ISSN: 1391 - 0531
Sunday March 9, 2008
Vol. 42 - No 41

Media Minister concerned over attacks !

Assures Rupavahini staff of better protection Says culprits will be “severely punished”

Media Minister, Anura Priyadarshana Yapa expressed concern over the string of attacks on Sri Lanka Rupavahini Corporation employees and promised to work closely with the workers and the management in working out how best to enhance their security.

One of the slash wounds just below the left shoulder of Ranjini Aluthge Herath, the Assistant Director of the Sri Lanka Rupavahini Corporation library. Pic by Indraratne Balasuriya

The assurance came following a meeting the Ministry Secretary had with the SLRC trade unions where they requested protection in the face of the recent attacks and threats on SLRC employees since December 27 when Labour Minister Mervyn Silva and his bodyguards stormed the Rupavahini office and allegedly assaulted the News Director.

“We are very worried about the recent attacks on SLRC employees. We will take whatever steps necessary to safeguard their security. The police are investigating the various incidents and we will take strong action once the culprits are caught,” Minister Yapa told The Sunday Times and added that he was unaware as to the progress made by the committee appointed by the SLFP.

“However, the report by the Ministry Secretary was submitted to me last week. But I am yet to go through the report”, the Minister said. SLRC joint trade union spokesperson said the unions have decided to launch strike action if the employees are not provided with adequate security.

On Thursday the trade unions held a protest campaign inside the SLRC premises to alert the SLRC employees about the recent incidents. The spokesperson said the four SLRC workers who were attacked during the past few weeks were present when Labour Minister Mervyn Silva stormed the SLRC and were clearly visible in the video footage of the incident.

“The CID had identified 21 employees for further questioning although there is no clear basis upon which these particular employees were selected,” he said. The latest victim of the spate of attacks was SLRC library Assistant Director Ranjini Aluthge Herath who was present during the incident and seen on the video footage though she was not questioned by the CID.

She had been slashed by a razor blade while returning home by bus after work on Wednesday. Ms. Herath had clocked off at 4:50 pm and took the Bambalapitiya – Kadawatha bus at around 5:05 pm and as the bus was not so crowded found a seat without much trouble. When the bus had approached Orugodawatta she noticed what felt was like somebody scratching the area below her left shoulder.

“Mata danuna, pita, panawakin suranawa-wage,” she said and added that she did not feel much pain at the time. The man who had slashed her appeared to be in his mid 20s, wearing a white cap, light orange T-shirt and cream trousers and happened to be the only person standing in the bus.

She had then stood up and as she looked at him he had slashed her left upper arm and had stared back at her in an aggressive manner and as he was getting off the bus and having recovered from a momentary bout of shock had shouted to the people in the bus to grab him, but no one had responded.

Ms. Herath speaking to journalists about her frightening experience. Pic by M.A. Pushpakumara

Ms. Herath asked the bus driver to stop the bus. It was near the Kelanitissa Power Station at the Bandaranaike roundabout and she got off the bus. She approached the traffic cop and told him what happened. He had suggested she take a trishaw and get to hospital soon.

Two other boys who appeared to be well dressed also got into the trishaw claiming they saw what happened to her in the bus and wanted to help her. A few minutes into the journey she had asked the boys and the driver to take her to the National Hospital, but they said they did not know where the hospital was.

“I tried calling 119 but could not get through,” she said. However she had managed to get through to her husband and even though feeling faint she managed somehow to direct the trishaw to the National Hospital and having reached the hospital made a statement to the police post and later to the Grandpass Police.

Ms. Herath a resident of Kadawatha, has been an employee of the SLRC for 21 years and her case is being investigated by the Grandpass Police. On January 25, while journalist Lal Hemantha Mawalage was returning home around 11pm, two men riding a motorcycle attacked him with a knife slashing his right arm and had to be warded at the National Hospital. A few days ago some unidentified person had asked Mr. Mawalage to get his coffin ready.

On the night of January 29, two men armed with a pistol entered the house of Duleep Dushantha. He was not at home at the time but they had threatened his mother with death if she informed the police of the incident. On February 27, the Assistant Camera News Director Priyal Ranjith Perera was threatened by an unidentified gang while he was at his residence and attempted to attack him.

Free Media Moment Convener Sunanda Deshapriya said the threatening of media personnel was continuing and that no case has been made against anyone so far. Neither had anyone been arrested.

He said that the person who read the news on December 27 over Rupavahini was sacked a month after the incident and added that the government was victimising the Rupavahini staff instead of taking action against the erring minister.

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