Editor seeks protection after JVP threats

[TamilNet, Friday, 06 May 2005, 11:07 GMT]
Mr. Lasantha Wickramatunga, Editor of Colombo based newspaper Sunday Leader, informed of imminent risk to his life and sought protection from Inspector General of Police, Mr Chandra Fernado, after threatening statements were made by Mr Wimal Weerawansa, a government-party MP and leader of the parliamentary group of the Janatha Vimukthi Peramuna (JVP) during a meeting held at Maharagama by JVP's front, the ultra-nationalist Patriotic National Movement (PNM).

Full text of the letter follows:

Inspector General of Police
Police Headquarters
Colombo 01
05 May 2005

Dear Sir,

Request for an Investigation

I wish to draw your attention to the statement made by Mr. Wimal Weerawansa, a government-party MP and leader of the parliamentary group of the Janatha Vimukthi Peramuna (JVP), on April 6, 2005, at the meeting of the Patriotic National Movement held at Maharagama. At this meeting, Mr. Weerawansa made a series of malicious allegations against several journalists and non-government organisations, referring to them as traitors and terrorists. Those abused by Mr. Weerawansa included the National Peace Council and "the LTTE terrorist called Taraki." It is well known that Taraki was the pen name of Mr. Dhramaratnam Sivaram, who was abducted on April 28, 2005, and whose body was found near parliament the next day.

Mr. Weerawansa went on to state that "a bigger terrorist is Lasantha Wickremetunge, editor of The Sunday Leader," referring to him as a "komis kaakka" who frightens people by exposing their misdeeds in the newspaper and then subjecting them to blackmail.

It is remarkable that Mr. Weerawansa mentioned me by name and not a pen name), whereas he mentioned Mr. Sivaram only by his pen name, possibly in an attempt to show that he was unaware of Taraki's true identity, and so could not be associated with the abduction and brutal murder that followed just three weeks later. It is well known that the JVP, to which Mr. Weerawansa belongs, has been one of the most violent and bloodthirsty organisations in the history of Sri Lanka, a history from which Mr. Weerawansa has not distanced himself at least by apologising for the legacy of violence that is the heritage of the present-day JVP.

Given Mr. Weerawansa's statements, I have reason to suspect that Mr. Sivaram's murder was but a "dry run" for an attempt on my own life by these same forces. As you are aware, there have been two previous attempts on my life, which have not been investigated with the slightest interest by the police, despite complaints being made. One of these involved the use of automatic weapons. Indeed, despite a public pledge being made by the then Media Minister, Mr. Mangala Samaraweera, that the President has directed the CID to commence investigations within 24 hours, no CID investigation followed. It was only on the directive of former Interior Minister, John Amaratunga that the first attempt on my life came to be investigated after the UNP was elected to office in 2001 and that case is now in the final stages at the Gangodawila Magistrate's Court. Further, although the identities of the perpetrators of those attacks are well and publicly known, it appears that the police has mysteriously continued to be in complete ignorance.

I further believe that the reasons for the rhetoric Mr. Weerawansa used against me was with the intention of making it appear that I am a traitor to the people of Sri Lanka, so that a subsequent assassination could be "justified". Indeed, such as the case in the run up to the assassination of Mr. K. Sivaram, and Mr. Kumar Ponnambalam, a noted dissident, who was similarly murdered after being verbally abused by members of the government.

Mr. Weerawansa in the course of his speech also instigates the people to spit on the people he identifies as terrorists and calls upon the people to prevent the "traitors" from walking on the streets.

My apprehensions are further raised by the repeated public attacks on me by Her Excellency the President, who herself has gone on public record as stating that she discussed the prospective murder of newspaper editors with at least one of her ministers.

I therefore fear a grave and imminent risk to my life and request you:

(1) to cause to be investigated the statements by Mr. Wimal Weerawansa referred to above, and annexe hereto a DVD recording of the same;

(2) to take steps to protect me, as a citizen of Sri Lanka and as a journalist, from attack by the forces Mr. Weerawansa appears to be attempting to instigate with a view of committing violence against me; and

(3) to question Mr. Weerawansa with regard to the statements made by him, which were clearly intended to incite hatred and violence against myself, Mr. Sivaram and several others.

I wish also to inform you that I have instructed my lawyers to proceed with civil action for defamation against Mr. Weerawansa.

Thanking you,

Yours faithfully,

Lasantha Wickrematunga,
The Sunday Leader


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