Home » News

‘State terror’ waging ‘racist war’ – Sonali Wickrematunge

[TamilNet, Tuesday, 5 May 2009 19:58 No Comment]

The UNESCO World Press Freedom Prize 2009 has been awarded posthumously to Sri Lankan journalist Lasantha Wickrematunge, assassinated by a government death-squad in January. Wickremetunga, long-standing editor of The Sunday Leader newspaper, was one of the few journalists who continued to criticise the militarist, hardline government of President Mahinda Rajapakse. In a statement marking the award, his wife, Sonali Wickrematunge, described the government’s military campaign in the north as a “racist war” in which future charges of genocide would not be surprising and pleaded for international action.

“The free Sri Lanka in which I was born no longer exists. Our country has entered a Dark Age characterized by tyranny and state-sponsored terror, where the government publicly, cynically and unapologetically equates democratic dissent to treason,” it said.

“The sinister white van in which the state abducts its perceived enemies including journalists, many of them never to be seen again, has become a symbol of untold dread.”

“Yet, we need to remember that violence against journalists is only the tip of the iceberg. Tens of thousands of ordinary Sri Lankan civilians-men, women, children, and the aged-have been herded into concentration camps where they are held against their will.”

“That this is a racist war is not a secret. I would not go so far as to use the word genocide, but it would not surprise me to see it used in future international legal action against the government.”

“The government itself has plastered the countryside with enormous placards lauding the military with the slogan, in Sinhala, the language of the Sinhalese majority to which I too, belong, stating: ‘Soldiers, our race salutes you!’ Not ‘the people’, not ‘the country’, but the race.”

“Interestingly, none of these hoardings are in Tamil, the language of the people the government claims it is seeking to liberate.”

“It is urgent and important that the world realizes what is happening in Sri Lanka before it is too late.”
“I beseech you and anyone who will listen not to allow Sri Lanka’s government, under the cover of a war against terror, to engage in acts of terror or crimes against humanity. Soon it will be too late, and history will not forgive us if we do not act now.”

Joe Thloloe, President of the jury and Press Ombudsman of the Press Council of South Africa, said “Lasantha Wickrematunge continues to inspire journalists around the world.”

“Jury members were moved to an almost unanimous choice by a man who was clearly conscious of the dangers he faced but nevertheless chose to speak out, even beyond his grave,” said Thloloe, referring to the laureate’s posthumous editorial.

That powerful editorial, which was reproduced in newspapers in other countries, Mr. Wickrematunge blamed the Rajapakse regime for his murder, which he situated in the wider disintegration of the country’s processes of democracy, press freedom and so on.

[Full Coverage]

(For updates you can share with your friends, follow TNN on Facebook, Twitter and Google+)

Comments are closed.