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Lasantha Wickrematunge: Farewell dear friend

19 January 2019 12:00 am - 0     - {{hitsCtrl.values.hits}}

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Ten years on and still no breakthrough in Lasantha’s case  

 

In 2015 when the Yahapalanaya Government was sworn in, the people of this country and those Sri Lankans living abroad were sure of one thing; that those behind the killing of Lasantha Wickrematunge and others would be brought to book. But sad to say, even after ten years, the people are yet to see justice being meted out. Here we republish an article penned by the writer which appeared in Daily Mirror on January 16, 2009.  


“I disapprove of what you say, but 
 I will defend to death your right to say it. 
 I detest what you write but 
 I would give my life to make 
it possible 
 for you to continue to write” 


“A great writer is, so to speak, a second government in his country. And for that reason, no regime has ever loved great writers, only minor ones” - Alexander Sol-henitsyn Russian writer. 


Not even in the wildest of my dreams did I picture myself writing the above so soon; this time after the despicable and gruesome murder of Lasantha Wickrematunge, having written it after the demise of another friend and former colleague at The Island, Ajit Samaranayake on November 25, 2006. 


Many of those who knew Lasantha earlier and now would be a bit surprised when I say we were at The Island in the ‘80s. I met Lasantha after I joined The Island in ‘85 from the Sun newspaper. There were D.B.S. Jeyaraj, Qadri Ismail and several others as well.  


Lasantha makes his presence mostly felt on Saturdays and the then Editor Gamini Weerakoon had no problem in getting the SundayIsland lead. “Lassie boy,” I too called him, even long after he left The Island. D.B.S. Jeyaraj’s column was over by 11.00 a.m. on Saturday. Lasantha came at around 9.00 a.m., made a call to his contact, not to anyone else but to a minister then in the JR Cabinet and gets the story -- a lead of course. That was his way of doing things. Stories, reports and exposures on various subjects ranging from bribery and corruption to whatever you may name. 

 
Many did not know that at the 1988 presidential elections, Lasantha covered the late Mrs. Sirimavo Bandaranaike’s campaign (Incidentally, when Lasantha married Raine, the then President J.R. Jayawardene and Sirimavo Bandaranayake were the attesting witnesses). I covered the late President Ranasinghe Premadasa’s campaign. Although we covered the campaigns of rival candidates, when we meet after a hectic schedule of meetings in office, we discuss about the pros and cons of the candidates. 


Saturdays at The Island with just a handful of us were fun once the copies were handed over for the provincial edition. Lasantha comes out with some funny stories enjoyed by us some which cannot be told. His jokes at the expense of others were many. “He was a man, take him for all in all I shall not look upon his like again” - Shakespeare. 


After he became Editor of The Sunday Leader, all those who read his articles would agree with what Voltaire said; “I disapprove of what you say; but I will de fend to death your right to say it. I detest what you write but I would give my life to make it possible for you to continue to write.” 


To me, fair friend, you never can be old. He is no more but his writings will remain forever. Farewell friend. May God bless you! 

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