Probe on editor’s killing forced to a stop by top political authority

By Kithsiri Wijesinghe

Investigations on the daylight murder of a leading Sri Lankan editor ten years ago, have ground to a halt due to political pressure from the highest levels of political authority, JDS learns.

Founding editor of the now defunct Sunday Leader, Lasantha Wickrematunge was assassinated in the suburbs of the capital in January 2009.

The probe to his killings conducted by the Terrorist Investigation Department (TID) up to 2015 with no tangible result, was handed over to the police Criminal Investigation Department (CID) following a regime change.

A special military intelligence unit planned and carried out the assassination while senior police officers in the Terrorist Investigation Department (TID) and Colombo Crimes Division (CCD) destroyed evidence and misled initial investigations, court heard in 2018 March.

Several military intelligence and senior police officers were arrested by the CID following the findings.

Top orders

However, the CID was forced to abandon the probe by “orders from the very top” when they were gearing up to inform the court of senior security officials allegedly involved in the plot, an investigator familiar with the proceedings told JDS.

Such interference had prevented the CID from obtaining court directions to question military and police top brass, he added.

“Although the common belief is that the Lasantha probe is not making a progress, the truth is that it has been forcibly stopped by orders from the very top,” said the officer who requested anonymity fearing reprisals.

“If they stop meddling with the investigations by demanding, not to question that officer or not to arrest another officer, we would have arrested every suspect and indicted them.”

He was highly confident that the official who allegedly ordered the killing, “known to everybody” would have been behind bars by now, if not for top level political interference.

“The person who ordered the Lasantha Wickremetunge assassination and the reason behind it is known to everybody. This crime cannot be solved merely by arresting members of the army intelligence and police officers who undermined the probe. The person who ordered the crime should be arrested.”

'MiG deal'

At the time of the killing, the Sunday Leader editor was facing civil litigation for defamation by the Defence Secretary at the time, Gotabhaya Rajapaksa, following a damning exposure of alleged corruption in a controversial arms deal involving the purchase and overhaul of military aircraft by the Sri Lanka Air Force.

The transaction is widely referred as the “MIG Deal” as it involved the purchase of four MIG 27 fighter jets.

Executive President Maithripala Sirisena had earlier revealed that he intervened against probing senior military officials and the former defence secretary.☐



Journalists for Democracy in Sri Lanka

  • JDS is the Sri Lankan partner organization of international media rights group, Reporters Without Borders (RSF). The launching of this website was made possible by the EU’s European Instrument for Democracy and Human Rights (EIDHR), of which Reporters Without Borders is a beneficiary.