Lankan investigative journo shot at home

COLOMBO — Sri Lankan journalist Faraz Shauketaly, who works for a weekly newspaper, the Sunday Leader, was shot at his residence in Mount Lavinia, just outside the capital Colombo on Friday.

By Qadijah Irshad

Published: Sun 17 Feb 2013, 10:44 PM

Last updated: Tue 7 Apr 2015, 3:31 PM

The freelance journalist who has been closely associated with the Sunday Leader which was known for its controversial content in the past was shot on his neck by three unidentified gunmen, said the police.

Following the midnight attack, Shauketaly was rushed to the government Kalubowila hospital by a foreigner who lives in the journalist’s home that has been converted into a guest house. He was later transferred to the National Hospital. According to hospital sources, Shauketaly is out of danger but remains in the intensive care unit. He underwent surgery on Friday to dislodge the bullet in his throat.

The deputy editor of the Sunday Leader, Easwaran Rutnam said that he was on the phone with Shauketaly when he was shot. “The line disconnected in the middle of our discussion of one of his assignments, and when I called back, I couldn’t get through. When we tried again a little later, one of his foreign guests answered and told us Faraz had been shot.”

“Faraz said that three men had come into his house and opened fire, and although he didn’t know them, he could identify them as they were not wearing masks,” said Rutnam. The police said that they did not know the motives behind the shooting, but are investigating into the matter.

President Mahinda Rajapaksa has ordered Inspector General of Police (IGP) to conduct an immediate investigation into the shooting of Shauketaly, the president’s spokesperson Mohan Samaranayake said.

“The IGP has requested the Criminal Investigations Department (CID) to start separate investigations,” said the Police Spokesperson Preshantha Jayakody.

Sensitive stories

According to Rutnam, the 45 year old Shauketaly, who is an investigative journalist, has been currently working on two controversial stories. He recently exposed the inferior quality of 55,000 metric tonnes of coal that was supplied to the $455 million Noraichcholi coal power plant. Shauketaly was also following up the Golden Key scandal, where the credit card company swindled over 9,000 depositors who lost a staggering LKRs26 billion when the company ran aground in 2009. “But we don’t know if the shooting was related to his writing or something else, but yes, he touched controversial topics,” said Rutnam about the journalist, who also wrote a vociferous weekly column.

Violent attacks

Shauketaly’s shooting is not the first violent attack on Sunday Leader journalists. In 2009, the founder of the newspaper Lasantha Wickrematunge was shot dead by unidentified gunmen. The police never unravelled the case. Prior to his murder, in 1994, Wickrematunge was assaulted on his way home. A year later, he and his wife were pulled from their car and beaten, and later his house was attacked.

Also the printing press of the newspaper had twice been set fire to by unidentified men. However, since a recent change in management, the once unorthodox and controversial newspaper has ruffled fewer feathers, and the Sunday Leader employees are surprised by the latest attack. “The shooting came as a complete surprise as things were going very quietly, especially after the management change. We don’t know how to react,” said Rutnam.

Other Sunday Leader journalists were equally staggered by the attack on Shauketaly. “I’m shocked. He was just an unassuming person.” said Raisa Wickrematunge, a journalist and the daughter of Lal Wickrematunge, co-founder and previous chairman of the newspaper.

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