When Wickrematunge was killed, Gotabaya Rajapaksa was defence secretary. As brother of the then President Mahinda Rajapaksa, Gotabaya Rajapaksa wielded unparalleled military influence, earning a reputation as the country’s most feared bureaucrat. When Wickrematunge exposed a corrupt arms deal Rajapaksa had signed off, he broke the silence in the press about the activities of the defence secretary.
Years later, Sri Lankan criminal investigators alleged that Gotabaya Rajapaksa operated military death squads to attack journalists, including Wickrematunge and Noyahr. Rajapaksa has consistently denied this and all other allegations of wrongdoing.
From 2005 to 2015, Mahinda Rajapaksa presided over a systematic assault on the press. The Committee to Protect Journalists estimates that 13 journalists were killed over the decade. Others were threatened, abducted and tortured. Tamil journalists were disproportionately victimised. In 2014, Sri Lanka ranked fourth on an index of countries where journalists are slain – and their killers go free