Democracy Continues, Sri Lanka Style...
Free Media Movement calls for Immediate
Complaint of abuse and threats by Sri Lanka President Rajapakse
13 January 2005
"The seriousness of a mere
allegation that the President has allegedly used abusive and
threatening language against a senior Editor sends shock
waves in the media community and serves as a sombre reminder
of the insecure and dangerous situation that journalists in
Sri Lanka have to face. The FMM strongly defends the right
to criticise stories published by media provided all such
criticisms are made within a democratic framework. It
behoves those holding the highest offices in Sri Lanka to
set an example by adhering to accepted democratic norms and
principles and help build a progressive media culture in Sri
Lanka.. we strongly regret the inability to obtain an
official response to this allegation from the President's
Office to date, even though requests were made to this
Text of FMM Press Release, 13
Excerpts from Complaint
by Editor Sunday Leader to Inspector General of Police, 11
Text of FMM Press Release, 13
FMM expresses serious concern regarding the complaint made by the
Editor of the Sunday Leader newspaper Mr. Lasantha Wikramatunge to
the Inspector General of Police alleging that President Mahinda
Rajapaksa threatened him with abusive language over the telephone.
Mr. Wikramatunge sent his letter of complaint to the Inspector
General of Police on 11.01.2006 and copied it to FMM as well.
According to Mr. Wikramatunga's complaint the President used abusive
and threatening language on the grounds that the Sunday Leader
newspaper mentioned his wife.
FMM unreservedly condemns such behavior of the President if Mr.
Wickramatunge’s allegations are verified to be true. Furthermore, we
strongly regret the inability to obtain an official response to this
allegation from the President's Office to date, even though requests
were made to this effect.
The FMM considers any threat from any source in response to a story
published by media as a serious threat to the inviolable freedom of
The seriousness of a mere allegation that the President has
allegedly used abusive and threatening language against a senior
Editor sends shock waves in the media community and serves as a
sombre reminder of the insecure and dangerous situation that
journalists in Sri Lanka have to face.
The FMM strongly defends the right to criticise stories published by
media provided all such criticisms are made within a democratic
framework. It behoves those holding the highest offices in Sri Lanka
to set an example by adhering to accepted democratic norms and
principles and help build a progressive media culture in Sri Lanka.
The allegations made by Mr. Wickramatunge demand immediate
investigation. The FMM strongly recommends an urgent and impartial
inquiry into this matter in the hope that such an investigative
process will restore public confidence in high political office and
media freedoms in Sri Lanka.
Free Media Movement
Excerpts from Complaint by Editor, Sunday
Leader to the Inspector General of Police, 11 January 2006
Mr Chandra Fernando,
Inspector General of Police
Police Headquarters Colombo OT
At 11. 13 a.m. today I received a call on my mobile phone from
telephone number 239 2047. Speaking in Sinhala, the operator
told me that she had a call for me from His Excellency, The
President. The number is registered on my mobile phone, a certified
copy of which can be furnished if necessary. A man then spoke to me
in English, and asked me to hold the line as His Excellency the
President wished to speak to me. Shortly thereafter, President
Mahinda Rajapakse came on the line. I recognized his voice because
he has on several occasions spoken with me by telephone, including
after his election as President. I have known President Rajapakse
and associated with him for more than 20 years prior to that and am
well acquainted with his voice.
I made a contemporaneous note of the conversation, in Sinhala,
which I attach hereto, together with a translation in English.
As you will see from this note, President Rajapakse used foul,
abusive and threatening language unbecoming the high office he
holds. He told me repeatedly, "what have you written about Shiranthi
in the Leader!" However, when I asked him, "What is it you are
referring to? Have you read whatever it is you are referring to?" he
replied with the words, "I know what to do to you. He continued to
mouth vile and defamatory references to my mother and threatened to
destroy me. Wait and see what I am going to do to you." As the
President continued, apparently in a state of hysteria, I told him,
not to threaten me and that I will not give into such threats. I
have no choice but to interpret the President's words, however, as a
threat to my life....
I am therefore bringing this matter to your urgent attention and
requesting you to take immediate steps to ensure my security given
the serious nature of the threats made by the President of the
country who is also the Commander-in-Chief of the Security Forces
and Defence Minister. I also request you to investigate this matter
fully and I am willing to furnish you with such information as may
be necessary to facilitate such an inquiry.
I wish to remind you that I consider this a grave threat to my life
especially given that several journalists have been assassinated in
recent years, including Mr Rohana Kumara,
Nimalaranjan and Mr
Dharmaratnam Sivaram. In some of these cases, the murders were
preceded by threats made by leading politicians. ... In the run up
to the presidential election of November 17, 2005, The Sunday Leader
press at Ratmalana was torched. ...
.... I would be grateful if you would kindly arrange therefore
without delay, to provide me with adequate security against this
In the hope that it will result in additional pressure on
President Rajapakse to desist from the criminal course of action he
appears to be contemplating, I am copying this letter to the heads
of foreign missions in Colombo, the Leader of the Opposition and the
Presidents of the Free Media Movement, Transparency International
and Bar Association of Sri Lanka.
Lasantha Wickrematunge, Attorney-at-law,
Editor, The Sunday Leader.