By Malinda Seneviratne –
A few years ago, a man called Poddala Jayantha was abducted. He was found not too long after that. His abductors had assaulted him and caused him grievous harm. A journalist and an advocate for media freedom, Poddala Jayantha was also a man with a poor track record when it comes to accountability, integrity and honesty. This is evident in ‘the lack of clarity’ in well documented transactions associated with media advocacy organizations.
Poddala Jayantha, however, has never been charged with wrongdoing by those who ought to have. He is a citizen and as such should not have been harmed in any way. Moreover, having been harmed, the authorities ought to have found his abductors and assailants. This has not happened.
Minister Mervyn Silva has now openly stated that he was responsible for Poddala Jayantha leaving the country. Now no one knows where Poddala Jayantha is, but it is clear that he could make a case that his life was in danger.
No comment on any comment on Poddala Jayantha including threats on his person and braggadocio regarding attacking him or causing him to flee the country would be complete without mention of who Poddala Jayantha is.
While Jayantha’s shady activities in the media rights circus has been well documented, it was the website www.colombotelegraph.com that first unearthed a wikileaks cable from the US Embassy in Sri Lanka that referred to him and his role in espionage activities. [see ‘Poddala Jayantha has been a key contact for the Embassy: https://www.colombotelegraph.com/index.php/wikileaks-poaddala-jayantha-has-been-a-key-contact-for-the-embassy-he-was-attacked-and-seeking-assistance/ ]
It was not a ‘one-off’ thing. The cable states, ‘Poddala is well-known to the Embassy and has been a key contact for PAS for years (emphasis mine)’. The cable also mentioned statements made by the then Inspector General of Police (IGP) Jayantha Wickramaratne and the then Army Commander, Lt. Gen Sarath Fonseka. There had been mention of ‘journalists’ who had been in cahoots with the LTTE and the ITN had referring to these comments had shown footage of media rights demonstrations, zooming in on some faces, including Jayantha’s. Not surprisingly, Jayantha had told the US Embassy that he feared for his life. Ironically, the USA was later to support Fonseka in his bid to become President.
Those who double up as spies in their spare time and do very little writing cannot be called journalists. When such people talk of human rights and media rights, it’s funny. When you spy for the world’s greatest and most pernicious violator of human rights, who also happens to be the biggest perpetrator of war crimes, crimes against humanity and systematic torture, you are not really making a point. You stand on political quicksand and end up with sand in face and mouth or worse. This, and not ‘repression’ or ‘censorship’ is the main reason why people like Jayantha and Sunanda Deshapriya are treated with contempt in media circles in Sri Lanka. Poddala Jayantha was clearly a cheap-purchase with very little integrity. Those who showcase him in media rights advocacy forum really don’t do themselves any favours.
Nothing of the above warrants any extra judicial actions on Poddala Jayantha though [the following YATV clip contains some comments I made regarding the attack on Poddala Jayantha, although the producers left out a lot of what I said, which included some of the observations made above:http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mx-NLb7gVC8]. So let’s return to Mervyn Silva, his threats and braggadocio.
Back to Silva. Silva’s reference to Jayantha was said in the same breath with which he threatened to personally break the limbs of Paikiasothy Saravanamuttu, Sunila Abeysekera and Nimalka Fernando.
These three individuals, Silva claimed, had conspired against Sri Lanka during the recently concluded sessions of the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva. They had in fact stated that they have been subjected to ‘a barrage of attacks and intimidation from various quarters, including state and non-state entities. The trio have certainly been criticized and not without cause, including ‘lack of clarity’ in financial dealings, intellectual sloth and operating as apologists of one form or the other for terrorists. They have not used the wide spaces in the media available to them to clear their names. Criticism is not coterminous with vilification or intimidation, but this is not something they have intimated to their friends in Geneva who shed many a tear on their behalf. Integrity is not their strong point, clearly.
Closely linked though they are to LTTE groups, none of them can be called thugs. They state their positions and refuse to response to critique, but don’t go around with clenched fists and knuckledusters. If anyone threatens them (or anyone else) with physical harm, it is a serious matter. When the man who threatens has a track record of strong-arm tactics, it is even more serious. When this individual claims that he caused a man who was abducted and assaulted to leave the country it is time for the authorities to stop pretending to sleep. It is a confession, nothing less.
While many would find most of Silva’s antics funny, this is no laughing matter. The country’s detractors would market these threats as confirmation of the lies agreed upon by the likes of Saravanamuttu. That’s something that the country cannot afford. Silva is a political risk for the President and it will be he (the President) who has to pay for the incomprehensible levels of indulgence. Silva’s antics must be arrested immediately by the President, for his own good and the larger good of the nation in these trying times.
Silva, more importantly, has now virtually confessed to involvement in the abduction of Poddala Jayantha. Thuggery cannot be condoned, ever, and least of all in the name of the nation. It is not ‘nationalism’ as Silva purports it to be, just as much as Gulags set up in the name of Marx is not Marxism or the Crusades in the name of Jesus is not ‘Christianity’. Indeed, nationalism is, among other things, about law and order, the freedom of expression and the greater worth of debate (over fisticuffs).
Mervyn Silva has implicated himself. Inextricably. The President must take action, in the name of the nation. The nation demands it.