‘Lanka’ editor claims his release a mystery

‘Lanka’ editor claims his release a mystery


The Editor of the Sinhalese tabloid ‘Lanka’ yesterday said there was some mystery behind his arrest and subsequent release. Chandana Sirimalwatte said he was taken away stating that he would be sent back after recording a statement but later was informed that he had been arrested following a detention order.

Mr. Sirimalwatte told a media conference that he was told by the CID officers that he was lucky to survive as his fate would have been the same as Lanka E news journalist Prageeth Ekneligoda who had gone missing. However he said the CID officers were also not aware of the fate of Ekneligoda.

Explaining his ordeal Mr. Sirimalwatte said he received a phone call from the CID on January 28 asking him to come to give a statement on the following day but did not give him a time. The CID has inquired from him as to why he did not come on January 29 to which he had responded saying he was not given a time. However the CID officers had later come to the ‘Lanka’ office and had taken him away stating that he would be sent back after recording a statement. But later he had been informed that he has been arrested following a detention order from the Ministry of Defence.

Mr. Sirimalwatte said he was asked whether the Lanka newspaper had any personal dispute with the top brass of the Government.

“I responded saying we had no personal dispute with Government officials but explained that people have the right to know what Government officials are doing as they are being paid from funds collected from the citizens of the country in the form of taxes. They questioned me on several news items published in the Lanka newspaper,” he said.

Mr. Sirimalwatte said he had been asked to provide some information with regard to the assets of the Lanka Newspaper and when he said he was not aware of anything on the matter the CID had gathered information from the relevant banks. The CID officers had also asked him whether the Lanka newspaper had connections with any anti- government organization which he had denied.

The Lanka Editor said there was some confusion regarding his release as he was arrested on a detention order of the Ministry of Defence while he was released by the magistrate. He said the message sent to the IGP by the President asking him to see that he is given bail is also confusing. However he claimed he was not given bail but simply released suddenly. He said international pressure may have forced the Government to release him.

“I have referred the matter to my lawyers and they will work towards filing a fundamental rights violation case,” he added.

Lanka deputy features editor Asanka Sayakkara said the threats and intimidation which the newspaper had faced was far from over. He alleged that the distribution of the newspaper had been hampered by threatening the distribution agents while owners of the printing presses have also come under threat.

/ English

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