Richard de Zoysa

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Richard de Zoysa
Richard de Zoysa (1958-1990).jpg
Born (1958-03-18)18 March 1958
Colombo, Sri Lanka
Died 18 February 1990(1990-02-18) (aged 31)
Sri Lanka
Nationality Sri Lanka Sri Lankan

Richard Manik de Zoysa (Sinhala:රිචඩ් ද සොයිසා) (18 March 1958– 18 February 1990) was a well-known Sri Lankan journalist, author, human rights activist and actor, who was abducted and murdered on 18 February 1990. His murder caused widespread outrage inside the country, and is widely believed to have been carried out by a death squad linked to elements within the government.

Life and death[edit]

Background[edit]

de Zoysa was born in Colombo, Sri Lanka. He was of mixed ethnicity, his father a majority Sinhalese and mother Dr. Manorani Saravanamuttu, a prominent medical surgeon from the minority Sri Lankan Tamil community. His mother's father, Manicasothy Saravanamuttu, was a prominent journalist and diplomat of Malaya. Educated at S. Thomas' College, Mount Lavinia, where his acting talents in Sinhala were encouraged by D.S. Jayasekera.[1] He was adjudged Best Actor in the English medium at the nationional inter school, Shakespeare Drama Competition in 1972. He was a member of the Debating Team and Drama Society along with Chanaka Amaratunga.

In 1983, de Zoysa starred in Lester James Peries's film Yuganthaya alongside Gamini Fonseka. The role of socialist Malin Kabalana in the movie closely mirrored de Zoysa's own beliefs.

A notable role in Yuganthaya

Abduction[edit]

At the time of his abduction and murder, de Zoysa was the head of the Colombo office of the Inter Press Service[2] He lived in the Welikadawatte housing estate with his mother, Dr. Manorani Saravanamuttu and associate A. V. Karunaratne.[2] In the early morning of 18 February 1990, an armed group broke into their home, and forcibly removed de Zoysa and drove off without explanation.[2]

Saravanamuttu then hastily traveled to the Welikada police station and lodged a complaint. The following day, de Zoysa's lifeless body was dumped on the beach[3] at Moratuwa, some 12 miles south of Colombo. He had been shot in the head and the throat, and his jaw had been broken.[2] His body was identified by his friend Taraki Sivaram, who suffered a similar fate in 2005.[2]

Government response[edit]

At the inquest the following day, Dr. Saravanamuttu stated that she could identify two of the abductors. Three months later, she saw one of the abductors on television. He was a high-ranking police officer. She informed her lawyer who brought it to the notice of both the Magistrate conducting the inquiry into the incident and the police.[2]

However, the suspect was not arrested and the lead was ignored.[2] Both Dr. Saravanamuttu and her lawyer, Batty Weerakoon, subsequently received death threats.[2] Police officers assigned to guard Batty Weerakoon have also received similar threats.[2] Dr. Saravanamuttu later became an activist for missing people and died in 2004.

In 2005, Assistant Superintendent of Police Lal Priyantha Darmasiri Ranchagoda, Officer in Charge Bodeniya Gamlath Gedara Devasurendra and Sergeant Mahawedikkarage Sarathchandra were indicted for de Zoysa's murder.[4] They were acquitted of all charges on 9 November 2005 by Colombo High Court Judge Rohini Perera; she stated that the evidence presented by the prosecution was "contradictory and not credible".[5]

Aftermath[edit]

de Zoysa's murder is widely believed to have been carried out be a death squad that was formed under the auspices of members of the government to crush the insurrection launched by the militant Janatha Vimukthi Peramuna (JVP) organization.[6] Since 1987, when the insurrection was launched, these death squads are alleged to have killed thousands of alleged JVP members in an ultimately successful attempt to quell the rebellion. They are also alleged to have killed political opponents, including de Zoysa, who was linked to the JVP.[6]

Dr. Rajiva Wijesinha, a political analyst and Secretary-General of the Secretariat for Coordinating the Peace Process (SCOPP), has repeatedly said that de Zoysa's murder was the turning point for the death squads. He claims the with the JVP insurrection largely over and the usefulness of the death squads coming to an end, President Ranasinghe Premadasa used de Zoysa's murder and the subsequent outcry against it as a reason to call a halt to the killings carried out by the death squads, which were formed during his predecessors era.[7]

UN award in his memory[edit]

An award in recognition of independent journalism was established by the UN sponsored Inter Press Service news agency in de Zoysa's memory.

Legacy[edit]

Rajiva Wijesinha wrote a novel based on the life and death of Richard de Soyza titled " Limits of Love" . Published after the death Richards mother in 2005, it has some controversial revelations including explicit references to homosexuality of the titular character.

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ "D. S. Jayasekera -- the consummate educator The Chief Editor, Sunday Observer". tyretracks.com. 6 August 2006. Retrieved 2011-12-25. 
  2. ^ a b c d e f g h i Ndiaye, Bacre (1997). "Impunity". Commission on Human Rights. Retrieved 2007-04-22. 
  3. ^ Smashing a private TV station is most foul The Island Online
  4. ^ "Four men dragged Richard down the stairs - says witness". Daily News. 2005. Retrieved 2007-04-22. 
  5. ^ "All accused in Richard de Zoysa killing acquitted". Freemedia. 2005. Retrieved 2007-04-22. 
  6. ^ a b SRI LANKA: Radio Play Poses New Questions About Journalist's Murder, IPS News
  7. ^ Time’s Music - Richard de Zoysa at fifty, Daily News

External links[edit]