October 18, 2001
Her Excellency Chandrika Bandaranaike Kumaratunga
President, Democratic Socialist Republic of Sri Lanka
Colombo-1, Sri Lanka
The Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) is deeply disturbed that one year after the murder of Jaffna-based journalist Mylvaganam Nimalarajan, investigative efforts appear to have been utterly abandoned.
CPJ was encouraged when, one year ago, Your Excellency ordered the Defense Ministry to investigate Nimalarajan’s murder. However, while a police spokesman told CPJ that the Criminal Investigation Department is handling the investigation, journalists said that little is being done at the federal level to pursue this case. Authorities have also ignored CPJ’s repeated requests for information regarding the status of the inquiry.
Nimalarajan covered the Sri Lankan civil war for various news organizations, including the BBC’s Tamil and Sinhala-language services, the Tamil-language daily Virakesari, and the Sinhala-language weekly Ravaya. He was a critical source of independent news from the embattled Jaffna Peninsula.
On the night of October 19, 2000, armed assassins came to Nimalarajan’s home, where they shot the journalist at least five times, attacked his family members, and detonated a grenade before fleeing the premises.
It remains unclear how the assailants managed to carry out their crime undetected, given that Nimalarajan’s house is situated in a high-security zone in Jaffna town, just 20 yards from a military checkpoint, according to the BBC. Three other checkpoints are located nearby, and curfew was in effect.
Nimalarajan had received several death threats in the weeks before he was killed. CPJ sources say the attack came in reprisal for his reporting on vote-rigging and intimidation in Jaffna during the October 2000 parliamentary elections.
As a nonpartisan organization of journalists dedicated to the defense of press freedom around the world, CPJ is profoundly troubled by the failure of authorities to investigate vigorously the assassination of our esteemed colleague.
Because there is reason to believe that Nimalarajan’s murder was politically motivated, CPJ respectfully asks that you ensure that your administration pursues this case as a priority and brings his murderers to justice.
CPJ also requests a full report on the status of this investigation. We would like to know whether soldiers stationed at the checkpoints around Nimalarajan’s home have been questioned about what they may have seen or heard on the night of the murder, whether there are any suspects, and what possible motives are being considered.
We thank you for your attention to this matter and look forward to your response.