So now Pitchai Jesudasan from Nuwara Eliya is dead. The sole remaining suspect in the murder of Lasantha Wickrematunge. Jesudasan is not the first and will most certainly not be the last man to die “suddenly” while in remand custody.
This man was only 40 years old. He hailed from a poor family in Nuwara Eliya. According to his family the man was in the pink of health. That he died “suddenly” from a blood clot in the brain they say is incomprehensible.
Jesudasan, who apparently owned a garage in Nuwara Eliya, was picked up by the Terrorist Investigation Department (TID) in connection with the murder of Wickrematunge and remanded. That was as far as we knew. Read Nirmala Kannangara’s article today to know the real story about Jesudasan.
The Founder Editor of this newspaper was brutally killed by hired goons over two and a half years ago. The resultant investigation has been played out like a soap opera. The Cabinet spokesperson ventured as far as to give definite dates when the culprits would be brought to book. None of that happened. It was the President who said to a select band of Editors, that Lasantha was a double agent and he even had recordings to prove that fact. Of course none of that has seen the light of day. It is strange that none of the murders or attacks on journalists have been solved by the Police. For good governance, for democracy to thrive, elimination of corruption and for transparency of the Executive, positive action will speak louder than words.
Blaming Sarath Fonseka for Lasantha’s murder does not suffice. If it was so, CHARGE HIM.
In a country in which corruption is rampant and all manner of crime is endemic, it is difficult to know where to draw the line. After all, the highest in the land once claimed that ministers in the previous government had plotted to slaughter newspaper editors, win elections by hook or by crook, splurged billions of rupees on luxury vehicles for themselves, and heaven only knows what else. Of course, a newspaper editor was eventually murdered. In broad daylight, on a busy highway as he drove himself to work. A murder yet to be solved.
Sri Lanka’s moral code is lax and attitudes incomprehensible. An example is when Sepala Ekanayake returned to this country after having hijacked an airliner, pandals were erected in his honour and the streets lined with cheering admirers. People yet elect representatives, fat cats at that, despite being indicted for attempted murder and fraud. A case in point is Anuruddha Ratwatte being nominated as Ambassador to Malaysia despite having being charged for concealing, in a bank vault, certificates of deposits running into an excess of 43 million rupees.
In the event a hoodlum of the likes of Duminda Silva survives his gun shot wounds we may at some point see him too pole vaulted to a diplomatic post. It is more than possible in this land like no other.
The tragedy of Sri Lanka is that people who hold high office think so little of making complete asses of themselves. Sri Lankans should be sick and tired of the glorification of mediocrity by now.
Sri Lanka’s legal system has been subjected to ridicule and adverse criticism even at international level in terms of independence and the administration of justice: a system in which the poor are punished even as the rich walk free. Suspects are shot dead in the very court houses they are tried in, taking their gory secrets with them to the grave. Recall how the case against Thilanga Sumathipala and the dreaded underworld killer Dhammika Amarasinghe took a chilling turn on Friday, January 9, 2004 when Dhammika was shot dead while being produced for a non-summary inquiry at Court No. 6 in Hulftsdorp.
All Sri Lankans must be subject to one law. We can only hope that the case of the cold blooded murder of Lasantha Wickrematunge will not be buried with the killer. We can only hope that the brutal murder, for that is what it is, of 21 year old Roshain Chanaka who died at the Ragama Hospital after being wounded during the Katunayake protest, is investigated and the perpetrators brought before the law.
Why were seventeen army soldiers attached to the Army Military Intelligence Unit, but also identified as having worked “closely” with former Army Commander Sarath Fonseka, who were remanded and held by the TID/CID as suspects in the murder of Wickrematunge, suddenly released?
According to detectives they could not connect the five telephones used on the day of the murder to any of these soldiers. This is despite investigators confiding to The Sunday Leader that of the 17 soldiers in police custody they had narrowed down their suspects to six men they were investigating more closely as possibly having executed the murder of Wickrematunge. Nevertheless, all 17 army men were suddenly released.
A former army intelligence member Kandegedara Piyawansa was arrested and remanded in connection with Wickrematunge’s murder. It was alleged that he had initially met with Jesudasan in Nuwara Eliya and used the latter’s NIC to secure five mobile phones which sleuths believed were used on the day of the murder.
Later in open court Piyawansa charged that a head in the defence establishment had asked him to implicate former Army Commander Sarath Fonseka in the assassination of Lasantha Wickrematunge.
No statement in this regard was recorded from Piyawansa. Instead, he was granted bail less than a month after he made this statement in court.
A serious investigation into the attacks on journalists began only after former General Sarath Fonseka contested the presidential elections as the common opposition candidate. In the immediate aftermath of Wickrematunge’s murder, opposition leaders accused the then army chief of responsibility.
Investigators began a belated inquiry into the possible involvement of Sarath Fonseka in Wickrematunge’s murder after a very senior official at the Defence Ministry revealed that the former Army Commander had told him, “I did not intend to kill Lasantha – I only wanted him hurt – but they killed him.” This was according to senior officials at the time conducting the investigation.
No weapon has been traced as yet. Sleuths remain undecided as to whether Wickrematunge was shot dead at point blank range, killed using a “Stun Gun” or fatally wounded by a long nail attached to the end of a pole. Doctors who attended on Wickrematunge at the Kalubowila Hospital in an initial report said that Wickrematunge had been killed as a result of “firing.” However, later the post mortem report said “There is an entry wound – no exit wound. Nor a spent bullet inside.”
This led to speculation first published in The Sunday Leader that Wickrematunge had been killed by the use of a “Stun Gun”; a weapon that temporarily disables a person with an electric shock.
With no real clues having emerged, there being no spent bullet casing or cartridge found, police ran with this theory based entirely on the speculative report carried in this newspaper.
The police service was always seen as corrupt. Those who defend the police say that they are underpaid, over worked and have to constantly please politicians. They claim that this has lowered morale and discipline. Although these issues are valid it is also a fact that the police department is one of, if not the most corrupt organization in the country except for governing politicians. That and the continuous interference by politicians have taken its toll.
To add to the tragedy we have had a series of Inspectors General of Police (IGPs) who have made laughable public statements bringing the entire police force to disrepute. One IGP said that there were too many “white vans” to successfully investigate the abductions while the previous one, Mahinda Balasuriya called for the public to use their cell phones to film or photograph crimes. Others wait for the President to give them orders to hold investigations, which they (and not the President) are tasked under the law. One wonders whether President Mahinda Rajapaksa carries out an IQ test before appointing the police chief. Clearly not.