12 December, 2019

Blog

Lasantha Wickrematunge Assassination And The Rajapaksa Reality

By Tisaranee Gunasekara

“ I will show you what it is to be scared. I will rest only once I have destroyed you.” – President Mahinda Rajapaksa to Lasantha Wickrematunga (reported in the Sunday Leader – 25.11.2007)[i]  

In 1558, the Spanish Inquisition arrested Bartolomé de Carranza, Archbishop of Toledo and the country’s top prelate, on charges of heresy.

After nearly 80 years of persistent persecution (including burnings at the stake) the Inquisition had almost obviated Spain’s Jewish and converso (Jewish converts to Christianity) communities. Needing another enemy and another threat, the inquisitors decided to burrow deep into Spanish society in search of ‘old Christians’ whose religious beliefs/practices were at variance with the Inquisition’s fundamentalist outlook. Arresting Archbishop Carranza was aimed at demonstrating to Spaniards that in this new ‘war’, no one will be spared, not even the man chosen by their king to head their church: “If the primate of all Spain could be convicted of heresy, no one could be thought free of suspicion. Fear could reap its bitter crop among all the classes of Spain”.[ii]

Lasantha_to_Uvindu_J[1]Fear is an indispensable weapon in the arsenal of any tyrant. Fear can deactivate the critical and active minority and buttress the unquestioning obedience of the silent and inactive majority. Fear impedes people from thinking critically and analytically. Without fear, citizens of a democracy cannot be made to diminish themselves into subjects of an autocracy.

Tyrants are terrorists by definition. And when the target of terror is intelligently chosen, a single murder can send shockwaves over a wide and varied terrain and deflate innumerable others into inaction.

The murder of Lasantha Wickrematunge was just such an act of terrorism.

Those who ordered his murder wanted to be rid of a journalist with an uncanny ability to ferret out the hidden and hold it to the light of public knowledge. They also wanted to send a warning to other critics/opponents, and to society at large: if a renowned and senior editor can be murdered in broad daylight at a busy junction, the long arm of terror can reach anywhere, anyone, anytime…..

Even the most well-resourced and potent tyrant cannot keep tab of all the citizens all the time. The obvious way to bridge this control-gap is to get people to police each other and themselves. There is no censorship as effective as self-censorship.

What better way to induce self-censorship than through fear? What better way to administer that lesson in fear than by murdering a scribe who was tireless in exposing the growing Rajapaksa abuses/excesses?

Thou shall not criticise the First Family is a core commandment of Rajapaksa rule. Bureaucrats, parliamentarians, ministers and even the prime minister can be faulted, but not the least member of the Rajapaksa clan. Lasantha Wickrematunge broke this taboo time and again. A plan to build a Rs. 400million luxury bunker for President Rajapaksa[iii] was abandoned when it was exposed by Lasantha Wickrematunga. The exposé was proclaimed an indirect act as terrorism[iv] and plans were made to arrest Lasantha Wickramatunga[v]:

That was a time before the 18th Amendment, before the AG’s Department became a presidential-appendage; plus the regime still had a war to win. Consequently the Rajapaksa attempt to incarcerate their most vociferous critic had to be discarded. And for the next two years Lasantha Wickrematunge continued to reveal what the Rajapaksas wanted to, needed to conceal. He and the Sunday Leader became serious impediments to the freedom of the Ruling Family. For instance, Minister Chamal Rajapaksa’s cabinet-approved project to purchase the 250-bedroom-five-star Hotel Continental to house the Ports Authority had to be abandoned thanks to a Sunday Leader exposé[vi].

Since Lasantha Wickrematunge could neither be cowed nor co-opted, he had to be removed.

Us vs. Them

By late 2008/early 2009, the victory against the LTTE was in sight and the Rajapaksas were commencing the task of moulding a new (post-war) modus vivendi. Their dynastic agenda required a pliant media and a weakened opposition. How could a de facto monarchy be imposed on a fractious democracy, if actual/potential dissenters are not paralysed into inaction and the masses are not habituated to sheep-like obedience? What better time to implant these essential building blocks of patrimonial oligarchy than when the rulers are at the zenith of their popularity and thus at their most hegemonic?

Lasantha Wickrematunge was assassinated, one week after the fall of Killinochchi and one day before the taking of the Elephant Pass. The timing was perfect; just 24 hours after that most heinous crime, even the outspokenly anti-government TV station Sirasa, could not carry it as the main item on its evening newscast. The murder of Lasantha Wickrematunge was overtaken by the regaining of Elephant Pass and the reopening of the A9 road. Any sense of foreboding the South may have felt about this daylight-and-public assassination of a dissenting editor thus evaporated in an outburst of euphoria. Internationally too, Lasantha Wickrematunge’s murder did not receive the attention it deserved because the world was understandably preoccupied with Israel’s carnage in Gaza.

The manner in which the killers conducted themselves demonstrated that they did not fear detection or detention. There was a clear similarity between this killing and several previous and subsequent crimes. Parliamentarians T Maheswaran and Raviraj too were murdered in crowded public places in broad daylight; the Secretary of the Judicial Services Commission was assaulted (during the impeachment travesty) also under similar circumstances.

Five years on, the regime, which achieved the feat of defeating Vellupillai Pirapaharan, has not been able to apprehend those who murdered Lasantha Wickrematunge. It is a comprehensible failure; the men who pulled the trigger will enjoy impunity so long as the men who gave the orders are in command.

A couple of months before the assassination, the President allegedly invited Lasantha Wickrematunga to the Temple Trees. “Lasantha was at first apprehensive about this Presidential call to a rapprochement, but later relented”[vii].

Was that call for rapprochement made in the same spirit that the LTTE sent an olive branch to Rajiv Gandhi, giving him an illusion of safety and luring him to Sri Perumbadur? Or was it to enable Mahinda Rajapaksa to deflect some of the blame accruing to him, post-murder, by claiming Lasantha Wickrematunga as a friend?[viii]

On January 11th 2006, at 11.13 am, President Mahinda Rajapaksa reportedly called Lasantha Wickrematunga. Furious about an alleged media story about his wife, he reportedly commenced his tirade by stating, “I will finish you. I treated you well all this while. Now I will destroy you. You don’t know who Mahinda Rajapaksa is.”[ix]

Lasantha Wickrematunga knew Mahinda Rajapaksa, the bon vivant, the parliamentarian, the minister and even the prime minister. But he clearly did not know Mahinda Rajapaksa the President and dynasty-builder. It was an ignorance for which he can hardly be faulted; the similarities between the Sun God and the High King were still nascent than actual at that time.

Lasantha Wickrematunge could not have known that for the Rajapaksas (as for the LTTE) the world was a black-and-white place, peopled by servile-supporters and intolerable-enemies; and that there were no intermediate spaces in that fundamentalist universe, even for old friends.

Half-a-decade after Lasantha Wickrematunge was murdered with impunity, we should…

Print Friendly, PDF & Email

Latest comments

  • 30
    2

    Lasantha Wickremetunge was murdered, and those who ordered his killing are identifiable by the guilt and the fear visible in their eyes. Tissaranee has quite subtly pointed the finger, and no one but the gullible, the hired red herringers, and the hitmen will dare disagree.

    • 22
      2

      Dumb & stupid Sri Lankan electorate that keeps electing thieves, criminals & barbarians to political office are responsible. For this state of affairs.

      Cheers!

      • 9
        1

        Many thanks again Thisaranee for a brilliant piece! Take care and be of good courage and keep it coming.. The Jarapassa brothers would no doubt like to take you out – but 2014 is the year that their Shit hits the fan internationally and starts circulating around the world big time.

        Time has not dimmed the demand for justice for Lasantha and today it is reaching a crescendo, Mahinda Rajapaksa and Gotabaya the White van goon’s days are numbered.. After the demand for a war crimes international investigation on the Jarapassa regime there will be sanctions and the regime is already crumbling from within.

        The shameless uneducated and uncultured murderers of Lasantha and so many others must be tried and put behind bars and all their assets and those of their family, laws and cronies, confiscated.

        Indeed you are right that: the men who pulled the trigger on Lasantha “will enjoy impunity so long as the men who gave the orders are in command.”

      • 1
        0

        Ben Hurling

        Cheers!

    • 8
      4

      There is a new theory it seems, doing the rounds in C’bo, that it was Sonali Samarasinghe, Lasantha’s then new wife who [Edited out]

      • 4
        1

        Taraki’s Ghost

        Do I take it that you have been appointed the new spin doctor for the clan?

        Soon you will be out of job as your spin sounds very stupid.

    • 2
      9

      LASANTHA WICRAMATHUNGE WAS an Idiot who thought that he was capable of every thing anything.

      He proved otherwise.

      The only problem was when he learned it he longer was alive.

      Challenge me.

      • 3
        0

        JimSofty

        “LASANTHA WICRAMATHUNGE WAS an Idiot who thought that he was capable of every thing anything.”

        If that is the only reason he was murdered how come you are still alive, killing rest of us in this forum day in day out?

  • 4
    26

    Good riddance!

    GOOD RIDDANCE INDEED.

    • 4
      2

      Good Riddance ??????????? Is a a personal grudge or a release of your pent up emotions?…….Sadist!
      As at date, within 2 days, CT has featured more than 10 stories and opinions from esteemed contributors.
      It indicates the recognination for the Late Lasantha W.
      But here we have an individual with a crazy & lunatical comment ‘Good Riddance’.
      Ditto to you FF

      • 0
        1

        ***** Please amend 2nd sentence to read as, Is it a personal grudge or a release of your pent up emotions?

    • 1
      0

      Pls repeat this after March/Geneva and the post Geneva mess which is going to take place before our very eyes.

      Change your name to the original one Like Champukey Ranahukey…Don’t hide behind a camouflage come out into to open…you BBS/JHU/UPFA racist dumb wit.

      Your insults hurled against the Moslems (BBS/Gota tactic) by naming Fathima is total flop. Everyone knows you are a white thread (worn in the right hand tied by monks) wearing Mahawamsa thug.

  • 15
    3

    O’ Lal Wickramatunga. Didnt the king tell you on whose orders Sf Killed your bro?

  • 5
    22

    Who is LW? The man who wrote against motherland. This loser was dangarous than VP, because VP was racist but this [Edited out] sold his soul [Edited out],country etc for money. Thanks [Edited out]

    • 2
      2

      Fonseka

      “Who is LW? The man who wrote against motherland.”

      Who is he?

      Did Mahinda offer him a free laptop?

  • 5
    1

    Sri Lank has still not been able to get a replacement to Ven Soma Priest, Lasantha.Dr.Harischandra and Dr.Jayalath Jayawardena

  • 0
    0

    I believe that in more mature socio-political settings in developed countries, vociferous dissent is encouraged rather than benignly endured. It is certainly not frowned upon. One does not usually hear of journalists killed by assassins, although those brave journalists covering the US/UK led carnage of Iraq, or Zionist-led carnage of Palestine have been targeted by the aggressors…

  • 7
    0

    one day the killer too get his Boomerang?

  • 3
    6

    Aiyo, T.G.Nona

    I always try my best to understand your very long and difficult pieces
    But never succeed.
    I told this to my Naana,
    and she said:
    you write three letters if you don’t understand
    anything anytime anywhere

    So here we go:
    WTF

    • 4
      1

      Kutti Machan

      At least go to a school in Medamulana and try to learn English from the begining

      • 0
        1

        Kautiya

        Pleeas see my coment to Dayaan Jay’s articel on Lasanta. Then you wil undestand my bakround. Then may be you becom kind to me.
        (sory, today my Naana is avay)

        Kutti Machan

        • 0
          1

          Kautiya

          Now my Naana come back. She say you make speling mistak for word beginnning!

          Kutti Machan

          • 0
            1

            Kutti Machan
            Your Nana also erred in spelling (speling)

  • 3
    3

    errrr another lot of foolish junk written that nobody cares to read .

  • 0
    0

    We don’t seem to understand one simple thing! Suppose the lead by Mahinda were true… Sarath Fonseka was WITH Rajapakses at that time. And, Rajapakses covered up the crime for a long time. So, the bukc stops with…?

  • 0
    0

    Rubbish!

    This is not a repitition! Please publish.

  • 2
    7

    LASANTHA WICKRAMATUNGA was journalist who was hell bent on embarrassing and putting into difficulty everyone and anyone who he came across. That was his style and that was the way he made money and his name. Anyone could have killed him for what he had done to many people. having known that, he wrote is so called masterpiece not only to put someone into difficulty but to make his dead body larger than life. Or, may be one of his stooges wrote it.

    Sri Lanka is a much better place without him

    • 2
      1

      Donald

      Taraki’s Ghost also competing for the same job as you are.

      Spin doctors should possess the art of subtle deception.

      Try harder you may be made permanent if you don’t display your stupidity.

  • 5
    5

    Why only talk about Lasantha’s killing/disappearance? What about all the other unsolved murders of Journalists and police detectives killed by LTTE forces, politicians like Kadiragama, Athulathmudali, Amirthalingam, Dissanayake, Thiruchelvam, various army commanders etc all of which are still remaining unsolved. Is Lasantha’s murder investigation more important than all other murders, as he was openly supporting writing articles favourable to the separatists and LTTE, whilst unfairly criticising the armed forces, who were sacrificing their lives in the battle field, trying to liberate the nation from terrorists?
    All murders are equally bad.

    • 1
      2

      Raja

      Media’s primary responsibility towards its readership is to inform, educate and entertain among other things.

      Perhaps he had failed to educate you.

      • 1
        0

        Thanks native Vedda, you are correct assuming the media does not lie. Unfortunately they do and misinformation is very very common.

  • 4
    0

    IT IS NOT ONLY MAHINDA,GOTTA,BUT BASIL….N OTHERS IN DYNASTY….AND THE PARLIMENTARIANS AS WELL.

  • 1
    1

    Tisaranee:

    Five years on, the regime, which achieved the feat of defeating Vellupillai Pirapaharan, has not been able to apprehend those who murdered Lasantha Wickrematunge. It is a comprehensible failure; the men who pulled the trigger will enjoy impunity so long as the men who gave the orders are in command.

    *** That is why I say it doesnt matter who is responsible for the Actus Reus but the man who is responsible for the Mens Rea is the Guilty Persoan because it was premedited.
    How are you going to Charge the killer who is residing at Temple Trees with peoples Mandate.
    Just look at what happened to the person who was charged and released on bail with the murder of the British Worker. It looks like he has been bumped off because the trail will lead back to the King Himself.
    Sri Lanka is tuled by Thugs and Murderers.

    A couple of months before the assassination, the President allegedly invited Lasanth to Temple Trees:

    ***I have read that at that meetin MR told him that he wanted the Paper for himself and Lasanthas fate was sealed at that meeting.

    It is the fault of the Majority and to some extent the Internattional Community headed by the Corrupt Indian Politicians for not keeping Sri Lanka on check.

  • 5
    1

    I think where peepul like T G Nona, Dodo and kali go wronk is they dont see there are 4 diferen things – Sri Lanka the cuntry, State, Sri Lanka govement, and Regeem. They think all these are one thing. Hoooo …. Hoooo ….. WRON! …… WRON! …… WRON!

    If you think the Regeem is bad …. then fight the Regeem. But dont destroy the other 3. My Naana tellin me, you peepul shud study pol science befor talking.

    • 2
      3

      Editor CT,

      As much as derogatory remarks and words are edited out, these stupid meaningless comments too should be edited out. If not in the near future the comment columns will be filled with trash and is a sure way to reduce the readership and buckle CT from growing. This might be a calculated move by those in the readership working for the regime who has already blocked the Website.

  • 1
    2

    gamini

    I got the message.

    So you want me to stop commenting.

Leave A Comment

Comments should not exceed 300 words. Embedding external links and writing in capital letters are discouraged. Commenting is automatically shut off on articles after 10 days and approval may take up to 24 hours. Please read our Comments Policy for further details. Your email address will not be published.