Whilst the country is in a political turmoil, Chathurika Sirisena, the elder daughter of President Maithripala Sirisena has been colluding with the Director General of the Telecommunications Regulatory Commission of Sri Lanka (TRCSL) to illegally allocate frequencies already allocated to other broadcasters and frequencies that have been reserved for the Digital Television Project, Colombo Telegraph reliably learns.
Accordingly, TV and Radio frequencies have been issued to one Indika Samaraweera of J Lanka Group of Companies, a business associate of Chathurika Sirisena. TRCSL is currently under the purview of the President, however, the Ministry of Mass Media has been a subject under the purview of the UNP until recently. One usually requires a Media License issued by the Ministry of Mass Media and the usual procedure is that upon obtaining such a Media License, TRCSL issues the respective licenses for the use of radio frequencies under the Section 22 of the Sri Lanka Telecommunications Act No. 25 of 1991. However, it is learnt that the said J Lanka group was issued these frequencies even without them having a Media License issued from the Media Ministry, a pre-requisite to obtain frequencies from the TRCSL. Information received from the Ministry of Media is that the said Indika Samaraweera has only applied for the Media License this week on 3rd December 2018, whilst all ministries have come under the President with there is no legally appointed Ministers since the no-confidence motion brought against Mahinda Rajapaksa and his illegal Cabinet.
“In terms of the frequencies allocated to the said Indika Samaraweera of J Lanka Group, TRCSL has issued Channels 48, 50, 51 and 53. Channel 50 is an islandwide TV channel previously reserved for Digital Television Broadcasting as per the TV Assignments as at 01.06.2018 by the TRCSL. This shortsighted action of the Director General of the TRCSL has put the whole Digital Television Broadcasting project in jeopardy, as there are not enough frequencies already to launch the project. Already the Digital Television Broadcasting project has come to a halt due to a dispute between TRCSL and the Ministry of Mass Media ever since the Yahapalana Government came into power where the Japanese Government had committed in 2014 to grant a soft-loan of USD 100 Million to rollout a state-of-the-art digital television platform,” an industry expert told Colombo Telegraph on the condition of anonymity .
Most outrageous story behind this frequency allocation to J Lanka Group is that the other TV Frequencies allocated to them are already allocated to another controversial network: Television and Radio Network (TRN), a sole proprietorship owned by Upali Abeywardana, which operates TV Lanka and other digital television services. TRN and TRCSL has been in litigation since 2012 at various Courts of Sri Lanka ever since Abeywardana began broadcasting in digital format where TRCSL claimed that TRN did not have the right to digitally broadcast despite none of his licenses restricted him from doing. The matter was appealed by TRCSL and finally the Supreme Court held in TRN favour earlier this year.
However, disregarding the Supreme Court order, TRCSL has issued the frequencies in question to the said J Lanka Group as per the information we have received from the employees of TRCSL. Colombo Telegraph contacted Abeywardana in this regard and he was not aware of such decision by TRSCL. He further stated that it would be Contempt of Court and that he would take the necessary legal actions if TRCSL has illegally allocated the frequencies that are already allocated to his company where the Supreme Court of Sri Lanka has already cleared his operations as legal.
In addition to the TV frequencies, TRCSL has also issued a FM radio frequency to the said J Lanka Group, also in contravention of an already issued license to VIS Broadcasting (Private) Limited, another controversial company said to be previously linked to Namal Rajapaksa and was allegedly started with funding from China. VIS has been operating CRI (China Radio International), a Sinhala channel in partnership with CRI in China, the state owned Chinese international radio channel on 97.9 MHz since 2009. It is also learnt that this frequency has also been allocated to the said J Lanka Group whilst CRI is still operating the frequency. We contacted the Chairman of VIS Broadcasting, Niranga Hettiarachchi and he was not aware of such an action by the TRCSL although he mentioned that TRCSL has requested them to swap their frequency with another few weeks back and that they have objected to TRCSL, hence he hoped the matter is now at rest. However, Colombo Telegraph have confirmed information from within TRCSL that 97.9 MHz has already been allocated to the said J Lanka Group and the engineers of J Lanka Group are already in the process of procuring the necessary transmitters and other equipment to begin transmission in support of the Presidential bid of Maithripala Sirisena for re-election.
The alternate frequency proposed for VIS Broadcasting was apparently 103.1 MHz, a frequency already allocated to Seth FM, a Negambo-based radio channel with Catholic religion based programming. Despite the realignment of the FM frequencies was done in 2012 to dedicate specific FM frequencies to specific broadcasters to prevent interference from multiple networks using the same frequency for their transmissions, TRCSL issued the same 103.1 MHz also to Trymas Media Network (Private) Limited, who started their Tamil language radio channel in 2017 called Capital FM. Trymas is owned by S. Vincendrarajan (Rajan) of Liverpool Holdings, the uncle of Jaffna SLFP Organizer, Angajan Ramanathan. It is also learnt that in the midst of the political turmoil, Trymas Media Network has also been issued with TV frequencies to start a new TV channel and such frequencies are also said to be from the reserved set of frequencies for Digital Television Broadcasting project. In addition to the frequencies, Trymas Media Network has also been issued with a Cable TV Broadcasting license by the TRCSL to capture the audiences in the North.
The TRC is now headed by an advisor to President Sirisena who is also someone he appointed to Parliament through the National List of the UPFA, Malith Jayatilake’s brother Shamal Jayatilake (PRSP Jayatilake).