Jaffna journalist's murder investigation said abandoned

[TamilNet, Friday, 19 October 2001, 04:45 GMT]
In an open letter Friday to Sri Lanka's President Chandrika Kumaratunga, drafted by the Free Media Movement, the Sri Lanka Tamil Media Alliance and the international press freedom watchdog Reporters Sans Frontières (RSF), more than 200 journalists, media workers, media organisations, trade unions, international and local NGOs, academics, protested at the lack of progress in the inquiry of the brutal murder of Jaffna journalist Mylvaganam Nimalarajan on 19 October last year.

In a separate letter to the President, the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) in New York said Friday it "is deeply disturbed that one year after the murder of Jaffna-based journalist Mylvaganam Nimalarajan, investigative efforts appear to have been utterly abandoned".

Nimalrajan was shot dead by assassins in his home in the Sri Lank army's high security zone in Jaffna town on the night of 19 October while penning an article for a newspaper.

nimalrajan_201000.jpgNimalrajan had been threatened earlier for exposing and reporting widespread rigging and intimidation by the Eelam People's Democratic Party (EPDP), a major coalition partner of President Chandrika Kumaratunga's government, during election to the Sri Lankan Parliament in Jaffna in October last year.

Media organisations and Tamil politicians have alleged that the EPDP was behind the journalist's murder. Nimalarajan was accused of being an agent of the LTTE by a Sinhala nationalist daily before and after he was murdered. The same allegation was levelled against independent Tamil journalists by the state media and the Sinhala nationalist daily. The journalists were threatened with death later.

The following are the full texts of the letters sent to the Sri Lankan President Friday by the RSF and the CPJ:

(Text of letter drafted by RSF, Sri Lanka Tamil Media Alliance and the Free Media Movement)

Your Excellency,

Exactly one year ago, journalist Mylvaganam Nimalarajan was brutally murdered in his Jaffna home. Nimalarajan was a regular contributor to the BBC's Tamil and Sinhala services as well as to various Sri Lankan media outlets. He was one of the rare independent journalists to inform both the international and local media on war and political developments in the peninsula.

Following Nimalarajan's murder, you personally ordered the Police Department to open an inquiry into the killing. Today, however, twelve months after the incident, no one has been arrested and, as the Magistrate has pointed out, the police has shown much reluctance to genuinely investigate and identify the murderers.

We respectfully urge you to do all in your power to put an end to this culture of impunity and to ensure that the Sri Lankan police and judiciary take appropriate action to apprehend our colleague's murderers. In killing this brave journalist, they have deprived millions of people from their legitimate right to know.

(Text of CPJ letter)

Your Excellency:

The Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) is deeply disturbed that one year after the murder of Jaffna-based journalist Mylvaganam Nimalarajan, investigative efforts appear to have been utterly abandoned.

CPJ was encouraged when, one year ago, Your Excellency ordered the Defense Ministry to investigate Nimalarajan's murder. However, while a police spokesman told CPJ that the Criminal Investigation Department is handling the investigation, journalists said that little is being done at the federal level to pursue this case. Authorities have also ignored CPJ's repeated requests for information regarding the status of the inquiry.

Nimalarajan covered the Sri Lankan civil war for various news organizations, including the BBC's Tamil and Sinhala-language services, the Tamil-language daily Virakesari, and the Sinhala-language weekly Ravaya. He was a critical source of independent news from the embattled Jaffna Peninsula.

On the night of October 19, 2000, armed assassins came to Nimalarajan's home, where they shot the journalist at least five times, attacked his family members, and detonated a grenade before fleeing the premises.

It remains unclear how the assailants managed to carry out their crime undetected, given that Nimalarajan's house is situated in a high-security zone in Jaffna town, just 20 yards from a military checkpoint, according to the BBC. Three other checkpoints are located nearby, and curfew was in effect.

Nimalarajan had received several death threats in the weeks before he was killed. CPJ sources say the attack came in reprisal for his reporting on vote rigging and intimidation in Jaffna during the October 2000 parliamentary elections.

As a nonpartisan organization of journalists dedicated to the defense of press freedom around the world, CPJ is profoundly troubled by the failure of authorities to investigate vigorously the assassination of an esteemed colleague.

Because there is reason to believe that Nimalarajan's murder was politically motivated, CPJ respectfully asks that you ensure that your administration pursues this case as a priority and brings his murderers to justice.

CPJ also requests a full report on the status of this investigation. We would like to know whether soldiers stationed at the checkpoints around Nimalarajan's home have been questioned about what they may have seen or heard on the night of the murder, whether there are any suspects, and what possible motives are being considered.

We thank you for your attention to this matter and look forward to your response.

Sincerely,

Ann Cooper

Executive Director


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