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‘Journalists are now being arrested after forcibly entering their homes’ – Karu Jayasuriya

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‘We see a different media culture’

In recent times, we see a different media culture. Instead of attacking them, journalists are now being arrested after forcibly entering their homes. Their computers are taken away and they are harassed. They are forced to make false statements. Some fabricate blatant lies to ensure the win of their favored politicians, says Karu Jayasuriya, Chairman of the National Movement for Social Justice (NMSJ).

“Character assassination has become common. They create racial and religious divisions. Religion has been made a commodity. As a result, we, as a country, are facing an unprecedented challenge. It is the next generation that will have to face the repercussions”, the former Speaker said at an event to commemorate journalists who laid down their lives for media freedom.

“Journalists will face many challenges in the future to protect media freedom. I will remain with you and continue to support you on that journey”, he stressed.

“Today, we are fulfilling a national duty. The eminent journalists we remember today have sacrificed their lives for us. According to reports, at least 117 journalists have been killed or have disappeared since 1981. An innumerable number have been subjected to great repression. Remembering these incidents causes us great mental anguish. Is it possible that such cruel and inhuman acts could take place in a civilized country?”, he asked.

“Today, you and I are gathered here to pay our respects to those great people. Or in other words to pay off our debts we owe them. The last such commemoration ceremony was held five years ago in 2015.The then convener of the Free Media Movement, Sunil Jayasekara is here today. The late Saman Wagaarachchi also greatly supported this endeavour”, Jayasuriya continued.

The National Movement for Social Justice would like to thank the team of journalists who proposed and organized this event. They worked hard and made many sacrifices for it. I would also like to thank the Journalists’ Association for a Just Society for its contribution towards event. Convener Priyantha Srilal and his team made many commitments and worked hard to make it a reality, he said.

He further said: “We are well aware of the plight of our journalists in the past. We recall how we sprung into action when journalists were shot at, when their homes and offices were bombed and when they were brutally assaulted. We have met some of the senior journalists here at some of those places. We are glad to see them here again. Today, we were able to meet Dharmasiri Bandaranaike and several members of the group who were hospitalized after being assaulted at Kumbukgete, Kurunegala and artistes who came under severe repression in Nittambuwa. They shed blood for a free and clean media.

“Journalism is a dignified service. It is the duty of an impartial journalist to provide truthful information to the public. But today journalists have to submit to the orders of certain newspaper chiefs. They are forced to fabricate stories or to create lies out of the truth.

“They are being used to assassinate the characters of certain individuals and to magnify the characters of others. This is the media culture of some of our institutions. Recently, we saw new newspapers launched. We congratulate all those institutions. I wish you the strength to move forward while defending the noble ethics of the media.

“Despite all this, it is fortunate that still there are respectable journalists in our country who carry out their media mission in accordance with their conscience. We salute them. We must change this hypocritical culture. It is the duty of those here to lead that fight. Knowing true and correct information is a basic human right. We did not win these rights easily. We don’t know to what extent that right will be protected under the 20th Amendment. But we will continue to stand for these rights.

“Finally I wish to make one important explanation before you. We continue to move forward in accordance with the vision put forward by Ven. Sobhitha Thera for justice, truth and fairness. We are an independent, impartial civil society organization. We do not have an ambition to create kings, presidents or prime ministers. But we have to protect the fundamental rights of the people of this country, which were destroyed by the 20th Amendment. It is that dangerous

“We kindly ask the authorities to not deprive the people of their right as we already see concerning signs. We will stand up and fully commit ourselves to protect these rights for our future generation”.



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DG Information ignorant of basic election laws and regulations: ECSL

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by PRIYAN DE SILVA

The Election Commission (EC) has expressed its disappointment at controversial statements made by some public officials about elections. It says some top government official, including the Director General of Government Information, are not familiar with the basic election laws and regulations laid down in the Constitution.

The EC says it may be due to his ignorance that the Director General of Government Information has issued the Special News Release, on 29 January, claiming that ‘the gazette notification, with the signatures of the Chairman, and other members of the Election Commission, required for the commencement of the Local Government Election process, has not yet been sent to the Government Press for printing’. The EC has said such notices have to be signed and sent by the relevant Returning Officers in accordance with section 38 of the Local Authorities Election (Amendment Act) No 16 of 2017, and not by the members of the EC.

The EC has confirmed that the notices from the Returning Officers were sent to the Government Press on Monday (30).

The EC’s Media release also points out that the DGI may be unaware that Article 104GG of the Constitution states that if any public official refuses or fails without a reasonable cause to comply with the Commission he or she has committed an offence.

Article 104GG of the Constitution says: (1) Any public officer, any employee of any public corporation, business or other undertaking vested in the Government under any other written law and any company registered or deemed to be registered under the Companies Act, No. 7 of 2007, in which the Government or any public corporation or local authority holds fifty percent or more of the shares of that company, who – (a) refuses or fails without a reasonable cause to cooperate with the Commission, to secure the enforcement of any law relating to the holding of an election or the conduct of a Referendum; or (b) fails without a reasonable cause to comply with any directions or guidelines issued by the Commission under sub-paragraph (a) of paragraph (4) or sub-paragraph (a) of paragraph (5), respectively, of Article 104B, shall be guilty of an offense and shall on conviction be liable to a fine not exceeding one hundred thousand rupees or to imprisonment for a term not exceeding three years or to both such fine and imprisonment.”

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AKD says no improvement at Sapugaskanda oil refinery since it went into production in 1969

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The capacity of the Sapugaskanda Oil Refinery (SOR) has not increased since it was established in 1969, National People’s Power (NPP) leader Anura Kumara Dissanayake says.

Speaking at a public rally recently he that in 1969, the SOR used the most advanced technology available at the time.

“CPC started construction in 1968 and SOR started operations, refining oil, on August 5th, 1969. During that time, the CPC could refine 50,000 MT of crude oil. 55 years later, the capacity remains the same. In 1969, the CPC started with the most advanced technology available at the time. Technology has improved now. We are still refining oil with 1969 technology,” he said.

Dissanayake said that Sri Lanka built a fertiliser factory to use the byproducts of the refinery and, in 1982, a newspaper reported that 5000 MT of urea, produced by that factory, was exported to Pakistan. Today, that factory is closed.

“The CPC also had a nylon factory, as a subsidiary. We built our own nylon thread fish nets. By-products of the refinery were used as pesticides and insecticides for our pineapple and flower production. Those factories were closed, too. We had a candle industry from the by-products, we produced lubricant oil. It was sold to American Caltex. Refinery produced fuel for airplanes. It has the capacity to sell USD 1.4 million worth airplane fuel per day. We can buy crude oil, refine, and sell to ships. These are opportunities we must use to earn foreign currency. Recently this section of the CPC was privatized,” he said.

The ruling class has failed to secure even the most important assets, he said. Agriculture, land, gems, ilmenite, our natural resources, so will these rulers protect what is left, he asked.

“They have absolutely no plan to build this country. Selling our resources, closing down factories and selling valuable machinery is what they know. Every government has taken part in the destruction of the refinery. This is why we need a change in the economy. We need to transform our economy. Only NPP can do that,” he said.

The NPP leader said that the existing constitution concentrates too much power in the hands of the executive president. Sri Lanka has had this executive presidential system for 40 years and executive power was used against the people, repressing them.

“Our economy was destroyed. It has done no good to this country. One man cannot develop the country. Individuals have capacities and limitations. We need to unite our capabilities to govern this country. It’s a collective effort and the NPP is the only party to undertake it. That’s the point of difference. There are talented people from all fields like history, economy, mathematics, law and so on. There are lawyers, university academics and professionals. The government has to unite these capacities and talents to bring optimum results for the country. NPP will do that. For that we have to abolish executive presidency and rewrite the constitution vesting more powers in the Parliament. We will bring about this change,” he said.

Dissanayake said an NPP administration will limit the number of Ministers to 18. He added that crossovers have distorted the democratic system and corrupted the political culture.

“People vote for them in one party but for money and positions they change political allegiance. This has become a public nuisance. Some MPs demand ransom to stay in the party. We will add a provision to the Constitution to ban crossing over,” he said.

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JVP: Where are President’s influential foreign friends?

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By Rathindra Kuruwita 

President Ranil Wickremesinghe, who assumed duties, claiming that he had very influential friends overseas, now claims he can hardly afford to pay government servants, National People’s Power (NPP) MP Vijitha Herath says.

“If anything, things are worse than before. The government is afraid of the people and is trying to postpone elections,” Herath said, adding that the March 09 local council election would mark the beginning of the end for the Ranil-Rajapaksa administration.

Herath said so addressing an NPP election rally recently.

 “They will no longer be able to pretend that the people are with them. Not that they have any legitimacy, locally or internationally, but the level of their unpopularity will be seen on 10 March,, when the poll results are announced” he said.

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