President Sirisena pledges to reopen files of missing, killed journalists
President Maithripala Sirisena, on Friday, pledged to reopen the investigation files of journalists who were killed or disappeared during the last three decades.
“The new Government will revive all the suppressed cases and hold proper, impartial and justifiable investigations. As a government, we intend to perform our duties and responsibilities to the best of our abilities regarding this issue,” said President Sirisena, addressing the ceremony held to hand over a cash grant to Sandya Ekneligoda, wife of missing journalist Prageeth Ekneligoda, at the Bar Association of Sri Lanka (BASL) Auditorium.
Former BASL President, Upul Jayasuriya gifted the monetary prize he was presented for the 2015 Rule of Law Award by the Commonwealth Lawyers Association.
Referring to the award, President Sirsena said that the presentation also honours the community of Lawyers of this country, for their efforts to uphold the Rule of Law and the Independence of the Judiciary. He said that, after January 8, there had been absolutely no messages from Temple Trees to anyone in the judiciary.
Speaking of the post-presidential election period, the President said that January 8 was just the beginning of good governance.
“Some say that this is a Government of good governance. But, I do not totally agree with that. According to my view, I don’t think this is totally good governance, but, what we did was to open the doors to good governance, and to reverse the damage to democracy, equality, the Rule of Law, Human Rights and Fundamental Rights would take longer,” the President said.
Speaking at the gathering, Mr Jayasuriya noted that, what the BASL and the Legal community did in raising a voice against injustice was as a service to the people. He appreciated the great services rendered by journalists who were victimised and harassed. Speaking of the current political situation he too said that there is a long way to go.
Meanwhile, Law and Order and Christian Affairs Minister John Amaratunga told the Sunday Times that the probe into the killing and abduction of journalists including those who have gone missing without a trace, will start immediately, and if necessary, foreign assistance will also be sought towards this end.
“The present Government has given this issue top priority with the police provided with a free mandate to investigate without interference from any quarter.”
He urged witnesses, journalists and members of the public to cooperate with the police investigations by providing information, so that cases could be expedited and those responsible brought to justice wherever they may be.
“We have very efficient units within the Police Department, and any one of them or even more would be handpicked to conduct probes that are expected to be widespread.
“We are confident that the local investigators will successfully complete the cases in the shortest possible period,” Minister Amaratunga added.
He stressed that top priority would be given to the murder of former Sunday Leader Editor Lasantha Wickramatunga and journalist Prageeth Ekneligoda who went missing in late January 2010 and was now feared dead.
The Minister said the probe would also focus on attacks on media establishments during the past administration, when at least two privately-owned radio and television stations were put to the torch by armed persons with alleged State backing.
Media Ministry Secretary Karunaratne Paranavithana said that Sri Lankan journalists currently in self-exile have also been contacted and their assistance sought in this connection.
Some 33 local journalists have been killed, abducted or simply gone missing without a trace over the past five years, and there have been zero convictions in this regard, with those responsible still at large.
Mr Paranavithana also added that several international media and rights groups have urged the new Sirisena-Wickremesinghe administration to address this matter at the highest level and bring those responsible to justice without delay.