19 June, 2024


Journalism A Failed Profession In Sri Lanka

By Suranimala Umagiliya

Recent reports in two Sunday newspapers highlighted updated versions of the investigations into the abduction, torture and assault of journalist Keith Noyahr and murder of Lasantha Wickrematunge the late Editor of The Sunday Leader. Keith Noyahr, of the Nation was abducted on his way home on the 22nd of May 2008 and Lasantha Wickrematunge was murdered on the 8th of January 2009.


The Sunday Times of 15th of April 2018 in an article by the Cafe Spectator refers to Dr Rajitha Senaratne, stating that two Defence Ministers ie. Sri Lankan and Ukrainian, signed the infamous MiG deal. The report goes on to state that the FCID had certified copies of the agreement to purchase the MiG aircraft which were signed between Bellimissa Holdings, a BVI Company and Sri Lanka Air Force with T.S. Lee of DS Alliance from Singapore featuring as a key go between. T.S. Lee through DS Alliance featured in the previous MiG sales to Sri Lanka.

The tenor of the article in the Sunday Times is to pinpoint two important issues. The first being that Dr Rajitha Senaratne was way off the mark with his facts and the second being the murder of Lasantha Wickrematunge continues to be used conveniently for political gain. The intrepid Editor’s murder was due to his knowledge of the inside story of the MiG purchases has also been questioned.

The FCID seemingly has reported to Court through a B report that T.S Lee is considered a suspect in this case. T.S Lee being a businessman is within his rights to sell to any bidder provided the end user certificates are not erroneous. It is the Air Force and by such extension the Defence Ministry of Sri Lanka and the the Government of Sri Lanka that is criminally liable. The Ukraine government is on record that they did not sell any aircraft to the Government of Sri Lanka. This would mean the earlier purchases of MiG were also not Government to Government sales.

Be that as it may, the report in the Sunday Times confines it to showing the two issues but begs further questions. That being to pin the liability not only on Udayanga Weeratunga, who was Ambassador to Russia at the time but on such person who had the ultimate authority to sanction the tainted purchase of MiG aircraft on behalf of the Government of Sri Lanka.

It is a publicly known fact that the former Defence Secretary Gotabaya Rajapaksa, who was in office at the time of such deal filed action in the Mt Lavinia Courts, a defamation action against the late Editor Lasantha Wickrematunge and his Sunday Leader claiming a colossal amount. It is also a publicly known fact that the former Secretary of Defence in his evidence in Chief and Cross Examination under oath, stated that the MiG purchases were a Government to Government deal between Sri Lanka and Ukraine. He justified his action in public interviews to the BBC with Chris Morris and in the Hard Talk programme saying he did the “right thing” by filing action and would wish the Sunday Leader to fold up. The two interviews are yet on You Tube.

It is a publicly known fact that the court record in this case has mysteriously gone missing from the Mt Lavinia Court. What is not known publicly is whether the authorities have initiated an investigation as how this record went missing. It is a serious crime which needs a proper investigation to prevent future repetitions. Investigators routinely would assess as to who had a motive to illegally prise out such record.At best this would have been a futile effort as the lawyers from both sides would have certified copies of the proceedings. Most certainly the lawyer defending Lasantha Wickramatunge would have one.

The Sunday Observer of 15.04.2018 carried a detailed and exhaustive report in to the abduction, torture and assault inflicted on the Nation journalist Keith Noyahr in 2008. The report details the trail of telephone conversations between various Army Officers including Gen Kapila Hendawitharne, Maj Gen Amal Karunasekera and Major Bulathwatte. Bulathwatte has received his call at a location in Dompe alleged to be the scene of the crime. The telephone records go further. Lalith Allahakkoon the Editor of the Nation at the time Keith Noyahr was abducted calls President Rajapaksa who in turn calls his brother, the serving Secretary of Defence Gotabaya Rajapaksa who calls (the civilian as per the explanation of Gotabaya ) Gen Hendawitharne who then calls Maj Gen Karunasekera who finally calls Bulathwatte. Noyahr in his statement to the CID refers to hearing one of the abductors answering a call saying “yes sir, yes sir” before being released. All these calls are after 11 pm. Meanwhile ex DIG Anura Senanayake (presently in remand in connection with the Wasim Thajudeen murder) too is in the area after receiving instructions from Gotabaya Rajapaksa together with DIG Sisira Mendis, presently the security adviser to President Maithripala Sirisena.

Former Defence Secreatary Gotabaya Rajapaksa has filed action in court to prevent his arrest in connection with an inquiry into the construction of DA Rajapaksa foundation. Former IGP Wickremaratne has done the same in the Lasantha Wickrematunge murder investigation.

The investigations into the disappearance of Prageeth Ekneligoda and the murder of Rugby player Wasim Thajudeen have been off the radar lately. The assault on Editor Upali Tennekoon has suffered a similar fate. Upali Tennekoon at the time of his assault was fronting a newspaper that favoured former President Rajapaksa. There were suspicions that Upali Tennekoon who was attacked a couple of weeks after the murder of Lasantha Wickrematunge was to deflect a finger being pointed to the Rajapaksa government over the late Editors murder. Tennekoon at an identification parade has recognised Premananda Udalagama who was from the Army intelligence as one who assaulted him. Lasantha Wickrematunge murder also has been reported to Court as an Army Intelligence operation as with the Keith Noyahr abduction, assault and torture.

There has not been any inquiry of worth into the abduction, assault and torture into the complaint made by journalist Poddala Jayantha.

Journalists in Sri Lanka have woefully failed to hold persons accountable for murder, abduction, assault and torture of brethren practising their profession but instead are unashamedly promoting such ilk back in to high office.

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Latest comments

  • 1

    goma dayasiri still goes on saying the formidable candidate gota???? who is going to give this chap candidature ?????????????? will SLPP give Will SLFP give ? will UNP give ??? will MR suppor this goat openly ????????????? who is going to vote for a goat — Only Singhala Buddhist

  • 0

    I hope you agree that Lasantha was a good one who had no fear or favour and exposed everyone, to the hilt

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