Sri Lanka: Ten thousand angry mourners at Lasantha funeral

Broad campaign launched to stop state violence

Messages of condemnation have flooded into the Sri Lankan government over the daylight murder of Lasantha Wickramatunge (see earlier article). Protest pickets at embassies and consulates around the world are happening this week. (A round-up of these will be given later on this site). Donate on line (add the words ’Campaign Sri Lanka’ to the comment box) or send cheques to Campaign Sri Lanka c/o Committee for a Workers’ International, PO Box 3688, London, Britain, E11 1YE

Ten thousand angry mourners at Lasantha funeral

In Sri Lanka on Monday, Lasantha’s funeral was in effect a mass demonstration of anger. Up to ten thousand sat down in the road at a busy intersection in central Colombo. So big and determined was the action that police refrained from moving in to clear it.

Angry protesters throng Lake House roundabout, Colombo

At the cemetery, thousands of candles large and small were lit and left on the ground. The mourners stayed late into the dark evening, listening to speeches and making their feelings known about the grievous lack of human rights and democratic freedoms in the country.

The following day, a broad alliance of opposition organisations was launched. It condemns the government’s collusion in the killing of the widely respected editor of the Sunday Leader and demands the right of all to free expression without fear of death.

The United Socialist Party (CWI in Sri Lanka) has been fully involved in organising these anti-government initiatives, including the funeral. But it has also insisted that participation in such a broad alliance in no way indicates political support for an electoral alliance to replace the present government.

The USP has a proud record of campaigning for democratic and national rights, but has no intention of giving the slightest credence to the pro-capitalist/pro-imperialist policies of the main opposition party – the United National Party. The USP will continue to fight for genuinely socialist policies and for unity in struggle between Sinhala and Tamil workers and poor people.

Siritunga Jaysuriya is both Secretary of the USP and Chair of the Civil Monitoring Committee set up with other forces some years ago. It has pursued the dangerous task of investigating the numerous kidnappings and extra-judicial killings that take place in Sri Lanka, apparently without let or hindrance. The CMC made a statement about the Lasantha killing and the wrecking of the MTV station carried below.

Siri also wrote to the British newspaper, the Guardian, in response to its extensive coverage of Lasantha’s ‘letter from the grave’ – a powerful editorial published posthumously in the Sunday Leader last weekend.

We carry both of these below and include a link to the Sunday Leader for the text of Lasantha’s prescient letter to Mahinda Rajapakse. We are also calling for as many protests as possible to be made to the Sri Lankan government, through letters and pickets.

  • Independent inquiry now into Lasantha Wickrematunge’s murder
  • End Sri Lanka’s 25 year long civil war
  • Stop the bombings and persecution of Tamil-speaking people
  • Peace talks now with working and poor people’s involvement
  • Stop all violence against the media
  • Full human and democratic rights in Sri Lanka
  • No to dictatorship and clan rule!
  • For a united struggle of Sinhala and Tamil-speaking people
  • A socialist alternative to war, capitalism and imperialism

Civil Monitoring Committee Statement

Killing of Lasantha Wickramatunge

Cry out against murderous, dictatorial state!

Appeal and Statement from Civil Monitoring Commission

To all those who stand in solidarity with Sri Lanka’s people

Sri Lanka is almost in its last stretch of rolling into an abyss of political tyranny. President Rajapaksa’s regime is fast building up a military State with a civil façade. It has accumulated a huge baggage of Human Rights violations with total impunity, a war that has left almost the whole of the Northern Tamil population virtually imprisoned and inhumanly displaced, and now the Rajapaksa regime is after its biggest dictatorial kill.

After continuous and relentless attacks on the media which began first with attacks on the Jaffna-based Tamil media, Tuesday, January 6th recorded another brutal attack with the devastation and arson on the MTV/MBC stations in the early morning. With the cold-blooded murder just two days later, on Thursday the 8th, of Lasantha Wickramatunge, editor of the ‘Sunday Leader’ newspaper, the most outspoken media publication, Rajapaksa has sealed the fate of democracy, with no media ever taking a chance to dissent.

"And….. in this compassionate, democratic Buddhist land enfolded with love, in wisdom and fullest freedom, media is forbiden to raise a dissenting voice. Media is forbidden to criticise the ‘law’ of the ruling regime. The media is forbidden to speak for the people", wrote the editorial board of the news and features website in its closing editorial, immediately after the murder of Lasantha Wickramatunge.

Such is the peril of the Sri Lankan people who now wish to see the world protesting against the savage rule of the Rajapaksa regime.

Such is the peril of the Sri Lankan people who desire the strength of the world democratic forces in solidarity.

We therefore request you to rally all democratic forces in registering your protest against President Rajapaksa’s regime in Sri Lanka, immediately.

Below is our example of a letter of protest to President Rajapaksa. You can follow this same format.

Please hold protests in your countries and let us know the response.

To the President Rajapaksa

Presidential Secretariat


Sri Lanka

Your Excellency,

We protest at the political developments in Sri Lanka with utter disgust and dismay.

We rarely see such impunity in civilised society in this modern world. The string of abductions, extra-judicial killings, extortions have shown your rule to be outside the bounds of law and order.

We therefore wish to register our strongest protest in our loudest voice over the burning and smashing of the MBC/MTV stations in Pannipitiya and the cold-blooded murder of a fearless editor, Lasantha Wickramatunge.

We call upon you to immediately investigate the murder of Mr Wickramatunge and the MBC/MTV attack and to bring to book all the culprits for a full judicial investigation to be punished if proven guilty.

We urge you to bring these inquiries to a completion, as we have not seen any previous investigations taking their due course in bringing any evidence about the accused to prove they have been conducted impartially and completely.

Thanking you…

E-mail address:

Send us copies please to:

Letter to the Guardian

Colombo, 14 January 2008

Dear editors,

I write as a co-organiser of Monday’s public funeral for Lasantha Wikrematunge, whose brutal murder you have covered extensively in your paper. Over ten thousand Sri Lankans – Tamils and Sinhalese – turned out in the biggest display of public grief since the assassination of former president Kumaratunga’s husband, Vijay.

In an impressive display of strength, they ’occupied’ a busy road junction and the police were unable to intervene. At the funeral meeting, they raised their fists, pledging, "We will fight to finish this terror and bring democracy". In a display of anger against the authorities, they smashed coconuts to the ground. Until late in the evening, they stayed at the cemetery amid thousands and thousands of candles.

I am chair of the Civil Monitoring Committee (CMC) involved, like Lasantha, in exposing numerous cases of kidnapping and extra-judicial killing in Sri Lanka for which no one is held responsible. I understand fully what he means in his powerful ’letter from the grave’ to the president:- "When finally I am killed, it will be the government that kills me" and "like all the enquiries you have ordered in the past, nothing will come of this one (into his own murder)".

Lasantha does not blame his personal friend, Mahinda Rajapakse, He admits that his paper welcomed him coming in as president in 2005. Many hoped a new era in Sri Lankan politics had begun. However, after representing the United Socialist Party and coming third in the presidential election, I had a chance to warn the new president publicly, at the televised acceptance ceremony, that if he continued his policies of war and hardship for the people, resistance would grow.

As the bloody war effort is pushed to its limits, the present government will stop at nothing to try and stifle criticism and opposition. We will honour Lasantha’s memory – his great bravery and self-sacrifice – by stepping up protests world-wide and building mass movements with socialist programmes to end war, dictatorship and misery.

Siritunga Jayasuriya

Secretary, United Socialist Party

Chair, Civil Monitoring Committee

Lasantha Wickrematunge’s posthumous editorial for his paper, the Sunday Leader can be found at

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January 2009