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Alleged move to arrest Editor

By Gihan de Chickera

Mr.Wickramatunga is surrounded by colleagues and friends at his office as news spread that the CID was about to arrest him. Pic. by Dinuka Liyanawatte

Concerns that prevailing anti-terrorism laws could be used to suppress the media heightened yesterday amidst reports of alleged Government moves to arrest The Sunday Leader Editor Lasantha Wickramatunga over the contents of a lead story in his newspaper last Sunday.

Mr. Wickramatunga yesterday charged that the Defence Ministry had ordered the CID to arrest him under recently introduced anti-terrorism laws, for the lead story headlined ‘President to get Rs. 400 million luxury bunker’ in the Christmas Eve issue of The Sunday Leader. The arrest was to be made on national security concerns.

He said the CID had consulted the Attorney General on the legality of such an arrest to which the AG had responded in the negative.

“The Attorney General reportedly told the CID it was completely illegal to arrest me under such charges as I had not violated the law and the regulations did not apply to such situations,” he told journalists who had gathered at The Sunday Leader office in Ward Place.

Mr. Wickramatunga charged that despite this, the Defence Ministry had ordered the CID to bypass the AG’s ruling and arrest him. He said to the best of his knowledge the Defence Ministry order was not a written one but a verbal notification.

Mr. Wickramatunga also made special reference to an article carried in the front page of the State run Daily News yesterday. The report headlined ‘Talking point: Sleeping with the enemy’ which asked why the AG was not taking action againstThe Sunday Leader for allegedly causing dissension among security forces.

“I will face this crisis. I am not going to seek refuge in hospital. I will not go abroad or go into hiding. I am ready to face this head-on and live up to The Sunday Leader motto of ‘unbowed and unafraid’ ”, he said.

The Editor said he was being persecuted because his paper regularly exposed Government corruption and the abuse of State power. He charged that the motivation of the anti-terrorism laws was not to combat terrorism but to suppress media freedom and the South.

“This is a signal to the South that the country is going back to the terror era. As far as I know no terrorist has been arrested under these laws”, he said.

“I am not surprised this is happening”, he added, joking that never before has he received so much media attention.

“If arrested I will file a fundamental rights petition in the Supreme Court” he added.

Commenting on the story which sparked the controversy, Mr. Wickramatunga said he had followed Government directives to clarify all security related stories from either the Defence Secretary Gotabhaya Rajapaksa, Government media spokesman Keheliya Rambukwella or the Media Centre for National Security Director Lakshman Hulugalle.

Accordingly Mr. Wickramatunga had reportedly called Mr. Hulugalle to clarify the presidential bunker story. Although Mr. Hulugalle denied any knowledge of the bunker, he had assured The Sunday Leader Editor that no action would be taken against the newspaper if such a story was reported.

“He categorically said no action would be taken against us and we quoted him in the article”, Mr. Wickramatunga said.

However he charged that the CID later informed him of the arrest.

“I called Mr. Hulugalle who said he knew nothing about moves to arrest me. He said he would get back to me regarding the matter, but never did” he said.

Mr. Wickramatunga’s lawyer, former National Police Commission head Ranjth Abeysuriya told the Daily Mirror that the new anti-terrorism regulations allowed the Defence Secretary or a police DIG to issue detention orders for an arrest. However Mr. Abeysuriya said the reasons for such an arrest would have to be justified before the Supreme Court.

Lasantha Wickramatunga’s brother Lal Wickramatunga, who is also Chairman of Leader Publications, alleged that the order to arrest his brother came directly from Defence Secretary Gotabhaya Rajapaksa. He said the CID had called at about 3 in the afternoon yesterday to say the arrest would be made at 5 in the evening. However he refused to disclose the identity of the CID officers saying that doing so would result in them losing their jobs.

Amidst the chaos in his office, Mr. Wickramatunga received a multitude of phone calls last evening from international news services, fellow newspaper editors, media activists and diplomats.

Sri Lanka Press Institute (SLPI) Director General Ranga Kalansooriya said Editors, journalists and media activists met three days after the new laws came into effect, to study whether they could be used to suppress the media.

He said they wrote to Media Minister Anura Priyadarshana Yapa calling for a meeting to clarify the matter, but two weeks had passed with no word from the minister.

“We have not received any clear guarantee from the Government that the regulations would not be used against the media. There have not been any deliberations between the Government and the media on the matter”, he said adding that the SLPI’s intention was to include journalists into section 19 of the regulations, which identify parties against whom the legislation cannot be used.

“Whether it is The Sunday Leader or the Sunday Observer these regulations become an impediment to the media”, he said adding that three journalists working for the State press had already been questioned by the CID, and now the private media were being threatened. -Daily Mirror

December 29, 2006 Posted by | Media, Media Journalism, News, News and politics, Press Release, South Asia, World News | Leave a comment

‘UN Secretary-General must be the consensus builder and harmoniser in the UN membership’

“UNSGslection.org is the website of a campaign organized by a group of Non-governmental organisations calling for a more democratic, transparent and effective selection process that will ensure the appointment of the most qualified candidates as the next Secretary-General of the United Nations.

Among the NGOs are Amnesty International, Third World Network, Equality Now and the World Federalist Movement – Institute of Global Policy. On August 11 a Questionnaire of 14 groups of questions was submitted by them to all four declared candidates. Jayanatha Dhanapala of Sri Lanka was the first to respond followed by India. The responses of the other two candidates are still being awaited.

Here are the questions and answers from Jayantha Dhanapala. (more…)

September 5, 2006 Posted by | Media, Media Journalism, News, News and politics, Press Release, South Asia, Uncategorized, World News | Leave a comment

New York here we come!

Soldiers are dying in the north. People displaced by the fighting are huddled in refugee camps in many parts of the country. A substantial percentage of Sri Lanka’s population is struggling to make ends meet in the face of an ever rising cost of living. Higher electricity charges, fuel costs and consequently public transport fare hikes stare them in the face. Yet the carnival goes on at public expense with politicians and their cohorts giving themselves a ball without a thought that the money they lavish on their high living is extracted from all the people of this country through a plethora of taxes on any and everything we buy. We focus today on the latest example of this vulgar extravagance our leaders are forever indulging in – the president’s over 50-strong delegation to the forthcoming September meeting of the UN General Assembly in New York.

It is an understatement to say that this is an intolerable disgrace. It is time that President Mahinda Rajapaksa sits up and takes notice of this waste of public funds expended in his name and presumably with his concurrence. We Sri Lankans often poke fun at ourselves with remarks like “clean suit, empty pocket’’ as our leaders indulge their champagne taste on the toddy income of the nation. We have a bloated cabinet with every prospect of new ministers being added to a mind-boggling list. These worthies with their luxurious limousines, security escorts, official bungalows, personal and official staffs and a plethora of other perks unmatched even in some of the richer more developed countries of the world do not come cheap. They get elected to office by sanctimoniously pledging to serve the people they represent and then proceed to lavishly ladle gravy on to their own plates. Each succeeding political establishment improves on the sorry record of its predecessor with no leader strong enough or righteous enough to cry halt.

Can President Mahinda Rajapakse do that? His administration, up to now, has not shown any sign of demanding that public expenditure is strictly controlled and at least fifty cents value obtained for every rupee spent out of the exchequer. It is too much to expect 100 cents value for every rupee spent although that must be the target. Most people will be satisfied if we can at least reach halfway house. We are told that the powers that be are now looking at bestowing pensions on Provincial Councillors on terms similar to those that MPs enjoy. Duty free cars for these worthies, previously granted but apparently no longer on offer, are also under consideration, The Island reported yesterday.

The public perception is that the Provincial Councils are of little or no value. They are a huge white elephant created by the J.R. Jayewardene administration as a response to the demand for devolution in the North and the East. On the basis that “you can’t give Jaffna what you won’t give Hambantota’’ as Mr. Lalith Athulathmudali pithily put it then, the Provincial Councils were created. But the greatest irony is that there are no such councils in the North and East where devolution is most needed while elsewhere the relatively new breed of Provincial Councillors are making hay. There was a short-lived Provincial Council for the “temporarily’’ merged Northern and Eastern Provinces under Chief Minister Varatharajah Perumal. But that ended with an attempt at an Unilateral Declaration of Independence and for the past several years those areas have been administered by a Governor.

As our front page reports says, the entourage to New York is almost double the extravagant delegations that President Chandrika Kumaratunga and Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe took with them when they represented this country at the United Nations General Assembly. Matching those numbers is bad enough. But nearly doubling them? By all accounts the list that we carry on who’s going to New York, mind you at our expense, might still not be complete. There may be more catchers in the wings waiting to jump on to the bandwagon. Ex-President CBK perhaps had the questionable excuse that her last jaunt to New York was going to be her last hurrah and therefore she paid off some favours she owed by giving a joy ride to some blue eyed boys and girls. All politicians, whether here or abroad, acquire supporters who must be rewarded one way or another. But there must be a limit to the patronage granted at public expense. Time was when press exposes of shady dealings of politicians and others drew some kind of even limited response. Today most of these are ignored and allowed to go into the limbo of forgotten things. The potent instruments of parliamentary questions are today seldom used to keep those freely misusing public funds in line. It must be said to the credit of the JVP that they at least are doing the job which is in reality the UNPs in bringing some of these matters under the spotlight. A recent question on the cost of defector Bogollagama’s foreign jaunts was one such. A JVP MP asked that question. The opposition, and the UNP is supposed to be that, must understand that they are paid to do the job of ensuring probity within the ranks of the government. But their concerns are anything but that, with too many beady green eyes focused on the possibility of crossing sides and sharing the spoils.

CBK was stopped from building that palace at Battaramulla. After that, despite a cabinet decision to bestow on her that valuable site on which millions of rupees of public funds had already been splurged, the likelihood of an adverse verdict in a public interest suit saw the land being returned. Public opinion on the subject had little to do with the reversal of the original decision. It is high time that the public takes notice of that fact and ensure that those privileged to take office on the strength of their votes pay due regard to their opinion. We do not say that the President of our Republic be not permitted attendance of the UN General Assembly. He must certainly go. But his entourage must be kept within acceptable limits. Presidential visits abroad must not and cannot be allowed to be made the excuse for massive junkets this country can ill afford.

-The Sunday Island Editorial

September 3, 2006 Posted by | Media, Media Journalism, News, News and politics, Press Release, South Asia, World News | Leave a comment

SLMM blames military for aid worker killings; LTTE for Kebetigollewe massacre But monitors are not forensic experts – Govt

The Norwegian-led Nordic truce monitoring mission has blamed security forces for the recent massacre of 17 civilian aid workers at Muttur. "`85there are very strong indications of the involvement of the Security Forces despite their denial," the mission said, accusing the government of restricting their movements into Muttur. The mission accused the government of trying to conceal the matter from them.

The government denied the accusation. Senior military officials said that the government had brought in Australian experts to investigate the massacre. They accused the monitoring mission of issuing unsubstantiated statement. The government is likely to take this up with the mission.

Defence spokesman Minister Keheliya Rambukwelle vehemently denied the involvement of the armed forces in the massacre of the Action Against Hunger workers. He said monitors were no forensic experts to draw conclusions on the matter.

Fifteen aid workers were found shot dead at close range in execution style in early August, when the armed forces moved into Muttur following a fiercely fought battle with the LTTE. The Government blamed the massacre on the LTTE.

The mission declared the massacre was a gross violation of the CFA by the government, a charge vehemently opposed by the military.

"Taking into consideration the fact that the Security Forces had been present in Muttur at the time of the incident it appears highly unlikely to blame other groups for the killing. Provided that was the case it would in particular be illogical for the Security Forces to prevent the SLMM from entering the area and making proper inquiries in order to find the perpetrator(s)," the SLMM said.

The Head of SLMM has also had confidential conversations with highly reliable sources regarding the party who most likely has been responsible for the act. The views have not proved contradictory and the Security Forces of Sri Lanka are widely and consistently deemed to be responsible for the incident.

Concluding with the supporting information arisen from the persons interviewed and the conversations with the representatives of the International Community the SLMM is, with the obtained findings, convinced that there cannot be any other armed groups than the Security Forces who could actually have been behind the act.

The Nordic truce monitoring mission also accused the military of conducting clandestine operations in LTTE-held areas. The mission said that government personnel mounted a series of claymore mine attacks between April 1 and June this year.

"SLMM findings and internal analysis of both individual claymore mine attacks, as well as of the pattern arising from the same show that deliberate, planned and coordinated offensive military operations were conducted between 01 April and 15 June 2006 in LTTE controlled areas to execute these claymore mine attacks. SLMM findings have also verified two attempted claymore mine attacks carried out by the GoSL Security Force’s Special units in LTTE controlled area on 13 and 15 June 2006. Two SLA soldiers from the Special units were killed by the LTTE in an exchange of fire and subsequently transported to GoSL area under the convey of the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC)"

Blaming the LTTE for the Kebitigollewa bus massacre, the Nordic truce monitoring said that the attack was a deliberate retaliatiory attack against the killing of LTTE cadres and Tamil civilians by government security forces.

"SLMM findings have shown that the attack on the civilian bus was carried out by using military expertise with regards to planning, coordination and execution. The attack required very good knowledge of the area and intelligence skills along with the capability and skills of deploying and handling such weapons professionally."

"The LTTE has condemned the Kebitigollewa attack and denied their involvement in the incident expressing that another armed element, the Karuna group, has had a motive to execute the attack in order to discredit the LTTE. The SLMM does not find that plausible based on various grounds."

"Based on SLMM inquiries and the well known modus operandi for the LTTE, the SLMM considers highly probable that there can be no other armed element than the LTTE and LTTE affiliated forces that have had the motive to carry out the attack, in particular in GOSL controlled areas. Taking specifically into account the prevailing circumstances and obtained findings there are strong indications that the attack on Sinhalese civilians had been a deliberate retaliation for the recent killings of civilians and LTTE cadres in LTTE controlled areas in the North and the East."

"Therefore, being the only element with the motive, capability and capacity to carry out the attack, the LTTE must bear the responsibility for the killing of civilians. Consequently, the attack on the civilian bus in Kebitigollewa on the 15th of June 2006 is ruled as a gross violation of the CFA by the LTTE." -Island

August 31, 2006 Posted by | Media, Media Journalism, News, News and politics, Press Release, South Asia, World News | Leave a comment

Davis sells Congressional seat

by Candidate Charles Hutchinson

While it is true that in this district (IL-7) the Democrats can put up a Ham Sandwich, or even someone who doesn’t want the job (Davis openly lobbied for the Cook County Board President job) and it will still be a huge challenge for any Republican, that doesn’t mean that there is "not a lot of hope".

Yes, it is an uphill battle, but I offer hope to the people of Illinois, hope of a Congressman that will work for THEIR best interests, who will listen to them regardless of if they contribute to my campaign nor not, and hope of a better tomorrow.

I am running on a platform of Job growth in the district – unemployment in the district is higher than unemployment in the rest of the state. Poverty has also risen during Davis’ stint in Congress. I want to improve the education in our public schools. Congressman Davis sits on the education board, yet has not passed one single education bill in his 10 year, and Chicago has one of the worst public school systems in America. I want to increase Homeland Security and make sure that we are not vulnerable to an attack by rail (Chicago has the largest rail hub in the country) and I want to reduce wasteful government spending by supporting earmark legislation.

Davis not only participated in the coronation ceremony of Moon, it is reported that Rep. Danny K. Davis, D-Ill., the only congressman who has publicly expressed pride in the crowning ceremony. Among some of the quotes attributed to Rev. Moon:
"That gays are "dung-eating dogs"
"Jews brought on the Holocaust by betraying Jesus"
"the U.S. Constitution should be scrapped in favor of a system he calls Godism — with him in charge”
So why would a sitting U.S. Congressman associate himself with someone like this? The answer is simple according to Davis “some Moon associates have donated money to (my) congressional campaigns…"

As if that weren’t enough, Congressman Davis willingly takes laundered money from an organization that he knows has ties to terrorists. Why would a sitting U.S. Congressman associate himself with a group like that? The answer is simple and repetitive “Federal campaign disclosures show that (a representative of the group that sponsored the Congressman’s trip) gave Davis a $500 contribution April 30, 2005, a few weeks after Davis returned from Sri Lanka”.

According to Danny Davis, the U.S. Congress is for sale. Anyone can get Congressman Davis to do anything – even associate with known terrorists, so long as you give him a few dollars.

Via… Picture Politics Comment

August 29, 2006 Posted by | Media, Media Journalism, News, News and politics, Press Release, South Asia, World News | 2 Comments