt for ideas and now for money too, thanks to our politicians ….over to you Patriots !

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