First with the news and free with its views                                     First with the news and free with its views                             First with the news and free with its views                                    

News

 July 8, 2007  Volume 14, Issue 3


Focus

Spotlight

Letters

Issues

Now

Fashion

Editorial

Potshot

 

         

MR's bluff and criminal defamation

The media has often highlighted instances where President Mahinda Rajapakse is said to have made false statements. Recently however, the matter was made public by none other than Minister Dilan Perera.


Dilan Perera and Rauf Hakeem

A few weeks ago, an urgent cabinet paper calling for the implementation of the Criminal Defamation Law was presented to the cabinet. This paper which was presented in a very confidential manner, was handed over to Perera by the President to be read out to the rest of the ministers.

Perera read the contents of the cabinet paper without any prior knowledge of it.

As soon as the cabinet paper was read, the cabinet of ministers started to debate the reintroduction of the Criminal Defamation Law.

Ministers Rauf Hakeem, Dinesh Gunewardena and Sarath Amunugama were against the implementation of the draconian law while the President and Ministers Jeyaraj Fernandopulle and Nimal Siripala de Silva called for its implementation.

Forced to withdraw

Amidst much opposition, the President was forced to withdraw the cabinet paper. However, at the end of the meeting he said the law would be implemented somehow.

Handing the paper to the cabinet secretary, Rajapakse wanted it to be forwarded to the AG's Department for further study.

The news of the President's intention to re-implement the Criminal Defamation Law made headlines the following day. Media organisation vehemently opposed the move.

The controversy surrounding the cabinet paper intensified with the statement made by Perera to the media.

In a letter to the Justice Ministry Secretary Suhada Gamlath, Perera inquired as to why he was not informed of such a cabinet paper. Perera stated that he faced great difficulty as he was unaware of the contents of the cabinet paper.

Finally, in the letter, Perera has stated that when inquired from the President, he was informed that the Ministry Secretary was asked to brief him on the cabinet paper before it was presented. Perera then called for an explanation from Gamlath.

Much opposition

Perera who realised that the reintroduction of the law was opposed by the media, ensured that copies of his letter to the Ministry Secretary were sent to the media institutions. He expected to clear his name through it.

Although not a senior minister in the government, Perera has much experience in the  local political scene. Perera, who hails from a political family began his career through leftist politics and has from then been reputed as being a man of principles.

Perera's letter showed to the country that it was Rajapakse, more than anyone else, who wanted the reintroduction of the law.

Soon after receiving Perera's letter, Gamlath immediately responded to it.

The letter sent by Gamlath to Perera also made its way to the media. At the beginning of the letter, Gamlath stated that he was never at any point informed by the President to brief Perera on the preparation of the paper.

Gamlath's letter proved that the President had lied to Perera at the end of the cabinet meeting.

It was then evident that the President who tried to sneak in the cabinet paper was forced to withdraw it and create a rift between the Minister and the Ministry official as many objections were raised against it.

Double game

Fortunately however, Perera's decision to openly inquire into the truth behind the cabinet paper from his Secretary brought to the open the President's double game.

Although many ministers know of  the President's bluff, they prefer to keep silent, fearing the loss of their perks.

Perera also made statements to the media that he was against the reintroduction of the Criminal Defamation Law.

The President finally had to cave in, fearing its defeat in parliament.

Basil's media plan to protect govt.

The government is today in the midst of many controversies. Key among them is the economic crisis faced by the country due to the decision to resume the war in the north and east.

Many countries including Britain, Netherlands, EU, US and Germany have decided to freeze aid due to Sri Lanka following the gross human rights violations taking place in the country.

Although Japan has not officially held back any aid, it has outlined strict guidelines for the government to follow.

With the corrupt deals of the 'Rajapakse Company' coming out in the open, the talk everywhere is about the  corruption taking place within government.

Plan in the making

President Mahinda Rajapakse's brother and advisor, Basil Rajapakse who has realised this situation spent most of his time during the last two weeks in his office at the Presidential Secretariat trying to draw up a plan to counter the evolving situation.

Basil understood that the government was losing its popularity among the people and decided that there was only one topic left to woo the masses - Thoppigala.

The main aim of the government now is to strengthen the government by projecting the situation in Thoppigala.

Basil drew the plan two weeks ago. The first to be summoned were the state media heads. At the meeting, Basil informed them that the only straw left for the government to redeem itself was the battle in Thoppigala. He said that highlighting details of Thoppigala would take away attention from the corruption, fuel and bus fare hikes.

Basil asked all state media heads to give priority to highlighting Thoppigala.

Strategy

The state media heads also noted that under the present situation, it was important for the government to receive the help of private media institutions like Sirasa as well as print media institutions. Basil assured the state media heads that he would personally discuss the matter with several heads of private media institutions.

Basil next met with provincial councilors and several parliamentarians. They discussed that Thoppigala should be highlighted as a great victory around the island.

The politicians observed that it should be celebrated by organising various events around the island. Basil told them that the state media would give full publicity to such events. Basil made it a point to call only a few SLFPers who were supportive of the President.

"During these two weeks we have to work on Thoppigala in a manner in which the people would forget about everything else. It would be a great help for the President as it would help the government function without any problem for a month or two," Basil said.

Basil also said that funds needed to carry out the work would be provided for the provincial councilors as well as the parliamentarians.

Several steps

At the outset of the Thoppigala battle, the government decided on several steps. One was to block the pro-LTTE TamilNet website when the battle was raging. Bandula Padmakumara, who hosts the Mul Pituwa programme was asked not to read any news out of the TamilNet website as well.

So far, the only news published in the media of the Thoppigala battle is what the military and defence spokesmen have said. Private television stations were warned not to put any statements made by LTTE spokespersons and to confine their reportage to the government's military spokespersons.

Basil's next plan is to woo the private media to join his plan to further strengthen the government.-

Jayalath locks horns with the TID

The government has now adopted various methods to redeem its image.

One such method is to arrest or interrogate any one who opposes the government or its leaders.

After Dushyantha Basnayake, Sripathi Sooriyaarachchi and Tiran Alles, the government has now focused its attention on UNP Parliamentarian Dr. Jayalath Jayawardena.

Jayawardena had to appear before the TID on July 2 to make a statement.

He was initially summoned to appear before the TID on June 22, but he had to attend parliament on that day. Dr. Jayawardena inquired from Party Leader Ranil Wickremesinghe as to what he should do.

Wickremesinghe advised him to raise the matter in parliament. Dr. Jayawardena raised a privileges issue in parliament.

Told to make statement

The TID then requested Dr. Jayawardena to make a statement at the TID office on July 2 at 2 p.m. The police unit did not inform Dr. Jayawardena of the issue he was expected to make a statement on.

Dr. Jayawardena agreed and informed SSP TID, C. N. Wakishta that he would appear with his lawyer Nalin Ladduwahetty. Wakishta did not object to it.

On the given day, Dr. Jayawardena met several of his colleagues before making his way to the TID. The meeting was organised by one of Dr. Jayawardena's friends, Gamini Abeyratne.

Tissa Attanayake, Johnston Fernando, Dayasiri Jayasekera, Mahinda Rathnathileka, Indika Bandaranaike, Mano Ganesan, Dhanasiri Amaratunga and several Western Provincial Councilors were present at Abeyratne's residence.

Abeyratne had organised lunch for all of them and Dr. Jayawardena made his way to the TID after having lunch with his friends and colleagues.

When Dr. Jayawardena arrived at the TID office with lawyers Ladduwahetty and Sujeewa Senasinghe, Parliamentarian Ravi Karunanayake was also present.

Cop put in his place

After making a statement to the media, Dr. Jayawardena made his way to the TID office with his lawyer.

A police officer who was not properly attired had spoken to Dr. Jayawardena in a 'loud tone' calling him by his first name. Dr. Jayawardena had then informed the police officer as well as DIG Wakishta that he was a doctor by profession.

Wakishta who took Jayawardena to a room to record the statement informed lawyer Ladduwahetty that he could not be in the room.

"Why? I informed you of this earlier. Then you did not object to it. You even asked me to bring him along. Now how can you say this?" Dr. Jayawardena demanded.

Wakishta said he could not allow Ladduwahetty to be present when the statement was being recorded as he was also representing several other suspects in the case as well.

Ladduwahetty then explained to Wakishta the nature of his job. He explained that he was there for his client, Dr. Jayawardena and also told the DIG that as a lawyer, he was entitled to do so.

Lawyer refuses to leave

Ladduwahetty said he was not ready to walk out without performing his professional duties to his client.

Wakishta said that he would then have to record a statement from Ladduwahetty as well.

Ladduwahetty refused and Wakishta had no option but to keep silent.

The police then started to interrogate Dr. Jayawardena. Chief Police Inspector Prasanna de Alwis inquired from Dr. Jayawardena if he knew Emil Kanthan of the LTTE Intelligence Unit. "I was then the minister in-charge of the north and I was also there when the Ceasefire Agreement was signed. Once the peace talks started, not only me, but G. L. Peiris and Milinda Moragoda also spoke to Emil Kanthan. In those days I used to travel to Kilinochchi. I have then spoken to Emil Kanthan. I speak to him even now. There are many ministers in the government. If you want to know my connection with Emil Kanthan, then speak to Milinda Moragoda," Dr. Jayawardena said.

The next question was on the pilgrimage organised from Kataragama to the north. De Alwis asked Dr. Jayawardena if the organisation work in Mullaitivu was done by Emil Kanthan.

'Question the others'

"We went from Kataragama to Jaffna. It was a religious affair. We had to travel on the A9. So can we overlook the north? If you need more information on this, you can speak to a close friend of the President, the chief incumbent of the Sri Naga Vihara in Jaffna, Ven. Meegahavandure Gnanarathana Thero," Dr. Jayawardena said.

Dr. Jayawardena was questioned till 8.30 p.m. that day. The TID officers finally asked if Dr. Jayawardena had anything he wished to state. "Yes, by now the DIGs of the CID and the intelligence unit have said there were death threats on me. Now this is being done to label me as a LTTE supporter. Therefore, if there is any threat to my life, the TID would be held responsible. It is Ok to question me, but when Sripathi Sooriyaarachchi named people who have paid millions to the LTTE, why were they not  questioned? The names of Basil Rajapakse, P. B. Jayasundera and Lalith Weeratunga have already been revealed. Why have you not questioned them?" Dr. Jayawardena asked.

"Do you have evidence to say such a thing?" the police officers asked.

"That does not make sense. Looking for evidence is not my job. It is up to the police. Looking for evidence is your job," Dr. Jayawardena said.

 

Jaffna Naga Vihare takes TID to task

An English paper the following day published an article quoting a TID officer who had said the whole interrogation process was converted by Dr. Jayawardena to gain media publicity.

After reading the news item, Dr. Jayawardena called SSP Wakishta and said, "I have to tell the public what happened to me. I can do it only through the media. I did that. Please hold an inquiry into your officer's conduct."

The media reported Dr. Jayawardena's story and he also received a letter from the development committee of the Sri Naga Vihara in Jaffna, the head priest of which vihara is closely associated with President Rajapakse.

Below is an English translation of the letter sent in Sinhala: 

Hon. Dr. Jayalath Jayawardena,
Member of Parliament,
No. 555, Weligampitiya,
Ja-ela.
 

Our Dear Member of Parliament, 

We were disturbed to read in the media that you were interrogated by the TID for over six hours.

We were even more disturbed to hear that you were also questioned on the religious march organised from Kirivehera in Kataragama to the Nagavihara in Jaffna by you under our guidance.

The peace march that took place was the first of its kind and a historic one where a religious march took place from the south to the north on the A9. It is important to note that everyone, Sinhalese Buddhists, non Buddhists, Tamil people, forces personnel and the police have highly commended this act which was organised by you, under our guidance, as well as with the blessings of the mahanayakes of the three nikayas.

As you may be well aware, we are not affiliated to any political party, but have never failed to speak the truth and stand by what is right.

We know very well of your dedicated service to solve the ethnic conflict in the country amidst much threats to your life as well as much criticism leveled against you. Many members of the clergy is also aware of this.

It is with great appreciation that we reminisce your efforts to rehabilitate the Buddhist temples in the north and east. The Sri Naga Vihara in Jaffna, the Dabakolapatuna Rajamahavihara, Kadurugoda Rajamahavihara in Jaffna were several temples you took the initiative to rehabilitate.

The chanting of pirith in Kilinochchi by 50 Buddhist monks under the Buddhist flag after over 20 years is a historical event that could not be forgotten by anyone. It is a great meritorious act.

If the TID wishes to know the truth and details of the religious march organised from Kataragama to Jaffna, we would gladly make a statement on it. We cannot imagine why the TID wishes to raise questions on this great historic and religious event.

After the A9 was opened following your intervention, thousands of Sinhalese Buddhists made there way to the Sri Naga Vihara in Jaffna on pilgrimage. But after the closure of the A9, pilgrims from the south lost the chance of worshiping in the north. Therefore we are now faced with a great problem when it comes to maintaining the Sri Naga Vihara and the other temples that come under it in the Jaffna peninsula.

It is sad that the attention of officials have not been directed towards it. However, amidst much pressure we take great effort in continuing with the Buddhist temples in the Jaffna peninsula. But we do not know if we could do it for long.

We would like to reiterate once more that we would bless you as well as support you in all your endeavours to establish peace and religious harmony in the country. We would also like to speak of your effort to secure the land that belonged to the Sinhala Maha Vidyalaya for the future generation and to reopen the school in that land as well.

Finally, we would like to say that irrespective of the charges leveled against you, the truth will someday be revealed.

We firmly believe that you and other Sri Lankans would continue to help maintain the Buddhist temples in the Jaffna peninsula.

Yours in Metta,

Ven.Meegahajadure Gnanarathana Thero,

Chief Sanganayaka of North Sri Lanka,

Chief Incumbent, Sri Nagavihara, Jaffna,

Dambakolapatuna Rajamaha Vihara, Madagala,

Kadurugoda Rajamaha Vihara, Chunakkam

Cc: Most Venerable Mahanayakes of the three nikayas.

President eats humble pie as Basil calls Solheim

The role of peace facilitators of the Sri Lankan peace process, Norway, has been criticised by many extremists since the inception of the peace process brokered by the Nordic nation.

JVP Propaganda Secretary Wimal Weerawansa and JHU Member Champika Ranawaka and its members of the clergy have been at the forefront in criticising Norway's role and even called the Norwegians "White Tigers."

President Mahinda Rajapakse responded to all this criticism by stating that Sri Lanka would not bow to the whims and fancies of any other country. "Unlike Ranil, I am not ready to do peace the way Norway wants it," the President said.

Rajapakse did not stop at that, he even expressed these sentiments to Norway's International Development Minister Erik Solheim and Special Peace Envoy, John Hanssen-Bauer when he met them in Geneva.

The Norwegians at the meeting requested the President to restart the peace process, to create the environment to implement the Ceasefire Agreement and to send a Norwegian envoy to Kilinochchi to meet the LTTE leaders.

Objection

The President however objected to it saying it would demoralise the security forces who were engaged in a successful war against the LTTE in the north and east. Rajapakse then proposed that the Norwegians, if they needed to communicate with the LTTE should give them a call from Oslo to Kilinochchi.

The Norwegians returned to Oslo silently without responding to the ridiculing remarks made by the President.

A few weeks later, at a meeting of the Co-Chairs - Norway, US, EU and Japan, the first issue to be taken up was the President's statement to Solheim in Geneva.

The Co-Chairs after discussing the issue, decided to send a stern message to the President. In the message, the Co-Chairs stated that arrangements should be made for the Norwegian peace envoy to visit Kilinochchi without laying any conditions.

They also stated that if the President and the government did not accept the Co-Chairs' decision, the international community would be forced to take action against Sri Lanka. The President who boasted he can do without the international community was helpless once he received the message from the Co-Chairs.

Call from Basil

Last Friday, Basil Rajapakse called Oslo and told Solheim to ignore what the President said in Geneva and arrangements would be made for the Norwegian envoy to travel to Kilinochchi.

The Co-Chairs also sent another message to the government - that Norway had the fullest support of the Co-Chairs to carry out its role as facilitator in the Sri Lankan peace process and that the Sri Lankan government should not pose any obstacles to the process.

Basil, who understood the message, told Solheim that the President and the government had no intention of replacing Norway with any other country or organisation.

Interestingly however, the extremists who shouted hoarse calling the Norwegians 'White Tigers' have gone silent today. The President had to eat humble pie and agree to the Co-Chairs' requests and the JVP and the JHU are silent.  

 

 


©Leader Publications (Pvt) Ltd.
98, Ward Place, Colombo 7
Tel : +94-75-365891,2 Fax : +94-75-365891
email :
editor@thesundayleader.lk