Showing posts with label J.S. Tissainayagam. Show all posts
Showing posts with label J.S. Tissainayagam. Show all posts

Tuesday, May 04, 2010

Sri Lankan Tamil journalist Tissainayagam released; his friends unhappy

(May 05, Colombo - Lanka Polity) We hail the Presidential pardon to English writing Tamil journalist J.S. Tissainayagam who was sentenced to twenty years by a Sri Lanka court for charges framed under draconian Prevention of Terrorism Act (PTA). This move can lead to building up of national harmony and promotion of democracy.

Tissainayagam was sentenced to twenty years rigorous imprisonment by a motive to teach a lesson to the pro-Tamil nationalist media. President Mahinda Rajapaksa provided amnesty to him a year after the victory in the war against Liberation Tigers of Tamil Ealam (LTTE) to show how democratic his rule is now and to mend the friendship with the Western countries that were traditional allies of Sri Lanka. This action looks directly linked with the government's attempt to regain G.S.P. Plus tariff concessions from European Union.

Amidst war, a number of journalists that criticized the military project of the government were killed and some were harassed and detained. After the war, another set of journalists that were supporting ex-Army Commander and Presidential candidate Sarath Fonseka's power project were either arrested or intimidated.

Few social activists of Sri Lanka were bold enough to take part locally in the international campaign to get Tissainayagam freed. The organizers of the meeting held in Colombo last year to protest the sentence and to urge the release of Tissainayagam were in utmost difficulty to find a venue for the meeting. Even the administration of the Jayawardhana Center where the meeting was held eventually wanted to cancel the event. Journos were scanty among the around one hundred participants of activists of this event. Tissainayagam's elderly father delivered a marvelous speech, I remember.

The fate of Tissainayagam also opened doors for  a flow of money for some NGOs appearing to fight for press freedom and democracy.

Some mean characters that were holding the positions of these organizations stopped all media activities they were engaged in, if there was any, and began to find avenues to migrate to Western European countries that are socially better developed. Some of Tissainayagam's political friends were so organized that they were able to get the entire families migrated manipulating the news stories they themselves got planted in friendly media.

There are some others that fled the country actually to get rid of their wives and children. Some persons were responsible for swindling huge sums of money from the accounts of the organizations for press freedom.

Some of these thieves are now writing sensitive poetry while the majority of them do nothing except greedily devouring the newfound fantasies. The major thing they were not doing while they were in Sri Lanka also was non other than writing to media.

Most probably Tisainayagam will also migrate out of Sri Lanka with his family possibly to join the lot above mentioned. But we think Tissainayagam still can do a service to his community he fought for if he remains Tissainayagam. He will be like jailed for life if he will be caught again in another unscrupulous project of some of the artful dodgers he was in association earlier.

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Sri Lankan journalists rally to protest Press Council and to get Tissainayagam released

(September 27, Colombo - Lanka Polity) Several leading media organizations of Sri Lanka call for all citizens who value freedom in all its forms to staunchly oppose the reactivation of the draconian Press Council and to agitate for the release of our colleague J.S. Tissainayagam who was branded a terrorist and sentenced for 20 years under the Prevention of Terrorism Act (PTA).
"We can achieve these objectives only through a show of commitment and solidarity. Hence, a large gathering of journalists, civil society activists, political parties, artistes, religious leaders and civic minded citizens who wish to fight for a just and free society will come together on September 29 at the Jayewardene Center, Dharmapala Mawatha, Colombo 07 (opposite Vihara Maha Devi Park) at 4 pm. 

"We intend initiating a people’s petition against the reactivation of the Press Council and invite you in your capacity as a socially conscious citizen who wishes to safeguard democracy in our motherland to join hands with those likeminded others at this event," says the media organizations in a statement. 

 The organizations that convene this meeting are:

The Editor’s Guild of   Sri Lanka
Sri Lanka Working Journalists Association
Federation of Media Employee's Trade Union
Sri Lanka Muslim Media Forum
Sri Lanka Tamil Media Alliance
Free Media Movement
National Forum of Journalists

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Execution video of Channel-4 causes chaos in political circles related to Sri Lanka

(September 15, 2009 - Lanka Polity) A video aired by UK's Channel-4 has caused lots of chaos in Sri Lanka's local and international political arenas.

The relevant video, said to be recorded in January this year was given to Channel-4 by a new media group called Journalists for Democracy in Sri Lanka (JDS). JDS was formed in July this year by a group of media persons exiled in various countries. The group said in a press release that more than 50 Sri Lankan journalists are in exile. A large number of them are the majority Sinhalese journalists that were sympathetic towards the right of self-determination of the Tamils. The group did not declare the names of the leaders but the government says that a Sinhalese newspaper editor that is in exile in Germany is the leader of this organization. The government also links JDS to the Tamil rebel Liberation Tigers of Tamil Ealam (LTTE) international wing.

The video shows Sinhala speaking personnel clad in Sri Lanka Army uniforms execute persons suspected to be ethnic Tamils. Channel-4 said that it could not verify the authenticity of the video while the JDS later said that it was given to them by an Army official.

The government says the video is doctored and the state troops has never engaged in executing people. The Foreign Ministry summoned the Colombo diplomats to clarify that the video is fake. Indicating the reports of the volunteer and hired experts the officials said that the video was not recorded in a mobile phone. It further said that the sound track in which Sinhala utterances can be heard was dubbed to the video separately. The gunshot was heard extraordinarily late and the way the deceased fall, the blood marks and a number of other movements are not genuine, they pointed out.

Several childish arguments set forth by the state officials were proved false by JDS in a later programme of Channel-4. They showed pictures of Army officials wearing white T-shirts under their uniforms although the government said the soldiers wore only the green color T-shirts. The government also said that the Army officers did not sport grown hair but the JDS pointed to the pictures the President Mahinda Rajapakse himself was flanked by Special Forces personnel sporting grown hair and beard. Another comic argument of the government is that the victims shown in the video were fairer than the Tamils in north. Sinhalese and Tamils are mostly alike in physical appearance although the Sinhalese are in an illusion that they are fairer than the Tamils. Fair skin is venerated in this former colony of white Britishes.

However, JDS remained silent without attempting to counter the government that was going the extra mile to prove that the video is fake. Sri Lanka government has vowed to sue Channel-4 for discrediting the image of the country.

The video came in a bad time as the European Union was considering whether they would extend the GSP Plus tariff concessions for Sri Lanka's exports. The island's industries including the biggest income generator garment industry will affect if the tariff concession is revoked. The exports from Sri Lanka will be bare to severe competition from China despite the communist world power is the new ally of the Indian Ocean island which is rapidly drifting away from its traditional allies in West.

JDS is also campaigning for the release of Tamil journalist J.S. Tissainayagam who was jailed for a sentence of 20 years rigorous imprisonment by a Sri Lankan High Court on terrorism charges framed under draconian Prevention of Terrorism Act based on his writings in a pro-Tamil English magazine namely North Eastern Monthly. However, they released the controversial video to Channel-4 a week before the judgment was delivered in August. It is not clear why they released the video that was said to be recorded in January in a time the judgment of Tissainayagam case was to be delivered in few days. However, we cannot find any direct link between the incident and sentence given to the Tamil journalist.

Meanwhile, the same video is now circulated in Facebook with faked Tamil sound track with the title LTTE torturing & killing Sinhala Prisoners of War.

Saturday, September 12, 2009

ICJ Condemns Misuse of Anti-Terrorism Laws to Prosecute Sri Lankan Journalist, J. S. Tissainayagam

(September 12, 2009 - Lanka Polity) Yesterday the International Commission of Jurists (ICJ) released its Trial Observation Report ( regarding proceedings before the Colombo High Court in the prosecution of J.S. Tissainayagam, a Tamil journalist. On 31 August 2009, Mr Tissainayagam was convicted under anti-terrorism laws and sentenced by Judge Deepali Wijesundara to 20 years “rigorous imprisonment.”

This is the first time that anti-terrorism laws have been used in Sri Lanka to prosecute and convict a journalist for exercising freedom of expression, despite these laws being on the books for decades. The ICJ appreciates the cooperation of the Government of Sri Lanka and the presiding judicial officer in enabling the Observers to attend the trial, meet with the Attorney General and with Mr Tissainayagam and his counsel, and generally conduct their work without interference.

The Trial Observation Report focuses on describing the procedural aspects of the case and does not include a substantive assessment of the anti-terrorism laws. It raises a number of concerns regarding fair trial standards, including the judge’s interlocutory decision to allow into evidence what counsel for Mr Tissainayagam described as a forced confession, and subsequent denial of the accused’s right to appeal this decision. The Observers also expressed concern that Judge Wijesundara is the sister of the officer who signed the Indictment against Mr. Tissainayagam. While outside the general scope of this report, the Observers raised broader concerns about the Government’s unprecedented decision to prosecute Mr Tissainayagam on terrorism charges, especially in the context of attacks and threats of attacks against journalists and critics of Government policy, including public accusations by persons associated with the Government that equate such critics, and the lawyers representing them, as terrorists and traitors, for example, in commentaries posted on an official website of the Ministry of Defence, Public Security, Law and Order.

The ICJ has previously highlighted the dangers to rule of law posed by Sri Lanka’s broad array of draconian emergency laws (see Briefing Paper: Sri Lanka’s Emergency Laws (March 2009), These laws give sweeping powers to the Government to criminalize dissent and paint otherwise lawful speech as terrorism, potentially undermining the foundations of rule of law and democratic governance in the nation. The case of Mr Tissainayagam illustrates this danger.

“The real damage of the Tissainayagam case does not lie only in one judge’s interpretation of the law, but in the fact that the legal system is now seen as carrying out a political agenda of criminalizing anti-Government speech,” stated Roger Normand, ICJ Asia-Pacific Director. “That the Government has chosen to aggressively pursue this case against a prominent Tamil journalist even after the conclusion of the military conflict sends a chilling message of political intolerance and casts doubt on its commitment to justice and national reconciliation.”

Mr. Tissainayagam was arrested by police from the Terrorism Investigation Division on 7 March 2008. Three months later, on 25 August, he was charged with three counts under the Prevention of Terrorism Act 1979 (PTA) and the Emergency Regulations 2006 (ER 2006), in relation to his criticism of the Sri Lankan Army’s treatment of civilians in two articles published in North Eastern Monthly magazine in June 2006. Following
High Court proceedings observed by the ICJ in 2008 and 2009, Mr. Tissainayagam was found guilty on 31 August 2009 of two counts of intending to “cause communal disharmony” (PTA, s.2), with mandatory minimum sentence of five years each, and one count of receipt of monies “in the furtherance of any act of terrorism” (ER 2006, reg.6), with mandatory minimum sentence of 10 years. In total he was sentenced to 20 years rigorous imprisonment.

“The protection of national security and public order is a legitimate aim, but the Government in this case relies on emergency and anti-terrorism laws that are vague and over-reaching, when international law requires that they be precise and strictly necessary,” emphasized Wilder Tayler, Acting Secretary-General of the ICJ. “Where the Government’s intent is to punish expression, as in the case of Mr. Tissainayagam, there
must be a direct and immediate connection between the expression and likely violence and the intent to cause such violence.”

Sri Lanka is a state party to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights. Restrictions on the right to freedom of expression on the ground of national security, as contained in Article 19 (3) ICCPR, must be:
  • provided by law, with sufficient precision to enable citizens to comply with the law; necessary to protect a legitimate national security interest;
  • the least restrictive means possible to protect that interest; and,
  • compatible with democratic principles.
The ICJ is deeply concerned that the case of Mr. Tissainayagam indicates that the integrity of Sri Lanka’s legal system is at risk of being undermined through an unwarranted reliance on emergency laws. Criminalizing written expression without evidence of resulting violence, equating terrorism with an intention to cause feelings of ill will, stripping accused persons of basic rights, admitting into evidence confessions while in police custody and shifting the burden to the accused to prove coercion, mandating harsh minimum sentences – all of these factors pose a threat to the rights of citizens to express controversial views, a pillar of a law-based democratic society.

“The independence and professionalism that has characterized the Sri Lankan judiciary for decades is being undermined by reliance on overbroad security laws that threaten fundamental rights,” stated Roger Normand, ICJ Asia-Pacific Director. “At the heart of this case is whether the Government of Sri Lanka will abide by the rule ‘of’ law or choose to rule ‘by’ law through unjust measures exemplified in the PTA and Emergency Regulations 2006.”

During the brutal decades-long war, the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam practiced violent suppression of dissent. To effect genuine national reconciliation, the ICJ calls on the Government to reverse the attitudes of distrust between communities by relying on rule of law to uphold basic freedoms on an equal basis for all citizens, rather than using emergency laws to cast a wider anti-terrorism net.

-11 September 2009

White handkerchief marks protest against forcible cremation by the government of Sri Lanka

Sri Lankan civil society is silently but strongly marking their protest against the government's inhuman  forcible  cremation of a 20-da...