Controversial Secretary to the Ministry of Parliamentary Reforms and Mass Media Nimal Bopage, who was found guilty by COPE of multiple charges of corruption when he was the Chairman of the National Human Resource Development Council (NHRDC) during former President Mahinda Rajapaksa’s regime, is now conducting an inquiry against Derana TV.
As Colombo Telegraph reported last September he is facing a fresh crisis over his alleged involvement in a corruption case amounting to Rs.100 million, with both the COPE and the FCID receiving fresh complaints requesting them to carry out investigations against Bopage.
The Attorney General in March this year advised necessary legal action against Bopage, but he was appointed to the powerful position of Secretary to the Ministry of Parliamentary Reforms and Mass Media two months later by President Maithripala Sirisena, despite corruption charges.
To cover up his sins worth Rs. 100 million he has now started to suppressing the media.
Representing the interests of the Maithripala Sirisena’s camp last September, he ordered SLBC Chairman Nanda Muruttettuwegama to cancel the SLBC Board meeting, where he (Bopage) has no powers to cancel a Board meeting of a statutory institution such as SLBC.
Derana TV has become the latest target of pro-Maithripala Sirisena media secretary Nimal Bopage, calling for explanation on a news item aired on 12th October. The news item was based on President Maithripala Sirisena’s address at the “Sathviru Sanhinda” ceremony at the Sri Lanka Foundation Institute on the 12th October, where in his comments the President expressed his dissatisfaction with instances of Independent Commissions acting on hidden agendas.
He pointed out instances where ex-army personnel were being subject to inquiries and added in particular, that he was opposed to three ex-Navy Commanders and the former Defence Secretary recently being summoned to court.
Later that day, the Presidential Media Division issued a press release with the summarized content of the speech, and much of the following day’s press led with this story.
There followed a minor outcry among civil society and associated websites alleging that the President was now trying the save the Rajapaksa clan by publicly defending its members.
“කිසිදු අවස්ථාවක ආරක්ෂක අංශ දුර්වල කිරීමට සහ රණවිරුවන් අපකීර්තියට පත්වන සිදුවීම් සඳහා ඉඩ තැබීමට තමා කටයුතු නොකළ බවද පැවසූ ජනාධිපතිතුමා පසුගිය දිනවල හිටපු ආරක්ෂක ලේකම්වරයා සහ හිටපු නාවික හමුදාපතිවරු තිදෙනෙකු අධිකරණයට ගෙන ගිය ක්රමවේදය පිලිබඳව ආරක්ෂක අමාත්යවරයා ලෙස තමාට එකඟවිය නොහැකි බව කියා සිටියේය.”
“The President said that he had not allowed any step to be taken to the weakening of the Security Forces. As the President, as well as the Defence Minister, I could not agree with the manner in which the former Defence Secretary and three former Navy Commanders were produced before the court.”
Bopage’s accusation against Derana – of distorting the comments when editing the 40 minute speech for its news item – followed almost as a reaction to this outcry. The Media Secretary wrote to Derana on the 25th October calling for an explanation, with Derana responding on the 26th stating that the 1-2 minute edit did in fact preserve the context of the speech.
Furthermore the channel also explained its editorial stance – where news items are developed by news editors under the guidance of news director Shehan Baranage with no interference by its management. Speaking to Colombo Telegraph, a spokesperson from Derana said they had no further contact from the Media Ministry on the accusation until suddenly, at 4pm on 17th November – a letter signed by Nimal Bopage and dated 11th November was hand delivered to its offices, calling for explanation within seven days. Sources say Bopage is presently overseas. The Channel has written back, requesting for the full seven days after the date of receipt, to respond.