The detention, questioning and deporting of the two International Federation of Journalists’ paid workers in Sri Lanka last Wednesday is evidently a part of a broader game plan by the IFJ president Jim Boumelha to destabilising IFJ activities in Sri Lanka a leaked email claims.
Jacquline Park, a paid worker of the International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) was detained and questioned along with another paid staff member,for conducting workshops while on a tourist visa.
A close confident of Jacqueline Park, another paid worker, IFJ’s South Asia Project Manager Sukumar Muralidharan in an email sent on November 30, 2013 to IFJ secretary Beth Costa and its Sri Lankan affiliates squarely places the blame for this turn of events on the IFJ president.
He said; “It is deeply shocking to learn of IFJ colleagues being taken in for interrogation by the Colombo city police.I must say however, that it comes as no surprise, considering the trail of correspondence that precedes this mail of mine. I was trying with great difficulty to keep out of this thread of correspondence, but it seems time now to break the silence.”
Muralidran goes on to accuse an Indian journalist who is also an Executive Committee member of the IFJ (whose name we have to withhold for legal reasons): “Full details can be revealed at some future time and there is a long history behind this, of which this particular thread of correspondence is only the most recent event.”
Naming the Indian Journalist he said the journalist “has been operating with the active support of two disgruntled elements within the IFJ affiliate structure in Sri Lanka.”
“And it is evidently part of a broader game plan by the IFJ President Jim Boumelha, who was reelected in very controversial circumstances in the last IFJ World Congress in Dublin, to destroy the autonomy of the regional units and establish direct control over IFJ offices in Latin America, Africa, Europe and the Asia-Pacific.
To merely give you the basic details here: Mr Boumelha was elected by a narrow margin over his main challenger, fielded by the Belgian union at the last IFJ Congress in Dublin. When the ballots were tallied, the total votes cast numbered about five more than the number of delegates present. There was obviously a serious rigging of the vote and this was challenged by a number of unions. Unfortunately, the matter was settled by a vote in the same compromised quorum that had elected Mr Boumelha.
This was strongly reminiscent of the Cadiz IFJ Congress of 2010, when Mr Boumelha managed to fix the quorum by nominating as a candidate for the Ex-CO, an individual who had been on the staff of the IFJ. It was like saying that a person who was in charge of preparing the invitee list to the Congress would be a candidate for an election in which the same invitees would vote. This ethically challenged move, unfortunately, was again resolved by majority vote within a compromised quorum.
The Dublin election led to a serious rift within the organisation and much questioning of Mr Boumelha’s leadership. Two major constituent unions have left the IFJ in consequence. A number of others are reexamining the basis of their membership.”
The following are extracts of the lengthy email sent by Muralidharan;
“The circumstances in which the elections were conducted were highly dubious and led to the summary departure of the Canadian union and one of the German affiliates of the IFJ.
“Subsequently, I undertook a mission to Sri Lanka in September 2012 to make an assessment of the press freedom situation. The FMM and SLWJA supported the mission and the report was published in English, Tamil and Sinhala later that year: http://asiapacific.ifj.org/en/pages/ifj-asia-pacific-reports.
“Soon afterwards Mr Dharmasiri Lankapeli wrote a very hostile mail to the IFJ President and General Secretary, which accused me of entirely disregarding the major contributions that he and his organisation, the FMETU, had been making towards the press freedom cause. The mail was cc’d to me and since I knew Mr Lankapeli at a personal level, I took the liberty of responding directly to him, saying that his contributions had been fully acknowledged and that he was being rather too finicky in insisting on minor details that may have been missed.
I was reprimanded by the IFJ General Secretary for having taken this undue liberty and asked to apologise — at which point I said that there was no cause for apology, but that if Mr Lankapeli was really offended, I would have no problem explaining myself to him and if necessary, saying sorry.
“But now we have it surfacing again with renewed animus. Part of the reason I kept quiet for all the days that this conversation has been in progress, was my belief that it would blow over. But clearly, some serious breaches have occurred in the compact of solidarity we all owe each other as press freedom defenders.”