Lasantha Wickramatunga

Beats Covered:
Local or Foreign:

Eight helmeted men on four motorcycles forced Wickramatunga’s
car to the side of a busy street outside Colombo
and beat him with iron bars and wooden poles. He died in a local hospital a few
hours later.

Wickramatunga, editor-in-chief of the weekly The Sunday Leader, was a prominent
senior Sri Lankan journalist known for his critical reporting on the
government. According to his brother, Lal Wickramatunga, chairman of the paper’s
parent company, Leader Publications, the editor had received anonymous death
threats for months.

Lasantha Wickramatunga’s wife, Sonali
Samarasinghe-Wickramatunga, told the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation that
the couple had been followed by two men on a motorcycle as they ran errands earlier
that morning. Samarasinghe-Wickramatunga left Sri Lanka shortly after her husband’s
death. The couple had married only two weeks before. 

Wickramatunga foresaw his own murder. In an editorial written
shortly before his death and published three days after the murder, he said:
“Countless journalists have been harassed, threatened, and killed. It has been
my honor to belong to all those categories and now especially the last.”