Those who hit me will garland me – Mervyn
~ Says that like religious leaders he
also is being persecuted
Controversial Labour Minister Mervyn Silva remained defiant despite the barrage of allegations levelled against him over last Thursday’s dramatic Rupavahini riot.
In an interview with The Sunday Times from his hospital room at the National Hospital Merchants Ward, he said last Thursday’s attack on him at the Rupavahini Corporation was a cowardly act where some 1000 people surrounded and assaulted a single individual but despite the attack he said he remained strong.
These are excerpts from the interview:
- Mr. Silva the incident that took place last Thursday was widely publicised. What is your side of the story?
|SLRC News Director T.M.G. Chandrasekera
First I like to thank The Sunday Times for listening to my side of the story. I didn’t go there for war and I never expected one. I know how to wage wars. I went there as a Minister who had minimal security to find out why they didn’t carry my speech which I made at Matara. So I spoke to the news director who walked away from me while I was talking. Then I went and spoke to the Chairman.
At that time a mob that had gathered there held me hostage in the chairman’s room. I would like to know if this is journalistic ethics. If I wanted to wage a war I would have brought 5,000 people from Colombo Central.
- It is alleged that you attacked the news director?
I did nothing of the sort the reports have been blown out of proportion. I am not a person who commits such acts of violence. If the person in question can prove I assaulted him, I will quit my job as Minister. The people behind these reports work for a private television station which does the dirty work of the opposition with the ulterior motive of toppling the government.
- Mr. Silva you said a private television station is behind this. What proof have you got? Haven’t you previously harassed and openly made threatening gestures to journalists and this particular private television station?
I have never threatened any journalist. Most of what I say has been misinterpreted. I have proof of their involvement in putting the country down and they will be exposed soon.
- You speak of journalistic ethics. How about parliamentary ethics? Is this a good example to the people? Don’t you think you are embarrassing the government and the president?
|The Minister taking refuge inside the Chairman’s office.
No I don’t think so. Humility is part of life. Christ was stoned while preaching, so was Prophet Mohammed. Lord Buddha also had a lot of obstacles to face. But those who gave them trouble eventually followed them even to the extent of garlanding them with flowers. Likewise those who assaulted me will do the same so I am not deterred by such incidents.
- Several MPs of your party have condemned your behaviour. I understand there is to be a disciplinary inquiry against you. What can you tell me about this?
I stand up against social injustice. People in my area know this. I can only say that they should first hold a disciplinary inquiry against those who suggest holding a disciplinary inquiry against me.
- There are allegations that you are involved in peddling narcotics and associating with drug barons. What do you say about this?
Once again this is false propaganda to tarnish my image. I have no involvement in such illegal activities.
Of course I can.
- If so then how do you justify your connection to drug kingpin Kudu Nuwan who was with you and was later arrested by the police? It was also revealed that he is wanted by the police for dealing in narcotics and he is also linked to several high profile murders.
I am a servant of the people. I don’t go around checking people’s backgrounds. I help any one who comes to me. To my knowledge that boy Nuwan has no such criminal record. If he had a criminal record it is the duty of the authorities to take necessary action against him.
- What can you tell me about your alleged involvement with key underworld figures?
There is no truth of my being involved with underworld figures. The people around me are a courageous group who will do anything for me.
If my associates are classed as underworld figures then what do you say about King Dutugamunu’s ten giants or people like Puran Appu or Keppetipola.
- Do you claim to be a national hero like those whom you just mentioned?
I do not have to prove myself to you or to any one else, the people know who I am. Who Mervyn Silva is.
Mervyn case: Magistrate reprimands police
~ Orders full, impartial and unbiased investigation
Colombo’s Chief Magistrate Macky Mohamed directed the Police on Friday to hold an unbiased and proper investigation into the incident where Minister Mervyn Silva and his body guards entered the Rupavahini Corporation office and allegedly assaulted the news director.
He directed the police to take action to bring to book all the suspects irrespective of their status.
The Chief Magistrate reprimanding the Cinnamon Gardens police said their failure to take proper action in this regard would even be detrimental to the prestige of the Judiciary and the public would lose confidence in it.
“If the police do not deal with the culprits in a proper manner, tomorrow they would do the same to the judiciary too,” the Magistrate said.
The Police produced Don Nuwan Udaya Gunathilaka of Nagahamulla in Kolonnawa on charges of assaulting SLRC news director T.M.G. Chandrasekera.
|He is being escorted out of the SLRC under police protection
Mr. Chandrasekera lodged a complaint with the Cinnamon Gardens police that Minister Mervyn Silva entered his office at about 10 am on Thursday with some security personnel and abused and assaulted him.
The Magistrate said the police were adopting double standards in this case because the suspect wielded political influence. He said that if it was some other person the police would have sought to remand the suspect for 14 days but in this case the police were only asking that the suspect be remanded till January 4.
The Magistrate ordered the police not to confine themselves to the B-report but to hold an unbiased and proper investigation into the incident and produce in Court all the suspects and their statements immediately.
Mr. Chandrasekera in his complaint said the Minister had come to his room and asked him why he did not telecast his Matara speech, when a person wearing a brown T-shirt had allegedly pulled him out of his office and assaulted him and continued to do so even while he ran towards the Director General’s office.
The Rupavahini staff angered by the unwarranted action of the intruders retaliated by allegedly assaulting them.
The B-report filed by the Police states that the suspect had threatened, obstructed and assaulted a public officer while on duty and asked court to hold him in fiscal custody until January 4 but the Magistrate remanded the suspect until January 11.
Media groups condemn Mervyn’s unruly behaviour
Several media organizations strongly condemned the unruly behaviour of non Cabinet Labour Minister Mervyn Silva and his body guards last Thursday at the Sri Lanka Rupavahini Corporation (SLRC).
The Sri Lanka Press Institute (SLPI) whilst condemning the action of Minister Mervyn Silva when he attempted to take the law into his hands and interfered with the media, strongly urged the government to take immediate steps to arrest this trend where those in power act with impunity, and ensure the protection of media freedom -- the foundation of all freedoms.
The SLPI in a statement said media freedom in Sri Lanka was facing its gravest threat today as illustrated by the action of this Minister and his body guards.“This is one more in a series of instances where the media has come under assault by those in power and media workers prevented from carrying out their duties,” the SLPI said.Meanwhile five joint media organizations condemning the high-handed behaviour of Minister Silva said that although this politician had in the past acted in a similar manner, there was no action taken against him.
“If a politician thinks he has the power to enter a media organization and assault one of the heads of the institution, it clearly shows the lawlessness prevailing in the country, the organizations said in a statement.
They said that the Rupavahini Corporation staff who by retaliating demonstrated the lack of confidence they have in the law enforcement authorities.
The five organizations -- the Sri Lanka Working Journalists Association, The Federation of Media Employees Trade Unions, the Sri Lanka Muslim Media Forum, the Sri Lanka Tamil Journalists Association and the Free Media Movement also called on the government to take immediate action against the Minister and his thugs who had threatened media personnel and organizations on several occasions.