Jobs, Lies And Audio Tapes
- Government caught lying to defend Defence Secretary
By Frederica Jansz
Last week, Gamini Abeyratne alias Taxi Abey telephoned me from the United Kingdom (listen to audio below). He was agitated and in more than three telephone conversations told me that Hudson Samarasinghe (Chairman of the Sri Lanka Broadcasting Corporation) had telephoned him and asked, “if Frederica went with me to meet the President. I said I am in London and I’ll ask the President and say but I can’t tell anything at this moment.” (see box for transcript of telephone conversation).
A few days later on Thursday July 19, Cabinet Spokesman and Media Minister Keheliya Rambukwella told a journalist from the daily Island newspaper that I was critical of Defence Secretary Gotabaya Rajapaksa since he had prevented me from obtaining a diplomatic posting abroad, through the good offices of President Mahinda Rajapaksa. Media Minister Keheliya Rambukwella, had told this journalist soon after the weekly post cabinet media briefing that I had met President Rajapaksa at Temple Trees recently, in the company of Gamini Abeyratne alias Taxi Abey and requested that I be posted abroad as a diplomat.
On May 6, last year I did meet with President Mahinda Rajapaksa. I did not seek this meeting or the previous one when I met with him.
Following the meeting between the President, Abeyratne, Dr. P. B. Jayasundera and myself I wrote a letter to President Mahinda Rajapaksa three days later.
In that letter dated May 9, I said, Quote: “As you are aware the Leader is undergoing severe financial strain and has been for a long while now. As a result, both Lal and I have been looking at other avenues to which we can turn which could turn the paper around. You appeared to be already aware of what those measures are. Thank you for your time but I never have and never will seek political favours..” Unquote.
Gamini Abeyratne assured me thereafter that the President had been given my letter. I asked if I could have an acknowledgment so I could be sure he had received same. Abeyratne responded by asking me to meet with him again which I did a day or so later. At that meeting he telephoned Gamini Senarath, Chief of Staff to the President, and told him he was with me, he then switched on his speaker phone and I overheard Senarath telling Abeyratne that my letter to President Rajapaksa had indeed been handed over to him .
On a separate occasion I met with the President together with Lal Wickrematunge. On this occasion too I did not ask for a meeting but was requested to accompany Wickrematunge by Minister Faizser Musthapha and Lal Wickrematunge. Wickrematunge and I were taken by Musthapha to President’s House in Fort at around 7.30 p.m. I cannot remember the exact date except that it was in the first half of 2011. The President was extremely cordial and invited us to share chicken soup with him which by the way was excellent. During the course of which his son Namal Rajapaksa also walked in and was briefly introduced.
When getting up to leave the President asked Wickrematunge, “Tell me, when you asked Sarath Fonseka who killed your brother what did he say?” Wickrematunge replied, “He said a drug baron associated with underworld figures had carried out the murder.” The President at this point smirked, before responding, “We know he did it.” To which Wickrematunge asked, “Then why don’t you get him for that murder?” And the President responded, “We will. We will. The CID is investigating still…” (This exchange took place in Sinhala and what is reproduced here is a direct translation)
The President then took us on a tour of President’ s House which he said he had renovated after taking office. This tour included a visit to his shrine room.
Demand To Remove Gotabaya Is Justified
Dr. Laksiri Fernando
Now the Secretary of Defence, Gotabaya Rajapaksa, has given his side of the story to Lakbima. He claims that he only ‘threatened to sue her’ and ‘not to kill her’ to mean The Sunday Leader Editor, Frederica Jansz. But there can be many personal threats in between the two, for the particular female journalist. The threatening is not denied. There is no denial of the whole story reported verbatim and only ‘provocation’ was attributed as the defence or the reason. Here we are not talking about an ordinary person, but a high government official with immense responsibility and power behind him in the defence establishment. He is also the brother of the ‘Executive’ President of the country.
The language that the Secretary used is of course deplorably abusive or ‘third class’ but more than that there was some measured force and threat in the whole language that he used. This is not the first time that he has behaved in this manner or used such language. In the background of white van abductions, disappearances and recent raids on the media institutions, the personal threat to Ms Frederica Jansz should not be taken lightly. It is barely three years that her predecessor Editor of the Sunday Leader, Lasantha Wickrematunga, was killed in broad day light in a military fashion. The police under the Ministry of Defence have so far not been able to bring the perpetrators of this heinous crime to justice.
I am not completely sure whether there would be a ‘groundswell’ of protest against the behaviour of the Secretary of Defence on this occasion, as predicted by some, given that the democratic opposition against this government is still incipient and unfortunately divided and the Man in question is still maintaining a certain profile given his actual and partly ‘hijacked role’ in the struggle against terrorism in the country. But there are so many reasons why he should resign or be removed from this important position of the Secretary of Defence.
Abuse of Power
The whole ‘puppy story’ is about the abuse of power, influence and family connections. Can an ordinary citizen of the country, who can of course bear the cost of the cargo, bring a puppy from Zurich to his wife and request the Sri Lanka Airlines to assign a friend as the pilot to do the job?
When the question was asked, the arrogant answer was: “So what is wrong with that?” It was further justified with details and told that even a dog was brought before perhaps in the same fashion and even he can bring an elephant! This is not merely a question or an element of ‘extravagance,’ as some have tried to underestimate. It was also revealed that he has friends who will do him favours and “what is wrong with that?” Given the threats that he has levelled against the particular journalist, one could wonder what other kind of favours his friends could execute for him on his request?
When the objection of the Pilots Guild to the change of the aircraft to ‘bring his cargo’ was mentioned, he was naturally angry. Then was the threat of suing the journalist if the story was published but also adding that “I am not afraid of the bloody courts!” There was no particular reason to mention the courts here other than the question of legal process of suing, but why then “the bloody courts” except for his assumed power above everything in the country, including the courts? It is because of this ‘attitude of power,’ among other reasons that he should be removed from the position of the Secretary of the Ministry that he holds.
It should also be noted that his final threat as reported by Frederica Jansz is not merely about suing, although that is how he has defended himself later with Lakbima newspaper. When he was asked “Mr Rajapaksa are you threatening me?” the answer was “Yes! I am threatening you! Write every single word I have told you if you want – you write a bloody f…g word and we will see..” It is about “we will see..” without specifying what and not about ‘suing.” This is where the danger is for the particular journalist that everyone should take into serious account.
Many have written about the foul language that Gotabaya Rajapaksa has used particularly in the second interview. It was mildly criticised as something that was ‘out of line.’ He has called names. He has called the ‘pilots fighting among themselves’ as “f…g idiots.” The most axiomatic is the following outburst whether provoked or not.
“Your type of journalists are pigs who eat shit! Pigs who eat shit! Shit, Shit Shit journalists!!! Ninety percent of the people in this country hate you! They hate you!!! You come for a function where I am and I will tell people this is the Editor of The Sunday Leader and ninety percent there will show that they hate you.”
It may be the case that the particular kind of journalism that the Sunday Leader is used to, very much similar to the Hard Talk of BBC is anathema for many of the politicians in Sri Lanka when they are particularly in the government. Even some leading journalists seem to be apprehensive about the style. But a Secretary of a Ministry should be different whatever the style of the journalist. That is where the whole mix up is at present.
If Gotabaya Rajapaksa resigns and get into politics directly perhaps people could understand him in the caliber of, for example, Mervyn Silva and then it is a matter for the voters to elect him or not. But as a public servant and a ministry secretary, his language and behavior towards the people and particularly the journalist in this case should have been different. If he cannot behave in that dignified fashion, then the honorable thing for him is to resign.
There is more to his language. His use of abusive words has been counted by others. His particular use of the word ‘Kill or killing’ is undoubtedly problematic. It is also dangerous. His second interview ended perhaps with the wish “people will kill you, people will hate you, they will kill you.” This reminded me of the occasion when I detected this trait first in him when he exploded giving an interview to Stephen Sucker of the BBC Hard Talk in June 2010 saying “We will Hang Him” to mean the former General Sarath Fonseka with extreme anger. The whole interview was embryonic of the present.
For a long time I had difficulties in understanding Gotabaya Rajapaksa’s language, expressions and behavior until I came across a study by Drs. Neil J Fernando and Ruwan M Jayatunga on “Combat Related PSTD” to mean post-traumatic stress disorder (Colombo Telegraph, 11 July 2012). While the study has mainly been on the recent soldiers and officers who had come across or suffered from this syndrome during the war before May 2009, in my opinion, it is also possible that who have had this experience previously or who were closely commanding the war events also could suffer from the same syndrome/s. While the PTSD might be the key to understanding what can be identified as atrocities or war crimes during the last stages of the war, among other things, the study says that the “PTSD is a multifaceted disorder with a number of associated features, including guilt, anger, depression, substance abuse and other anxiety based conditions.”
Whatever the reason for the present behavior and the language of the Secretary of Defense, it is obvious that he should not be kept in that position by any criteria of civility or good governance. Either he should graciously resign or he should be removed.
Laksiri Fernando, Professor of Political Science and Public Policy, is a specialist on human rights having completed his PhD on the subject at the University of Sydney. His major books include, Human Rights, Politics and States in Burma, Cambodia and Sri Lanka; A Political Science Approach to Human Rights; Academic Freedom 1990; Police Civil Relations for Good Governance; Sri Lanka’s Ethnic Conflict in the Global Context among others.
‘Taxi Abey’ And FJ
The telephone conversation I had last week with Gamini Abeyratne when he was in London…
Gamini- “Hello Frederica”
Frederica- “Yes Gamani you had called me”
Gamini- “Yeah, yeah I had called you and I had called Gamani Senarath and I told about this and I told them I am not telling anything.”
Frederica- “Now Gamani, I was later thinking when Hudson Samarasinghe called you and asked you to do this what do they want you to say?”
Gamini:- “I didn’t ask anything. They asked me if Frederica went with me to meet the President. I said I am in London and I’ll ask the President and say but I can’t tell anything at this moment.”
Frederica- “So if I met the President, so what. What I am wondering is what are they trying to get you to say. Because what was wrong about meeting the President?”
Gamini- “I won’t tell anything. I’m not going to tell anything. President must say not me.”
Frederica- “Yes of course, when you spoke to Gamani Senarath what did he say?”
Gamini- “He said don’t tell anything with President, and I am sure President won’t tell like that.”
Frederica- “But in the morning when you called you said the President had said he had filmed the meeting and all that and that they will release that video.”
Gamini- “No, I didn’t say President. They have a security unit, so they can’t deny then the meeting took place. That’s what I told you.”
Frederica- “Ah ok, because there was nothing secretive about that.”
Gamini- “Gamani then told me why are you pulling the President into this, don’t tell anything otherwise they will try to sell the President’s name. And he said don’t tell anything, when you are here meet the President and ask him before that don’t say anything. And he is going to contact the President and tell about me.”
Frederica- “In any case Gamani, that meeting there was nothing wrong with it, even P.B. was there. And there was nothing secretive about it, and we discussed the cases remember. I spoke about the Thilanga case.”
Gamini- “You asked about Thilanga only right?”
Frederica- “And he said don’t worry I will get rid of it and that Thilanga only brought it up because he is trying to contest for the President of the Cricket Board remember?”
Gamini- “Hmm, yes I remember. But this is not about the President. That fellow is trying to dig something and tell on the radio. But after that no calls from him.”
Frederica- “Now how would Hudson Samarasinghe know about that meeting?”
Gamini- “I don’t know. I didn’t ask anything. I told him I am in London and I will have to ask the President and I cut the line.”
Frederica- “Yeah, yeah but on my part it doesn’t matter there was no big deal about that meeting. And I wrote that letter.”
Gamini- “You didn’t ask any favours so you can meet the President anytime.”
Frederica- “Exactly, I didn’t ask any favours and I wrote and sent that letter. If they want I can even publish that letter.”
Gamini- “I even handed the letter to Gamini Senarath”
Frederica- “Yes even that I wrote, if they want I can publish it I have no problem.”
Gamini- “This is a false thing. I know that, in one or two days’ time I am coming there.”
Frederica- “When are you back?”
Gamini- “I am coming on the 19th.”
Frederica- “Ok Gamini then we will have a chat.”
Gamini- “Don’t worry ok I am always with you.”
Frederica- “Thanks Gamini, thanks a lot, take care.
Postcard dated 2012.7.16 sent to The Sunday Leader
A warning to The Sunday Leader Editorial
An article appearing in The Sunday Leader edition of 2012/07/15 was made to sling mud which should be read only in secret.
In the whole of Sri Lanka it was only your newspaper which targeted Defence Secretary Gotabaya Rajapaksa who had saved the country and the people from 30 years of terrorism.
It is only people like you and the Tigers who will be happy and not the people.
You don’t know how to spell or write the name of such a respectable person. There are people who like vicious animals attack others and then expect retribution.
In a country with a legally appointed government with its own army, attempting to create a rift is like hitting one’s head on a rock.
Being ignorant of this and publishing silly news should stop and instead positive news on the country should be published. Falling prey to idiotic politicians by publishing such news will only make you become anti-government.
To call for his resignation is showing support to the underworld.
By creating rifts between him and you and if something happens there will be people among your friends who will be happy to see the repercussions.
No name in postcard
Sri Lankans Around The World Condemn Gota’s Outburst
An Oasis In The Media Desert…
Wishing you the best of everything ,so that you may live a long and contented life for the services you so courageously render to us, who would be otherwise clueless as to the atrocities happening in the miracle of the whole wide world. May the good Lord give you all the strength you need to carry on regardless of the dangers hovering over you. Mark my word Lady, you will be remembered as one who stood fast and faced the Devil, one on one.
You are one great woman.
Dear Frederica Jansz,
Keep up the good work. Lanka really needs courageous journalist like you. If this man has no respect for a journalist, then one can imagine how he would treat a helpless poor citizen of mother Lanka.
Gotta’s (sic) mind blowing words were published in ‘The Star’, which is a leading news paper with the largest circulation in Toronto.
Have no fear and do what you do best. The mighty tree will fall soon with all the dogs pissing on it! With you all the way and one day there will be justice for Lasantha.
to me, secretary
Ms Fredrica Janz
Dear Fredrica, (sic)
We admire your bravery in revealing another aspect of this corrupt regime. We badly need a strong media to safeguard whatever the democratic rights we have at present. Your move was unbowed and level headed . I live in the western part of the world [UK] and there are many Sri Lankans who live in this country have spoken to me about your experience with a kind of a disbelief.
We share your feelings and proud of what you have done.
May you be protected from all kinds of evil
Jul 19- to me
Dear Editor of The Sunday Leader,
We send you our full compliments on your Article “Gota goes bersek”.You are ture (sic) to the Motto of your Paper-Unbiased and unafraid. Our best wishes to keep up with your courage and intergrity. Joe fernando.
International Condemnation On Gota- -ENOUGH IS ENOUGH
Jul 17- to secretary
Calling for an investigation into the threats made against journalist Frederica Jansz, and for her immediate protection; expressing deep concern about the implications that this threat has on the state of free expression and journalists’ safety in Sri Lanka, where a culture of impunity prevails; urging the Sri Lankan authorities to make clear its commitments to the promotion and protection of freedom of expression as per its obligations under Article 19 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.
Teresa de Kretser
Jul 15- to me
Keep up the good work, you are a courageous woman and all smart, intelligent women are proud of you.
Jul 16- to me
Hi! You guys are the best.Please keep up your brave work. Give my kind regards to miss Fredrica.(sic) May good bless you all!
Jul 15- to me
Congrats on ‘Gota goes Berserk’. May The Almighty Give you more courage and safety
Jul 15 to secretary, me
As a citizen of Sri Lanka, I am appalled by the verbal abuse on Ms.Frederica Jansz by the Defence Secretary. He is in serious need of an anger management course. As a Public servant holding high office, heshould resign immiditely and you should accept his resignation. I have never got involved in politics nor have I ever voiced my opinion about the situation in Sri Lanka but i will do so now. Whileappreciating the leadership you gave us all during the battle toeliminate the LTTE, the situation now is deteriorating. Politicians of your ruling party are running amok. What are you going to do about the Kelaniya chandiya ? What disciplinary action have you taken against him ? Any decent citizen of our beautiful country will expect him to stripped of any tittles and portfolios. Yet he continues unabated. Duminda Silva, a rapist, is provided medical and monetary assistance. The Education Minister says one can live on Rs. 2500 a month. Wimal Weerawansa says we should boycott US products while he continues to use an Iphone. He, sir, is a hypocrite. Why do you surround yourself with people such as these ?
Champaka Premaratne, Kandy.
Gotabaya Rajapaksha’s threat to journalist on Air Lanka Resource Abuse
Jul 14- to me
Subject: Gotabaya Rajapaksha’s (sic) threat to journalist on Air Lanka Resource Abuse
Dear Ms. Janz: (sic)
I cannot be more prouder that we have brave journalists like you still left in Sri Lanka to tell the civilized world that Sri Lanka has deteriorated to regime like Saddam Hussein’s Iraq and Taliban in Afghanistan which threaten every civilized norms of a modern society. The Rajapaksha’s regime uses the Government as their ATM Machine, including public resources such as Air Lanka. There are many more corruptions that Sri Lankan journalists are afraid to report due to fear of their dear lives and love for their loved ones. An injustices I have seen at play was the incarceration of former Army Commander due to personal grudges and stripping him off of even his duly won parliamentary seat and privileges. .
I urge you to exercise reasonable care and judgement (*sic) in dealing with these thugs who are purporting as national leaders. They do not even have courtesy to speak proper language and do not know civility in communication. It was not long ago that henchmen of these two Rajapakshas (sic) were wielding M-16 automatic weapons in broad day light killing one and maiming the other.
The response of the Defense Secretary, uneducated thug himself was to airlift one criminal to Singapore for treatment at tax payers expense. What more can we expect from these thugs. So please exercise reasonable judgement (sic) when dealing with these idiots intoxicated with power. We cannot afford to lose brave journalists like you for it will be the end of even the traces of democracy what is left in Sri Lanka.
Frederica Jansz is one of the foremost journalists in the country who have the professional integrity, moral conviction and dauntless courage to continue to expose the horrors and confront the evil of the Rajapakse Regime head-on. The Sunday Leader has been a vanguard media force in fearlessly exposing the truth and holding corrupt public officials and politicians accountable. It acts as the conscience of society and the guardian of democracy and justice.
Frederica is simply carrying out the high tradition of journalist ethics and excellence established by the late Lasantha Wickrematunga. Lasantha too was subjected to repeated threats by the ruling junta, and finally brutally slaughtered in broad daylight, within a high security zone. Frederica too has been subjected to intense and sustained threats and intimidation. Gotabhaya Rajapakse, Secretary to the Ministry of Defense, has been in the forefront in unleashing a campaign of malicious intimidation against her, having the character of a personnel vendetta. The recent obscene outburst by the Secretary is a continuation and a concentration of the vile depths to which this vendetta has sunk, and is symptomatic of the fascistic-terrorist degeneration, desperation, and sheer political bankruptcy of the Rajapakse Junta Regime.
However, the recent bomblast (sic) directed against Frederica is simply not to be tolerated, given its clear fascist-terrorist character, content and intent. It is an assualt (sic) against humanity, against all sense of common decency, against the grain of civilised life.Gotabhaya Rajapakse is not fit to be a public official. He never was. He is the embodiment of a terminal megalomania, the sprit of an introverted, demented and vengeful ego, stewing in a pathological pit of inferiority and impotence, molded in the crib of a militarized, self-glorified, and supremely narcissistic sense of omnipotence.
I believe that, as a citizen and a person, I have the supreme right to psychoanalyse (sic) this Secretary to the Ministry of Defense, not only because he has abused his position to villify and terrorise a cherished journalist and so terrorise (sic) the media in general, but also bear testimony to the inevitable verdict of history and the rule of Justice against all the crimes against humanity committed by this abominable Regime- and the system itself. Gota should resign, but that would be like asking the leech to give up its blood-sucking nature. I know that Frederica will not be any less the outstandingly fearless journalist she is due to these low-life threats and abuse. She has felt the white heat of state terror before and come out that much stronger, vibrant and true to herself. Frederica, you are a flame of resistance against despotism, tyranny and terror and a true guardian of the people.
We salute you and embrace you.
Surendra Ajit Rupasinghe
Ceylon Communist Party (Maoist)