Tissainayagam, PTA, and Humanitarian Crisis in Vanni

[TamilNet, Friday, 05 September 2008, 11:45 GMT]
The action taken by the Sri Lankan Government to indict Tissainayagam, for stating the truth and exercising the right of fair comment he enjoys as a journalist, make it impossible for any dissent from the governments point of view to be published by the press in Sri Lanka. Tissainayagam is the first journalist to be caught up under the Draconian twins, the Prevention of Terrorism Act No:48 of 1979 (PTA) as amended, and the Emergency Regulations (EMR).

Tissainayagam, Tamil journalist in jail
Ironically, the regime of one time champion of the southern youths has used the PTA, promulgated as a Temporary Provisions Act with the stated objective of putting down the rebellion by the youths in the South in the seventies by JR Jeyawardene, to stifle journalists.
PTA and EMR make it possible for the Sri Lankan armed forces to to arrest people under ‘suspicion’ and enables the Police to keep these ‘suspects’ under detention for a long time. There is no right to bail under these acts. Only recourse is the Fundamental Rights Application under article 126 of the Constitution.
When a person is arrested under ‘suspicion’, it should be reasonable suspicion, and when the arrest is based on information, then that information should be credible. Courts have held on many occasions that the Police should not arrest a person and then look for evidence to justify the arrest.
However, Sri Lanka’s many special laws allow as admissible evidence ‘confession’ by a suspect, paving the way for Police to obtain the “confession” by torturing suspects.
Tissainayagam has gone to the Terrorist Investigation Department (TID) of the Police in Colombo looking for information regarding the arrst of V.Jasikaran Vadivel Valarmathy, the owner of E-Quality Printers and a former journalist attached to a Batticaloa based Tamil Newspaper ‘Thinakkathir’, and his wife, when he was arrested.
Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) has condemned Tissainayagam’s long detention and harsh charges for publishing a Magazine.
Free Media Movement (FMM) of Sri Lanka said that Tissainayagam’s arrest and indictment undermines Universal principles of procedural justice and confers inordinate powers in the hands of executive; it also directly undercuts the freedom of expression and that of the media by allowing content control by the executive on pain of penal sanction.
The indictment, amongst other matters refers to,
the July,2006 editorial of the North Eastern Monthly magazine, under the heading “Providing security to Tamils now will define northeastern politics the future” “it is fairly obvious that the government is not going to offer them any protection. In fact it is the state security forces that are the main perpetrators of the killings,” and
the November,2006 North Eastern Monthly, under the heading , “with no military options government buys time by offering watered down devolution” “such offensive against As this story is being written, Vaharai is being subject to intense shelling and aerial bombardment.”
In fact these words of Tissanayagam while being apt in describing the conditions that prevailed during the forced displacement of Tamils in the East including Vaharai in violation of the provisions of CFA are almost prophetic of what is happening in Vanni now. The only difference is that the IDPs from sampoor, chenaiyoor, Eechilampattai,verukal, Vaharai, kathiraveli, and other areas (a major part of which has now been declared as a high security zone by a Government Gazette notification by the President, and where in sampoor a highly pollutant coal power generation plant is to be built) were driven into the Government controlled areas through aerial bombing, shelling, multi barrel artillery attack and Naval shooting of coastal areas, whereas now, Tamil people due to the military operation have voluntarily chosen to go into the heartland of the LTTE liberated areas of Kilinochchi and Mullaitivu from Mannar, Madhu, Vavuniya North, Vaikulam, Vannerikulam, Akkarayankulam, Manalsaru, Oddusuddan and Malavi.
Presently about 130,000 IDPs are living in 31 schools in and around Kilinochchi and another 50,000 are living under trees and bushes and in the open. They are being subjected to vicious aerial bombardment by the Sri Lankan Air Forces. The government which has the duty to protect its citizens have turned to be their killers.
The IDPs are not ready to go back to the Government controlled areas fearing abduction, torture, and extra judicial killings by military and the para-militaries working with them.
The action taken by the Government to indict Tissanayagam for stating the truth and the right of fair comment he enjoys as a journalist makes it impossible for any dissent from the government’s point of view to be published by the press in Sri Lanka.
It is also another way of intimidating the journalists in addition to the physical violence perpetrated on them by thugs and a member of the cabinet who leads the thugs.
Following is the full text of the indictment, which TamilNet obtained through the legal sources in Colombo:
The Indictment
This complaint states that in Colombo, which is within the jurisdiction of this court during the period between 1st June 2006 and 1st June 2007, the accused together with unknown persons committed an offence or abetted the commission of an offence or entered into a common intention with a prior understanding to abet the commission of an offence whether planned or unplanned, by words either spoken or intended to be read or by signs or by visible representations or otherwise, which intends to cause the commission of acts of violence or racial or communal disharmony and brings the Government into disrepute, through the printing or distribution of the publication North Eastern Monthly magazine or by agreeing to commit or abet the commission of the offence of acting to promote that organization, and that since the aforesaid offence has been committed as a result of the said conspiracy, an offence which is a punishable under section 2(2)(ii) read with section 2(1)(h) of the Prevention of Terrorism (Temporary Provisions) Act no. 48 of 1979 as amended by Act No. 10 of 1982 and Act No. 22 of 1988 which is to be read with section 113 (a) and section 102 the penal code has been committed.
In the above time, place and circumstances, an offence has been committed by words either spoken or intended to be read or by signs or by visible representations or otherwise, which intends to cause the commission of acts of violence or racial or communal disharmony and brings the Government into disrepute, through the printing or distribution of the publication North Eastern Monthly Magazine or by acting to promote that organization, through the publishing of its contents seen in the document extract marked “X” and annexed hereto, which is a punishable offence under section 2(2)(ii) read with section 2(1)(h) of the of the Prevention of Terrorism (Temporary Provisions) Act no. 48 of 1979 as amended by Act No. 10 of 1982 and Act No. 22 of 1988 which is to be read with section 113 (a) and section 102 the penal code.
In the above time, place and circumstances, an offence has been committed by contributing or collecting or obtaining information relating to or donating funds for the purpose of terrorism through the collection of funds from Non Governmental Organisations for the North Eastern Monthly magazine, which is an offence punishable under Regulation 6 (c) of the Emergency (Prevention and Prohibition of Terrorism and Specified Terrorist Activities) Regulations No. 07 of 2003 published on 6th December 2006 in Gazette Extraordinary No. 1474/3 of the Democratic Socialist Republic of Sri Lanka.
Annexure X
By stating in the July 2006 the editorial of the North Eastern Monthly Magazine under the heading “Providing security to Tamils now will define northeastern politics of the future” stating, “it is fairly obvious that the government is not going to offer them any protection. In fact it is the state security forces that are the main perpetrator of the killings.”
By stating that in the November 2006 North East Monthly, under the heading “With no military options Govt. buys time by offering watereddown devolution” he states, “Such offensives against the civilians are accompanied by attempts to starve the population by refusing them food as well as medicines and fuel, with the hope of driving out the people of Vaharai and depopulating it. As this story is being written Vaharai is being subject to intense shelling and aerial bombardment.”

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