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Sonali Samarasinghe Wickrematunge

On January 8th 2009, Sri Lankan journalist Sonali Samarasinghe loses her husband of only two months. After just being married to one of Sri Lanka’s most critical and provocative journalists, Lasantha Wickrematunge, she becomes a widow. Her husband is shot in the head on his way to work. When Sonali is also threatened, she flees the country and takes residence in New York, where she has lived in exile ever since.  From here she continues her work as an activist and critical journalist, writing passionately about the situation in het homeland. “I want Sri Lanka to become itself again. It is my duty as a journalist to write about the truth.”

Her unstoppable urge to fight for freedom and justice was spoon-fed to her as a child. “My father was a police officer. In our home everything evolved around justice and fair play. It was his perception of equality for every human being that inspired me and motivated me to become a journalist.”

As a child she is confronted with the war that is raging through her country. She gets her first ‘close up of real life’ when her school turns into a refugee camp after a heavy fight has broken out between the Tamils and Sinhalese. Every day she brings food and medicine to the camp and is struck by the sorrow of the attacked Tamils. “They had lost everything: their houses, their loved ones and above all: their sense of security.”

On June 21st 1991 she experiences the other side, when her neighbourhood is struck by a suicide attack from the Tamils, killing her best friend’s mother.

Everybody agrees on the fact that the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) is a ruthless, terroristic organization that needs to be stopped, says Samarasinghe. However, a journalists we do not agree on the large amount of civilian victims and the total lack of openness and responsibility. A war without witnesses.” Independent journalists have no access to the warzone or the refugee camps of the Tamils.

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Name: Sonali Samarasinghe Wickrematunge

Country of birth: Sri Lanka

Sama Sonali Samarasinghe Wickrematunge was born and raised in Colombo, Sri Lanka. Samarasinghe was educated a lawyer and a journalist. For her journalistic work she has won many awards including the Oxfam Novib / PEN Award in 2009, Global Shining Light Award in 2008 and Woman of Achievement Award in 2006.

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