Photo from Lasantha’s funeral procession/protest (Set)
Lasantha Wickremetunga died right about now. As I type, they’re holding the memorial in the Sunday Leader office. I am stuck here working on the Kottu supplement for the same. After he died I started working with the Leader. About once a week I drive down the narrow stretch where he was shot. The bloody clothes he died in are in the corner of the Chairman’s office.
It’s there, that blue plastic bag. It’s a bit eerie. Because the Leader is a family. The Chairman is Lasantha’s brother. For whatever his works (commemorated in this Sunday’s Leader), he was a man. Somebody put metal into his skull and he bled out his life on the street. I know his family and it fucking sucks.
Lasantha’s picture hangs above the elevator in the Leader office. When the power goes out we go up to the top floor, via the stairs. You can see the asbestos factory across the street. When it flooded we raced paper boats in the storm drains. It’s a strange place and it’s amazing that anything works, but the people are great. Sometimes the staff will sit around and debate philosophy, but most of the time they talk about food.
I didn’t know Lasantha, but in that office you can’t help but feel that what’s missed is the human being. Everyone at the Leader does crazy, brave and contentious work, but in person they seriously do the most thinking about food. I like it there. They have pretty good short eats at meetings. I wish Lasantha was around.
Despite not knowing the man, I felt his death quite keenly. For one, I started working for the Leader. It also changed me in that I am afraid. I write and speak more cautiously now. I say this is because I value moderation and respect, but a lot is out of fear. Lasantha was connected and he was considered hard to hit. But he was hit, in broad daylight, and they got away. The only people in court are the Sunday Leader management, for the defamation case Gota brought against them.
So I don’t know what the lesson is. The work is important, but it’s also important to not get killed on the way to work. I worry about the people I work with, I worry a lot about the death threats against Frederica, I worry about myself. But the work goes on.
I think it’s just the way the Leader is, it’s constitutional. They piss off everybody, left right and center. They piss off the people they’re trying to expose and they piss off the people they’re trying to help. To quote the Joker, they’re like a dog chasing cars. They wouldn’t know what to do if they caught one. God bless the Leader, and let’s try to sort shit out this year without killing each other. And maybe get some justice for the people that have died. Lasantha Wickremtunga, Rest In Peace.
Amantha’s (Perambara) has an good photo set from after Lasantha died. There’s a public vigil today at 5:30, Alexandra Place, Vihara Mahadevi Park.