PCCSL challenges Media Minister

Press Complaints Commission of Sri Lanka (PCCSL) chairman Kumar Nadesan has denied claims made by non-Cabinet Media Minister Lakshman Yapa Abeywardane about the commission, and said false accusations had been made to justify the reactivation of the Sri Lanka Press Council (SLPC).

In a letter addressed to the Speaker, W. J. M. Lokubandara, Mr. Nadesan said Minister Abeywardana had made false accusations against the Press Complaints Commission. “We believe these false accusations have been made to justify the re-activation of the statutory Press Council,” the letter said.
Mr. Nadesan said the Minister, reading from a prepared text in Parliament on Wednesday, had declared that the Press Complaints Commission had “not been of any assistance to the public or the press, and that it receives funds from non-government sources, and that there is financial fraud and irregularities”.

In his letter, Mr. Nadesan said: “We wish to state the assistance the commission has rendered to the public and the press is well documented in the commission’s annual reports, which are regularly sent to the Ministry of Mass Media and Information.

“It is correct that the commission receives its funds from non-government sources, which includes the industry, thereby placing no financial burden on the tax-payers. There have been no financial frauds or irregularities that have been found in the audited annual accounts, which are published in the newspapers and are open for public inspection, since the Commission’s inception in 2003. The statement of the Hon. Minister on these points is therefore wrong,” the letter went on to say.

Mr. Nadesan’s letter said the commission had dealt with 704 complaints against Sinhala, English and Tamil newspapers between October 2003 and June 2009, at no cost to the complainant or the state.
“We believe that making accusations of financial fraud is a serious matter, and we request the minister to table in Parliament, or at a press conference, evidence of such irregularities,” he said.

Copies of the letter have been sent to Prime Minister Ratnasiri Wickremanayake, Media Minister Anura Priyadharshana Yapa, Opposition leader Ranil Wickremesinghe, and other party leaders.

Meanwhile, UNP Colombo district MP Ravi Karunanayaka tabled in Parliament on Thursday a verbatim report of the proceedings of the Press Complaints Committee, when the Sri Lanka Press Council (SLPC) issue was taken up for discussion.

The MP said non-Cabinet Media Minister Lakshman Yapa Abeywardena had misled the House and the country by saying the Parliamentary Committee on Public Expenditure (COPE) had decided to reactivate the SLPC and that the UNP had supported the move. He said the minister had breached parliamentary privilege by making a false statement and requested the Speaker to put the record straight.

“It was based on a Cabinet decision, and by stating that the decision was made by COPE, the non-Cabinet Minister of Media [Lakshman Yapa Abeywardane] has misled the House and the country,” Mr. Karunanayaka said.

COPE discussed the reactivation of the Sri Lanka Press Council at a meeting held on December 3, 2008. The meeting was attended by COPE chairman, Minister John Seneviratna, and members, Minister Susil Premjayantha, Lakshman Yapa Abeywardane, Hussein Bahila, and UNP Kurunegala district MP, Dayasiri Jayasekera.

According to the minutes of the meeting, the committee was of the view that the Press Council should be reactivated as there was no legal body to investigate complaints made by the general public, and had decided to bring this decision to the notice of the government through the Speaker.

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PCCSL challenges Media Minister


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