Although 10 years have elapsed after the attack on former Rivira Editor Upali Tennakoon, the perpetrators of the assaults are yet to be brought to justice.
Tennakoon was assaulted by an armed gang two weeks after the brutal murder of Sunday Leader Editor Lasantha Wickrematunge. Tennakoon was attacked a few months after the Rivira newspaper was acquired by two close associates of former President Mahinda Rajapaksa, namely Nilanka Rajapaksha and Prasanna Wickramasuriya
Wickramasuriya is the brother of former Sri Lankan Ambassador to the US Jaliya Wickremasuriya and a cousin of former President Mahinda Rajapaksa.
Just days after the assassination of Wickrematunge, Tennakoon and his wife came under attack in Gampaha in January 2009. The culprits came on motorbikes and followed a similar attack style which was carried out to attack Wickrematunge, although the attack on Tennakoon was not meant to be fatal.
Although the paper was partly owned by his cousin, Rajapaksa did not conduct a proper investigation into the assault on Tennakoon. The CID began an investigation into the incident in 2015, when the Rajapaksa family fell out of power.
The CID arrested several suspects in connection with the incident. During the identification parade in 2017, Tennakoon and his wife identified the person who attacked them.
He was Premananda Udalagama, who is already in remand custody in connection to Wickrematunge’s assassination has been ordered to be further remanded till August 29.
Udalagama, a Sergeant-Major, was also identified by Dias, driver of Wickrematunge as the man who abducted him. In July, the CID arrested Udalagama claiming that he was involved in Wickrematunge’s murder.
This strongly suggested that the murder of Wickrematunga and the assault on Tennakoon was carried out by the same group. The CID has already informed the court that the abduction of Keith Noyahr was also carried out by the same group that assaulted Tennakoon. The death squad operated from the Tripoli Army camp in Maradana.
Despite pro-longed investigations, there is still no finality on the matter. The suspects have been released on bail and victims are highly frustrated over the delayed justice.
“I highly doubt that justice will ever be served to me. The President speaks in public about the intererts of the suspects of these heinous crimes. Only the CID, or perhaps God, know about the progress of the investigations. At one point, we were asked to submit applications seeking compensation. I too submitted an application thinking the authorities would ‘drop the ball’ if I did not respond to their requests. But, I did not expect any money from a government that did not have a genuine political will to prosecute those who were responsible for brutal attacks on journalists,” Tennakoon said in a Facebook post, this morning.
“The attacks turned our lives upside-down. Only a handful of people were concerned about our well-being. Most politicians have even forgotten our names,” Tennakoon added.