Monday, January 12, 2009

Thousands mourn Sri Lanka editor

Thousands mourn Sri Lanka editor

Large crowds gather at Borella cemetary for final rites of Sunday Leader Editor Lasantha Wickramatunga.

Staff members of Sunday Leader newspaper hold a portrait of editor Lasantha Wickramatunga in the suburbs of Colombo, Sri Lanka, Friday, Jan. 9, 2009
Mr Wickramatunga was killed on his way to work

Thousands of mourners have attended the funeral of a leading Sri Lankan newspaper editor and fierce government critic who was shot dead last week.

Security was tight in Colombo as crowds paid their last respects to Sunday Leader editor Lasantha Wickramatunga.

Reports say some 10,000 people attended a Christian service ahead of a burial ceremony at Colombo's main cemetery.

Journalists in Sri Lanka have suffered a string of attacks as the war with Tamil Tiger rebels has intensified.

Media freedom groups say intimidation and violence make it one of the most difficult countries in the world in which to report.

Death threats

Mourners packed the Assembly of God church in Colombo on Monday afternoon for the service for Lasantha Wickramatunga. His burial was to take place later at Colombo General Cemetery, the city's main burial ground.

Police investigate shattered windscreen of car of newspaper editor Lasantha Wickramatunga in the suburbs of Colombo, Sri Lanka, Thursday, 8 Jan, 2009
Police are investigating the attack

Mr Wickramatunga was shot last Thursday by unidentified gunmen as he drove to work. He died from head wounds after nearly three hours of surgery, doctors said.

Police have yet to make any arrests.

Correspondents say Mr Wickramatunga had numerous run-ins with the government. His killing was one of two major attacks on the media in Sri Lanka last week.

On Tuesday, gunmen armed with grenades ransacked offices of the MBC group, the largest private TV broadcaster in the country.

Mr Wickramatunga worked for the channel as a presenter on a weekly current affairs programme.

MBC had been criticised by the government for its coverage of the war against the Tamil Tigers.

Mr Wickramatunga, 52, and his newspaper had been highly critical of government policy and the war with the Tamil Tiger rebels.

He received numerous death threats throughout his career and was detained on several occasions because of the controversial nature of his stories. He also fought a number of libel cases.


Amnesty International said in November that at least 10 media employees had been killed in Sri Lanka since 2006.

Some reporters say the intimidation has got worse as the war has intensified with the Tamil Tigers.

The Sri Lankan government has been accused of encouraging violence against the media by branding reporters seen as critical as rebel-sympathisers and enemies of the state.

The government has condemned the incidents and ordered full police investigations.

President Rajapaksa said he was "grieved and shocked" by Mr Wickramatunga's killing.

Lanka Dissent’ closed amid media suppression

Lanka Dissent’ closed amid media suppression
The editorial of ‘Lanka Dissent’ has decided to close its operations temporarily since today (10) amid the environment of assassinating the newspaper editors and issuing death threats to journalists.

“This compassionate Sinhala Buddhist land does not tolerate "dissent". Those who would not want to learn that living would have to learn that in death. We, who live, would come back when "dissent" comes back as a democratic right, accepted and enjoyed in a modern land of compassion,” Lanka Dissent editorial says in its statement.
The full text of the ‘Lanka Dissent’ statement is as follows;

Sinhala Buddhists who believe this land belongs to the most compassionate Lord Buddha and constitutionally calls it the "Democratic Socialist Republic of Sri Lanka", sing with pride "In wisdom and strength renewed / Ill-will, hatred, strife all ended / In love enfolded, a mighty nation / Marching onward, all as one / Lead us, Mother, to fullest freedom." as their National Anthem.

And….. in this compassionate, democratic Buddhist land enfolded with love, in wisdom and fullest freedom, media is forbidden to raise a dissenting voice. Media is forbidden to criticise the "law" of the ruling regime. The media is forbidden to speak for the people.
Many who thought they as the media have a right to freedom of expression, they have a right to information, that the people also have the same right and that it is a fundamental right in a modern civilised society, have been told very bluntly and at times most brutally, that it isn't so in this land of the compassionate, democratic republic, run by a "patriotic" regime.

The Tamil media in the North were the first to have been told this bluntly and ruthlessly while the Colombo media did not want those dissenting voices in the North, heard elsewhere. They had to learn that lesson, first hand.

And….that was a lesson learnt by some, who are not with us to tell their story. That is a lesson learnt by some, who don't have the right to say it, because they have a right to live some time more. For a lot, it was their station "Sirasa" that went ablaze with that lesson. It was their station that was smashed and set on fire to teach a lesson.

For Lasantha Wickramatunge, an editor with a passion for uncompromising media professionalism, it was a challenge to face. A challenge he never minced words, in meeting. He had his own aggressive style in meeting the challenge. Admired and respected but left alone without political backing.

And….. he, therefore, could not surmount this challenge, all by himself.

A lesson learnt, that needs no repeats to learn. This compassionate Sinhala Buddhist land does not tolerate "dissent". Those who would not want to learn that living, would have to learn that in death. We who live, would come back when "dissent" comes back as a democratic right, accepted and enjoyed in a modern land of compassion.

Till then, good bye!

Editorial Board

A fourth LTTE airstrip was captured by the 59th Regiment of the Army

A fourth LTTE airstrip was captured by the 59th Regiment of the Army
Brig. Udaya Nanayakkara says.


The airstrip was situated five kilometres to the left of the Mullaitivu lagoon. It was two and half kilometres in length and 100 meters wide.
The three airstrips at Panikkulam Ampakamani which were captured earlier by the Forces were situated close to the main road, but this airstrip had been built at a secret locatiImageon in the thick jungle and was much bigger than the other three airstrips.

If there is an international plot, hand over the investigation too to an international team, asks joint opposition

If there is an international plot, hand over the investigation too to an international team, asks joint opposition

(Lanka-e-News, January 12, 2009, 10.10 AM)

The Opposition Leader Ranil Wickramasinghe made an open invitation to the masses to participate in the funeral of Lasantha Wickramathunga to protest the brutal killings and to safeguard democracy.

The Opposition Leader requested the people to come to Kirimandala Mawatha, Narahenpita at 2.00 PM. The cortege is to leave a cathedral in Kirimandala Mawatha following the funeral service for the General cemetery.

Sri Lanka Muslim Congress (SLMC) representative Counsel Nizam Kariyappar said the President who rejected the appeal for an international probe regarding Sirasa attack and the killing of Sunday Leader editor, retorted saying that there was an international plot against the war victories. He said that the best practice of the government should be giving opportunity for an international probe in this context.

Opposition Leader Ranil Wickramasinghe, MPs Mangala Samaraweera and Ravi Karunanayaka, Nizam Kariyappar, Wickramabahu Karunarathna and Sirithunga Jayasuriya participated in the press conference of the joint opposition.

Lasantha was to complain to Obama about killer squads of Sri Lankan origin US citizens -says Mangala

Lasantha was to complain to Obama about killer squads of Sri Lankan origin US citizens -says Mangala
(Lanka-e-News, January 12, 2009, 10.10 AM) Sri Lanka Freedom Party People’s Wing leader and former Minister Mangala Samaraweera said that Lasantha Wickramathunga had an audio recording of a confession made by one of the members of the killer squad led by the ‘Ugly American’ and a court injunction against Wickramathunga was obtained to prevent him revealing those facts. Addressing a press conference of joint opposition held yesterday morning (11), MP Samaraweera charged that the same persons assassinated Lasantha Wickramathunga.

The press conference was held to request from all to come to Kirimandala Mawatha of Narahenpita, 2.00 PM tomorrow (12) to participate in the funeral of the slain Sunday Leader editor Lasantha Wickramathunga.
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US Ambassador oversteps his diplomatic mandate, charges Wimal

US Ambassador oversteps his diplomatic mandate, charges Wimal

The National Freedom Front (NFF), a party of the ruling coalition, charged today that US Ambassador Robert O. Blake had overstepped his diplomatic mandate by issuing a statement that media freedom had been suppressed in Sri Lanka. NFF President MP Wimal Weerawansa said that Mr. Blake had no right to issue such statements.

Lankan Media under threat - US ambassador Robert Blake

Lankan Media under threat - US ambassador Robert Blake
The US ambassador Robert Blake said today that the media industry in Sri Lanka is under threat following yesterday's attack on MTV/MBC network. He also added that journalists hold the key to defeat terrorism by addressing its root cause.

Sri Lanka beats Zimbabwe

Sri Lanka beats Zimbabwe

Sri Lanka moments ago won the ODI against Zimbabwe by 130 runs. Zimbabwe were wrapped up for a cheap 80 runs with Mendis and Kulasekara doing most the damage with three wickets each. The next match will be worked out between Sri Lanka and Bangladesh on January 14.

Ajith Mendis on Record

Ajith Mendis on Record
Mendis beat Ajit Agarkar’s record for the fastest to 50 ODI wickets. Agarkar did it in 23 games but Mendis managed it in just 19, and he has an average of 10.
Sri Lankan vs Zimbabwe ODI played at Shere Bangla Natioanl Stadium Mirpur today (12).
Sri Lanka won the match by 130 runs.

Political solution in Sri Lanka a must- Pope

Political solution in Sri Lanka a must- Pope

While the conflict in Sri Lanka heads for a decisive final showdown between the military and the LTTE the head of the Catholic Church, Pope Benedict the XVI has stressed that a political solution in the country is a must.

Democratic? Socialist, Republic of...

ocratic? Socialist, Republic of...

The Sri Lankan Bar Association organized a protest condemning the killing of the Sunday Leader Editor Lasantha Wickramatunga near the Colombo High Courts. Pic By Pradeep Dilrukshana(Daily mirror)

Troops advance further into Mullaittivu jungle

Troops advance further into Mullaittivu jungle

Troops of the Army 59 Division (59 Div), Task Force 2 (TF 2), Task Force 3 (TF 3), and Task Force 4 (TF 4) are slowly but steadily making their way across the Mullaittivu jungle that lies in the middle of the area what is now known as the terror triangle. The thick forest that stretches its boundaries to Iranamadu tank to the west, A-35 (Paranthan- Mullaittivu) road to North and A-34 (Mankualam- Mullaittivu) road to South is known to be the area where the LTTE terrorists would have their final hiding places.

A-9 opening pleases Jaffna Bishop

Boost for civilian life:

The Bishop of Jaffna Rt. Rev. Thomas Savuntharanayagam told the Sunday Observer that he was extremely happy about the opening of the A-9 highway and hoped that the route would now pave way for greater cordiality between North and the South.

Rt. Rev. Savuntharanayagam commenting on the importance of the road said that all these days the innocent civilians suffered terribly due to its closure.

"When I hear the news I felt very happy like any other person in the peninsula. The people in Jaffna underwent untold hardship due to its closure. The prices of essential items had sky rocketed on and off due to fuel prices and the distance.

For medication or examinations the Jaffna civilians had to pay heavily, therefore the opening will be a boost to the Jaffna civilians', Jaffna Bishop said.

LTTE fires at escaping civilians; 7 civilians killed - Kilinochchi

LTTE fires at escaping civilians; 7 civilians killed - Kilinochchi

Seven innocent Tamil civilians including two children, on their way to cleared areas seeking protection for their lives, were gunned down by the LTTE terrorists this morning, 10 January.

According to the military sources, the civilians from Murusamoddai and Kanchipuram areas, were on their way to security forces' controlled area when they were attacked inhumanly by LTTE terrorists deployed on possible escaping routes to prevent civilian movement.

Two children, two females and three males are among the victims, military sources added.

However, 49 more civilians of the same group caught up in the LTTE fire luckily managed to arrive at troops in Paranthan. Two of them also sustained injuries while others shocked due to the fatal experience.

24 children, 13 females and 12 males were able to escapes the LTTE's grip amidst LTTE gunfire, sources said.

The necessary treatments were given for the victims and later directed them to the welfare centers established in the Vavuniya area.

The bodies of innocent Tamil civilians have already been taken to hospital, military sources added.

President declares capture of EPS and reopening of A-9

President declares capture of EPS and reopening of A-9

"2009 dawned with our troops taking full control of the Paranthan area. By January 2nd our troops were able to liberate Kilinochchi too from the clutches of terror. Elephant Pass was lost to our troops 9 years ago. Today, the troops of the 53rd the 55th divisions of the Army have spread their power across Muhamalai to Elephant Pass. It is our duty on this occasion to pay homage to all of our troops who have paid the supreme sacrifice towards this victory," H.E President Mahinda Rajapaksa stated, officially declaring the capture of EPS by security forces today (Jan 9).

"The A-9 route is symbolic of the unity that exists between the North and the South of our country. Four years prior to this, our people who traveled on the A 9 route had to do so under the yoke of an illegal terrorists order. The LTTE obtained several million rupees from the fraudulent taxes they imposed on the people who used the A9 route. Our people had the misfortune at that time live in the face of such humiliation. This part of our history will never be forgotten by us, "he further asserted.

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A-9 road fully liberated after 23years

A-9 road fully liberated after 23years

Point Pedro reunited with Dondra Head

Victorious Sri Lanka Army today (Jan 9) fully liberated the 325 km stretch of Jaffna- Kandy (A-9) road from terrorist hold after 23 years. With this historic victory against terrorism, Point Pedro, the northernmost tip of the Island nation has been reunited with the Dondra Head, the southernmost tip of the island. The longitudinal distance between these two small towns is 480 Km.

Troops of Army 58 Division crossed the Elephant Pass causeway connecting the Jaffna Peninsula with the mainland this morning and wrested control over Elephant Pass, the most fortified LTTE garrison in the Northern theatre of battle. Meanwhile, troops of Army 53 and 55 Divisions marching southwards from Muhamalai beaten off terrorists from the Pallai and Iyakachchi areas and linked up with 58 Division on the A-9, north of Elephant Pass.

With the re-opening of the A-9 road, Sri Lankan citizens have regained their freedom of movement between Jaffna and the South. Since, the LTTE captured Kokavil in 1990, the citizens of Sri Lanka were denied of their right to travel to the Northern part of their own country via land route. Consequently, the terrorists had got the opportunity to extort the civilians extensively by collecting ransoms from those who wished to enter or leave Wanni. Later, the public called the road by the name "Kappang Highway" (Ransom Highway) due to this reason. No human rights champion uttered a word against LTTE for this grave violation of fundamental rights that continued more than 2 decades.

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