By Colombo Telegraph –
Last Thursday five editors, Sinha Ratnatunge -Sunday Times, Prabath Sahabandu – The Island, Siri ranasinghe – Lankadeepa, Champika Liyanarachchi – Daily Mirror and Victor Ivan – Former Editor Ravaya were invited for a “confidential” dinner with the President Mahinda Rajapaksa. Only the President, Gotabhaya Rajapaksa and Lalith Weeratunge were present.
They arrived first 45 minutes nothing of any significance was discussed. Victor Ivan then told the President instead of talking only the good of this government shall we now focus on the bad. He then asked Gotabhaya if you think journalists are pigs who eat shit why are you here to eat shit with us pigs? To which Gotabhaya replied “I did not mean you all when I said that I only said that to Frederica.
Victor asked; what is this??? You have threatened to sue her and the newspaper? If I were frederica I would sue you. Gotabhaya sat “red-faced” looked “very upset” hardly said a word. Did not at any stage deny using foul language not even having used the F letter word. The President did not utter one word. Later, over dinner he was overhead telling Daily Mirror editor, Champika, “the language used was too much”
But, giving an interview to Lakbima News editor Rajpal Abeynayake , Goatabhaya said; Nothing I said was with any direct reference to her. I did not say so and so, Ms. so and so — I am doing this to you, or going to do this to you, or whatever… I said nothing directly to the editor who called me. Whatever I said, I didn’t say ‘I am going to do this and this to you’ or anything like that! So you can see they are exaggerating and the reader, without knowing any of this background, gets an entirely different picture.
When asked, But did you use foul language on the lady? Gota replied; I did not do so. I used words such as ‘bloody’ or whatever, not to refer to her but to refer to the incident. I never used foul language on her – but I used certain words in the context that she provoked me unreasonably, in referring to the incident, as I have pointed out above. I mean these are words that are used very commonly in America (USA) for instance, in normal usage. In fact a very high ranking officer of the American government (name withheld by this writer) met me and said about the TV programme Hard Talk and the person who does Hard Talk on BBC: ‘You know we are in the same boat… being questioned by that a_shole.’ This person was referring to Stephen Sakur who does the BBC programme Hard Talk. So this is very common usage, in USA for instance, and they use these words in normal talk — but these people are trying to make a big issue out of it to get at me, because they hate me about the war. In any case I used certain words with reference to the incident; I did not use foul language to abuse her. ( Read the interview here)
Speaking to The Nation, Gotabhaya Rajapaksa described the story that led to the exchange between the two as ‘a non-issue’.He admitted that he did swear during the exchange but claimed he was not directly using those words at Jansz. “I was using the words in general terms, on people who betray the country. However, I let my emotions get the better of me and I regret that,” he said. (Read the story here )
It was only the Sunday Island reported the above reported “confidential” dinner, but with a spin with a wrong date. The Sunday Island political columnist CA Chandraprema wrote; On Friday night, newspaper editors Victor Ivan, Prabath Sahabandu, Siri Ranasinghe and Sinha Ratnatunga were invited to dinner at Temple Trees. The sudden meeting, outside the regular meetings that the president had with newspaper editors was a fire fighting exercise to deal with the fallout from the blackguarding that defence secretary Gotabhaya Rajapaksa had given Sunday Leader Editor Frederica Jansz. Jansz had published a transcript of the conversation that had taken place between her and the defence secretary last Sunday and that made quite a sensation. The defence secretary’s outbursts are well known, but what was new was his reference to ordure and the use of the f-word. He has never been known to use such words. Be that as it may, the defence secretary too had been present at the dinner given by the president on Friday, and his version of the story is that the Sunday Leader had not published all that he said and that the published conversation had only excerpts of the full conversation. Like everybody else Gotabhaya Rajapaksa too should have the right of reply. ( read the Sunday Island political column here )
Colombo Telegraph contacted three close confidents of the three editors who participated the “confidential dinner” and all of them are confirmed that Victor did confront with Gotabhaya and but Gotabhaya never gave his side of the story or deny Sunday Leader editor’s description of the story as Sunday Island political columnist says.