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IFJ urges govt. to expedite investigation into attack on journalist’s house

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The residence of prominent television journalist, Chamuditha Samarawickrema, was attacked by four unidentified assailants in the Piliyandala district of Colombo on February 14. The International Federation of the Journalists (IFJ) and its Sri Lanka affiliates, the Federation of Media Employee’s Trade Unions (FMETU), the Free Media Movement (FMM), and the Sri Lanka Working Journalists Association (SLWJA), urge the Sri Lankan authorities to expedite their investigation and bring justice to the perpetrators.

The assailants reportedly stormed the Cambridge Court housing complex, where Samarawickrema and his family were staying, at around 2:00 am and began throwing stones and feces at the house, damaging several windows.

CCTV footage showed the assailants arriving in a white car and threatening the security guard on duty by pointing a gun at his head. The suspects, who concealed their identities by wearing helmets and facemasks, were also seen carrying several items while entering the home, including a bag and a cardboard box.

According to police, Samarawickrema, who has been known to criticise the ruling Rajapaksa government, was “shaken but unhurt” after the raid. The journalist, affiliated with Hiru TV and who also runs an interview programme, ‘Truth with Chamuditha’, has previously aired episodes investigating government corruption, the Rajapaksa family, and the Sri Lankan police.

An investigation into the attack was launched by police on February 15, and a court ordered security to be given to Samarawickrema following the incident.

This is not the first time Samarawickrema has been targeted. He has been vocal about receiving several phone call threats and in 2021 claimed that his life was under serious threat.

FMETU’s General Secretary, Dharmasiri Lankapeli, said: “It is no secret to the people that there were powerful political hands behind all these incidents. The attack on journalist Chamuditha Samarawickrema can be suspected of being a similar act. Therefore, the FMETU strongly urges the government and the authorities to conduct a thorough investigation into the attack and reveal to the country the real thugs behind the attack.”

FMM Convener, Lasantha De Silva, said: “This attack underscores the dangerous environment in which journalists have been working in Sri Lanka in recent decades. Therefore, we urge serious attention of the government on journalist’s safety.”

SLWJA Secretary, Frank De Zoysa, said: “If there was an issue regarding Chamuditha Samarawickrama’s use of media, it should have been reported to the relevant authorities in accordance with the law of the country. SLWJA strongly condemns such arbitrary attacks on journalists and urges the government to investigate the case and punish the guilty.”

The IFJ said: “The attack on Chamuditha Samarawickrema’s residence is yet another deliberate attempt to stifle press freedom in Sri Lanka. The IFJ urges the government and authorities to expedite their investigations, bring the perpetrators to justice and end the culture of impunity for crimes against journalists in Sri Lanka.”



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UNDP: Rs 600 bn tax cut a huge mistake

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Director of the Sustainable Finance Hub of the UNDP Marcos Neto has called the decision to do away with a range of taxes here a fundamental mistake committed by Sri Lanka.The comment was made at the Parliament complex during an interactive dialogue on ‘Revenue Generation as a Pathway to Sri Lanka’s Economic Recovery’ on Tuesday (09). It was organised on a request by Anura Priyadarshana Yapa, former Chairman of the Committee on Public Finance to the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP).

The Opposition as well as several other parties alleged that the government had lost as much as Rs 600 bn due to the controversial decision to do away with a range of taxes including PAYE, NBT (Nation Building Tax), Withholding tax, Capital Gain tax imposed on the Colombo Stock Exchange, Bank Debit tax and unprecedented reduction of VAT (Value Added Tax). The 15% VAT and the 2% NBT which amounted to 17% imposed on all goods and services were unified and reduced to 8%, effective from the first of December 2019.

The decision was taken at the first Cabinet meeting of the Gotabaya Rajapaksa government on 27 Nov. 2019.Governor of the Central Bank Dr. Nandalal Weerasinghe is on record as having said that the powers that be ignored the IMF warning not to do so and also the immediate need to restructure Sri Lanka’s debt (SF)

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Debate on power tariff hike on 29 Aug.

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Party leaders have decided to debate the electricity tariff hikes in parliament on 29 August.The date was fixed for the debate following a request by the main opposition SJB.The debate will be held from 9.30 am to 4.30 pm on 29 August.

Chief Opposition Whip Kandy District MP Lakshman Kiriella told Parliament on Wednesday (10) that as per the proposed tariff hike the monthly electricity bill of domestic consumers would increase by 75 percent to 125 percent. “This is unbearable. This is like sending the people to an electric chair while they are struggling to make ends meet amidst a massive increase in cost of living.

How does this government expect people would be able to pay such an exorbitant price for electricity? We demand a debate in parliament before this proposed tariff hike is implemented,” Kiriella said.

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British national to be deported

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By Rathindra Kuruwita

The Department of Immigration and Emigration has ordered Kayleigh Fraser, a British national whose passport has been taken into custody after she posted on social media anti-government protests, for violating her visa conditions, to leave the country by 15 August. The Department has already cancelled her visa.

Earlier this month Immigration and Emigration officials visited Fraser at her home and took her passport into custody. The Department said Fraser had been in Sri Lanka for medical reasons since 2019. She had returned home several times, it said.

The Immigration and Emigration officers told her to visit them within the next seven days.Fraser on 02 August said that a group of immigration officers had visited her and asked for her travel document. She said that officials told her that they would return her passport when she visited the Department of Immigration and Emigration.

Fraser added that she had received an anonymous call asking her to leave Sri Lanka as soon as possible before facing ‘big problems.’ Immigration officials visited her house a few days after the call.

Fraser has shared a number of photographs and videos from the ‘Gota Go Gama’ site. Human Rights groups and activists have accused the Sri Lankan government of using Emergency regulations to harass and arbitrarily detain activists seeking political reform and accountability for the country’s economic crisis.

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