Detained Sunday Times columnist petitions Supreme Court
Says his rights have been violated.
On March 8, around 3 a.m., about five TID officers took him to his residence and searched the premises till 4 a.m. The police officers found a copy of the North Eastern Monthly Magazine which they took with them. Mr. Tissainayagam said he was asked to take some clothes with him before leaving the residence.
The Sunday Times columnist, J. S. Tissainayagam, continues to be detained by the Terrorism Investigation Division (TID) for the 15th consecutive day without any explanation for his arrest. Along with him, B. Jasiharan, a Tamil nationalist writer and owner of a printing press which also housed the office of Mr. Tissainayagam, is also being detained along with his wife.
However, four others arrested along with them were released this week by a magistrate’s courts. Colombo’s Chief Magistrate Nissantha Hapuarachchi released the four persons including three journalists who were working for the recently launched news website operated by Mr. Tissainayagam. They were Kithsiri Wijesinghe, Ranga Lasantha (photographer), Udayanan (visual Editor) and Mr. Kumara a relative of the printing press owner.
On Wednesday the Supreme Court granted leave to proceed when it took up a fundamental rights petition filed by Mr. Tissainayagam. The Bench comprised Justices Asoka de Silva, N.E. Dissanayake and Saleem Marsoof. The respondents are Prasanna De Alwis, OIC Terrorism Investigation Unit, Nandana Munasinghe, Director TID, IGP Victor Perera, Defence Secretary Gotabhaya Rajapaksa and the Attorney General.
Mr. Tissainayagam in his petition states that on or about March 6 around 7 p.m., he received a telephone call from a member of his staff from the office of Outreachsl.com, a website he ran, informing him that police officers had visited and were searching the second floor on which the press belonging to one N. Jasiharan was situated. The press is situated in the building owned by Jasiharan and the Outreachsl office is on the ground floor of the same building.
Mr. Tissainayagam says Police searched the press till about 11.00 p.m. and subsequently Mr. Jasiharan and his wife were taken into custody by the Police officers who claimed to be from the TID. The following day, Mr Tissainayagam received a telephone call from member of his staff at the Outreachsl office informing him that police officers had arrived at office premises with Mr. Jasiharan and were searching the office.
Around 10 am that day, Mr. Tissainayagam informed his wife that he was going directly to the TID as the police officers had left the Outreach office. Since Mr. Jasiharan had been taken into custody, he said he was concerned about him. Mr. Tissainayagam said that when he went to the TID, the police officers questioned him and subsequently arrested him and placed him on detention.
He said that on March 8, around 3 a.m., about five TID officers took him to his residence and searched the premises till 4 a.m. The police officers found a copy of the North Eastern Monthly Magazine which they took with them. Mr. Tissainayagam said he was asked to take some clothes with him before leaving the residence.
Mr. Tissainayagam said that after his wife made several attempts to contact him, she was informed by the TID that she could visit him around 9.30 p.m. the same day. She met him in the presence of TID OIC Prasanna de Alwis. She was permitted to meet him on two subsequent occasions that too in the presence of the OIC.
On March 9, around 8.45 p.m, Mr. Tissainayagam was allowed a short telephone call to his wife. He told his wife that no detention order had been issued. On the same day, a lawyer retained by Mr. Tissainayagam’s wife sought permission via a fax addressed to the OIC to visit Mr. Tissainayagam. However till the filing of this petition, access to an attorney to visit Mr. Tissainayagam had not been granted.
Mr. Tissainayagam said in his petition that he continued to be detained without being informed why he was being detained and therefore his detention had no valid legal basis. He said that his fundamental rights have been violated and that the said conduct/actions and /or inactions of the respondents constitute administrative and executive action and entitles him to invoke the jurisdiction of the Court under Article 17 read with Article 126 of the Constitution.
He also said he has a medical condition known as a “detached retina” and that he is easily disoriented by sudden movements and excessive stress. Under these circumstances, he said that the conduct/actions and/or inaction of the 1st, 2nd and 3rd respondents constitute torture and cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment to him and a violation of his rights guaranteed and protected under the Constitution.
Mr. Tissainayagam also said the conduct of the 1st, 2nd and 3rd respondents amounted to discrimination on the basis of his ethnicity. He said that his arrest without reasonable ground for suspicion and against the due process of law and the manner in which the investigation was being conducted were violation of his rights guaranteed under Article 13 (1) of the Constitution.
Mr. Tissainayagam, a political science graduate with a post-graduate degree in International Relations, started his career at Wijeya Newspapers Ltd as journalist for The Sunday Times and the Daily Mirror. He has been working as a columnist for The Sunday Times since 2007. In May 2007, he developed a website “Outreach” with financial support from largely a German-based organization called Facilitating Local Initiatives for Conflict Transformation (FLICT).
Mr.Tissainayagam pointed out in his petition that he had no criminal record or convictions or pending criminal cases. President’s Counsel Romesh de Silva with J.C. Weliamuna and M.A. Sumanthiran instructed by Lilanthi de Silva appeared for Mr.Tissainayagam. The petition was listed to be taken up in the Supreme Court again on March 27.
– The Sunday Times