Provincial journalist receives death threatsView(s):
Provincial journalist Augustine Fernando has received death threats for exposing the activities of some individuals illegally charging parking fees on Weavers Road in Chilaw.
Residents living down Weavers Road in Chilaw complain that certain persons are using the road as an illicit parking lot for visitors to the District General Hospital. They added that they are unable to take action against those parking their vehicles along the road as unknown individuals are charging parking fees from vehicle owners. Vehicle owners claim a man stationed at the ‘parking lot’ charges a parking fee of between Rs. 20 to 50 per vehicle. Residents however say they are greatly inconvenienced by the haphazard manner in which these vehicles are parked.
The individual collecting parking fees claimed that his employer had won a tender for this purpose. He added they also had the approval of the Chairman of the Urban Council (UC) as well as the Chilaw Police.
Residents said they did not blame vehicle owners as they pay a parking fee, however they pointed out that parking fees could be charged if a proper parking area was available. Besides residents, shop-owners on Weavers Road too complained that the parking of vehicles hindered their business.
Residents’ added that complaints to both the police and the UC had proved to be futile. The UC Chairman when contacted insisted no individual had been given permission to park vehicle down Weavers Road or to charge parking fees. He added he would not hesitate to take action against any individual who engaged in such illegal activities.
Assistant Superintendent of Police Chilaw Mr. S.S. Wickramasuriya, said police would not permit such illegal activities to continue and would be taking action in this regard. However while no action has been taken regarding the ongoing illegal parking lot, senior journalist Augustine Fernando who exposed the illegal activity has received death threats via three members of the local underworld.
According to the complaint lodged by Mr. Fernando at the Chilaw police station, the person collecting parking fees at Weavers Road had informed him they were operating with the approval of the Chilaw police and Chairman of the Urban Council.
He had also requested the journalist not to report the problem but suggested they meet subsequently to ‘discuss’ the problem. He had also suggested a payment of a substantial sum could be arranged in order that the matter not be highlighted.
Mr. Fernando rebuked the man for attempting to bribe him. He also demanded the man call a halt to the illegal activities which were causing endless trouble to residents and shop-owners alike. He then left.
On June 26, Mr. Fernando visited the area with the intention of taking photos re the collection of parking fees for vehicles.
On June 30 the man collecting parking fees from the illegal parking lot, accompanied by two men called at Mr. Fernando’s house and informed him they had the approval of the police and the Chairman of the urban council to charge fees for parking vehicles at Weavers Road. They also threatened Mr. Fernando with death if he continued to report on the issue and warned him they would lodge a complaint with the police claiming he was making false charges against them as they refused to pay him the Rs. 50,000 he had demanded.
Senior Superintendent of Police Chilaw, Palitha R. Siriwardena is inquiring into the complaint.