18th July 1999
Business | Plus | Sports |
Caught in the crossfire: a little boy cries in pain as his
mother covers his eyes to prevent further harm to him
from the indiscriminate firing of tear gas by the police.
Related stories on pages 2 and 3.
Pic by Gemunu Wellage
By Dilrukshi HandunnettiThe Free Media Movement (FMM) yesterday announced it would be launching a demonstration near President Kumaratunga's official residence Temple Trees on Wednesday to protest against the assault on journalists who were covering Thursday's UNP marches in Colombo.
FMM members and other journalists are planning to march from near the Red Cross to Temple Trees on Wednesday morning.
Ten journalists were seriously injured when uniformed and plain-clothes policemen fired tear-gas canisters, rubber bullets and high pressure water cannons and baton charged them.
The FMM and the Editors' Guild said the journalists had identified members of the Presidential Security Division as being involved in the assault on mediamen, a charge DIG T.N. de Silva has denied.
The UNP has also announced it would hold a similar rally the following day (Thursday) at Town Hall, protesting the attack by the same Government security squads on their members, several of whom had to seek treatment in hospital.
On Friday UNP leader Ranil Wickremesinghe added his voice to accusations by several photojournalists that members of the PSD were responsible for the attacks on journalists and others during the abortive UNP processions.
Speaking to Colombo-based diplomats from 16 countries and addressing a news conference later, Mr. Wickremesinghe said the UNP would launch an islandwide campaign starting on Thursday to protest against government repression, dictatorial trends and corruption.
The opposition leader told the diplomats that the party had evidence that the government had used the PSD to violate and brutally suppress basic rights of the people in a manner that had never been seen before.
Asked as to why the UNP did not seek or obtain prior permission from the police for the procession, Mr. Wickremesinghe said he believed that in a democratic society permission was not needed for any peaceful protest.
He was responding to charges by the police that by taking an illegal procession to the highest security zone in Colombo, the party had provoked trouble.
Mr. Wickremesinghe told diplomats it was disconcerting to note the emerging trend of unleashing violence with all armed forces being mobilised under a VIP security division which had no powers or training on civilian control.
He also expressed concern over the state media being used to suppress or twist matters and said the UNP would launch a counter campaign. It was an apparent reference to claims by state media that UNP thugs were responsible for the attacks on Thursday.
Mr. Wickremesinghe's charges of PSD involvement in Thursday's attack were supported by several of the photojournalists who were attacked in the incident. (See story on page 2.)
After meeting diplomats from Asian and western countries, Mr. Wickre-mesinghe told a packed news conference that a peaceful protest had ended in tragedy due to the PA's organized terror. He said the UNP's campaign was countered with brutal force which showed the arrogance and irresponsibility of the government.
Among the UNPers injured in Thursday's attack were former Ministers Renuka Herath, Gamini Lokuge, Sunethra Ranasinghe, John Amaratunga, A.H.M. Azwer and Mahinda Samarasinghe.
General Secretary Gamini Atukorale said yesterday that in the aftermath of Thursday's incident, UNP lawyers were considering legal action while protests were also being planned in parliament and elsewhere.
The Opposition Leader's Office at Cambridge Terrace and his official residence at Marcus Fernando Mawatha both came under a prolonged tear gas attack.
Mr. Wickremesinghe compared Thursday's incidents to what happened in
Wayamba six months ago and said the recent exposures on the alleged bribes
in the Channel 9 deal and the crisis in the health sector had provoked
the government into using strong armtactics against democratic opposition.
The eyewitnesses who did not wanted to be quoted for obvious reasons told The Sunday Times the men came from the rear entrance of Temple Trees and turned from the Liberty Plaza junction towards Dharmapala Mawatha.
Photographers who were attacked near the Red Cross roundabout said they had seen a group of persons armed with clubs heading towards the demonstrators and heard one of them saying 'Munta issarawela gahapiyaw' (Hammer them first).
"With this command they assaulted us brutally. They chased us even into bylanes and attacked us," a photographer said.
Police officers who were on duty near the Red Cross roundabout confirmed that they saw an armed mob coming from the Kollupitiya junction, but declined to comment about their identity.
It is alleged that a senior PSD officer was responsible for leading the attack.
The PSD men who were overheard shouting among themselves had allegedly
been told to station themselves in strategic locations along byroads and
to attack media personnel and high profile demonstrators and destroy cameras
and other incriminating evidence.
The three-member JSC team headed by Justice Ameer Ismail handed over its report to Chief Justice G.P.S. de Silva with recommendations against Judge Abeyratne. The judge was sent on compulsory leave by the JSC.
The detailed recommendations of the JSC are not known, but the inquiry against the judge was that he had removed Mr. Silva's name as co-respondent in the divorce case, when Mr. Abeyratne was Additional District judge of Colombo.
Mr. Silva was at that time the president of the Court of Appeal.
Special investigations against Judge Abeyratne were started on February 16, by a committee comprising three Appeal Court judges.
W.B.A. Jayasekera, former chairman of the Organisation of Professionals Association (OPA), had filed a divorce case against his wife in the Colombo District Courts on December 15, 1993. Mr. Silva was named as the co-respondent in this case.
Mr. Jayasekera in his petition had asked Mr. Silva to pay Rs. 5 million as compensation for having worked to break up his marriage through the act of having an illicit relationship with his wife.
This case had come up before Judge Abeyratne who dismissed the case without allowing the petitioners an opportunity to present the case or for the petition to be corrected.
Mr. Jayasekera then filed a fresh case on June 10, 1994, once again naming Mr. Silva as a co-respondent. Stating that there was no evidence against Mr. Silva, Judge Abeyratne removed his name as co-respondent.
The judge had then examined an appeal made by respondent Ms. Jayasekera, and ordered that Rs. 10,000 to be paid monthly as maintenance and Rs. 50,000 as case fees by the petitioner, Mr. Jayasekera.
Then putting aside the petition filed by Mr. Jayasekera and taking Ms. Jayasekera's appeal for examination, Judge Abeyratne had made an exparte order for the payment of Rs. 1 million as a permanent divorce settlement and case fees to be paid.
Although Mr. Jayasekera appealed to the JSC in 1995 to investigate what he saw as unfair treatment, no steps had been taken by it. After the Ravaya newspaper spotlighted this, Mr. Jayasekera again appealed to the JSC in December last year.
An investigation then began on February 16 by a three-member committee comprising Justices of the Appeal Court, Amir Ismail (now Supreme Court judge), H.S. Yapa and P. Edirisuriya.