Consensus reached on new media culture
The abolition of the laws of criminal defamation, the setting up of an
independent Press Complaints Commission (PCC) and the introduction of a
Freedom of Information Act among other issues as a matter of high priority
was agreed to at a meeting between the Government and Press representatives
Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe chaired the meeting on Tuesday at
Temple Trees where issues relating to the media were presented by the Newspaper
Society of Sri Lanka, the Editors Guild and the Free Media Movement.
Mr. Wickremesinghe said the new UNF government had already drafted the
bill for the repeal of penal provisions relating to defamation and he would
make it available to media representatives before tabling it in parliament
A decision whether to include retroactive provisions to the Penal Code
amendment would be taken later, he said.
It was agreed to set up a self-regulatory Press Complaints Commission
which would replace the existing quasi-judicial government-appointed Press
Council noted for its time-consuming inquiries and partisan probes.
The government would study the possibility of closing down the Press
Council and transferring the funds and personnel for the setting up of
the PCC. It would comprise media and public representatives and would be
devoid of government directives. The PCC would give the public quick and
inexpensive redress to grievances against the media which would abide by
a Code of Profesional Practice already drawn up by Editors.
A draft Freedom of Information Act was also presented for study by the
government. The premier had earlier told parliament that the government
would introduce an Act to provide the media and the public greater access
A draft Contempt of Court Act to protect sources by law and define parameters
of contempt and an Act relating to the reporting of parliamentary debates
also received agreement.
The long absence of and therefore the establishment of a Media Training
Institute and a Press Centre in lines with such venues in most democracies
throughout the world was discussed.
The Prime Minister explained that the government was currently cash-strapped
and would have to consider financial assistance other than by way of providing
buildings by next year. The assistance of foreign donors supporting the
role of the media as part of good governance was to be explored jointly
by the Mass Communications Ministry and the media.
A Media-Military charter was also discussed with the premier. It would
include guidelines relating to the reporting of racial and religious issues,
A committee headed by Bradman Weerakoon and media representatives would
go into several other issues including media law reforms, Emergency Regulations,
the PTA and the setting up of a Broadcasting Authority.
An appeal by the publishers for the reduction of duties on the import
of newsprint was to be taken up by the Prime Minister with Treasury officials.
Mass Communications Minister Imtiaz Bakeer-Markar, Justice Minister
W. J. M. Lokubandara, Constitutional Affairs Minister G. L. Pieris and
Prime Minister's secretary Bradman Weerakoon together with chairmen and
CEOs of independent newspaper publishing houses and electronic media, members
of the Editors Guild and representatives of the FMM participated in the
talks with the Prime Minister.
Pay up or deliver call from Customs
By Tania Fernando
While the Ceylinco Group has paid a fine for having used duty free permits
issued to a hotel, the wife of the former cricket captain is yet to pay
the penalty imposed on her.
Three of the four duty free vehicle permits issued to a hotel down south
was given to the Ceylinco Group and the other to Samadara Ranatunga.
The duty free vehicles had been issued to Koggala Beach Hotel and Tissara
The fines were paid to the Customs and the three vehicles had been released
later. The vehicles are reportedly now being used by the Ceylinco Group
and are in the process of being transferred to them.
Meanwhile, The Sunday Times learns that the wife of the former cricket
captain who had imported a Benz car using the duty free permit was yet
to pay a penalty imposed by the Customs.
The fine was later reduced on President Kumaratunga's instructions.
The Sunday Times learns that the Customs would make a written request
to Ms. Ranatunga to pay the penalty or hand over the vehicle. She had reportedly
agreed to produce the vehicle but had not done so yet.
When The Sunday Times contacted Ms. Ranatunga she declined to comment.
ST Editor's appeal
SC fixes april 1 for settlement
By Laila Nasry
The Supreme Court last Monday acceded to the defence request for further
time in the special leave to appeal application filed by The Sunday Times
Editor against his conviction of criminal defamation of President Chandrika
Attorney Ronald Perera stating that his client's senior counsel Tilak
Marapana was now a Cabinet minister told court there was a possibility
that the law of criminal defamation would be repealed as a matter of government
He said his client required more time to consider the settlement offered
by the Chief Justice.
Additional Solicitor General Rienzie Arsecularatne told court the proposed
repeal of the law was irrelevant and had nothing to do with the conviction.
In the wake of the developments the Bench comprising Chief Justice Sarath
N. Silva, D. P. S. Gunesekera and C. V. Wigneswaran granted time until
April 1 for the Editor to consider the settlement offered by the Chief
On the previous occasion the Chief Justice suggested that the Editor
tender a general statement to court and not to any person in particular
taking into consideration the fact that the Editor has already admitted
that the article was factually incorrect and that it was not written by
The Editor maintained throughout the trial and first appeal that though
the article concerned was incorrect, that it was not defamatory.
The Editor was convicted on two counts of criminal defamation of President
Chandrika Kumaratunga for a story published in a gossip column of The Sunday
Times of February 15,1995.
Tilak Marapana PC with S. L. Gunesekera, Nalin Laduwahetty, Ronald Perera
and Upul Jayasuriya instructed by Asoka Samararatna appeared for the Editor.
R. I. Obeysekera PC with Wijaya Wickremaratne PC, Ashley Herat and A. W.
Yusuf appeared for the virtual complainant President Kumaratunga.
Additional Solicitor General Rienzie Arsecularatne PC with state counsel
Gihan Kulatunga appeared for the Attorney General.
The second commemoration of Dr. A. C. S. Hameed will be held at 4 p.m on
January 31 at the BMICH conference hall.
The event is organised by the A. C. S. Hameed Peace Foundation.
The chief guest will be Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe.
Former Swedish Minister and European Union Commissioner for the Environment
Margot Wallstrom will deliver the keynote address.
Other speakers include Ministers G. L. Peiris, Imthiaz Bakeer Markar,
Ven. Kamburugammuwe Vajira Thera and TULF vice president Ananda Sangari.
Tamil Nadu to celebrate Lanka's Independence
For the first timeTamil Nadu will celebrate Sri Lanka's independence on
February 4 with a cultural event and lectures discussing various aspects
of the freedom struggle.
The celebrations organised by the Sinhalese and Tamil communities based
in Tamil Nadu would be a show of support for the current peace process.
The keynote address "The impact of Indo-Lanka relations to the Independence
movement" will be delivered by S. Mohan, former Governor and Chief Justice
of Karnataka. He is also a retired judge of Supreme Court of India.
Prof. J. B. Disanayaka will also deliver a lecture on the contribution
of the language to a freedom struggle followed by a sitar tribute to Sri
Lanka's independence by Visharada Pradeep Ratnayake.
Visharada Dayaratne and Amara Ranatunge duo will present "Homage to
The celebrations will be held at 6 p.m. at the Maha Bodhi Society Hall
The celebrations are organised by the Sri Lanka Maha Bodhi Society in
association with Tech Sri Lanka.
Beware of mod itinerant salesmen
Police have warned the public to beware of a sales racket being carried
in the guise of a market promotion.
They said a leading importer of electrical items was involved in the
A well-dressed team of young men would arrive in a van and announce
the sale of household goods at relatively cheaper prices. They would inveigle
unsuspecting consumers by offering goods on an easy payment scheme and
issue a receipt carrying the name of Gold Star Marketing Services (Pvt)
Ltd., 123 Galle Road, Colombo 3.
Chandra Kanthi of Moratuwa fell a victim when she paid Rs. 7,050 and
was given a receipt for it. She said on January13 she had paid the money
for a gas cooker and a rice cooker. They had reportedly told her when she
bought a gas cooker she would get a free cylinder and a pipe for the cooker.
She said they had agreed to deliver the cylinder and the rice cooker on
January 19 after obtaining a permit.
She had also been told any repairs could be done at any Aban's showrooms
free of charge on production of the receipt. She said the items had not
been delivered up to January 25.
She said the salesmen had told her if they sold more items they would
win a ticket to Italy. "I felt sorry for them and decided to help," said
Ms. Kanthi while making a complaint at the Kollupitiya police station.
The Kollupitiya police said the address in the receipt led them to a
deserted house at the Rotunda Gardens in Kollupitiya.
Police also said the suspects had used a hired vehicle.