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JVP leader says Prez has no powers to muzzle media



… recalls attacks on press freedom and journalists

by Saman Indrajith

President Gotabaya Rajapaksa had issued a veiled threat to media freedom, on Saturday, when he said he knew how to teach lessons to media critical of him, JVP leader MP Anura Kumara Dissanayake said yesterday.

Addressing the media at the JVP headquarters in Pelawatte, Dissanayake said that the President’s statement was a threat to what remained of media freedom in Sri Lanka. “The president in his statement says that he did not exert any influence on media during his 14 months in office as if he had that power but did not use them. The President should first understand that he has no such powers to influence or intimidate media institutes.

“Secondly, the President says that he has given media freedom. We like to remind the President that media freedom is not a licence that should be obtained from him. It is not a privilege that he grants to the media. Media freedom is the right of journalists and people of the country to know the truth. That is a right recognised by the Constitution. People and journalists enjoy that right thanks to struggles the progressive forces of the past waged to win and maintain those rights. The worst is the threat by the President that he knew how to teach lessons to media and he was ready to do so. We cannot comprehend his mind-set when he issues such threats.”

Dissanayake said that the recent past of this country had witnessed many such lessons taught to media and journalists by various rulers from time to time. “One of the studios of Sirasa TV was destroyed in a claymore mine attack. The Leader Publication House situated within a high security zone was set on fire twice. Siyatha Media house was bombed and set on fire. Lankaenews office was set on fire. Those were the lessons taught to media institutes. Lasantha Wickrematunge was killed. Prageeth Ekneligoda was abducted. Poddala Jayantha was abducted, assaulted and his head shaven before being dumped on the roadside. Keith Noyahr, Upali Tennakoon were beaten. Those were the lessons taught to the journalists.

“The President should understand that times have changed. The journalists and media institutes have learned from their past experiences. If the President realises that truth, he will not make such statements. People know that there are media institutes that unashamedly toe the government line. Those are the ones that prominently publish and broadcast the snake story of the Kelaniya temple and promoted the Dhammika Peniya. The President can support his crony media but he has to respect the media culture in the country.”

JVP Central Committee Member Samantha Vidyaratne also addressed the press.

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AG says no legal impediment to Bathiudeen attending Parliament



Public Security Minister: Those detained under PTA shouldn’t be allowed in

By Shamindra Ferdinando

Attorney General Dappula de Livera, PC, says there is no legal impediment to Opposition MP Rishad Bathiudeen attending Parliament while being detained in terms of the Prevention of Terrorism Act (PTA).

The CID arrested the leader of the All Ceylon Makkal Congress (ACMC) in the early hours of April 24 for aiding and abetting the 2019 Easter Sunday suicide bombers.

Multiple blasts in different locations killed 270 people and wounded about 500.

The AG set the record straight in the wake of the CID failing to arrange for MP Bathiudeen to attend Parliament on May 4 and 5.

The Island learns that Police Headquarters recently consulted the AG as regards the legality of the Vanni District SJB MP attending parliamentary sessions and the SJB, on his behalf, requested the Speaker to facilitate the arrangements.

The ACMC contested the last general election on the SJB ticket. Its parliamentary group comprises four, including Bathiudeen.

The police sought the AG’s advice after having received a missive from Serjeant at arms Narendra Fernando in that regard. The AG has advised the police that MP Bathiudeen could attend parliamentary sessions.

However, Public Security Minister Rear Admiral Sarath Weerasekera has advised the police against the ACMC leader attending Parliament. The Minister has issued instructions in this regard having requested the Speaker Mahinda Yapa Abeywardena to prevent those detained under the PTA from attending parliament.

MP Bathiudeen has been detained for a period of 90 days pending investigations. His brother Riyajj too has been detained under PTA for 90 days.

 Minister Weerasekera, in Parliament yesterday (5) defended his decision to prevent MP Bathiudeen from attending parliament. Dismissing concerns raised by SJB MP Field Marshal Sarath Fonseka and TNA MP M.A. Sumanthiran about the ACMC leader being deprived of his right to attend parliament sessions, Minister Weerasekera emphasized that he was responsible for public security.

Minister Weerasekera reminded Speaker Abeywardena that he had requested him not to allow anyone detained under PTA to attend parliament pending conclusion of investigations.

Weerasekera said that the CID wouldn’t have detained the MP concerned without valid reasons.

Perhaps, Field Marshal Fonseka had no concerns for public security, the former Navy Chief of Staff said, emphasising that the government wouldn’t conduct investigations the way the former Army Commander and the TNA spokesman desired.

Bathiudeen earlier served in the Cabinets of President Mahinda Rajapaksa (2010-2014) and President Maithripala Sirisena (2015-2019). The ACMC switched its allegiance to SJB at the 2020 August parliamentary election after having backed Sajith Premadasa’s candidature at the 2019 presidential.

Bathiudeens’ lawyer Rushdhie Habeeb told The Island that the decision to prevent MP Bathiudeen from attending parliament was political. Habeeb said that the issue at hand would be raised vigorously, both here and abroad, and a media briefing would be called soon to explain the situation.

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MONLAR draws attention to ticking COVID time bomb in plantations



By Rathindra Kuruwita

A large number of estate workers had been diagnosed with COVID-19, and given the generally congested living environment and lack of health facilities on plantations, the entire estate sector was a ticking time bomb, Moderator of the Movement for Land and Agricultural Reform (MONLAR) Chinthaka Rajapakshe said yesterday.

Rajapakshe told The Island  that the latest outbreak on the estates had occurred after the return of some persons from Colombo during the Sinhala and Tamil New Year.

“We had warned that this would happen. People kept on returning home although the preparedness of the plantation economy to face a COVID-19 outbreak was non-existent.”

 “If one person gets it, the entire line will get it, and therefore urgent steps should be taken to minimise COVID-19 spread,” Rajapakshe said, adding that such an eventuality would not only destroy lives but also cripple the plantation sector, causing an enormous loss to the state coffers.



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Clandestine dealings of fishers will precipitate spread of deadly Indian variant here – Expert



By Rathindra Kuruwita

There was a risk of the deadly Indian COVID-19 variant spreading to Sri Lanka as well, Chief Epidemiologist of the Ministry of Health, Dr. Sudath Samaraweera told the media yesterday in Colombo.

Dr. Samaraweera said that Sri Lankan fishermen continued to interact with their Indian counterparts in mid-sea and therefore it was only a matter of time before the Indian variant entered Sri Lanka.

“We must be extremely vigilant. We have seen the devastation caused by this variant in India. These mid-sea interactions by the fishing community must be stopped.”

Dr. Samaraweera added that although the Dambulla Economic Centre

had been reopened for business yesterday morning, health officials had been compelled to close five shops as their owners violated the Covid-19 protocol.    

“This is a commercial hub where people from all parts of the country converge. So, if there are COVID-19 cases here, then it will spread across the country. Therefore, people have to act carefully and responsibly.”

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