The Editor of Eethalaya – a monthly news magazine – was interrogated by the Criminal Investigation Department for four hours over the publication of a report regarding the 2009 murder of Sunday Leader Editor Lasantha Wickrematunge.
Srilal Priyantha who penned the article published in the magazine in 2017 was summoned to the CID on July 13th and questioned for several hours regarding how he obtained information for the report.
Sources told Colombo Telegraph that CID officials repeatedly questioned the journalist about his sources for the information regarding the SIM cards used by Wickrematunge’s alleged killers.
Priyantha’s article for the Eethalaya magazine in 2017 highlighted how the suspects in Lasantha Wickrematunge’s murder had used SIM cards issued by Dialog GSM. The article claimed that the SIM cards had exchanged messages and phone calls in the days leading up to Wickrematunge’s murder and on 8 January 2009, the morning he was killed in Attidiya, Colombo.
The Eethalaya article contained information that the five SIM cards used by the suspects in the Journalist’s murder and traced to the date of his killing, were obtained under a Ministry of Defence letterhead. The letter was signed by then Chief of National Intelligence Kapila Hendawitharana.
Hendawitharana directed Dialog to issue the SIM cards to a fake company registered to the address 88, Bauddhaloka Mawatha, Colombo 07. CID investigations subsequently discovered that the address was also bogus.
Colombo Telegraph has been made aware that the address is regularly used by the Directorate of Military Intelligence of the Sri Lanka Army for many covert operations. Several other SIM cards similarly obtained by the Ministry of Defence were utilized in the abduction of journalist Keith Noyahr in 2008 and the attack on Rivira Editor Upali Tennakoon in 2009.
The interrogation of journalist Srilal Priyantha is the Government’s latest attempt to harass and intimidate the media and ferret out their sources according to media rights activists. Since the election of President Gotabaya Rajapaksa in November 2019 journalists have regularly been brought in for questioning by the CID and news organizations have been raided by the police.
However sources told Colombo Telegraph that the Priyantha’s interrogation was linked to the CID’s ongoing investigation into its former Director SSP Shani Abeysekera and former CID ASP Tissera. Under Abeysekera the CID made serious inroads into investigations concerning crimes against journalists. Several of these investigations have implicated top members of President Gotabaya Rajapaksa’s Government and in the case of the Noyahr abduction, President Gotabaya himself. The effort to uncover journalist Priyantha’s sources is an attempt to bring charges against Abeysekera and Tissera for spilling official secrets to media personnel Colombo Telegraph learns.
SSP Shani Abeysekera had also been summoned for questioning to the CID on July 13th. (By Chinthika De Silva)