I move now, in this account of travels in Sri Lanka while I was a government official, to 2009, an intense year when the forces finally achieved what many had thought impossible, the eradication of the LTTE within Sri Lanka. But the year began with the killing of Lasantha Wickramatunga which as I note the British suggested was under the aegis of Sarath Fonseka. The determination of the British government to hide some of its Defence Attache’s memos may be related to this.

The main work for the Ministry in these days was helping to coordinate aid for the refugees, as to which we were helped by the very positive approach of Amin Awad who headed the UN agency for refugees in Sri Lanka

18 The death of Lasantha Wickramatunga

I was back at work on Monday 5th January 2009, to face one of the worst days during the war, when Lasantha Wickramatunga was bludgeoned to death. I had recently written about how, after the dangers to journalists a couple of years earlier, mainly in the North when the different groups all took advantage of the chaos to deal with old scores, things were better. This murder was appalling, and affected our position badly, though I still find it difficult to believe the President or the Secretary of Defence was responsible.

Indeed the British Defence Attache Anton Gash called me to his room a couple of weeks later, when I was at the High Commission for a workshop for the forces about dealing with disasters, and gave me a slip of paper through which they had been informed that a hit squad reporting to the army commander was responsible. The paper added though that the Secretary of Defence knew about the squad. Both these allegations I found credible, for I knew Sarath Fonseka was a loose cannon that could not be controlled and also that the Secretary could not rein him in in these crucial stages of the war.

That Friday I went up to Kandy for the wedding of one of the officers stationed at Diyatalawa when I coordinated the degree programme and then stayed with Derrick till the Sunday morning when I went to the cottage. Next morning I went to pay my respects to Lasantha, whom I liked and with whom I had spoken at length when we were on a plane together the previous year. There followed a heavy day, including a meeting with the amiable Sudanese head of Office of the High Commissioner for Refugees, Amin Awad, preparing for the refugees from the Tigers we were expecting.

The next day I had to go in for surgery for a hernia, leaving the hospital on the Thursday when I rather overdid things, with a Project Management seminar in the morning, and the Sabaragamuwa University Convocation in the afternoon, when my security gallantly carried me up in a chair. That weekend I could not get to the cottage for Basil had a meeting on the Saturday when he began explaining his grandiose plans for the refugees.