By Colombo Telegraph –
Former Army Commander Sarath Fonseka was sentenced to three years in jail and fined Rs.5000 in a two-one split verdict delivered in the white flag case with two judges finding him guilty on one of the charges while one of the judges WTMPB Warawewa acquitted him on all three charges. However, according a leaked US diplomatic cable Fonseka did discuss the “white flag story” with the American Ambassador Patricia A. Butenis at a lunch meeting with UNP deputy leader Karu Jayasuriya the day Sunday Leader story was published. The Ambassador wrote “ “After Fonseka arrived, the former general discussed his interview in the Sunday Leader news paper on December 13, in which he had accused Defense Secretary Gotabhaya Rajapaksa of ordering at the end of the war the shooting of any LTTE leaders who might try to surrender under flags of truce.” She further wrote to Washington. “Fonseka claimed he did not know until two days later about the flurry of phone calls between Gotabhaya, the Norwegian ambassador, and the LTTE leadership regarding surrender and said he had been told details by journalists”
We below published Excerpts of the judgment by Judge W.T.M.P.B Warawewa and the related US Embassy Cable.
Excerpts of the judgment by Judge W.T.M.P.B Warawewa:
This case is based on an interview the former Army Commander Sarath Fonseka gave The Sunday Leader Editor Frederica Jansz in December 2010.
Frederica Jansz is a journalist by profession who had begun her journalism career in 1990 with Viz News and then worked at The Sunday Times before moving to The Sunday Leader. After joining the Leader as an investigative journalist in 1999, she became the Editor in December by which time the owner of the paper was Lal Wickramatunga, a witness in the case.
The headline in the Sunday Leader of December 13, 2009 was “Gota ordered them to be shot – General Sarath Fonseka”. The story was written by Frederica Jansz and she said this information had been reported before. At the time she published this report, she was aware that the defendant was contesting the upcoming Presidential election.
Ms. Jansz who conducted the interview on December 8 had failed to ask the defendant the name of the journalist who had divulged the information to him about the Defence Secretary. She said she had attempted to contact Gotabaya Rajapaksa to verify this information but he was not available in his office and hence she had left a message for him to call her.
Ms. Jansz had called the defendant on December 12 knowing the story was a sensational one. Here she had told him that she had been unable to get a comment from Basil Rajapaksa, Brigadier Udaya Nanayakkara, Brigadier Shavendra Silva or Gotabaya Rajapaksa and the telephone conversations had lasted 15 to 20 minutes. There is no record if such an attempt was made to contact these persons.
Ms. Jansz had in the conversation informed the defendant that she would be publishing the story with the headline “Gota ordered those shot.” The news article was published on December 13.
On January 3, 2010 she had published an article titled “her story” where she stated that what the defendant had told her was third hand information based on something he had heard from another person.
Ms. Jansz admitted that she had accompanied journalist Rakmish Wijewardene who was conducting the interview to see how he would conduct it and after its conclusion asked some questions from the defendant. Her last question was centered on the ‘white flag’ issue which had become a much talked about topic internationally. At that time both journalist Wijewardene and the cameraman who had accompanied her had left the room.
Later this story was sent for the ‘Scoop of the Year’ award as an entry to the journalism awards given by the Editors’ Guild. After this entry was rejected, she published articles in The Sunday Leader making allegations against Lalith Alahakoon, Amal Perera and Sinha Ratnatunga. Later she had to admit that it as not Amal Perera but Amal Jayasinghe who had been a judge for the awards of the Editors’ Guild. She also said that she had filed a complaint against Amal Jayasinghe saying one of her submissions to the awards had been stolen. It was later found that the file was on her desk at her office. After that she published articles written under the headline “You buy the lie” maligning all the other newspapers, saying they were only good to wrap fish.
It was sad to note that the prosecution had taken parts of the statement made by the accused Mr. Fonseka in order to substantiate the evidence given by The Sunday Leader Editor Frederica Jansz.
The evidence given by Ms. Jansz has not been substantiated by any other evidence led before the Courts.
The prosecution has failed to prove beyond doubt that Mr. Fonseka made a false statement.
The evidence given by Ms. Jansz contains false statements and creates doubts. Hundreds of lies have been uttered by her and it is not only one lie. It has been proved that her evidence is woven with lies and the article subject to question had been prepared based on other articles and on lies.
The article subject to question (Mr. Foneska’s interview) published on December 13, 2009 has similarities to the article published by the Daily Mirror on May 21, 2009. Ms. Jansz says that some of the information in her article had been extracted from the Cyber News, but she has not used it in quotes.
An analysis of the article shows that the sentence structure in her article is similar to that published in the Daily Mirror. Ms. Jansz maintains that journalists use the same words, but it cannot be accepted that all journalists use similar words in articles on the same topic.
Regarding the issue of submitting an application to the Editors’ Guild Awards she says that in her application she had mentioned that there was a clarification regarding the news item. But when she was further questioned she says that she believed she mentioned there was a clarification. It is surprising about the manner she changes the stance when she realizes that she has given a wrong answer. During cross examination, questions have been asked to establish that she was a witness who cannot be relied upon.
Therefore it should be analysed whether her evidence can be accepted. One of the witnesses who may have been called to establish whether Mr. Fonseka made the comments attributed to him would have been Mr. Lal Wickrematunga who was present at the interview, but not calling him as a witness does not prove the evidence given by Ms. Jansz. It only creates some doubt.
s. Jansz says that she did not take a tape recorder as the only tape recorder had been taken by another reporter for another interview with Mr. Udaya Gammanpila. Does this newspaper company have only one recorder? If the recording was available it would have been easy to establish whether a statement to this effect was made by Mr. Fonseka.
In her evidence she says that the words ‘wanted’ and ‘attempted’ give the same meaning. Therefore it has been established to the Courts that she is a witness who does not want to correct herself. She has been a witness who has been changing her stance from time to time, publishing falsehoods in a controversial manner and even not following Court orders.
Though Mr. Fonseka has been accused of uttering a falsehood that caused panic and terror among the public it is the witness Ms. Jansz and the owner of The Sunday Leader Lal Wickrematunge who have spread this. The prosecution had failed to prove the charges against former Army Commander Sarath Fonseka beyond doubt. The accused is acquitted and discharged on all three counts.
To read the related US Embassy cable click WikiLeaks – Fonseka did discuss the “white Flags story” with US ambassador
Related stories; White Flag Case: Illegal bench sentenced Fonseka for three years