Bringing Out The Bodies For Election

A macabre island ritual


The funeral procession for Lasantha Wickremetunge, 12 Jan 2009

It’s election time, which means they’re bringing out the bodies. The young rugby player found dead in a burning car. The editor shot with a cattle gun while driving, surrounded by a swarm of motorbikes.

The murderers are out, so out come the bodies. It’s become macabre ritual over the last decade. The murderers run for office and the bodies come out. Someone gets elected, the bodies go back in. It doesn’t matter who wins, justice will never be served. The accusers and murderers dine together, and not in hell.

It’s the families that are in hell, or purgatory. Wasim Thajudeen was 28, a young rugby player, a brother and son. Lasantha Wickrematunge, the Editor, was in his prime, newly remarried, with children that are now fighting his case. For us in the public these are just periodic and farcical news alerts. For the families this is the season of renewed torment. They cannot rest in peace. It is torture, of another kind, this parade of injustice.

“It is ridiculous to still say my brother’s death was an accident when it is scientifically and judicially proven — with a clear court ruling — that it was murder,” Ayesha [Wasim’s sister] said in an interview.

The man running for Prime Minister today (Mahinda Rajapaksa) said it was an accident, that Wasim’s car was going 175 kph, hit a wall and burst into flames. However, the investigation showed that Wasim had been beaten, placed in the passenger seat of the car and the whole thing lit on fire. A Rajapaksa family vehicle was at the scene, and telephone records have their security active and nearby.

None of this is surprising to Ayesha Thajudeen. “The whole world knows what Mahinda Rajapaksa and his family are like,” she told the Sunday Observer, “what more can ordinary citizens do to find justice in this country?”

The sad answer is nothing, because ordinary citizens only matter at election time, and we only matter insomuch as we can be distracted. So they bring out the bodies and bury them again, once the votes are in. Then the cases go silent.

In a letter to the current Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe, Lasantha’s daughter wrote:

From the day my father died, you have invoked…



Indrajit (Indi) Samarajiva is a Sri Lankan writer. Follow me at, or just email me at