The now famous larger-than-life portrait of a smiling Lasantha Wickrematunge presided over his fifth death anniversary memorial, held at his gravesite at Borella, Kanatte Cemetery this morning.
Loyal Sunday Leader staff members from days gone by who have moved on in life, and a few still clinging on to the legacy of the newspaper though their leader is gone, formed the majority of the crowd.
Lasantha’s elder brother Lal and his two daughters, and brother Anil and wife visiting from Europe, were among immediate family members present. Candles were lit, silent prayers and wishes were uttered for the soul taken too soon and too violently.
UNP stalwarts Ranil Wickremasinghe, Karu Jayasena and Ravi Karunanayake were in attendance lending silent solidarity for a man they no-doubt had a love-hate relationship with over the years.
After prayers and hymns Lal Wickrematunge spoke to the gathering, reiterating that five years later his brother’s murderers have still not been apprehended and brought to justice. Five years later, the family still has no closure.
Reminiscing about Lasantha the boy, his childhood school friend Peter D’Almeida recalled how mischievous he was; a small-made prankster who grew up to be a giant among journalists, taking investigative journalism to unprecedented heights in this country.
Journalist Amantha Perera who worked under Lasantha for ten years at the Sunday Leader spoke of the magnanimity of the man, who allowed his reporters to take chances, follow their journalistic aspirations, be the best they could be. While many more of today’s journalists can probably testify to Lasantha’s brilliance as a mentor, and his generosity and humanity as an employer, Perera admitted that he owed his success and professional standing today, to this man alone. He named Lasantha as one of his real life heroes.
The memorial was a simple, heartfelt event, devoid of pretentiousness. Those who attended did so because they wanted to be there.
*Report and the pictures by Ajita Kadirgamar