October 20, 2000
Her Excellency Chandrika Bandaranaike Kumaratunga
President, Democratic Socialist Republic of Sri Lanka
VIA FAX: 011-94-1-333-703
The Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) condemns the murder yesterday of veteran journalist Mylvaganam Nimalarajan, a Jaffna-based journalist who reported for various news organizations including the BBC’s Tamil and Sinhala-language services, the Tamil-language daily Virakesari, and the Sinhala-language weekly Ravaya.
CPJ appreciates today’s announcement that Your Excellency has ordered defense authorities to initiate an immediate inquiry into the assassination.
On the night of October 19, a group of unidentified gunmen approached Nimalarajan’s home, located in a high-security zone in central Jaffna town. The assailants shot the journalist through the window of his study, where he was working on an article, and threw a grenade into the home before fleeing the premises.
Nimalarajan’s wife immediately summoned army officers to the house, according to a CPJ source, and the journalist was taken to Jaffna Hospital, where he was pronounced dead. The journalist’s parents and his 11-year-old nephew were seriously injured by the grenade attack.
Local journalists suspect that Nimalarajan’s reporting on vote-rigging and intimidation in Jaffna during the recent parliamentary elections may have led to his murder.
As a nonpartisan organization of journalists dedicated to the defense of press freedom around the world, CPJ is deeply saddened by the assassination of our colleague. Mylvaganam Nimalarajan was an extraordinarily courageous journalist, working at great personal risk to report on the consequences of the civil war on residents of the Jaffna peninsula-where one-third of the 470,000 residents have been forced to flee their homes since fighting intensified in the north earlier this year, according to international relief agencies.
The course of the 17-year-old civil war between government forces and the separatist Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam cannot be adequately reported because of the administration’s failure to grant journalists regular access to the conflict areas. In this context, Nimalarajan’s reports were a particularly crucial source of information.
CPJ is continuing to investigate the circumstances behind the assassination of Mylvaganam Nimalarajan, and we respectfully ask Your Excellency to ensure that the results of the official inquiry into this case are made public as soon as possible. Prompt action must be taken to guarantee that the perpetrators of this terrible crime are brought to justice; if such killings are allowed to go unpunished, no journalist is safe.
We thank you for your attention to this urgent matter, and await your response.