18 September, 2018

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WikiLeaks: Large Numbers Of Military Personnel “Revered Fonseka Like A God” – Gota

By Colombo Telegraph-

“Rajapaksa said that as Lake House employees, they were government servants who had no rights to take part in protests. Further, he said that criticism of the military leadership, particularly Army Commander Sarath Fonseka, and the conduct of the war would not be tolerated. He told the media workers that there were large numbers of military personnel who ‘revered Fonseka like a God,’ and that he could not control these people. The reporters said that he threatened them with death, saying that if they persisted in their criticism ‘people who know how to do it will finish you off.’” the US Embassy Colombo informed Washington.

Criticism of the military leadership, particularly Army Commander Sarath Fonseka, and the conduct of the war would not be tolerated

The Colombo Telegraph found the related leaked cable from the WikiLeaks database dated June 2, 2008. The cable is classified as “CONFIDENTIAL” and written by the US Ambassador to Colombo Robert Blake. The cable details the media suppression situation just after the abduction and beating of defense journalist Keith Noyahr. The cable also details a meeting Secretary to the Ministry of Defence Gotabhaya Rajapaksa and two media workers Sanath Balasooriya and Poddala Jayantha has had with.

Ambassador Blake wrote “ The Defense Secretary summoned two media workers from the government-owned publishing house. He reportedly harangued them for over two hours for participating in a rally to protest the abduction and beating of defense journalist Keith Noyahr. The journalists told us that Gothabaya told them that ‘groups that revere Army Commander Fonseka’ would kill them if they persisted in their campaign for media freedom. Five media organizations released a letter to the Defense Secretary deploring his actions. Several other journalists reported surveillance, harassment and intimidation by shadowy groups likely linked to the Defense Ministry. The CEO of the independent newspaper Noyahr works for has fled the country. The paper’s editor told us he fears for his life and for his family and may seek temporary refuge abroad. The paper’s majority owner is reportedly negotiating to divest his shares in the company. Government spokesmen have generally been dismissive of the threats to the media. The Defense Ministry will reportedly seek draconian censorship and criminal defamation legislation to shut down any criticism of the government’s conduct of the war. The campaign against media critics of the administration appears aimed at discovering their sources within the military’s disgruntled officer corps and is likely linked to the Army Commander’s effort to gain another extension of his term beyond the normal retirement age.”

“Never mentioned Fonseka by name”  Balasooriya to US

Blake wrote “The journalists responded that the rally they attended was for the purpose of highlighting the assault on Noyahr. Rajapaksa replied that they were ‘not here to discuss that. You are here to listen to me.’ Hulugalle said that he had videotapes of a speech by Balasuriya in which he criticized Fonseka. (Balasuriya told us he had made such a speech but never mentioned Fonseka by name.) Rajapaksa told them such conduct was equivalent ‘to becoming a suicide bomber,’ like journalist Munusami Parameshwari of the newspaper Mawbima (since defunct), who was detained for four months last year for writing critical articles. Deshapriya noted that Parameshwari gave up her profession after her family was subsequently attacked at home by Sinhalese extremists. He said the Free Media Movement had helped the family find refuge in India.”

Below we give the relevant part of the confidential cable;

VZCZCXRO8831
OO RUEHBI RUEHLMC
DE RUEHLM #0528/01 1541314
ZNY CCCCC ZZH
O 021314Z JUN 08
FM AMEMBASSY COLOMBO
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC IMMEDIATE 8203
INFO RUEHKA/AMEMBASSY DHAKA PRIORITY 0926
RUEHIL/AMEMBASSY ISLAMABAD PRIORITY 7915
RUEHKT/AMEMBASSY KATHMANDU PRIORITY 6090
RUEHLO/AMEMBASSY LONDON PRIORITY 4421
RUEHNE/AMEMBASSY NEW DELHI PRIORITY 2072
RUEHNY/AMEMBASSY OSLO PRIORITY 4402
RUEHKO/AMEMBASSY TOKYO PRIORITY 3497
RUEHCG/AMCONSUL CHENNAI PRIORITY 8526
RUEHBI/AMCONSUL MUMBAI PRIORITY 5971
RUEHON/AMCONSUL TORONTO PRIORITY 0667
RUEHGV/USMISSION GENEVA PRIORITY 2799
RHHMUNA/HQ USPACOM HONOLULU HI PRIORITY
RHEFDIA/DIA WASHINGTON DC PRIORITY
RHEHAAA/NATIONAL SECURITY COUNCIL WASHINGTON DC PRIORITY
RUEHBS/USEU BRUSSELS PRIORITY
RUEHLMC/MILLENNIUM CHALLENGE CORPORATION PRIORITY
C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 05 COLOMBO 000528 

SIPDIS 

DEPARTMENT FOR SCA/INS 

E.O. 12958: DECL: 06/02/2018
TAGS: PGOV PHUM PTER MOPS PREL CE
SUBJECT: SRI LANKA: DEFENSE MINISTRY MOBILIZES AGAINST
MEDIA CRITICS 

REF: COLOMBO 507 

Classified By: AMBASSADOR ROBERT O. BLAKE, JR. REASONS: 1.4(b,d). 

1.  (C) SUMMARY: The Defense Secretary summoned two media
workers from the government-owned publishing house.  He
reportedly harangued them for over two hours for
participating in a rally to protest the abduction and beating
of defense journalist Keith Noyahr.  The journalists told us
that Gothabaya told them that "groups that revere Army
Commander Fonseka" would kill them if they persisted in their
campaign for media freedom.  Five media organizations
released a letter to the Defense Secretary deploring his
actions.  Several other journalists reported surveillance,
harassment and intimidation by shadowy groups likely linked
to the Defense Ministry.  The CEO of the independent
newspaper Noyahr works for has fled the country.  The paper's
editor told us he fears for his life and for his family and
may seek temporary refuge abroad.  The paper's majority owner
is reportedly negotiating to divest his shares in the
company.  Government spokesmen have generally been dismissive
of the threats to the media.  The Defense Ministry will
reportedly seek draconian censorship and criminal defamation
legislation to shut down any criticism of the government's
conduct of the war.  The campaign against media critics of
the administration appears aimed at discovering their sources
within the military's disgruntled officer corps and is likely
linked to the Army Commander's effort to gain another
extension of his term beyond the normal retirement age.  End
summary. 

Defense Secretary Threatens Media Workers
----------------------------------------- 

2.  (U) On May 23, following the abduction and brutal assault
on the defense correspondent of the weekly "Nation" (reftel),
the Working Journalists Association, Federation of Media
Employees trade union, Sri Lanka Muslim Media Forum, Sri
Lanka Tamil Journalists Association, and the Free Media
Movement held a protest rally at Colpetty junction (near the
President's residence and office as well as the U.S.
Embassy).  The demonstrators demanded that the government
bring the perpetrators of the attack on Noyahr to justice. 

3.  (SBU) Sunanda Deshapriya, the founder of the Free Media
Movement, accompanied Sanath Balasuriya and Poddala Jayantha,
the President and General Secretary of the Sri Lanka Working
Journalists Association, to a meeting with DCM and Pol Chief
on May 28.  Balasuriya and Jayantha are also employees of the
government-owned Lake House media group, which publishes the
Daily News and vernacular newspapers.  (They explained that
they had been subject to an informal ban on writing for about
two years and had been relegated to performing administrative
work within Lake House.)  According to Balasuriya and
Jayantha, Lake House chairman Bandula Padmakumara informed
them on May 26 that Defense Secretary Gothabaya Rakapaksa was
summoning them to a meeting, which took place the same day. 

4.  (C) Balasuriya and Jayantha reported that when they
entered Rajapaksa's office, Padmakumara and Media Centre for
National Security head (and Presidential media advisor)
Lakshman Hulugalle were already inside.  Rajapaksa harangued
them for two and half hours, they said.  Padmakumara and
Hulugalle thwarted three attempts they made to break off the
meeting and leave.  Deshapriya, who speaks English more
fluently that Balasuriya and Jayantha, largely provided the
following account of their encounter with the Defense
Secretary.  Rajapaksa said that as Lake House employees, they
were government servants who had no rights to take part in
protests.  Further, he said that criticism of the military
leadership, particularly Army Commander Sarath Fonseka, and
the conduct of the war would not be tolerated.  He told the
media workers that there were large numbers of military 

COLOMBO 00000528  002 OF 005 

personnel who "revered Fonseka like a God," and that he could
not control these people.  The reporters said that he
threatened them with death, saying that if they persisted in
their criticism "people who know how to do it will finish you
off." 

5.  (C) The journalists responded that the rally they
attended was for the purpose of highlighting the assault on
Noyahr.  Rajapaksa replied that they were "not here to
discuss that.  You are here to listen to me."  Hulugalle said
that he had videotapes of a speech by Balasuriya in which he
criticized Fonseka.  (Balasuriya told us he had made such a
speech but never mentioned Fonseka by name.)  Rajapaksa told
them such conduct was equivalent "to becoming a suicide
bomber," like journalist Munusami Parameshwari of the
newspaper Mawbima (since defunct), who was detained for four
months last year for writing critical articles.  Deshapriya
noted that Parameshwari gave up her profession after her
family was subsequently attacked at home by Sinhalese
extremists.  He said the Free Media Movement had helped the
family find refuge in India.
"Reprimand of senior journalists unacceptable"
--------------------------------------------- - 

7.  (U) On May 28, the five media organizations which had
called for the protest condemned the threats against their
colleagues, issuing a joint statement which reads, in part
(begin citation): 

"We are extremely disappointed and very concerned to discover
that you summoned and reprimanded Sanath Balasuriya and
Poddala Jayantha... over the protest campaign organised by
our five media organisations against the abduction and
inhuman assault of The Nation journalist Keith Noyahr...  We
held this protest campaign peacefully and under the freedom
of expression enshrined in our constitution.  We openly
stated that if the government does not apprehend the culprits
and attempts to impair and impede the investigation, we hold
it responsible for this heinous crime.  We understand that
your position as articulated to the President and General
Secretary of the SLWJA over two hours spent in your office
was as follows:
- That it is unacceptable to criticise the armed forces
whilst working in state newspapers.
- That anyone other than the leaders of the armed forces can
be criticised.
- That the aim of our protest was to criticise the armed
forces and that cannot be permitted.
- If both journalists continue criticising the military,
neither the Secretary of Defence nor the regime are in a
position to prevent action taken against them by groups or
persons who revere the Army Commander." (end citation)
BLAKE
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Latest comments

  • 0
    0

    Who is Sarath Fonseka?? Was there anyone call Sarath Fonseka is the army? Gota is wrong. ;) ;) :)

    • 0
      0

      fonseka is a man has no legal knowedge as well as political otherwise he wuold not be punished.suz is better than him.

    • 0
      0

      FM SF was revered as God and the rest treated somebody as Goat.

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