Editor of Sri Lankan daily assassinated

Policemen investigate the site of the shooting of newspaper editor Lasantha Wickramatunga in Colombo on Thursday.   | Photo Credit: — PHOTO: AP

B. Muralidhar Reddy

COLOMBO: Lasantha Wickramatunga, editor of the Sri Lanka English weekly Sunday Leader was assassinated by unidentified gun men on Thursday morning while he was on his way to work in his car.

According to the police, two unidentified persons riding on motorcycles fired at Mr. Wickramatunga, hitting him in the chest, head and abdomen.

A virulent critic of the Mahinda Rajapaksa government, Mr. Wickramatunga died three-and-a-half hours later in a hospital.

The media community in the country expressed outrage over the failure of the government to protect journalists and the growing attacks on media personnel.

Sri Lankan President Mahinda Rajapaksa condemned the killing of Mr. Wickramatunga as an attempt to discredit the government while the Leader of the Opposition and a former Prime Minister, Ranil Wickremesinghe, accused the government of silencing its critics.

Mr. Rajapaksa described Mr. Wickramatunga as a close friend and a courageous journalist and maintained “the heinous crime points to the grave dangers faced by the democratic social order of our country, and the existence of forces that will go to the furthest extremes in using terror and criminality to damage our social fabric and bring disrepute to the country.”

Addressing a news conference along with other Opposition leaders, Mr. Wickremesinghe alleged that the murder of the Sunday Leader editor was part of an anti-democratic conspiracy.