Lasantha Wickrematunga’s daughter slams Sri Lanka PM ahead of vote
ECONOMYNEXT – Ahimsa Wickrematunge Tuesday accused Sri Lanka’s Prime Minister of making political capital out of the assassination of her high profile editor father Lasantha after neglecting to pursue his killers and protecting those responsible.
Ahimsa Wickrematunge in a two-page letter accused Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe of failing to bring her father’s killers to justice despite the government’s pledge to ensure accountability for murders under the previous regime of Mahinda Rajapaksa.
Wickrematunge, an anti-establishment editor, was stabbed to death as he drove to work in January 2009.
Courts have been told that the military intelligence carried out the killing, but no one has been prosecuted. The then defence ministry secretary Gotabaya Rajapaksa has denied he ordered the murder.
Gotabaya was the de facto power behind his brother, president Mahinda Rajapaksa. Gotabaya was nominated as a presidential candidate on Sunday from their Sri Lanka Podujana Peramuna party.
Ahimsa said the prime minister was using her father’s murder to attack the Rajapaksas without having prosecuted the murderers since coming to power in 2015.
"From the day my father died, you have invoked his name to win votes. My father’s murder was a prop in the 2015 presidential and parliamentary election campaigns that made you Prime Minister," she said.
Wickremesinghe has said he wants to challenge Rajapaksa at the polls due later this year, but his candidacy is yet to be declared by his United National Party (UNP).
Ahimsa expressed fears that Wickremesinghe could forge an unholy alliance with Rajapaksa should he fail to secure nominations from the UNP.
"If this country remains at your mercy and at the mercy of your new friend, Gotabhaya Rajapakse, then there is no hope that your old friend, my father Lasantha Wickrematunge, will ever receive justice," she said.
Wickrematunge had accused defence secretary Rajapaksa of taking kickbacks in arms purchases, including a deal to buy used MiG jet fighters, and was due to testify against him in court when he was killed.
Sri Lanka’s war-time military commander Sarath Fonseka has also accused Gotabaya of running a secret unit used to target journalists and dissidents, including Wickrematunge.
Gotabhaya, who reportedly renounced his dual US citizenship in May, faces civil action in the United States over the murder of Wickrematunge.
Mahinda Rajapaksa, president from 2005-15, and several members of his family are under investigation for alleged large-scale fraud and murder during his presidency.
Here is the full text of Ahimsa’s letter:
Hon. Ranil Wickremesinghe,
Prime Minister of the Republic of Sri Lanka,
Yesterday, in a political speech, you referred to my father, and your close friend, Lasantha Wickrematunge, who was murdered on 8th January 2009. Responding to a claim by Gotabaya Rajapaksa that as president, he would create an environment without fear, you asked whether Rajapaksa would apologise for my father’s murder and several other gruesome crimes.
Let me put your mind at ease. No. Gotabaya Rajapaksa will never apologise for my father’s murder. In television interviews over the last 10 years, he has made no secret of the fact that he was proud of it. He has made up his mind not to apologise. But have you, Prime Minister? Will you apologise for spending the last four and a half years protecting and cavorting with the man you today call a mass murderer?
From the day my father died, you have invoked his name to win votes. My father’s murder was a prop in the 2015 presidential and parliamentary election campaigns that made you Prime Minister. You brought President Sirisena to power and won control of Parliament for the UNP, all by promising justice for my father’s murder.
As soon as you came to power, your priorities changed. When I met you at Temple Trees in February 2015 to appeal for your support in making sure my father’s killers saw justice, you told me that there were “other priorities” and that justice was “not just about Lasantha.”
I have since seen what these priorities are. The police, which came under the direct purview of your Chief of Staff, did not bring Gotabaya Rajapaksa to justice. Proving the MiG Deal is a critical part of proving why my father was killed. But on your watch, a corrupt officer in charge of the FCID botched the MiG Deal investigation and kept Gotabaya’s name out of it.
Because it is election season, you are publicly attacking him as a killer. But even as you do so, your Chief of Staff Sagala Ratnayake and other ministers are visiting him and spending hours at his residence, your government is allegedly issuing him irregular identity cards and passports and your senior aide and niece is openly promoting Gotabaya Rajapaksa’s campaign propaganda on social media.
This is the kind of treatment that you and your staff mete out to the people you call murderers. However, whenever the CID needed help with my father’s case, you were nowhere to be seen.
Where were you, Prime Minister, when the army and intelligence services refused to cooperate with the investigation? What did you do when you were told a critical informant against Gotabaya Rajapaksa needed protection? And when my father’s lead murder investigator, Inspector Nishantha Silva, was kicked out of the CID by the President, why did you not lift a finger in protest?
For months now, your Attorney-General has been forcibly shutting down investigations involving Gotabaya Rajapaksa and the Tripoli death squad, covering up their involvement and pressing charges against foot soldiers. Gotabaya Rajapaksa was let off the hook in the Eknaligoda case despite two officers confessing that he personally ordered the abduction. Rajapaksa has not even been questioned about these sworn confessions. Even though Upali Tennakoon was attacked using four motorbikes, only two junior soldiers are being charged. Rajapaksa and the Tripoli team got off scot free. Will you do anything meaningful to seek accountability?
No. Instead, your family and senior staff continue to bond with Gotabaya Rajapaksa, while you blithely call him a murderer in public. If you become President or remain Prime Minister, I am certain that the mysteriously absolute impunity that Gotabaya Rajapaksa has enjoyed on your watch will continue unabated.
Now that the man who boasted about my father’s demise is formally a presidential candidate, I pray that his opponent will be an honest and courageous politician who embodies justice, equal protection under the law and mature, responsible governance. I pray that the candidate who opposes Rajapaksa will not be someone who cuts backroom deals and compromises his principles to ensure his own political survival to the detriment of his party and his country.
There is but one last hope for me and the other survivors and victims of white van era brutality. Gotabaya Rajapaksa must be challenged and defeated by a contender who is committed to delivering justice when in government, and not by someone who exploits victims to win elections and thereafter entertains people he calls murderers at his official residence.
Simply put, if this country remains at your mercy and at the mercy of your new friend, Gotabaya Rajapaksa, then there is no hope that your old friend, my father Lasantha Wickrematunge, will ever receive justice.
With the utmost sincerity,
cc. Members of the United National Front Parliamentary Group
cc. Members of the United National Party Working Committee