We know many editors who thoughtfully got ready obituaries of living persons, in the fond anticipation that they would die sooner or later, of course, sooner rather than later. We know some editors, who, rather unluckily, published obituaries prematurely, even wrongly. But we do not know a single editor who wrote his own obituary, quite truthfully, and died just before its publication.
Lasantha Wickramatunga of Sunday Leader, Sri Lanka, was one such editor. He had even captioned his edit: And then they came for me. They actually came. And they did their job. That edit was Wickramatunga’s self-obituary, not unintended, duly anticipated, with courage and certitude. This report about it is a must-read for anyone who loves writing and reading.
I do recommend it’s a must read. Not because of it’s literary quality but it’s a genuine account of a man who fought against a Fascist regime and gave his life. When ‘The Hindu’ is jubilant over Rajapakse’s series of victories it’s time we present the voice of a journalist from the same country. It’s not only an account for Journalists but for every progressive individual who encounter the same question in the struggle for truth. Withstand or Withdraw? Lasantha chose the first option.
Why then do we do it? I often wonder that. After all, I too am a husband, and the father of three wonderful children. I too have responsibilities and obligations that transcend my profession, be it the law or journalism. Is it worth the risk? Many people tell me it is not. Friends tell me to revert to the bar, and goodness knows it offers a better and safer livelihood. Others, including political leaders on both sides, have at various times sought to induce me to take to politics, going so far as to offer me ministries of my choice. Diplomats, recognising the risk journalists face in Sri Lanka, have offered me safe passage and the right of residence in their countries. Whatever else I may have been stuck for, I have not been stuck for choice.
But there is a calling that is yet above high office, fame, lucre and security. It is the call of conscience.
When news of the agony of Eelam Tamils haunts us from every quarters, the criminal silence of the so-called international community, the complicity of the Indian State drives us wild, we hear a democratic voice that sounds unbelievably clear and stern even at the last moment. The call of conscience gives us hope that, at last it exists the Island state. We wish it grows louder.
READ LASANTHA’S SELF-OBITUARY.