Sunday, January 9, 2011

Lasantha Murder Case Drags On Justice Delayed Is Justice Denied

Police, on Wednesday, informed the Mount Lavinia courts that investigations were being carried out based on information regarding the involvement of a former member of Army Intelligence and a garage owner in the assassination of the Editor of The Sunday Leader, Lasantha Wickrematunge.

Police informed this to court when the case was taken up before Mount Lavinia Chief Magistrate Nirosha Fernando begin_of_the_skype_highlighting     end_of_the_skype_highlighting last Wednesday. Yesterday (8) marked the second anniversary of Lasantha Wickrematunge’s  assassination
Wickrematunge was killed by men on motorcycles as he was driving to work. They blocked his car’s path near Malagalage Primary School, smashed its window and  beat him with a steel weapon. He was taken unconscious to the Kalubowila hospital where he died from his head injuries. Several witnesses said no shots were heard and no bullet impacts were found. Strangely, the autopsy findings have never been released.
The attack took place just several hundred meters from an air force checkpoint but the assailants were able to get away. One of the motorcycles was found by the police but it is still not known if it was of any help in tracking down the assailants.
Meanwhile, counsel appearing on behalf of the accused informed court that the Criminal Investigations Department, which conducted investigations into the suspects arrested 11 months ago, had handed over the reports of those investigations to the Terrorist Investigations Department (TID).
The counsel pointed out that no progress reports had been produced before court.
Accordingly the Chief Magistrate ordered officers of the TID to produce a progress report on investigations carried out to date on the 14th of this month.
The investigation into Wickrematunge’s murder was initially assigned to Mount Lavinia Police Station but a police source said it was not given any special priority. The authorities said four teams were assigned to this case and to an attack on MTV, but no significant results have been reported even two years later.
The case will be taken up again on the 14th of this month.
A Chronology Of Events Since Lasantha Was Killed On January 8, 2009…
Government officials, including Minister Keheliya Rambukwella, said at the end of January in 2009 that President Mahinda Rajapaksa would announce “very important details” about the murder in February that year. But since then, there has been nothing to confirm the existence of a political will to solve the case. Wickrematunge’s family and colleagues have been forced to conclude that the authorities have no interest in arresting either the perpetrators or instigators.
Wickrematunge’s widow, Sonali Samarasinghe, said in an open letter to Inspector General of Police Jayantha Wickremaratne in mid-March that: “There has still been no credible breakthrough in the investigation. No murder weapons, no suspect, no post mortem report has yet been made public.”
Wickrematunge, was never given the police protection he requested.
The police in 2009 announced the arrest of a suspect but it was just a passer-by who stole Wickrematunge’s mobile phone from the scene of the murder. This suspect after being held since 2009 was released in December 2010.
The authorities have made contradictory and in some cases defamatory comments about Wickrematunge. The President’s brother, Defence Secretary Gotabaya Rajapaksa, said in an interview with a foreign TV station: “Who is Lasantha? A tabloid publisher. Why is the world worried about one man? He criticized everybody. So everybody had a reason to kill him.” He went on to make similar comments to the Australian TV station SBS: “He has antagonised so many people. He had criticised and reported wrong things about all persons.”

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