Sonali Samarasinghe, courtesy of the Island,
“to restore the Seventeenth Amendment in order to ensure independent commissions for the Police, Judiciary, Bribery, Finance, Elections and Human Rights Commissions and to sincerely effectively and meaningfully deal with issues of accountability that now plague our nation.’’
The third anniversary of the death of Lasantha Wickrematunge, editor of the Sunday Leader newspaper, falls today. In a statement issued from New York, his widow, Sonali Samarasinghe, Journalist-in-Residence at the City University of New York, alleged that in the 36 months since the killing, “there has been virtually no investigation into this crime.’’
“Police had earlier succeeded in taking into custody five mobile phones, which on the day Lasantha was killed, moved in the same pattern as his phone. Police say the phones that passed through 11 cellular phone towers that day have not been used before or since the day of the killing. However, they have not been disconnected either. According to police, one of the five phones appears to have been used to monitor and control the entire operation. A track path of the calls made between the five telephones indicates that they communicated regularly with each other, constantly calling one particular mobile,’’ she said.
“One of the five phone numbers indicated on the mobile path shows a call having been made from the spot Lasantha was attacked. According to witnesses, the assassins all rode a uniform make and type of motorcycle. A motorcycle allegedly used in the attack had been recovered the government claimed.
“During the course of 2010 seven soldiers belonging to the Sri Lankan army’s Military Intelligence Directorate—a unit headed by a close confidant of former Army Commander General Fonseka—were detained for questioning by the Terrorist Investigations Department (TID) and the Criminal Investigations Department (CID). The seven soldiers were separated from an original 17 who were taken into police custody. All 17 have since been released.
“In October 2011 the only suspect remaining in custody, Pitchai Jesudasan, mysteriously died. According to the B Report submitted by the Terrorist Investigations Department dated March 30, 2010, Pitchai Jesudasan was arrested for the murder of Lasantha Wickrematunge and attempted murder of the then Editor of the Rivira newspaper Upali Tennakoon and previous attack on Deputy Editor for the Nation newspaper Keith Noyahr.?
“With relation to the murder of Wickrematunge police charged that Jesudasan’s national ID had been used to obtain the five SIM cards which were later believed to have been used by the five man hit squad who trailed and murdered my husband on January 8, 2009. “Jesudasan may have died of natural causes but the circumstances of his death in custody give rise to questions and therefore must be independently investigated. Moreover, despite the existence of numerous witnesses, no accurate description of the attack on my husband was ever made public by the police. Had there been even the slightest political will to solve this murder the apprehension of his murderers would have been child’s play.
“Certainly taken together, all this can leave little doubt in a rational mind that Lasantha’s murder has been the focus of an extensive—if clumsy—cover up.
“As we remember Lasantha and his work and other journalists and activists around the world who have paid the supreme price in the line of duty, I call upon the international community to urge Sri Lanka’s government to hold a proper independent investigation into Lasantha’s murder, to bring back the rule of law rather than the rule of one family, to delink the police from the defence establishment, to properly disengage the army from civil administration, to restore the Seventeenth Amendment in order to ensure independent commissions for the Police, Judiciary, Bribery, Finance, Elections and Human Rights Commissions and to sincerely effectively and meaningfully deal with issues of accountability that now plague our nation.’’