Ravaya newspaper joins other mainstream media organizations in submitting to presidential rules about what’s fit to publish and what should be left out. Colombo Telegraph learns that Ravaya, a newspaper which strongly opposed the previous regime, championed the cause of Maithripala Sirisena and agitated for media freedom, has tamely submitted to Presidential orders about killing stories considered detrimental to the President’s interests.
In this instance a news story about the high-handed behaviour of the President’s son Daham Sirisena has been killed. Daham used the Foreign Ministry to obtain visas for some of his friends to visit the UK. The Foreign Ministry issued TPLs (Third Party Letters) to the British High Commission in Colombo, but while Daham was issued a visa the applications of his friends were rejected.
Colombo Telegraph reported the reasons for rejection. One applicant recommended by Daham Sirisena had earlier overstayed his visa and had been blacklisted. Another applicant was blacklisted for submitting fraudulent documents. Thus, in effect, the son of the President of the Republic of Sri Lanka was trying to smuggle into the UK two persons who have broken UK laws.
There are serious issues that arise from this situation. Is this an attempt by Daham Sirisena to smuggle fugitives? How can the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (more to the point, M.R. Hassen, the Chief of Protocol) accept the responsibility to obtain visas for those who are not entitled to diplomatic privileges? If this is allowed, theoretically even Wele Suda, the drug mafia boss, could persuade some influential persons to ask the MFA to issue a Third Party Letter to support an application for a UK visa.
The Foreign Ministry confirmed that Sirisena had indeed sought to use the Foreign Ministry to help his friends, thereby acknowledging that it (the ministry) had operated outside its mandate in issuing TPLs.
Colombo Telegraph reported that President Sirisena had informed all media not to run the story. Ravaya, despite its stated independence from political pressure, has now joined mainstream media institutions in complying with this informal presidential decree and refused to carry Daham Sirisena story which was written and submitted by a Ravaya journalist.