The Sunday Leader

Tennakoon Spills The Beans On Assault – Says He Has No Faith In Probe

by Ashanthi Warunasriya 

  • There are doubts whether justice will be served to Noyahr or other journalists who faced similar attacks
  • Upali Tennakoon questions as to what extent these officials will be allowed to carry out their duties
  • Tennakoon feels the Police and the CID are committed towards their duty

Sarath Fonseka and Wasantha Karannagoda are in the picture

While the government has made a major breakthrough into the investigations on the assault on journalist Keith Noyahr, doubts have still been raised if justice will be served to Noyahr or other journalists who faced similar attacks.

Veteran journalist Upali Tennakoon, who was assaulted in 2009, says he has no faith on justice being served.

Tennakoon, who is currently overseas, said he believes returning to Sri Lanka could place his life in danger.

“I give my full support for the investigations. Upon a request by the CID, I recently visited Sri Lanka to take part in an identification parade. After identifying one of the assailants I have now created new enemies. Three other gang members who attacked me are still at large. So how can I believe that there is a peaceful environment for me to return to Sri Lanka? In a country where people are killed in broad daylight while being carried to the court amidst armed guard, how can we stay safe? Those who still roam free will definitely try to get rid of the case by killing me,” he told The Sunday Leader.

Tennakoon says he feels the Police and the CID are committed towards their duty,  even by risking their own lives.

My life was saved because of my wife. I still remember what DIG Kotakadeniya told me at the hospital on that day. He said that he was amazed by the bravery of my wife as not even a bodyguard would fight unarmed against armed attackers,” Tennakoon said.
During his recent visit to Sri Lanka the former Editor had discussions with President Maithripala Sirisena and Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe.

The President has told him that the government would be paying compensation for those who had been subjected to political injustices during the previous regime.

“Now I do not have much trust about these investigations. When this government came into power I had a strong belief that justice would be done. I know that the officers of the police and the CID are doing their best. I am thankful to them for their efforts. However, there are places even they cannot visit. Recently the President talked about suspects who are held in remand prisons for a long time. He talked about their mental rights. But what about the rights of the widow and the orphans of Lasantha Wickrematunge? Our homes have been ruined. We have lost our previous lives. Does the government know about the violation of our rights?” he asked.

Tennakoon was assaulted by an unidentified gang just two weeks after the assassination of the founding Editor of The Sunday Leader Lasantha Wickrematunge.

On January 23 at 6.40 am, Tennakoon and his wife had left home in their vehicle for work.

Before reaching the Lower Yagoda Road, his vehicle was blocked by a group of men.

One of them had come forward near the vehicle. He was a tall and well-built man, with a ‘soldierly’ look. Even today, Tennakoon says that he is capable of clearly identifying the man. The man had suddenly attacked the windscreen of the vehicle with a club. He had then reached the driver’s seat and had smashed the window.

While the Tennakoon couple had frozen with surprise, three more persons who had got down from two motor cycles and started to attack Tennakoon with clubs.

Tennakoon’s wife had shielded her husband by covering him with her body, bearing up some of the blows.

The whole incident had taken only about 2 minutes. Soon people in the area had gathered at the scene and had taken the couple to Tennakoon’s family home situated nearby. Tennakoon had then informed the Weliweriya and Gampaha police stations about the incident. He had also informed the matter to then President Mahinda Rajapaksa.

Rajapaksa had told him that he would take care of the issue. The couple had then been admitted to the National Hospital where Tennakoon had received treatments for five days.

Meanwhile, in response to a request made by one of Tennakoon’s close associates from the former Defence Secretary Gotabhaya Rajapaksa regarding the safety of Tennakoon, the former Defence Secretary had said that there is no need for special protection to be provided to the former Editor.

Several politicians including the present Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe had visited Tennakoon. However, the President at that time and  Defence Secretary had not visited him. Tennakoon and his wife later left Sri Lanka to live in the USA.

During the 2010 election, the then President Rajapaksa had requested Tennakoon to return home. He had said that Tennakoon’s assailant was “in jail”.

However, due to the uncertainty over his safety, Tennakoon had not agreed to the request.

Tennakoon was a strong critic of the assassination of Lasantha Wickrematunge.

At the same time there was also an issue regarding an unpublished news item in the Rivira newspaper in which Tennakoon was then the Editor.

Prior to the assault on the Editor, had had recieved a telephone conversation from former Navy commander Wasantha Karannagoda.

Karannagoda had told him misleading information was being published in the newspaper.

Both the Army and Navy Commanders at they that time were not in good terms with each other.

A journalist who covered defence affairs for the Rivira newspaper had written an article on the rift.

Tennakoon had then advised the Deputy Editor of the newspaper to check the facts of the article. It was revealed that then Army Commander Sarath Fonseka had given that information to the journalist.

Out of fear and respect towards the Army commander, the journalist had not rechecked the accuracy of the information.

When the news item appeared on the front page of the newspaper before it when to print, Tennakoon had asked the sub editor whether he had  checked the matter. There the sub editor had said that the journalist had told him that it could not be done. Accordingly, Tennakoon had pulled out the news item from the newspaper.

Fonseka has then asked the journalist about the news item. The journalist may have told him how it had been taken down.

Tennakoon was known to be a supporter of the Navy chief.

The matter has also been raised at the state security meeting the week after, the Navy commander had raised the issue of Army top brass issuing fake news to journalists.

According to reports, the matter has been subjected to a heated discussion at that meeting, where the Navy commander had tabled the matter. However, in response, Fonseka is said to have claimed that he had no time to do such things as he had to finish the war.

Recently, veteran journalist Poddala Jayantha published a YouTube video, about the delay in the investigations regarding the attacks carried out against the media during the Rajapaksa regime.

2 Comments for “Tennakoon Spills The Beans On Assault – Says He Has No Faith In Probe”

  1. Mahen

    Tennakoon who was a close ally of the then regime, unfortunately got a taste of his own medicine. I am sure he now appreciates how difficult it must be for the minority communities to survive amongst such supremacists who will do anything to achieve their ends. How can this country even dispense Justice to the aggrieved without the help of neutral objective impartial investigators and Judges?

  2. Lima

    THE PUBLIC WERE TELLING FROM DAY ONE ALL THE JARAPAKSAS ARE THE ROBBERS / KILLERS OF THIS COUNTRY. NO USE WRITING ARTICLES TO FILL THE PAPER TO MAKE IT AS A SALE . THE COUNTRY HAS MANY OTHER WORK FOR DEVELOPMENT FOR HTE FUTURE GENERATION. THE PUBLIC WAS TELLING TO FINISH OFF THE JARAPAKSAS ONCE AND FOR ALL. SO THAT NO NEWS ITEM WILL APPEAR IN FUTURE. NO USE WRITING ARTICLES AND WASTING THE COUNTRY MONEY FOR PRIINT MORE THAN 100 PAGES OF NEWS OF THESE MURDERERS. DOES ANYBODY THINKING OF THIS. THE PUBLIC VOTED PRES MS AND PRESENT GOVT OF PM RANIL. NOW THEY BOTH ENTERTAIN JARAPAKSAS AND SUPPORT THEM INSTEAD OF PUNISHING WHAT THESE JARAPAKSAS DESERVE THE DEATH SENTENCE AND CARRY OUT SAME

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