Mervyn yet to be quizzed on assault

By Asif Fuard

Police have failed to record the statement of Minister Mervyn Silva allegedly involved in the assault of the Sirasa TV cameraman and the theft of his camera despite a court order to arrest the suspects involved in the incident.

Police Spokesman SSP Ranjith Gunasekara told The Sunday Times that the Minister’s statement was not recorded as he had been out of Colombo attending to the campaign for the forthcoming provincial council elections.

“We have deployed a police team to arrest the suspects and produce them before the magistrate when the case is taken up again. We have not been able to reach the minister as he is away attending to election related work. But we are conducting inquiries into the matter and a report will be filed on the progress of the investigations,” SSP Gunasekara said.

The Sunday Times learns that visuals containing images of 21 suspects who were involved in assaulting and stealing the camera of the Sirasa TV cameraman Waruna Sampath who had attended the opening ceremony of the second half of the fly over bridge in Kelaniya last Monday, had been handed over to the Peliyagoda police. So far 16 suspects have been identified.

Among the 21 suspects was Lal Pieris alias Kudu Lal who has previously been referred to in many homicide and narcotics-related cases. He is a member of the Colombo Municipal Council.

Western Provincial Councillor Upali Kodikara and Amal Rodrigo, co-ordinating secretary to Minister Silva, were a few of the persons seen assaulting and manhandling the Sirasa TV cameraman.

Sirasa TV had been invited by the Highways Ministry to cover the event, when Minister Silva and his goons had attempted to forcibly take away the camera from the networks cameraman Sampath who had been assigned to cover the event.

Sampath had finished taking visuals of the flyover when Minister Silva arrived and asked if there was anyone from Sirasa. Sampath who eventually was identified was then surrounded by the Minister’s goons. The Minister demanded that Sampath hands his camera over.

Later he was trying in desperation to cling on to his camera with nearly 20 people were allegedly assaulting him. He even pleaded with a police officer in the rank of SSP who was present. The SSP had reportedly ignored his plea.

The Sunday Times learn that the said SSP was identified as K.D Somapala who is the Senior Superintendent of Police for Kelaniya. As he refused to give the camera the Minister and his goons had then overpowered Sampath resulting to him receiving injury to his lower abdomen. He was first taken to the Peliyagoda police to record a statement and later taken to the Colombo National Hospital for treatment. He was eventually discharged on Thursday.

Last Friday the Colombo Additional Magistrate Manjula Tilakawardena ordered the Peliyagoda police to arrest all suspects in connection with the incident. On Friday the Sri Lanka Working Journalists’ Association, Sri Lanka Tamil Journalists’ Alliance, Sri Lanka Muslim Media Forum, Federation of Media Employees’ Trade Union which was backed by several political parties, civil society movements and trade unions staged a protest near the Liberty Cinema roundabout, deploring the recent attack on the Sirasa TV cameraman and the spate of attacks allegedly carried out by Minister Silva on the media and the civil society.

The journalists were chanting slogans and were holding placards that stated “Mr. President why are you scared of Mervyn Silva”, “Mr. President put a leash on your pet”, “Mervyn Silva, monster or minister”, “Dr. Mervyn the camera thief”.

On the contrary police Media Spokesman SSP Ranjith Gunasekara at Thursday’s Defence briefing said that the fact that minister Mervyn Silva pulling the Sirasa TV camera cannot be termed as theft and that he has the right to choose if he wants to be filmed or not.

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