Image courtesy of Daily News

Remembering Richard De Zoysa (03/18/1958 – 02/18/1990)

Animals continue to crack in Sri Lanka, Richard.

Lions don’t exist in the natural state, nor tigers

roam through the brush. Elephants, yes, are still

around, mostly straggly survivors in an orphanage


where the world’s visitors get to see a baby fed

with a bottle. As for jackals, well, they are

thriving, and Sri Lanka needs the acid pen

you invoked from an earlier essential scribe,


Tarzie Vittachi. Writing to and about you

Richard is writing Sri Lankan history,

of brilliance cut down in its prime, you

at thirty two, Vijaya Kumaratunga actor also,


activist, dreamer murdered at 43,

and Neelan Thiruchelvam at 55. What

indeed is prime, majority? Why do we

kill our children who fight for crossing


the dividing lines? Richard I read

that you had links to the JVP. I love

the not only Sir Lanka penchant

for slander. What load does links


carry? Why not offer a fuller

explanation, review why the rebellion

began in the South and raged along

with the one in the North? Why not


strip the carcass of the dead animal

and identify every body part, then bore

into bones to get DNA squeezed

into vials. Perhaps truth telling will lead


to creation of sturdy democratic

structures, respect for the rights of all?

You would smile with some irony

at the commissions formed


to investigate disappearances

in 2009 when civilians surrendered

to the invading army never to be

spotted again, leaving grieving


mothers and other family members

visiting katcheries, and protesting

in the streets over the last 12 years.

Richard had been removed from


the theater of war much earlier

but is remembered in every bone

of our culture, from his interpretations

of Shakespeare on the Thomian stage


to Malin Kabalana in Lester James Peries’s

Yuganthaya, to an afternoon in the IPS office

in Colombo when we met for the first time,

introduced by Kunda, my journalist friend,


who was thrilled when I landed in the city

saying I had to meet his brilliant new

colleague, Richard de Zoysa, who drove

to the office on a motorbike, who loved


his mother but was forced from

her arms that night when the thugs

came to execute another

champion of the free mind.

A celebrated actor, dramatist, poet and journalist, Richard de Zoysa was well known and much loved in Sri Lanka. He was a young man, maturing into his prime, when he was murdered in 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.