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Claims for Rs. 600mn and Rs. 125mn dismissed

FM, Deepthi withdraw cases against Leader

The District Court of Colombo Friday dismissed two defamation cases filed against The Sunday Leader by Minister Rohitha Bogollagama and his wife Deepthi after an application was made to court by the plaintiffs to withdraw the cases.

Minister Bogollagama and Deepthi Bogollagama had filed the defamation suits claiming Rs 600 million and Rs125 million respectively by way of damages following the publication of an article titled 'Rohitha's Waterloo' in The Sunday Leader of February16, 2003.

 Minister Bogollagama who had concluded his evidence in chief on an earlier date was due to be cross examined on Friday by Senior Counsel for the newspaper, President's Counsel Romesh De Silva when the application to withdraw the cases was made by counsel for the plaintiffs, President's Counsel Mohan Pieris.

When the defamation cases filed by Minister Rohitha Bogollagama and Deepthi Bogollagama against Leader Publications came up for trial finally on Friday before the District Judge of Colombo, Sisira Ratnayaka, counsel for the plaintiff informed Court that although this case is fixed for cross examination of Minister Rohitha Bogollagama his client was willing to withdraw the case if the defendants were willing to waive off the cost already awarded to the defendants and also the future costs.

In addition to the above conditions, counsel for the plaintiff also insisted that it should be recorded it is a settlement by both parties and also requested for it to be considered whether it is possible to state in the proceedings that the defendants regret any inconvenience caused to the plaintiffs due to the publication.

Counsel for the plaintiff also insisted that what will be recorded in court today should not be published in any media and especially in The Sunday Leader newspaper.

 Defendants' Counsel, Romesh de Silva, PC, vehemently objected to the conditions put forward by the plaintiff's counsel and submitted that his client is not agreeable to record the withdrawal of the action as a settlement and also that he has specific instructions from his clients that his clients are not agreeable to express any regret in respect of the publication of the article in issue.

 De Silva also told court that he has no control whatsoever on media reporting and therefore he cannot give any undertaking to the effect that no proceedings will be published in the newspapers.

He said however if the plaintiff is making an application to withdraw the case the newspaper is agreeable to waive off the heavy cost which has already been awarded in favour of the defendants and also the future cost. De Silva said, otherwise he was ready to cross examine the Minister.

Having heard the submissions made by the newspaper's counsel, plaintiff's counsel agreed to withdraw the case without laying any condition and made an application to court to withdraw the case.

Accordingly, court dismissed the plaintiff's action without cost and also recorded the defendants have waived off the cost already awarded to the defendants, and also the future cost, and directed Minister Bogollagama and his wife Deepthi Bogollagama to sign the case record.

Minister Rohitha Bogollagama and his wife instituted two defamation actions based on an article published in The Sunday Leader newspaper under the heading "Rohitha's Waterloo" on February 16, 2003.

The Minister and his wife alleged that the following paragraphs in the said newspaper article are defamatory:

"Abusing his power as a project minister, his vehicles and security staff, The Sunday Leader learns that Industries Minister, Rohitha Bogollagama is threatening physical assault and death on a young female doctor he had an intimate relationship with for over a year."

"Despite having professed undying love and marriage to this young doctor, Bogollagama after the relationship broke, has begun to verbally abuse this young lady (name withheld) threatening her with death and using ministerial security to intimidate her."

"In desperation, the lady in question has now appealed to Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe for help. On Tuesday, February 11, she begged the Premier to intervene stating she is convinced her life is in great danger 'as, these threats are coming from no less a person than a minister.'" (See box).

"She alleged that after she ended her relationship with Bogollagama 'based on various reasons' he began to abuse her over the phone and threatened to kill her if she failed to return numerous love letters sent by him."

"In her complaint she states that Rohitha Bogollagama has even threatened to harm her three teenage step-sons. She adds in her police complaint that both Rohitha Bogollagama and his sister-in-law, Jayanthrei Samarakoon have continued to threaten her with death.

"Violence in the Bogollagama household is a common occurrence. It is common knowledge that Bogollagama is repeatedly beaten by his wife Deepthi, who has been known to even spray detergents into his eyes. Showing the scars and wounds from his beatings to this young doctor is how the two initially met, as Bogollagama pleaded with her to find '.help for his wife' ..who he said 'had inherited . genes, coming from a family of three . sisters.'"

In view of the withdrawal of Minister Bogollagama's case, his wife Deepthi Bogollagama also withdrew her case.

 Romesh de Silva PC, with Sugath Caldera, Attorney-at-Law instructed by G.G. Arulpragasam, Attorney-at-Law appeared for Leader Publications.

 Mohan Peiris PC, instructed by Pushpa Narendran, Attorney-at-Law appeared for Minister Rohitha Bogollagama and his wife Deepthi Bogollagama.   

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