The dilemma faced by journalists and others who fled the country during the Rajapaksa regime continues, as the new government has been inactive on facilitating the return of those in exile beyond making mere verbal claims.
An example of the reluctance in the minds of those in exile, to return to Sri Lanka is reflected in the comment made by former Editor of Sunday Leader, Frederica Jansz on the reasons why she believes it is risky for her to return.
She fled the country after she was sacked from her post as Editor-in-Chief when the paper was bought over by a Rajapaksa stooge. Jansz speaking to Colombo Telegraph points to the court cases filed against her during her tenure as the Editor of Sunday Leader among which, in one case, a bench warrant had been issued after her departure from Sri Lanka.
“Police went to my house in Sri Lanka with the warrant, finding me not at home they asked my mother and ex-husband to come to the Mount Lavinia police station. They had been informed that if I was to ever return to Sri Lanka I would be arrested at the Immigration,” she says.
She also points to the legal complications involved with her return under her present circumstances, as the passports of her elder son and hers have expired in 2014.
“Neither do we have our Green cards yet, which would enable us to travel. According to US law and based on the fact that we claimed political asylum, we would only be allowed a two-week visit to Sri Lanka. If we wished to stay longer we would have to revoke our Green Cards and citizenship in the US,” she states and adds, “What do we go back to? Our family was split into three when we were forced to flee. The children and I were terribly traumatized and they have only just settled. . . What guarantee of a job would I have if I were to return?”
The former Editor also expressed concern over the safety of her life, pointing out that many believe she was a key-figure in Sarath Fonseka’s jail term extension.
“After all, Sarath Fonseka and his supporters believe that I was key in extending his jail term. Will I be safe?” she said.
Furthermore, she refers to the Rs. one million she is due to pay as damages ordered by the Court in her absence and any legal representation, and the complaints made to the CID by Sajin Vaas Gunawardena and Asanga Seneviratne against her for threatening the life of Mahinda Rajapaksa, based on fictitious and unfounded claims.
“There are also existing court cases against me initiated by Thilanga Sumathipala who allegedly told former Publisher Lal Wickrematunge that he was determined to see me ‘punished’ when approached to drop the case following Lasantha Wickrematunge’s assassination. Lasantha, Lal and I are all respondents in this case. Is this what I would return to?” she questions.
“In my absence and that of any legal representation the courts awarded Nalin Laduwahetty one million rupees by way of damages which I am supposed to pay in my personal capacity. Is this what I would go back to??” she asked.
Colombo Telegraph pointed out earlier that despite informal, verbal invitations made by several interim government ministers for those in exile to return, a formal request is yet to be made through the parliament by either the Prime Minister or the President. This factor has resulted in a majority of those living in exile to be reluctant to respond to the invitation, as a majority of those who fled have been charged by the TID, with court cases filed against them. As a result, upon arrival they face the risk of being put through interrogation or being arrested at the airport.
This fact has been further highlighted by Prof. S. Ratnajeevan H. Hoole in his piece in Colombo Telegraph, who points out mere words of invitation are insufficient. He has an open warrant against him for inciting a riot and it was due to writing against election malpractices in the Kayts during the Rajapaksa regime.
Speaking at the Oslo Freedom Forum in Norway last October, former Editor for The Sunday Leader newspaper Frederica Jansz offers an insight into her home country, the fourth deadliest place in the world for journalists to work.
On October 20, 21, and 22, dissidents, activists, world leaders, journalists, policymakers, entrepreneurs, artists, philanthropists, and scholars united in Norway to share their stories and collaborate on ideas for Defeating Dictators.
Speakers from 13 countries, Including Ms. Jansz, gave enlightening talks on a wide variety of issues.
The conference concluded with the presentation of the Václav Havel International Prize for Creative Dissent, which was awarded this year to iconic Turkish protestor and “Standing Man” Erdem Gunduz, the Russian punk rock protest group Pussy Riot, and Tibetan documentary filmmaker Dhondup Wangchen.