Widow of murdered Sri Lankan editor fears for life

The wife of murdered Sri Lankan newspaper editor Lasantha Wickrematunga is on the run and also fears for her safety, The Independent reports.

She tells Andrew Buncombe: “I know there is only one mission for me. I have to take forward what he was fighting for. His death cannot have been in vain.”

Her husband edited the The Sunda Leader – a newspaper that had persistently highlighted the civilian deathtoll of the Government conflict against the Tamil Tigers. He foresaw his own death in a posthumously published article which had asked to be published in the event of his assassination.

Mrs Wickrematunga believes the finger of blame for husband’s death has to be pointed at the government.

She said: “There is no doubt that it was the government that stood to benefit. He was a thorn in their side week after week.”

She said that a month after the killing there has sttill been “no proper investigation”.

Lasantha Wickrematunga’s last article bears repitition as an inspiring explanation of the important of journalism and bears repetition:

Headed: “And then they came for me

It says:

“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.

“I have been in the business of journalism a good long time. Indeed, 2009 will be The Sunday Leader’s 15th year. Many things have changed in Sri Lanka during that time, and it does not need me to tell you that the greater part of that change has been for the worse. We find ourselves in the midst of a civil war ruthlessly prosecuted by protagonists whose bloodlust knows no bounds. Terror, whether perpetrated by terrorists or the state, has become the order of the day. Indeed, murder has become the primary tool whereby the state seeks to control the organs of liberty. Today it is the journalists, tomorrow it will be the judges. For neither group have the risks ever been higher or the stakes lower.

“Why then do we do it? I often wonder that. After all, I too am a husband, and the father of three wonderful children. I too have responsibilities and obligations that transcend my profession, be it the law or journalism. Is it worth the risk? Many people tell me it is not. Friends tell me to revert to the bar, and goodness knows it offers a better and safer livelihood. Others, including political leaders on both sides, have at various times sought to induce me to take to politics, going so far as to offer me ministries of my choice. Diplomats, recognising the risk journalists face in Sri Lanka, have offered me safe passage and the right of residence in their countries. Whatever else I may have been stuck for, I have not been stuck for choice.

“But there is a calling that is yet above high office, fame, lucre and security. It is the call of conscience.”

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