Journalist and Editor of the Sunday Leader Lasantha Wickrematunge was shot in the head by cold blooded killers … whilst on his way to work on 8th January 2009
In an uncanny editorial published posthumously a few days later like a voice from the grave, Lasantha predicted his murder and laid the blame for it squarely on the government of President Mahinda Rajapaksa – our incumbent president. http://www.thesundayleader.lk/20090111/editorial-.htm
It seems a strange twist of fate, that the same government will be holding a Presidential election on the anniversary of the murder most foul: 8th January which the sooth sayers have apparently fixed as the most auspicious date. Dejavue ?
This article which I wrote and was published in the Sunday Times in 2009 is being posted here as a reminder to us to follow the call of conscience for the truth will set us free.
LEST WE FORGET ….
WHERE WAS I WHEN THEY CAME FOR MY BROTHER?
My soul is searching … pouring over innumerable articles that have been penned in papers and on the net … hoping to find a word that might still the restlessness I feel following the vicious and vengeful slaying of a fearless journalist.
Why do I feel this way? I did not know Lasantha personally though I occasionally read his articles and knew about his courageous investigations.
Of the many thousands of words spoken and written since his murder, some strike home – sear home – seeking an acknowledgement. Echoes taken up by D Mark and others – where was I? Where was I when Lasantha needed another voice to support him? Where was I “when they came for him”? Where have I been all this time …like Nero carrying on blithely whilst my country descended into darkness?
And where am I now? Am I not my brother’s keeper? Then why do I continue to hide instead of running out, totally exposed to the powers of earth, shouting out the truth with trust in the God of Truth. The truth will set you free. The truth will set us free. Yet we cower and murmur: should I, should I not? Why not?
Is there time to turn the tide? Can we build the wave that someone spoke of? All it takes is a few steps; a few steps that would bring people together and soon we will have a wall – a wave of humanity walking together.
I took one step. I attended the Church Service to pay my respects to a man who gave his life in the fight for freedom of expression. One of the priests called him a prophet. Those words struck a chord in my questing soul. A prophet? Yes of course. A voice crying in the wilderness; I can add …. make straight the twisted corridors of power. Stop the racial prejudice parading under the guise of victory.
Inspired, I took a second step. I joined the funeral walk to to the cemetry, Kanatte – with a lot more respect and the beginnings of defiance. Let them know. Let me be counted.
A third step. I held a banner that someone gave me that proclaimed my right to have a different opinion without being labelled a traitor.
Metaphorically, and physically, the funeral walk felt like angioplasty opening up a clogged artery. What seemed to start as a small procession soon ballooned into a sea of persons that filled the roadway from Kirimandala roundabout to Kanatte. Metaphorically too, like angioplasty brings hope, the growing throngs seemed to reflect hope, an unspoken mood that where there is life there is still hope; marching together, united we could still end tyranny. Yes we can?!
Spoken and written words pierced the conscience … Let’s not feel that reading ‘The Leader’ alone absolves us … Lets rise to bring light to the darkness … lets continue the legacy. Lets not forget … let his death not be in vain … let freedom ring ... Let the ‘dash’ of our lives matter … It’s not the voice of our enemies but the silence of our friends … All it takes for evil to thrive is for good people to do nothing …
It made me wonder. Do we really want peace without freedom? I don’t. I might as well die (as Lasantha did). Is that foolhardy or courageous?
I find the answer in Hebrews 2:14:18 – incredibly, the Bible reflection for today: “….…those who fear death remain in bondage all their lifetime.”
These words were echoed in the hymn sheet at Lasantha’s funeral.
Set my spirit free that I might worship thee
Set my spirit free that I might praise thy name
Let all bondage go and let deliverance flow.
Set my spirit free to worship thee.
Lasantha was a Christian who kept his eternal goal always in mind. “… for what does it profit a man if he gains the whole world and suffer the loss of his own soul.”
He felt that there was “… a calling that is above high office, fame, lucre and security. It was the call of his conscience” that he followed to the end.
No wonder he was fearless – and FREE!!!
Photo Credits :
http://www.lankastandard.com/2011/10/lasanthas-last-words/lasantha_face0/ last video condemning lack of media freedom