Tissa faces daily threats, fears loss of eyesight

 (Sunday Times 16th Nov)
When the case of senior journalist J. S. Tissainayagam who has been detained for more than eight months was taken up last Friday in the Colombo High Court, the Judicial Medical Officer summoned to give evidence in the case was not present.

Summons was re-issued on the JMO to be present when the case is next taken up on Tuesday.
Earlier in the week the testimony of Mr. Tissainayagam was concluded. Mr. Tissainayagam testified that he had a serious eye condition. He said that he had degenerative myopia from the age of seven and a serious accident when he was 18 led him to have detached retina in both eyes.

He said after the operation he had only about 50% vision in both eyes and that doctors had advised him to be very careful that any sudden movement or fall or blow to the head could make the condition recur and he could lose his eyesight. Mr. Tissainayagam said had informed the Terrorist Investigation Division (TID) officers about his eye condition very early on in his detention.

He said, however, TID officers had threatened him saying he would be beaten up like the other detainees and therefore he was very afraid that he would go blind if the TID officers did beat him. He said he was threatened on a daily basis.

In cross-examination, State Counsel produced several documents and statements that Mr. Tissainayagam was said to have signed on March 7, the day he was detained by the TID. Mr. Tissainayagam denied that it was his signature on the documents clearly stating that he signed in the English language and therefore the signature on the documents could not be his.

State Counsel also questioned him as to whether he had visited the Wanni with the permission of the Government. Mr. Tissainayagam answered in the affirmative that he had visited the Wanni as a journalist. The State also questioned him on articles he had written in November 2007 after LTTE political head S. P. Thamilselvan’s death and asked him to read out portions of the article. Mr. Tissainayagam did read out his article and he said he stood by it and added as a journalist he had expressed his views.

Mr. Tissainayagam also said that on May 9 after he had seen his colleague Jasikaran being tortured, he had been told the same would happen to him. That was why he wrote down what was dictated to him by a TID officer, he said.

The prosecution’s position was that Mr. Tissainayagam was lying on this point. However when the defence attempted to mark the JMO’s report detailing Jasikaran’s torture on May 9 the prosecution objected and the objection was sustained. Therefore the defence asked for the JMO who had given the report to be called as a witness. The prosecution then said that it too would be calling other JMOs who had seen Jasikaran.

The trial will resume on Tuesday. Counsel Anil Silva with M.A. Sumanthiran, Nalin Ladduwahetty and Ms. Charmaine Gunaratne appeared for journalist Tissainayagam. State Counsel Sudarshana de Silva with Miss Samalka Samarasinghe appeared for the TID.

Meanwhile, the International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) had launched a campaign in September to end Mr. Tissainayagam’s detention as it said the case was a trial of the freedom of expression. As a part of that campaign they had produced a video depicting Mr. Tissainayagam going to the Magistrate’s Court and the show of solidarity witnessed outside the Magistrate’s Courts. However two weeks ago the video clip on UTube had been blocked by unknown persons.