20 September, 2018

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WikiLeaks: Balassoriya And Jayantha Were Rajapaksa Supporters

By ColomboTelegraph –

“When reminded that both individuals had supported Mahinda Rajapaksa’s 2005 campaign for the presidency, Rambukwella laughed and speculated that the Defense Secretary might have summoned the two to thank them. ‘It shows that the gratitude for the duo has not been forgotten even after two years.’” the US Embassy Colombo informed Washington.

Gotabhaya, Balasooriya and Jayantha

“Embassy considers the journalists’ accounts of the Defense Secretary’s thinly veiled threats credible, and consistent with previous reported behavior by Gothabaya Rajapaksa. President Chandrika Kumaratunga appointed the two Lake House media workers to their positions at the head of the Working Journalists Association, an organization created by an Act of Parliament. They are both Sinhalese and considered close to the ruling SLFP; the same applies to Nation editor Allahakoon.” the Embassy further informed.

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 theUS 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.

Under the subheading “Government spokesmen don’t see a problem” the ambassador Blake wrote  “At a regularly scheduled military affairs briefing on May 29, Director of the Media Hulugalle reacted to sharp questioning by reporters by saying thatLakeHouse journalists had no right to question government policies or get involved in protests. He defended Defense Secretary Rajapaksa’s summoning of the media workers and claimed that it had no connection to the Noyahr abduction. Government Defense spokesman Rambukwella agreed that ‘the workers of a state institution cannot express ideas against state policies and they cannot engage in politics.’ When reminded that both individuals had supported Mahinda Rajapaksa’s 2005 campaign for the presidency, Rambukwella laughed and speculated that the Defense Secretary might have summoned the two to thank them. ‘It shows that the gratitude for the duo has not been forgotten even after two years.’ Media Minister (and Government Spokesman) Anura Priyadarshana Yapa later contradicted Hulugalle at a briefing following the weekly cabinet meeting, noting that Lake House employees did enjoy both trade union rights and the right of free speech. The government has yet to resolve discrepancy between his position and Hulugalle’s. Yapa reportedly counseled Balasuriya and Jayantha to keep a low profile. Referring to their administrative work atLakeHouse, he said, ‘Don’t worry about your pensions. Look after your lives!’”

“DCM raised the issue of the Noyahr abduction and its aftermath with Foreign Secretary Palitha Kohona on May 28. Kohona said the attack on Noyahr ‘puzzled’ the GSL because there is ‘no obvious villain.’ He said three police units have been deployed to investigate, but have made little progress. He commented that Noyahr was not particularly critical of anyone and that he couldn’t imagine who would want to hurt him. DCM pointed out that Noyahr had written an article critical of the Army Commander recently and added that Noyahr was reluctant to give a statement about his attackers because he feared retaliation against his family. Kohona dismissed this as a ‘poor excuse,’ adding that ‘if someone wanted to attack his family, they would have done it already.’ DCM emphasized that other journalists are frightened by the attacks on journalists and some are looking to leave the country because they fear for their lives. Kohona laughed and said they were just looking for any excuse to leave. He described the attacks on journalists as an ‘unnecessary distraction,’ saying the GSL doesn’t need any additional problems to deal with and certainly wouldn’t be behind the attacks. He added that the killing of Tamil journalist P. Devakumar inJaffnaon May 28 was likely the work of “other groups” operating in the area.

Placing a comment Blake wrote “Embassy considers the journalists’ accounts of the Defense Secretary’s thinly veiled threats credible, and consistent with previous reported behavior by Gothabaya Rajapaksa. President Chandrika Kumaratunga appointed the twoLakeHousemedia workers to their positions at the head of the Working Journalists Association, an organization created by an Act of Parliament. They are both Sinhalese and considered close to the ruling SLFP; the same applies to Nation editor Allahakoon. The groups responsible for following, surveilling, threatening and, in the case of Keith Noyahr, abducting and beating journalists, are widely believed to be linked to the Defense Ministry. The current wave of intimidation against journalists appears to be part of a ‘plumbing’ operation to discover the source of leaks to media about military information, and particularly stories critical of the Army Commander. Fonseka is unpopular among the senior army officer corps and reviled by his fellow service commanders, particularly Navy Commander Karannagoda. Several of them have been talking to the media about Fonseka and Gothabaya’s conduct of the war. With the government vulnerable on several fronts, but especially inflation, it is essential to the President’s domestic political strategy that the Sinhalese public perceive the government as winning the war against the Tamil Tigers. Fonseka, who has made himself politically indispensable to the Rajapaksa administration, is expected to gain an extension of his term beyond the normal retirement age. (He would otherwise have to leave in September 2008.) In this context, Gothabaya Rajapaksa finds any criticism of Fonseka and the army’s war effort intolerable and will go to great lengths to shut it down. Our sources have alerted us that the Defense Ministry will push for onerous war censorship and criminal defamation legislation soon.”

Read from the paragraph 12 in the cable below for further details;

Posts related to this cable;

WikiLeaks:‘There Will Be No Investigation, No One Will Be Able To Find Out What Happened To Keith’ – Gota

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

WikiLeaks: Gota Angry With Editors Lalith Allahakkon And Iqbal Athas

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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. 

6.  (C) Rajapaksa reportedly went on to say that the
investigation of the Noyahr incident would lead nowhere.
"There will be no investigation.  It will reach a certain
point and stop.  No one will be able to find out what
happened."  He castigated journalists in general for focusing
attention on Sri Lanka's human rights record.  "Human rights
mean nothing.  We do not want to be bothered about it while
we're fighting a war.  Because of the international campaign,
we can't arrest anyone.  But I don't care; I will do what I
want.  The military will campaign for criminal defamation
laws to stop all this.  The fundamental rights provisions of
the Constitution have to be repealed." 

"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) 

8.  (C) Balasuriya and Jayantha said the Defense Secretary
had expressed anger at other journalists, including Nation
editor Lalith Allahakoon and Defense columnist Iqbal Athas:
"what he's doing is very harmful."  Athas told Pol chief that
pressure on him had increased considerably since Noyhar's
abduction.  He complained that the private radio station TNL 

COLOMBO 00000528  003 OF 005 

(note: owned by the brother of opposition leader Ranil
Wickremesinghe) had aired a talk show insulting Athas, which
he said consisted of "an hour of vulgar vituperation."  Athas
linked this to the Defense Secretary's "offensive" against
the media. 

Newspaper Executives fear for their lives, families
--------------------------------------------- ------ 

9.  (C) Allahakoon told DCM, Pol Chief and Public Affairs
Counselor on May 29 that he had called President Rajapaksa
immediately on the night of Noyahr's disappearance and that
the President had said he would "do everything" to assure
Noyahr's return.  Allahakoon credited the intensive campaign
he and other friends of Noyahr mounted overnight with saving
the journalist's life.  Allahakoon believed that the purpose
of the abduction and beating of Noyahr was to try to
determine which military commanders were leaking information
to journalists.   He reported that Noyahr had told him he had
received threats that his family would be the next victims if
he spoke about his abduction.  Therefore, Noyahr would not
make a statement to police about what happened to him.   He
told us that the Nation editorial offices and his home were
under surveillance, and that he had received threats.
Padmakumara had called him and told him to be very careful.
He had moved his family from their home to a commercial
district hotel as a precaution, but his children were afraid
to leave the hotel to go to school.  He was seeking to leave
Sri Lanka temporarily until the current crisis subsided, he
said. 

10.  (C) Allahakoon said that Chrisantha Cooray, the CEO of
the company that publishes the Nation and its
Sinhala-language sister newspaper Rivira, had fled to London.
 Nation staff were afraid to report to work because of the
heavy surveillance of its offices.  He also feared the
consequences of not publishing a paper on Sunday, since the
government might regard this as an affront.  He had therefore
asked the editor of a small-circulation weekly to put out an
innocuous, slimmed-down edition to avoid incurring the
government's displeasure.  Sri Lankan media reported on June
1 that Cooray had resigned from the publishing company and
that the London-Based Sena Yaddahige, 51% owner of the
newspapers, was negotiating to sell his remaining stake to
Sujit "Nissanka" Rajapaksa.  (Note: the relationship between
Nissanka and the family of President Rajapaksa is not
established.) 

Further reports of harassment and intimidation
--------------------------------------------- - 

11.  (SBU) There have been several other incidents of
harassment and intimidation of journalists in recent days: 

-- Another contributor to the Nation complained to the police
that a white van was following her.  When she confronted the
occupants of the car, they began to question her about her
work as a journalist.  On Thursday she reported to police
that someone had slashed the throat of a rooster and left the
carcass outside her office.  A group of unidentified men in a
jeep were surveilling her house. 

-- The Free Media Movement issued a statement on May 31 that
an unknown group had invaded the residence of the defense
reporter of the Sinhala-language Divaina at 4 a.m. and
threatened him.  When he protested that he was a veteran and
that his brother was missing in action against the Tamil
Tigers, the group told him that regardless of who he was,
reporting of matters related to defense was to stop
immediately. 

-- The Sri Lanka Press Institute reported that on May 27
armed men dressed in Army uniforms entered its offices and 

COLOMBO 00000528  004 OF 005 

inquired about the identities of those working there.  They
refused to identify themselves but said they were with
military intelligence.  The Press Institute refused them
access, or to provide such information.  Military spokesman
Nanayakkara later denied that the intruders could have been
from the armed forces, stating that there was no authority
for military intelligence to make such inquiries. 

-- On May 28, Tamil journalist P. Devakumar, who worked for
both Sirasa and MTV, was stabbed to death, along with a
companion, on the way to his home near Jaffna.  It appears
unlikely, however, that this murder, one of several killings
of journalists in Jaffna in the last two years, was closely
related to the other recent cases in Colombo. 

Government spokesmen don't see a problem
---------------------------------------- 

12.  (SBU) At a regularly scheduled military affairs briefing
on May 29, Director of the Media Hulugalle reacted to sharp
questioning by reporters by saying that Lake House
journalists had no right to question government policies or
get involved in protests.  He defended Defense Secretary
Rajapaksa's summoning of the media workers and claimed that
it had no connection to the Noyahr abduction.  Government
Defense spokesman Rambukwella agreed that "the workers of a
state institution cannot express ideas against state policies
and they cannot engage in politics."    When reminded that
both individuals had supported Mahinda Rajapaksa's 2005
campaign for the presidency, Rambukwella laughed and
speculated that the Defense Secretary might have summoned the
two to thank them.  "It shows that the gratitude for the duo
has not been forgotten even after two years." 

13.   (C) Media Minister (and Government Spokesman) Anura
Priyadarshana Yapa later contradicted Hulugalle at a briefing
following the weekly cabinet meeting, noting that Lake House
employees did enjoy both trade union rights and the right of
free speech.  The government has yet to resolve discrepancy
between his position and Hulugalle's.  Yapa reportedly
counseled Balasuriya and Jayantha to keep a low profile.
Referring to their administrative work at Lake House, he
said, "Don't worry about your pensions.  Look after your
lives!" 

14.  (C) DCM raised the issue of the Noyahr abduction and its
aftermath with Foreign Secretary Palitha Kohona on May 28.
Kohona said the attack on Noyahr "puzzled" the GSL because
there is "no obvious villain."  He said three police units
have been deployed to investigate, but have made little
progress.  He commented that Noyahr was not particularly
critical of anyone and that he couldn't imagine who would
want to hurt him.  DCM pointed out that Noyahr had written an
article critical of the Army Commander recently and added
that Noyahr was reluctant to give a statement about his
attackers because he feared retaliation against his family.
Kohona dismissed this as a "poor excuse," adding that "if
someone wanted to attack his family, they would have done it
already."  DCM emphasized that other journalists are
frightened by the attacks on journalists and some are looking
to leave the country because they fear for their lives.
Kohona laughed and said they were just looking for any excuse
to leave.  He described the attacks on journalists as an
"unnecessary distraction," saying the GSL doesn't need any
additional problems to deal with and certainly wouldn't be
behind the attacks.  He added that the killing of Tamil
journalist P. Devakumar in Jaffna on May 28 was likely the
work of "other groups" operating in the area. 

15.  (C) COMMENT:  Embassy considers the journalists'
accounts of the Defense Secretary's thinly veiled threats
credible, and consistent with previous reported behavior by
Gothabaya Rajapaksa.  President Chandrika Kumaratunga 

COLOMBO 00000528  005 OF 005 

appointed the two Lake House media workers to their positions
at the head of the Working Journalists Association, an
organization created by an Act of Parliament.  They are both
Sinhalese and considered close to the ruling SLFP; the same
applies to Nation editor Allahakoon.  The groups responsible
for following, surveilling, threatening and, in the case of
Keith Noyahr, abducting and beating journalists, are widely
believed to be linked to the Defense Ministry.  The current
wave of intimidation against journalists appears to be part
of a "plumbing" operation to discover the source of leaks to
media about military information, and particularly stories
critical of the Army Commander.  Fonseka is unpopular among
the senior army officer corps and reviled by his fellow
service commanders, particularly Navy Commander Karannagoda.
Several of them have been talking to the media about Fonseka
and Gothabaya's conduct of the war.  With the government
vulnerable on several fronts, but especially inflation, it is
essential to the President's domestic political strategy that
the Sinhalese public perceive the government as winning the
war against the Tamil Tigers.  Fonseka, who has made himself
politically indispensable to the Rajapaksa administration, is
expected to gain an extension of his term beyond the normal
retirement age.  (He would otherwise have to leave in
September 2008.)  In this context, Gothabaya Rajapaksa finds
any criticism of Fonseka and the army's war effort
intolerable and will go to great lengths to shut it down.
Our sources have alerted us that the Defense Ministry will
push for onerous war censorship and criminal defamation
legislation soon.
BLAKE
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Latest comments

  • 0
    0

    Rambutkewlla has often struck me as a clown and goon in the ilk of Marvyn Silva during press conferences when he thinks he is being very smart cracking ‘jokes’ that are unfunny in response to serious questions. Lacking any sensibility or understanding of complex issues, he epitomizes the barbarity of the Rajapakse regime in Lanka at this time.

    • 0
      0

      shame to gosl loosing country lovers.

  • 0
    0

    It is said that the worst enemies are, one’s best briends. The reason is that as a good friend one is aware of the secret doings of the friend. Therefore is it surprising that Gota has turned on these two after they helped Gota, possibly because they started to demand for more, for favours done. Now they are enemies and had to leave the country, otherwise they would have disappeared like Prageeth Eknaligoda. ‘Thamangey arakku thamantama gahanawa’. Good for these SOBs.

    • 0
      0

      Another two condoms LOL ;) :) :) :) :);)

      • 0
        0

        Of course two condoms.

  • 0
    0

    OMG!! were these two Rajapaksha supporters? what a shame!

    • 0
      0

      Not only Rajapaksa supporters, CBK supporters two. Political henchmen, CBK appointed both in Lake House top positions. Then both Poddala and Sanath work hard for Rajapaksa. Priyantha Kariyapperuma funded them for make newspaper called ” Mahinda” hahaha good jornos. Yes Ahangama condoms.

  • 0
    0

    Two piece of Karapincha ;)

  • 0
    0

    This is how state media work in Sri Lanka, all political appointments. Political henchmen. After CBK took over media ministry from Ranil W government, she appointed these two goons at top positions in Lake House. To stay in the positions they work hard for Rajapksa without knowing Rajapaksa’s condom theory, shame on you journalists.

    • 0
      0

      I thought they have principle positions, now I know its just a perk issue. What a shame.

  • 1
    0

    No they were not Rajapakse supporters. They were planted at the Dinamina and were called the two ghosts because they were the eyes and the ears of the Mangala Samaraweera team. The others were Lucien Rajakarunanayake, Suren Ragahvan, Geoff Wijeysinghe and Bennet Rupasinghe. Furthermore there was a man called Joe Seneviratne who was parachuted into a position of importance and Hilary Rajakarunanayake Lucien’s brother from Welikada jail to Deputy Editor. The last names had two weeks reporting experience at the Mount Lavinia Magistrate’s courts. Chandrika Kumaratunga bragged that she never robbed the country? What a laugh! Lake House was emptied of all the money by these men. We had to sit and watch as the clouds rolled by!

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