Well targeted attacks aimed at the Sri Lanka Human Rights Commission Chairperson Dr Deepika Udagama by a group of ex-military men appear to be part of a larger strategy aimed at destabilizing Sri Lanka’s independent Commissions, particularly the HRCSL and the Right to Information Commission (RTIC), both of which have been praised locally and internationally for their progressive interventions.
This week, the Divaina published a report by blatantly pro-military journalist Keerthi Warnakulasooriya known for his crude propaganda, saying that the RTIC’s recent direction to the Sri Lanka Army to produce information containing a list of canteens and hotels run by it in the North and East will pose a ‘grave obstacle’ to the activities of the Army in the former conflict zone.
The report is factually incorrect including a wrong reference that this was the first time that the Sri Lanka Army had been directed to give information. The Colombo Telegraph went through the website of the RTIC which carry the Commission’s decisions and found that the Sri Lanka Army had given information in line with directions of the RTI Commission on several occasions previously.
This included producing the report of a disciplinary inquiry held against a brigadier on allegations of sexual harassment on the complaint of an officer attached to the legal division of the Army and producing information asked for by a disabled soldier.
Colombo Telegraph spoke to an officer attached to one of the Public Authorities summoned by the RTIC on the appeals who refused to be named but said that; ‘The Army Commander has been very encouraging of the RTI Act and does not like these ‘planted’ stories’, adding that ‘we have been co-operating with the Right to Information Commission and the RTI Act and will continue to do.’
Increased activities of propagandists supporting the political entry of former Secretary to the Ministry of Defence and former President Mahinda Rajapaksa’s brother Gotabaya Rajapaksa have targeted the functioning of independent commissions, with an ex-military man leveling threats against HRCSL Chair Dr Deepika Udagama which were published in the Mawbima.
These are some of many such instances showing the lack of ethics and blatant bias of Sri Lankan journalists which has become a major problem with the self-regulatory Press Complaints Commission being ineffective. Stating only that the RTIC had not accepted the argument of the Army that the canteens were run on welfare funds, the Divaina article has also failed to mention the fact that the Sri Lanka Navy and the Sri Lanka Air Force had given that very information to the RTIC on the same day through the Ministry of Defence and that when realizing that giving a list of the canteens that it runs could not be established as violating national security, the Army had agreed to give the information.
The Colombo Telegraph also learns that the RTI appeals being filed by Uthayan journalist Dileepamuthan to the RTIC asking for information on the hotels and canteens being run by the tri-services in the North and East and regarding what action the Army has taken on soldiers accused of sexual abuse in Haiti while serving as peacekeepers has become a ‘hot topic’ with Tamil diaspora activists who had raised a hue and cry that a military intelligence report is being maintained on the journalist.
‘Racist Sinhala journalists with their military friends who level death threats do not represent the Army. Such people and pro-LTTE diaspora activists with their local activist friends are two sides of the same coin and are both troublemakers’ the information officer said to the Colombo Telegraph.