Richard de Zoysa

Richard Manik de Zoysa (Tamil: இரிச்சர்ட் டி சோய்சா) (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.

Richard de Zoysa
රිචඩ් ද සොයිසා
Richard de Zoysa (1958-1990).jpg
Born(1958-03-18)18 March 1958
Died18 February 1990(1990-02-18) (aged 31)
NationalitySri Lankan
EducationS. Thomas' College, Mount Lavinia
Known forrole of Malin Kabalana in Yuganthaya (1983)
RelativesManicasothy Saravanamuttu (grandfather)

Life and deathEdit


De Zoysa was born in Colombo, Sri Lanka. He was of mixed ethnicity, his father Lucien de Zoysa a majority Sinhalese and his mother Dr Manorani Saravanamuttu, a family physician from the minority Sri Lankan Tamil community. His mother's father, Manicasothy Saravanamuttu, was a prominent journalist and diplomat in Malaya.

He was educated at S. Thomas' College, Mount Lavinia, where his acting talents in Sinhala were encouraged by D.S. Jayasekera.[citation needed] He was adjudged Best Actor in the English medium at the national inter-school Shakespeare Drama Competition in 1972. He was a member of the Debating Team and Drama Society along with Chanaka Amaratunga.

A notable role in Yuganthaya


At the time of his abduction and murder, de Zoysa was the head of the Colombo office of the Inter Press Service[1] He lived in the Welikadawatte housing estate with his mother, Dr. Manorani Saravanamuttu and associate A. V. Karunaratne.[1] 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][1]

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.[1] His body was identified by his friend Taraki Sivaram, who suffered a similar fate in 2005.[1]

Government responseEdit

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.[1]

However, the suspect was not arrested and the lead was ignored.[1] Both Dr. Saravanamuttu and her lawyer, Batty Weerakoon, subsequently received death threats.[1] Police officers assigned to guard Batty Weerakoon have also received similar threats.[1] 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]


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 that 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 memoryEdit

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


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


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, his last role was that of Aravinda in Dr. Tissa Abeysekara's film viragaya[2]

Year Film Role Ref.
1985 Yuganthaya Marlin Kabalana
1987 Sathyagrahanaya Nimal Weerawantha [8]

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ a b c d e f g h i Ndiaye, Bacre (12 March 1998). "Impunity". Report of the Special Rapporteur, Mr. Bacre Waly Ndiaye submitted pursuant to Commission on Human Rights resolution 1997/61 - Visit to Sri Lanka. UN Commission on Human Rights. Retrieved 22 April 2007.
  2. ^ a b Pathirana, Leel (18 February 2012). "Richard Was Murdered 22 Years Ago: Remembering Richard". Colombo Telegraph. Archived from the original on 14 August 2016.
  3. ^ de Silva, Bernard O (13 January 2009). "Opinion: Smashing a private TV station is most foul". The Island Online. Archived from the original on 22 February 2012.
  4. ^ Marasinghe, Sandasen (29 January 2005). "Four men dragged Richard down the stairs - says witness". Daily News. Archived from the original on 6 April 2005.
  5. ^ Sirisena, Priyalal (11 October 2005). "All accused in Richard de Zoysa killing acquitted". Freemedia. Archived from the original on 27 September 2007.
  6. ^ a b Samath, Feizal (2 December 2008). "Sri Lanka: Radio Play Poses New Questions About Journalist's Murder". IPS News. Archived from the original on 5 December 2008.
  7. ^ Wijesinha, Rajiva (13 March 2008). "Time's Music - Richard de Zoysa at fifty". Daily News. Sri Lanka. Archived from the original on 20 March 2008.
  8. ^ "All about Sathyagrahanaya". Sarasaviya. Retrieved 28 February 2017.

External linksEdit