The Sunday Leader

Defence Secretary Suing The Sunday Leader For Rs. 2 Billion

  • Ongoing Trial Set To Take Prominence

By Vimukthi Yapa

The ongoing trial against The Sunday Leader is set to take prominence with a hearing held last Tuesday, October 19, where Defence Secretary Gotabaya Rajapaksa is seeking Rs. 1 billion in damages for articles published in 2008.

In another court case he is seeking a further Rs. 1 billion because of the publication of his photograph which he deemed to be defamatory. The newspaper is also facing a contempt of court case following the publication of a profile of the Defence Secretary, which Rajapaksa considered to be in violation of an agreement with The Sunday Leader.

International media organisations have begun to voice concerns reiterating that The Sunday Leader while continuing to be known as ‘one of the leading opposition newspapers’ in the country has come under constant attack from the Sri Lankan government.  Besides the numerous legal cases facing the newspaper, its Founding Editor in Chief Lasantha Wickrematunge was murdered in January 2009.

In an article published last week titled ‘Trial Starts Against Leading Sri Lankan Opposition Newspaper’ by the World Press Freedom Review, The International Press Institute’s Press Freedom Manager Anthony Mills was quoted as saying ‘despite the pressures and threats faced by the newspaper, The Sunday Leader remains today a vocal opposition newspaper in Sri Lanka. It plays an important role in holding the government to account.’

Mills went on to add that ‘The survival of non-governmental media outlets, such as The Sunday Leader, is instrumental to Sri Lanka’s democratization and peace process. Similarly, Sri Lankan institutions’ ability to act in full respect of the rule of law and international democratic principles is a necessary element to the success of the peace process.’

The primary case was initiated by Gotabaya Rajapaksa when he sued The Sunday Leader after a series of articles were published in 2008 highlighting the outcome of investigations carried out by the newspaper showing irregularities in the purchase, by the Sri Lankan government, of arms and aircraft.

The article described the purchase in 2006 of four MiG aircraft from the Ukraine, which had been rejected by the then tender evaluation committee headed by the present Commander of the Air Force a few years earlier. In 2006, however, the government bought the same four aircraft for 40 per cent more on the basis that they had been overhauled. The deal was said to be between the Ukrainian and the Sri Lankan governments.

The Sunday Leader did not specify who had benefited from this purchase; however it carried a picture of Gotabaya Rajapaksa, who is also the finance officer of the Defence Ministry. After Lasantha’s murder, the legal case has been prosecuted against The Sunday Leader, and its Chairman Lal Wickrematunge.
In another article, Lasantha Wickrematunge called the attention of the Defence Secretary to the fact that the new National Identity Cards were faulty in that the security features were inadequate. This article also carried a picture of the Defence Secretary, which he felt was defamatory, and so he filed another case against the newspaper, again seeking Rs. 1 billion.

Following these events, The Sunday Leader was given a restraining order asking the newspaper to stop defaming the Defence Secretary.

Traitors in Black Coats

After Lasantha’s murder, the group of lawyers originally defending The Sunday Leader said they did not want to appear for the newspaper anymore. The new lawyers, who appeared in court to defend The Sunday Leader after Lasantha’s death, excused themselves from court on the first date on which the Defence Secretary was in court, together with the Commander of the Air Force and high ranking Army and Military officers.

A third group of lawyers, who agreed to defend The Sunday Leader in the contempt of court case on July 9,  2010, were featured the next day in the lead story on the official website of the Ministry of Defence, Public Security, Law & Order as “Traitors in Black Coats” (“Traitors in Black Coats Flocked Together?” was the title of the article on the website.) The website also carried the lawyers’ pictures.

Even after the International Bar Association and the local Bar Association issued statements condemning the article and requested that it be removed from the site, the Defence website continued to carry the story.

The defamation case was then adjourned until December 8. The contempt of court case will begin next on November 29.

37 Comments for “Defence Secretary Suing The Sunday Leader For Rs. 2 Billion”

  1. raj

    Taliban style government. No media freedom. Juidges are appointed by those who sue.

  2. raymond

    This guy has trillions and trillions of money. Why sue the Sunday Leader? No further comments because it is before the courts appointed by the King!!

  3. ranjan hurulle

    “Power Corrupts. Absolute power corrupts absolutely”, said Abe Lincoln. Classic example is SL today..

  4. CW

    Raj, Do you want the Judges to be appointed by accused? In SL the Govt in power appoint the Judges.

    • Justitia Omnibus

      No, I’d suggest that, given your intelligence and knowledge of basic justice issues, YOU should appoint the judges, CW, whoever you are.

    • raj

      CW!

      I don’t trust any of judicial system in the South East Asian since most are either corrupted or politicized. Even Taliban appointed judges. When citizens of the country do not have intelligent or brain washed by fanaticism, there is nothing can be done since it allows arrogance who does not respect to others are elected. Yes everything is available in the media.

  5. Now may withdraw the case.

  6. Sam Silva

    Gota should be tried and sued…Ask the general public, and I am sure there will be thousands who will have to sue and file charges against Gota for all wrongs, such as human rights etc..

    • JAY

      YOU ARE VERY CORRECT JVP UNP AND FORCES AGAINST THE GOVERMENT ARE ANGRY WITH GR NO PERSONS LOVE THIS COUNTRY GO AGAINST GR FOR THE GREAT SERVICE HE HAS DONE

    • Rod Rogers

      Ashok, Had you sung the same song you are singing now about the Sinhalese being killed by the LTTE because they were Sinhalese back in 1957, 1958, 1977 & 1983, when the Tamils were slaughtered by the beautiful Sinhala thugs, there wouldn’t have been an insurgency from the Tamil side. We ran away to foreign lands leaving behind our beautiful Jaffna, are not only because of the LTTE+other movements but also because of the atrocities committed by the majority. Lanka belongs to everyone who lives there. Lasantha spoke the truth, he never sang songs of praise for the LTTE, he referred to them as terrorists. Your leaders have laundered millions of dollars to the US and bought properties, petrol stations, convenience stores and mansions. I cannot sit back and see the ignorance spewing out of the mouth of people like you, defending these rogues in charge. 70% of the ministers have criminal record, go and check the news. These are the scum bags you want as leaders????? Then again who is there to replace them.

      • Sam Silva

        Hello everyone..Let me first honesty state that I had my immediate family member killed due to LTTE bomb blast and I for a miniscule of my living time ever agree with what the LTTE did in blowing up and killing innocent civilians..Including my Mum.
        Despite Gota and the gang assisting to fight and stop the LTTE, IT DOES NOT give the corrupt Rajapakses the right to Rob,cheat and plunder from the Govt”s resources…It does not give them any right to ignore the judicial system and do whatever they want, even at the expense of human lives..Rajapakses did good, but they don’t own SLanka nor do they own its wealth and its people.Make no mistake on that.

    • Guest

      Don, it wasnt too long ago everybody praised fonseka for leading the troops. I’m thankful for rajapakshas and fonseka and all the forces for ending the war. but that dosent justify killing journalists, threatening news papers and acting as if ending the war gives them the right to do whatever they want

    • sahmi

      NO AHSOK, no matter where you live the truth is the real truth. you must be thinking the war is over. the arm strugle is over. but the problem is still there ” ALU YATA GINI ” have u heard or dont you know that .rajapakse’s are taking advantage . they earn morney for their hath muthu param parawatama. still they are doing it. dont be blind on war victory only. U think about ur children’s feture. ur blind eye don’t see the thing happaning in SL. Rajapakse’s own 75% of the wealth of the country. peop,le here think only about the war..war is over. what about the feuture of the country. how sad. to think. .turn the blind side to visibility.

  7. runil

    no media freedom at all.

  8. Randy Mathew

    THIS IS DEMOCRACY A LA MEDAMULANE STYLE.

    • Rod Rogers

      so your answer is tit for tat politics. Murderers and hooligans are ministers, these fellows are not even fit the sell kadalay on the street, but driving around in Mercedes Benz with armed STF bodyguards (who may have more education and sense). The whole country had been turned into a circus.

  9. P.A.Samaraweera

    Media freedom does not mean that you can criticise everything the govt. does.

    • Justitia Omnibus

      No? It seems to mean “You can’t crititicise ANYTHING the government does,” according to you, Mr. Samaraweera

  10. sandman

    This circus will have its end as per the laws of MOTHER NATURE

  11. Fernando

    If Gotta claims this much. SF should claim 5 billion to have caused his life to be put in imprisonment – taking only personal revenge from him – this was trully strenghtend by the articles that many could read on Sunday leader.

    Many educated ones keep reading the articles published on this news paper, I want this paper not to bias govt and to continue more transparent views in the future too.

  12. Saleem

    Media freedom is the protector of democracy if that is what we want, even if it sometime steps outside its legitimate boundaries. The Sunday Leader is the only newspaper that publishes adverse news happening in the North, which, is the main source of news to many abroad. The Tamil news papers in the North are under unofficial censorship imposed by EPDP, that was the paramilitary which eliminated Mr Nimalrajan for publishing the excesses of that outfit. Of course the killers like those of Lasantha Wickrematunge are still at large. When it comes to the Rajapakse brothers and the media they win if the media publishes anything investigative and the media loses when its defenders are frightened under threat.

  13. Saro

    Why does Gotabaya Rajapakse seek 1 million rupees in damages every time he sues The Sunday Leader? He does not like any criticism of his public activities and wants this news paper goes bankrupt and cease to publish. He enjoys dual nationality and can go to US to lead his other live whenever loses his power derived from his sibling, the president of Sri Lanka. The Sunday Leader, if it was bankrupted, will cease to exist and its readers will be denied news censored or obscured by the government servants ( of president Mahinda Rajapakse, too) and its employees become unemployed.

    What happens to the journalists of other non-state-run media? They will observe self censorship as they do now because they do not want to die or live abroad.

    Rajapakse brothers will be able to influence the judges in any judicial case with the new power derived from 18A. There will be judges like the journalists of this news paper, who respect and value their professionalism above their own life.

    • Saro

      The first line above must read ‘Why does Gotabaya Rajapakse seek 1 billion rupees in damages every time he sues…’

  14. Gota is carrying on suing the Sunday Leader because the truth hurts and if ever the truth about the Murder of Lasantha came out it would be because of the Sunday Leader and he jolly well knows it. Long live the Sunday Leader. May it always be Unbowed and Unafraid!!!

  15. “The insinuation here is we paid more for these aircraft which simply annihilated the LTTE. Whether we paid anything extra or not makes no difference. It was needed, we got it, and it worked. Today we live terror free”

    So, taking this line of defending the SL Govt., the USA who has the most powerful weapons in the world can eliminate terror in the world by annihilating Al-qeida using these weapons in a few days.

    Why don’t they do it? Because they are civilised and don’t want to prevent as many as possible innocent civiian deaths.

  16. raj

    Sri Lankans around the world, please talk for Sunday Leader to save it from some evils.

  17. raj

    ashok:

    have you been trained by Taliban?

  18. ruwan

    if lasantha was here to fight his own case Gota would be running

  19. n.c.wijeratne

    Who Killed Lasantha?

    Who wants to kill the Leader Newspaper?

  20. Dushantha Kurera

    Asok you are right 100% . If not for Gota we would have by this time given Eelam … Sam Silve surely must be a LTTE member witha spurious Name !! Saro were you were living when JRJ influenced the Judiciary ??? Today we have a better system , but people of Colombo do not like Rajapakse as he has done his duty defeating the LTTE and most of the guys who were living on the War hates them !!!! Sunday Leader … learn to say the truth and not be biased towards the UNP

  21. François

    All I Say is God Save Mother Lanka as the Current Rulers will not that’s for certain. They are there to serve their family and friends and not the General mass of this great nation.
    The Success of any Country is measured by the progress, development with honesty and Integrity which I sincerely believe is lacking at present.
    As I stated before GOD Save Mother Lanka.

  22. Rocket

    The point is anyone can go to courts, but here lawyers are threatened and judges may influenced. “naduth hamuduruwange baduth hamuduruwange”

  23. Che

    GREED, +++++++++++

  24. raj

    This is exactly the same tactic that was used by ( and still in use ) by LKY in Singapore to bring down anyone who opposed his policies. With the judiciary on his side he knocked down everyone on his way. Even his opposition leader who was a QC ( Indian ) and his former Attorney General ( Chinese ) did not have a chance. They degraded most of them by jailing them and posting their pictures in the jail suits doing menial jobs in the prison. When they came out of jail they were stripped of their right to practice law in the country. I guess this is the reason the constitution was amended in SL so that the gang can play a one sided match. Enjoy Sri Lanka for making your choice. But I think Sri Lankans are not Singaporeans and they will revolt with a vengeance one day.

  25. silva

    Problem is we have serious doubts about independence of judiciary in this country. Even the most of educated lawyers are in family pocket. There is no independence of police ,judicatory, election commission above no body in the Parliament even utter a word against MR family. We have very weak opposition leader who try to hang onto his position like a leach. only thing I could do is just cry

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