PEN Appeal: Lasantha Wickramatunga
January 27, 2009
His Excellency the President Mahinda Rajapaksa
Fax: +94 11 2446657
Hon. Amarasiri Dodangoda
Minister of Justice and Law Reforms
Superior Courts Complex,
Fax: +94 11 2445447
H. M. G. S. Palihakkara
Permanent Mission of the Democratic Socialist Republic of Sri Lanka to the UN
630 Third Avenue, 20th Floor
New York, NY 10017
Fax: (212) 986-1838
On behalf of the 3,300 members of PEN American Center, an international organization of writers dedicated to protecting freedom of expression wherever it is threatened, we are writing to protest the murder of editor and writer Lasantha Wickramatunga.
According to our information, Lasantha Wickramatunga, editor of The Sunday Leader, was shot dead on the morning of January 8, 2009, as he drove to work. He was critically injured during the attack and died from his wounds after three hours in surgery. Just days before, Wickramatunga predicted his own death in an editorial in which he imparted his hope that his impending murder would act as an inspiration for a continued commitment to freedom in Sri Lanka. The article was published posthumously in The Sunday Journal on January 11, 2009.
Wickramatunga was the subject of numerous death threats, detentions, and libel cases due to his writings, which focused on corruption, governmental policy, and the long-standing civil war in the Tamil area of North and East Sri Lanka. In November 2007, the printing press of the Sunday Leader was destroyed after an arson attack. In his last editorial, Wickramatunga condemned the president for his failure to investigate these attacks and accused the government of using the war against the Tamil Tigers to remain in power, criticizing opposition leaders for remaining silent on the country’s conflict.
PEN American Center believes Guo Quan’s detention stems from an increase in governmental intolerance of dissent and an increase in the harassment and arrest of writers in advance of and following the 2008 Olympics, which we view as a violation of Article 19 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, to which China is a signatory. We therefore respectfully call for his immediate and unconditional release, as well as the release of all other writers detained solely for the peaceful expression of their views.
Thank you for your attention to this matter.
Chair, Freedom to Write Committee
Director, Freedom to Write and International Programs
Cc: H. E. Jaliya Wickramasuriya
Ambassador of Sri Lanka to the U.S.
2148 Wyoming Avenue NW
Washington DC 20008
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