Jan 12, 2009

Courage, thy name is Wickrematunge

On Thursday Lasantha Wickrematunge, the editor of The Sunday Leader, was murdered. The thing is ... he knew it was coming. We know he knew, because he wrote an editorial about it, set to be published in the event of his death. His newspaper is one of the few independent voices in Sri Lanka, speaking out for the many disenfranchised people of this troubled nation. Press freedom in Sri Lanka is the worst in any democratic society, and journalists are in constant danger. You can almost hear Wickrematunge's passionate yet rational voice as he accuses the government of his assassination.
No other profession calls on its practitioners to lay down their lives for their art save the armed forces and, in Sri Lanka, journalism. In the course of the past few years, the independent media have increasingly come under attack. Electronic and print-media institutions have been burnt, bombed, sealed and coerced. Countless journalists have been harassed, threatened and killed. It has been my honour to belong to all those categories and now especially the last.
It's tragic, inspirational, and even funny. You really should read the whole thing. But just in case, here is a particularly salient excerpt.
Every newspaper has its angle, and we do not hide the fact that we have ours. Our commitment is to see Sri Lanka as a transparent, secular, liberal democracy. Think about those words, for they each has profound meaning. Transparent because government must be openly accountable to the people and never abuse their trust. Secular because in a multi-ethnic and multi-cultural society such as ours, secularism offers the only common ground by which we might all be united. Liberal because we recognise that all human beings are created different, and we need to accept others for what they are and not what we would like them to be. And democratic... well, if you need me to explain why that is important, you'd best stop buying this paper.
Wickrematunge also addresses his friend, President Mahinda Rajapaksa:
In the wake of my death I know you will make all the usual sanctimonious noises and call upon the police to hold a swift and thorough inquiry. But like all the inquiries you have ordered in the past, nothing will come of this one, too. For truth be told, we both know who will be behind my death, but dare not call his name. Not just my life, but yours too, depends on it.
I won't belabor the point - you all are smart people, and can draw your own conclusions. No matter your politics, you have to admire this man's bravery. Not just for writing this article, but for living his life. Godspeed, Mr. Wickrematunge.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

That is one fabulous analysis. Hope Sri Lanka will live up to its potential as a democratic, multiethnic, secular country, where every citizen has the freedom to be equal.