New York: The New York-based international press freedom organisation, Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) Tuesday welcomed the new probe into the murder of journalist Lasantha Wickrematunge and urged the government to follow through with a transparent and thorough investigation.
Following a request made by the Criminal Investigations Department (CID) of police that a new post-mortem examination is needed for further investigations as part of a new investigation into his death in 2009, the police yesterday exhumed the body of the slain journalist.
The Mount Lavinia Magistrate Mohammed Shahabdeen on 8 September granted permission for the police to exhume the body due to contradictory post-mortem reports.
“We are encouraged that new steps are finally being taken in the case of Lasantha Wickrematunge and urge the Sri Lankan government to follow through with a transparent and thorough investigation into his murder,” CPJ’s deputy executive director Robert Mahoney said.
Sri Lankan President Maithripala Sirisena, elected in January 2015, has pledged to reopen investigations into journalists killed or disappeared during the last 30 years. Sri Lanka ranked sixth on CPJ’s 2015 Impunity Index, which highlights countries where journalists are murdered and their killers go free.
The CPJ called on President Sirisena to “facilitate investigations into all cases of journalists who have disappeared or been killed, bring their perpetrators to justice, and end the cycle of impunity.” Lasantha Wickremetunga, the founding editor of English weekly, Sunday Leader, was assassinated on 8 January, 2009 by four assailants who stopped him on his way to his office on Attidiya-Mt. Lavinia road, in a suburb of Sri Lankan capital and opened fire at him.
An Army Intelligence Officer has been arrested and remanded in connection with the assassination of Wickrematunge.
Wickrematunge had been known for his critical reporting on the then-government led by Mahinda Rajapaksa, whose 10-year leadership was associated with severe restrictions on the press, the CPJ said.