(July 16, 2009) The 10th annual awards ceremony to honor excellence in journalism jointly organized by Sri Lanka Editors' Guild and the Sri Lanka Press Institute was held on Tuesday (24) in Mount Lavinia Hotel with much grandeur but turned out to be a farce as the internationally recognized investigative journalist and slain founder editor of The Sunday Leader, Lasantha Wickrematunge was completely forgotten at the event.
A minute’s silence was observed in memory of all the journalists who died during the past year. Reliable sources said that the Editors' Guild was reluctant even to mention Lasantha Wickramathunga's name in the function.
Reportedly, the organizers of the event collected material from Leader Publications Pvt Ltd prior to the event with a promise of a small video presentation on the life and times of Wickrematunge, a pledge never accomplished. Reliable sources say that the Editors' Guild is in the view that the Sunday Leader is not a quality publication, and does not stand by standard journalism ethics. The organizers of the journalism awards ceremony did not accept nominations from the Sunday Leader and Morning Leader, last year and this year. However, Mohanlal Piyadasa the editor of Irudina, the Sinhala language sister paper of Sunday Leader, is an executive committee member of the Editors' Guild. Irudina depends highly on the translations of investigative reports of the Sunday Leader. Regarding ethics, no other Sri Lankan newspaper is better than the Sunday Leader, according to our point of view. If the Leader is notorious in war reporting, the other newspapers are notorious in many other criteria like gender, ethnic and religious biases etc.
Lasantha Wickrematunge was murdered in broad day light on a busy highway on January 08, 2009 as he was driving his vehicle to the newspaper office. Editors' Guild praised him in their obituaries although it took a different stand at the journalism excellence awards ceremony. It said that what the country was witnessing was an ongoing campaign against the dissemination of information to the citizenry and democratic dissent. “An adversarial relationship between any government and the media is good for governance and Lasantha epitomized this. It is also the inalienable right of the people to be kept informed and to decide on the choice of media,” the Editors’ Guild said then.
However, the N. Vidyathran, the Editor of Tamil publications, Uthayan and Sudar Oli and his staff were honored at the ceremony for reporting under special circumstances. A posthumous award was offered on MTV/MBC correspondent Rashmi Mohammed who was killed in a bomb attack on October 6, 2008 at Akuressa while covering a political meeting.
Sri Lankan Minister of Labor Mervyn Silva has meanwhile publicly claimed responsibility for ‘eliminating’ Lasantha Wickrematunga while the President Mahinda Rajapakse said to The Hindu Editor-in-chief N. Ram during an interview that Lasantha Wickramathunga was friend and the deceased had made his last call was made to the President. He said he was unable to reply it since he was in shrine room at the moment.