Leader And Iruresa Kept Out
- President’s Media Runs Amok In N’cholai
The Sunday Leader and its sister paper Iruresa were invited to cover the opening of the Lakvijaya coal power plant in Norochcholai, Puttalam by the Power and Energy Ministry.
The opening ceremony was on Tuesday (22). The Sunday Leader photographer Thusitha Kumara’s and Iruresa journalist Priyantha Kodippili’s names were given to the Power and Energy Ministry for them to cover the event.
The two members were asked to be present at the Ministry premises by 12 noon to leave for Puttalam.
Once in Norochcholai, while all the other media personnel were taken inside to the area allocated to the media, Thusitha and Priyantha had been informed that they could not be allowed inside as they represented Leader Publications.
An official from the President’s Media Unit called Sisira Munasinghe had said that Iruresa and The Sunday Leader could not be allowed inside. The event was to kick off at 5 pm and the two Leader members were informed of this situation just as the President’s chopper was arriving at the venue.
Power and Energy Ministry Media Secretary Dhanushka Ramanayake had tried to explain to Munasinghe that the Ministry had invited the two media personnel and that they had arrived at the venue in the official Ministry vehicle. Munasinghe had rudely informed Ramanayake that he did not have any mandate at the event, as it was now under his purview, his decision being final. Ramanayake had tried to get two seats allocated for Thusitha and Priyantha among the spectators. The two Leader members had walked out saying they had come to cover the event and not to watch it.
They had walked back to the bus they had traveled in and stayed there until the event concluded at around 8 pm. Thusitha and Priyantha were stranded in Norochcholai as the plant is located in a remote area. Since dinner was served inside the plant, they did not receive a meal or even a drop of water until they returned to Colombo around 3 am the following morning.
Amidst the commotion, when The Sunday Leader contacted Director General, President’s Media Unit, Bandula Jayasekera, he admitted that Munasinghe is a member of the Unit. He said that there was no reason to bar the Leader members from any event attended by President Mahinda Rajapaksa. Jayasekera said that he would call for an explanation from Munasinghe when he returned to Colombo.
He added that he would immediately call Ramanayake and inform him to allow the two journalists to cover the event.
Ramanayake however said he was helpless, as Munasinghe had ‘taken over’ the event.