19 April, 2019

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Lasantha’s Daughter On The Death Of A Newspaper

By Ahimsa Wickrematunge

Lasantha with Ahimsa as a baby

The recent media and public scrutiny in regards to the controversy surrounding my uncle Lal Wickrematunge and the sale of The Sunday Leader has prompted me to share my thoughts on this subject.

While my uncle’s motives maybe questionable to the public, there is no doubt that he loved my father and mourns his loss with the rest of us today. There is so much going on behind closed doors that people are not aware of. Those who say he should have shut down the Leader don’t understand that since the Leader’s inception, the entire staff supported my father’s and uncle’s cause and all they stood for. Does he just let the staff go unemployed when they have families to support?

And while all the drama and chaos was going on in regards to the sale of the paper, when I was in my darkest hour, my uncle left Colombo on the next flight out to be by my side. I too didn’t take the news of the sale of the paper very well but having my uncle with me I came to understand the rationale behind his decision.

Lal and Ahimsa

The death of my father has scarred us in so many ways and caused us immense emotional pain and heartache. Those who mourn the loss to the media and the country that his death has caused, people that use his murder in their political circus and those who have made a career out of his name tend to forget he was a father, a son and a brother and that kind of suffering can never be compared in terms of loss.

My family hasn’t to this day recovered from my father’s assassination. My grandparents lost their will to live in their old age and my grandfather who loved my father so much took his death very badly and eventually deteriorated and passed away last year. No parent should ever have to bury a child and go through that.

I took my father’s death very, very badly being his daughter and having lived with him till his last day. I to this day can’t seem to come to terms with everything and the trauma has taken its toll on my emotional well-being.

Those who criticize my uncle now and attack him for my father’s sake should realize this is Lasantha’s brother they are attacking. Also having him around was the closest thing to having my father back.

And if those who claim to have loved my father are doing and saying all of this for the greater good, maybe it’s time to channel that grief and anger towards bringing the perpetrators of his murder to book

Related stories;

The Death Of A Newspaper – The Sunday Leader by Dr. Brian Senewiratne

The Death Of A Newspaper: A Short Response To Brian Seneviratne by Lal Wickrematunge

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Latest comments

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    Ahimsa’s late father was the last of the greats, one of the finest investigative journalists that Sri Lanka has ever produced.
    I remember that when Mr Vijitha Yapa head hunted Lasantha back in 1990 s , even at that time he was in a position to dictate terms before joining in.
    Lasantha never feared powers that be and as an ardent believer in democracy he never kowtowed . He was in first name terms with most of the politicians right up to the very top.
    I only regret that we don’t have people in the caliber of Lasantha anymore. As CT has exposed previously , some of the high profile humanitarian journalists are crooks ( so-called Free Media Association) while some in Sri Lanka are hands in glove with Govt. singing praise for their daily bread.
    what a sad state of affairs

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    Well Ahimsa, No one will grudge Lal for the sale of the paper if he sold it to anyone other than the Rajapakshe’s. That is the only issue he and the person who bought is seen as the proxy. Lasantha was not just the editor of the Sunday Leader but was the symbol of resistance and after his death, the leader was expected to fill the vacuum- but sadly……

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    Dear Ahimsa,

    I was moved by your dignified response to those who were involved using the murder of your father in a “political circus”. I am sorry that my father’s recent article (Death of a Newspaper) about the newspaper your family founded and managed with such courage and integrity was hurtful and damaging to you, your uncle, Lal and other’s who truly understood the pain of losing someone they loved and respected.

    I strongly support all efforts to bring the perpetrators of your father’s murder to book, and am offering any assistance I can in this regard. I did not know your father, and I was not a reader of the Sunday Leader (or any other Sri Lankan newspaper), but have been troubled by the fact that those who assassinated him have not been held accountable for their crime. I am also concerned at the use of his murder as a propaganda tool in what you diplomatically call a “political circus”.

    Best wishes,

    Romesh Senewiratne

    • 0
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      Well, Lal can find them in his office these days

    • 0
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      Romesh Senewiratne:
      You are a monumental disgrace to anyone of Sri Lankan origin with your disingenuous defence of a murderous regime in the name of concern for the survivors of one they have killed! I don’t think even your masters could put together a piece of such monumental hypocrisy.
      It is one of the sad realities of this day and age that those who believe in and support human rights and the rule of law feel compelled to give publicity to those who work actively to destroy those concepts, such as you.
      Have you no shame, man?

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        What ARE you on about? I don’t obey “masters” and regard no-one as my “master”. Neither does any one call me a master. I decided that personal emancipation from the concept of masters was the way to go some years ago.

        I don’t know why you think I am “disingenuously” protecting however you think are my “masters”. I have not been to Sri Lanka since 1982 and have no loyalty to (nor financial dealings with) any Sri Lankan government, past or present.

        You may not like what I write, but I assure you they are my own thoughts and opinions, and not those of anyone else. And I am the first to admit that I don’t know much about the Sunday Leader and its staff, or its history. I’ve never been much interested in it.

        • 0
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          Senewiratne:
          Read what I’ve said and what you PURPORT to be replying to.

          The fact that you’ve “never been much interested” in the Sunday Leader is indicative of what you ARE interested in. The Daily Noise, perhaps,or the Sunday Observer or that paper that is, literally, owned by the Rajapaksa family, the Nation?
          “Disingenous” is a term I’ve applied to what you’ve had to say in a manner similar to that which Winston Churchill once used the term “terminological inexactitudes.” Get my drift?

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      Even you have been fooled as to who founded the paper and who still owns it! That is how well the Sunday Leader has kept their skeletons hidden. Ask some questions and you will find the answers. Look for an old copy of the paper and you will find the name of the publisher on every front page and the Wickrematunges are no where in sight!!

  • 0
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    Ahimsa, I can not reveal the circumstances that led me to meet Lasantha as it will obviously reveal my identity. I consider myself fortunate to have met him a few times and discussed some important Political issues. I urge you to get Lal to compile a Book of all the Editorials Lasantha wrote and make available for sale with a launch. It will help the home fires to burn. There is one particular Editorial where Lasantha wrote how one day MR will boast how he defeated the LTTE to end the War. This appeared about ten months before the announcement of the end of the War in May 2009. That will give an insight to the readers what Lasantha knew of the back stage manoeuvreings of the War by the heighty and the mighty which brought Lasantha’s death because they would have felt uncomfortable had he lived and questioned the so called Victory.

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      Ahimsa,
      Gamini,yeah that’s a bright idea rather than behave like the stereo type Raul who asked for justice for his father just before the war. War is nothing but blood and gore. War shreds people into bloody little pieces, it tears them limb from limb, or it burns them alive. War is the ultimate horror that man inflicts upon man. I never read Sunday Leader or SL newspapers either until one of my relatives in another part of the world mass e-mailed on the 11th – from the grave; a tear and a smile.
      Last year once again there was a sort of commemoration for Lasantha at the Heath (it’s where the very wealthy artist, writers including J Snow live) perhaps sponsored by Camden Journal. England is still the only place where there is hope even to bring back the dead to life and prosecute like in the ongoing Seville case. So if you so decide to publish memoirs etc. do it from the literary circle of London- London is still where everything happens and is the center for arts and entertainment.
      Good Luck.

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      I strongly support Gamini’s fine suggestion. Posterity has a right to know things in its proper perspective.

  • 0
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    Lasantha’s loss is very great to our country that is for sure.
    The Rajapakse’s will be cursed for Lasantha’s passing
    and their sins will soon catch up with them.
    We may be grateful to mahinda for winning the war but will never forgive the Rajapaksa’s for what they did in regards to Lasantha

  • 0
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    Dev Mudigale
    There is no chance MR and family could have won the war the way they did with LW around
    It is clear to all while LW died before the end of the war
    Had he lived they would be in very hot water and be facing some serious charges

    • 0
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      Dear Dev

      “There is no chance MR and family could have won the war the way they did with LW around”

      How do you respond to the following statement:

      ” One death could be justified for the lives of tens of thousands of innocents had the war continued.” ?

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        The rajapaksas won their war through the brutal unmerciful killings of innocent tamil civilians
        that is no way to win a war.
        LW fought for the rights of the Tamils and went so far as to lay his life down for speaking out against those who were too oppressed to speak.
        His voice was powerfully and he always dared to question the powers that be.
        Something people in Lanka today do not dare too do

  • 0
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    The response by Lasanthas daughter should provide an answer to our armchair critics who see conspiracy and subterfuge behind every move of any person. The Leader took on a lethal and killing machine that was fighting an equally vicious terrorist outfit. The reason was the killing of innocent civilians by both parties. No doubt this made enemies on both sides and especially the Govt.

    National security is construed by different people in different ways and they tend to justify their inhuman actions on that basis as a patriotic act. However it is a fundamental tenet of humankind that we can never justify the taking of an innocent human life on whatever condition. If we seek to justify and apportion reason to killing people based on our own valuations then we are in the same class as hitler and the nazis and we should pay the same price.

    Wether it is a displaced person in the Vanni, Sinhalese in the south, Muslim in Kattankudy or an editor of a newspaper in colombo no one may play god and decide to sacrifice them before any altar. Those who exceeded their rights as human beings need to answer for their misdeeds.

    • 0
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      Beautiful, Safa

      Your comment went into my collection.

  • 0
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    We all sympathize with Ahimsa’s grief, and condition that no one else would be able to uderstand than her close family, including the “Uncle”.

    It was nice of Uncle Lal to have flown to Melbourne as Ahimsa states, to be by the side of her on July 18. However, that is no excuse for any lapses in the negotiations with Asanga Senewiratne, on a million or two dollar deal.. As I said previously there are plenty of ways to communicate, via telephone, fax, email, skype, etc..

    But it is rather strange for Lal to expose to the whole world of the situation with Lasantha’s family.

    Anyway, proof of the pudding is in the eating, and we all will be very glad if Lal is sharing some of the sales proceeds with Lasantha’s family.

    My responses are not based on grief, but on facts which Ahimsa might not be aware what has been going on in Colombo for the past 4 years. I am also concerned whether Ahimsa indeed drafted this response.

    With reference to employees of Sunday Leader, and Lasantha’s second wife a 12 day bride, here is how she was “Kicked Out” of Sri Lanka days after Lasantha was buried. http://theithacan.org/25485

    The murderers of Lasantha was blamed for her departure from Sunday Leader and Sri Lanka.

    The person who inherited Lasantha’s job after his murder walked away with at least 11 million rupees, for working less than 3 and a half years, whereas Lasantha and his family so far has received ZERO. She will also receive a health “Financial Package” from Sunday Leader, from the sales proceeds for bring the buyer to the seller, all negotiations/advise, and her contribution as Editor, especially with Gota’s Puppy story, literally days before the sale was concluded.

    Lasantha wrote his own obituary as claimed by the brother, editor, wife, and the Sunday Leader… We all hope that his employer ie Sunday Leader had insured him very well, against a murderous State Terrorist regime. If not, they would be grossly negligent and callous in their conduct to protect their one and only asset against all dangers.

    Lastly, Ahimsa and mother should seek independent council/advise on these matters and not be emotional and be not guided by people who have ONLY their “Welfare and Best Interest” in mind. They are in a very vulnerable position, even 4 years after Lasantha’s death.. There is too much “conflict of interest”, which young Ahimsa in her condition might be unable to comprehend right now.

    Best Wishes to Ahimsa and the rest of Lasantha’s first family.

    • 0
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      NOBODY WITH A BRAIN WILL EVER DOUBT THAT THE RAJAPAKSA’S ARE RESPONSIBLE!IT IS FACT NOT A OPINION OR SOME BELIEF
      IT IS COLD HARD REALITY
      THE RAJAPAKSA’S KILLED LASANTHA
      AND PRESIDENT MR IS NO ACTOR HE CAN CONTINUE SAYING LASANTHA WAS HIS CLOSEST FRIEND AND ETC
      THE RAJAPAKSAS ARE RESPONSIBLE NO ONE ELSE
      SOON ONE DAY THEIR TIME WILL COME
      MR WILL HAVE NIGHTMARES OF LASANTHA AS LONG AS THEY WALK FREE FOR WHAT THEY DID

  • 0
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    I DID NOT KNOW LASANTHA VERY WELL, BUT I KNEW LAL AND HIS WIFE. IN FACT WE USED TO MEET REGULARLY AS A FAMILY AT THE OTTERS POOL WHERE WE DID OUR REGULAR WORK OUTS. BEFORE THAT I MET LAL BUSINESSWISE WHEN HE WAS AT MULTI PACKS, THIS WAS MANY YEARS AGO. HE WAS A SUPER FRIEND, A MAN OF SIMPLE BUT PRINCIPLED LIVING, AND A MAN OF INTEGRITY. HIS DECISION TO SELL THE LEADER I KNOW WOULD HAVE BEEN TAKEN AFTER A LOT OF DELIBERATION AND AGONISING SOUL SEARCHING, AND WOULD HAVE BEEN IN THE BEST INTEREST OF MANY. FROM THE PEOPLES POINT OF VIEW, I THINK MANY OF US ADMIRED THE ‘LEADER’ FOR THE NUMEROUS INVESTIGATIVE NEWS IT PROVIDED THE READING PUBLIC WITH, AND THE FEAR PERPETRATORS OF INJUSTICE HAD IN HIS EXPLOSIVE EXPOSURES WITHOUT EXCEPTION. TO SUDDENLY REALISE THAT THE PAPER IS NOW IN THE HANDS OF THE VERY DASTARDLY CROWD THAT HE CONTINUOSLY EXPOSED IS UNPALATABLE. LAL, MAYBE YOU COULD HAVE FOUND ANOTHER BUYER WHO COULD HAVE CONTINUED LASANTHA’S GOOD WORK AND YOUR INTERIM HANDLING OF THE BUSINESS. WHY THIS COULD NOT HAPPEN WE WILL NEVER KNOW.

  • 0
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    No one will ever forget your father.
    His story will be heard by all generations.
    You will always carry that legacy on your shoulder being his daughter something that will make you stand out from the crowds
    the time will come when justice will take place
    people can’t get away with such things

  • 0
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    Dear Ahimsa, one day you will probably know the truth about the ownership of the Sunday Leader, and why your uncle really sold it. It was really not his to sell at all in the first place. Ask him to honestly tell you how he got it by getting an inebriated man who owned it sign a document he knew not what!!!

    Never was a mention in the anniversary celebrations about the man who founded the paper who never knowingly sold it. Ask your Uncle why? Because his estate still owns it and buyer will realize that in time.

    There are many things you will find out in time, and the people who you really thought you knew will disappoint you, especially if you have high moral standards, which is your duty to uphold for the sake of your father.

  • 0
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    I’m not sure what to make out of all of this
    Lal’s recent statement about having to go and be there for Lasantha’s family was very suspicious but I suppose hearing Lasanthas own daughter go out and set the record straight gives us some insight.
    It shows us that we must not read into things.
    However I am very curious as to know how much they received or how much she gained from this?
    Because after all being Lasanthas daughter she too has rights to her fathers company along with her siblings.
    I’m not sure what to think just yet.

  • 0
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    Poor Surnimala he will toss and turn in his grave to what is happening
    but like she said many things happen behind closed doors
    we may not get to know all the facts but I appreciate her putting an end to all the he said she said.
    It shows us not to go spewing hate and anger when we don’t know what is happening.
    I may not agree 100% with lal’s business decisions but if Lasantha’s own daughter will stand by the uncle then why should we hold these grudges to someone we only read and see on the news and do not know.

  • 0
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    Have you been living under some rock these past years?
    Wake up man

  • 0
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    We hold our comments on many facets of your father’s life because he is back with the maker. So let him rest in peace. Our sympathies are with a daughter who is mourning the demise of her father. RIP

  • 0
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    Remember the following

    Your are a very good daughter. Your father was a very good thathi. Sri Lankans are very very bad. Fonseka is very good. Leader paper used to be very very good

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    We all empathize with you on the loss of your father and the cruel manner he was killed. Lasantha was a colleague of mine and I have and will continue to admire him for his courage.

    What we question is not the sale of the newspaper, but who the newspaper has been sold to. We want the villains as well as those who gave the command that Lasantha be killed to be brought to book. We want that not just for Lasantha, but for all the journalists and human rights defenders who have been killed and maimed and driven to exile.

    Is justice served by selling the Leader to those who continue to condone violence to stay in power, who violate the Constitution daily; by supping with the devil? Soon after Lasantha’s killing, it became obvious from the actions of those who ran the newspaper that it was “unbowed and unafraid” only in name. With its sale to representatives of the government, the last semblance of independent journalism has been lost.

    That to me, is assassinating Lasantha all over again!

  • 0
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    I am a non-resident Sri Lankan who have migrated to the west for the last 20 years though keep a close eye on local politics and a vivid reader of SL which comes next to the breakfast coffee and was a ritual for the last few years.

    There are few issues that nee to be taken in for a debate in here:

    a. I hardly see a commercial viablility of SL in present day SL with teh ruthles regime with all its muscle will never ever let a different opinion and will never approve any govt advertisements nor any of the business houses to work with SL in advertisements.

    b. Asanga Senevi is more than just a 3rd grade crook like Duminda Silva/Kudu Silva except he is an old Thomian and a rugger coach of the sons of the first family.

    c. Asanga Senevi was let loot some millions from the stock market by the first family and was asked to get SL from that looted money and the deal was finalised with a loan provided by a Bank again with the full blessings of the regime.

    d. I doubt the fearless journalists in SL who was to put bread on the table will have more than another 3-6 to as it will be closed in the near future.

    e. This regime have all the other newspaper in their kitty as all of these publishing houses have other more lucrative business on their surival and taking regime like SL used to be under Lasantha will something never happen.

    f. the only good things in here for the regime is the last voice against them was silenced and these are the real facts and folks just think the bigger picture here.

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    Lal did what was needed to be done. He is the best judge of his actions.

    If he has acted in the best interest. So be it.
    Who cares who bought the paper …………

  • 0
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    Your critical aaliysns were well noted, but to dubed it “Liberian style,” is insane. As an exiled Liberian journalist, I think you should have written an op-ed, either using a pen name if you don’t want to compromise your identity or current professional undertaking as an expatrate. Anyway, the Liberian Press is rebuilding and you know as well as I do that there is a sea of difference between American and Liberian journalists and education and compensation is a major factor. But your points are well noted

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