living dangerously in Sri Lanka


On the morning of January 8, 2009, Lasantha Wickrematunge was driving to work in a suburb of the Sri Lankan capital of Colombo when his Toyota Corolla was blocked by four motorcycles. The masked riders smashed the car’s windows and dragged Lasantha into the street, where one of the assailants punched a hole in his skull with a captive bolt pistol, the kind used to slaughter livestock. According to eyewitnesses, the motorcyclists then sped off in the direction of a nearby military checkpoint, leaving Lasantha dead in the middle of a crowded intersection. Lasantha was the editor of The Sunday Leader, an English-language weekly newspaper that he founded with his older brother Lal in 1994. Known for their muckraking investigations of corrupt politicians, the Wickrematunges were accustomed to harassment and violence: Lasantha had been shot at, beaten up, and had his home shelled by antitank ammunition; the government briefly shut the Leader down in 2000 for flouting censorship laws; in 2005, and again in 2007, arsonists burned down its printing press; and before his assassination, Lasantha received death threats for criticizing the government’s war against the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE), a Tamil separatist group that had been in revolt against the predominantly Sinhalese government since 1983.

more from Michael Hardy at The American Scholar here.