Justice at last? | Daily News

Justice at last?

It appears that the long wait for justice in connection with the murder of Sunday Leader Editor Lasantha Wickrematunge is drawing to a close if one is to believe SLFP spokesman MP Mahinda Samarasinghe. Speaking at a SLFP media conference on Wednesday Samarasinghe, who was a close associate of Lasantha said that he had been given an assurance by President Maithripala Sirisena that the case would be brought to a conclusion before the end of the latter's term.

Samarasinghe said the President regretted the delay in the completion of the investigations. He said now that the Law and Order Ministry is under the President's purview, before his term ends at the end of this year, the President would ensure that both cases in relation to Lasantha's and that of cartoonist Prageeth Ekneligoda and also others will be brought to a close. “I don't think these matters should be delayed further,” Samarasinghe said.

Echoing these views Minister Mangala Samaraweera speaking to journalists at the graveside ceremony to mark Lasantha's 10th Death Anniversary said that the police are conducting investigations and they (the killers) will soon be brought before the law. He noted that there have been times where murder investigations had taken 10 to 15 years, but the police, in this case, were doing their best to complete it as soon as possible.

Friends, relatives and colleagues of Lasantha who were clamouring for justice, no doubt, will take heart from the President's assurance. More so his family members whose agonizing wait for 10 long years are about to end - or so it is hoped. It is also gratifying that the President wants all pending cases on killings, disappearances and attacks on journalists concluded. Like Lasantha's niece Raisa Wickrematunge said, although the focus is on her uncle there are many other cases (killings of journalists) that are not discussed at all. She said cases with regard to many journalists in the North and the East have not been taken forward at all, unlike her uncle's, although progress has been slow in her uncle's case. In an article to the Sunday Observer, she also blamed both ‘green’ and ‘blue’ parties for the slow progress in her uncle's case. For that there can be no doubt. There were clear attempts at obfuscation despite evidence virtually staring in the face.

Of course there are good reasons for this. Among those mentioned in connection with Lasantha's killing, apart from powerful politically connected personages of the day, the involvement of military personnel was a special feature that transpired in the investigations. The arrest and remanding of several ex military hands in the course of the investigations only confirmed this.

Both parties in the Yahapalanaya Government displayed a reluctance to pursue the case with purpose due to this fact, since the arrest of military personnel was not politic. It provided a powerful political weapon for the Joint Opposition with which to attack the Government. Added to this were the militant Bikkhus who raised strident voices against a witch-hunt carried out against the war heroes. Even the President expressed this sentiment, when, in an address to the nation during the recent political crisis, he became emotional about the arrest of members of the Security Forces and members of the Sangha. Hence the apparent reluctance to pursue the case to its conclusion.

Hopefully this same theme would not resurface, now that the President, no less, has given an assurance that the case would be brought to a conclusion before his tenure ends. As we have been repeatedly saying in these spaces members of the Security Forces are equal before the law. They are not immune from prosecution for wrongdoing merely because they waged a battle to protect the sovereignty and territorial integrity of the country, noble as the task may be. If a Government permits special treatment to members of Security Forces and handle them with kid gloves due to their role on the battlefield it is certainly paving the way for lawlessness.

Going by the investigations so far into Lasantha's murder and what is being written in the media, the conclusion about the involvement of military personnel in the plot and the final assassination is inescapable. With a Presidential Election only months away there still could be attempts to further delay the case due to the reasons adduced above. If that be the case those responsible will only be doing so for political expediency, through the suppression of justice.

As pledged, the cases involving the killings and disappearances of other journalists too should be expedited and justice ensured on their behalf. There are nearly 40 journalists who paid the supreme price in the line of duty. True, this will be an uphill task given that all evidence would by now be erased and witnesses difficult to locate. In such instances at least compensation should be considered to the family members. Most of these media personnel met their maker for publishing material that was not to the liking of the political authority. In that context, at least the Yahapalanaya Government should be commended for ending this culture of impunity.


 

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It is highly commendable that this investigation finally is being brought to a positive conclusion. Many would believe that the military were involved in this due to the precision hit against this brave journalist. Let us go right to the very top, where the orders were given and down to those who murdered this courageous journalist. An extremely shameful despicable act of cowardice. Please name and shame every single person involved in this sorry nauseating episode. MM

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