Science, Technology & Research non-Cabinet Minister Sujeewa Senasinghe has told court that the intention of the Sunday Times publishing articles against him was to give the newspaper owner’s son, State Defence Minister and Media Minister Ruwan Wijewardene, who was of his same age, a political advantage over himself. He said he could not think of [...]


Sujeewa v. the Sunday Times: Plaintiff Minister cites political envy as reason for defamation


Sujeewa Senasinghe

Science, Technology & Research non-Cabinet Minister Sujeewa Senasinghe has told court that the intention of the Sunday Times publishing articles against him was to give the newspaper owner’s son, State Defence Minister and Media Minister Ruwan Wijewardene, who was of his same age, a political advantage over himself.

He said he could not think of any other intention for the newspaper to attack him.

Mr Senasinghe was testifying in an ongoing case filed by him in the Colombo District Court, claiming that two articles published in the Sunday Times were defamatory of him and that his reputation had been tarnished as a result.

The two articles referred to a news item and a column in the Sunday Times. The news item said Mr. Senasinghe appeared on behalf of a client in a Customs inquiry while being the Deputy Minister of Justice. The Don Manu column commented on his verbal exchange within the premises of Parliament with former MP and award winning film star Malini Fonseka a few years ago.

Mr Senasinghe said it was Mr. Ranjit Wijewardene, the owner of the Defendant company, Wijeya Newspapers Ltd., who introduced him to politics as he is a relative of Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe. He said he knew the Editor, Mr. Sinha Ratnatunga, personally and nobody in the newspaper was against him, so the only reason he could think why the newspaper attacked him was in order to give Mr. Ruwan Wijewardene, who was his age, a political advantage over himself and to destroy him.

In his testimony led by Senior Counsel Romesh de Silva PC, Mr. Senasinghe said;

“I am the plaintiff. I am a lawyer. I am also an MP. I was first elected to the Provincial Council from the Colombo District as a member in 2004 and re-elected in 2009. In 2010, I was elected to Parliament and re-elected in 2015. In 2015, I got the highest number of preferential votes, after Mr Ranil Wickremesinghe who came first. After that, I was appointed as a Minister. Initially I was appointed as Deputy Minister of Justice and later State Minister of International Trade and Investments.

“I am from the United National Party (UNP). I have not served as a chairman of a corporation.

“The Defendants have accepted the fact that I was elected by the votes of the people, and a Member of Parliament and a Minister in paragraphs of 1,2,3,5, and 6th in my petition.

“I took my oaths as a lawyer in 1997 and have been a lawyer for 19 years. I am an old boy of Trinity College, Kandy. The first Defendant (Wijeya Newspapers Ltd) has published that I went to Trinity College, Kandy, but in their answer they have rejected that. Similarly, this newspaper has referred to me as a lawyer, but in their answer rejected that too. They have rejected that I went to Sri Lanka Law College. I have appeared in original courts and appellate courts and the Defendants know that. In addition I have said that I have a good practice.

“My father is Stanley Senasinghe. He practised in the Kandy courts.

“ The Defendants have denied the facts that I was the Kaduwela organiser, and that I contested and won the Provincial Council elections, and that I contested the Parliamentary elections and won.

“Mr Sinha Ratnatunga, the second Defendant, is a friend of mine, whom I have associated for a long time since I entered politics. Since I became a lawyer, I know Mr Asoka Samararatna, Mr. Upul Jayasuriya and Mr. Ronald Perera. They all know these are facts. Mr Ratnatunga and Mr Wijewardene also know these facts. Mr Wijewardene is the Chairman of the first Defendant company. He is the one who said that I should be introduced to politics. Mr Ranjit Wijewardene and the Prime Minister are related. I know Mr Ruwan Wijewardene, a Member of Parliament and a State Minister, who is the son of the owner of the Defendant Company

Counsel: In the article published in the Sunday Times on April 12, 2015 the headline states; “What’s the buzz betwixt Sujeewa and Malini”. The article refers to you by name.

Plaintiff: Yes.

Counsel: The article refers to “unparliamentary language was supposedly used by the UNP MP Sujeewa Senasinghe, 43, now exalted to high office as Deputy Minister of Justice, no less, to make the award winning film actress Malini Fonseka blush crimson and break her five year silence in the House to launch a tirade of her own”.

Plaintiff: Yes.

Counsel: The article also states, “unleashing a torrent of filthy abuse upon a hapless, little old lady old enough to be his mother”.

Plaintiff: Yes.

Counsel: Have you used “filthy abuse”.

Plaintiff: No.

Counsel: It also says that the “filthy abuse” was used on someone who could have been his mother.

Plaintiff: Yes.

Counsel: So, there are two defamatory statements here.

Plaintiff: Yes.

Counsel: Then it refers to a “hapless little old lady”.

Plaintiff: Yes.

Counsel: Then, it says “ The nation holds its curiosity in garters and pocket its judgment as to what choice unparliamentary language was supposedly used by the UNP MP”. It says you used ‘unparliamentary language’.

Plaintiff: Yes.

Counsel: Why do you say this is defamatory?

Plaintiff: Because the newspaper says something I haven’t done.

Counsel: Even if it was true or not, it is defamatory.

Plaintiff: Yes.

Counsel: Then, it says, “the award winning actress Malini Fonseka blush crimson and break her five year silence in the House”. It means Malini Fonseka was ashamed and that she had to speak after five years. All this is defamatory of you.

Plaintiff: Yes.

Counsel: Why do you say it defamatory of you.

Plaintiff: It says that she was abused to such an extent that she was pained mentally and was forced to speak.

Counsel: The article says that “A short while ago the Deputy Minister Sujeewa Senasinghe insulted my personal life using vulgar words” This refers to you saying something about her personal life.

Plaintiff: Yes.

Counsel: Even if it is correct or not, it is defamatory.

Plaintiff: Yes.

Counsel: Then the article says “this must be deplored by all women”.That is also defamatory of you.

Plaintiff: Yes.

Counsel: Why do you say so?

Plaintiff: That I insulted an elderly lady in bad words and that was an insult to all women.

Counsel: So, it means that the newspaper is saying all women are against what he said.

(Objections raised to the question).

District Judge: You may re-phrase that question.

Counsel: The article says that all women must denounce this, says the MP.

Plaintiff: What it says is, “As a (collaborating) witness, she called on another UPFA National List MP Sriyani Wijewickrema who had been seated next to her. She confirmed it and said she had witnessed the whole scene and that Sujeewa Senasinghe had used foul words, to abuse the veteran actress”.

Counsel: “And that this must be deplored on behalf of all women?”.

Plaintiff: Should be deplored.

Counsel: Even if true, it is defamatory of you. But, is it true?

Plaintiff: It is not true.

Counsel: Then the article says, “Had she contested no doubt, she would have mustered multiple times more votes than the paltry 52,000 votes Sujeewa Senasinghe was able to garner in 2010”. That is the view of the newspaper.

Plaintiff: Yes.

Counsel; The newspaper refers to the 2010 election. You contested in 2015 also. Who came first from your district?

Plaintiff; Mr. Ranil Wickremesinghe, the party leader.

District Judge; Please lead evidence only relevant to this case.

(As the Defence Counsel has raised objections to this question, and an answer has already been given, an order will be made when an Order is being made).

Counsel: The article refers to you “crawling through” the preferential list. The people have answered that well. It also refers to you using “unwarranted Mariyakade words”.

Plaintiff: Yes, they show that I used foul words.

Counsel: So, first they refer to an incident in Parliament and then give their opinion.

Plaintiff: Yes. 99% of the newspaper’s opinion is in this article.

Counsel: Then the article says; “He should have shown that chivalry was not dead in his old alma mater Trinity”. It means that you are going even against your school’s principles.

Plaintiff: Yes, that I behaved in such a manner that I devalued the principles of a leading school.

Counsel: The article refers to “Malini Fonseka may have had a point when she remarked that the UNP had formed the government due to Maithripala’s charity, which truth, no doubt, would have stung Sujeewa’s machismo to the quirk”. And “But instead of retorting that Maithripala may never have come to power to distribute his political gifts and do his charity work if not for the UNP’s proactive role ensuring his victory, he descended into the gutter to bandy words”. He “descended into the gutter” is defamatory of you?

Plaintiff: That’s hugely defamatory.

Counsel: The article states that “Maithripala Sirisena rode to victory with the promise to usher in an era of Maithree, to restore honesty and decency in public life. As the Deputy Minister of Justice Sujeewa Senasinghe should bear this in mind”. That’s the opinion of the newspaper. They refer to a Maithripala era?

Plaintiff: Yes, they want to remind me to conduct myself with decorum and in a civilised way and to behave in a manner promised by Maithripala Sirisena.

Counsel: Who is the chairman of the Sunday Times?

Plaintiff: Wijewardene.

Counsel: Is he a relative of the Prime Minister? If so, how is he a relative?

Plaintiff: He is a cousin of the Prime Minister.

Counsel: Is the Prime Minister’s mother, the elder sister of Mr. Wijewardeme.

Plaintiff: As far as I know, the Prime Minister’s mother is the elder sister of Mr. Wijewardene.

Counsel: Is there any other MP who is a relative of Mr. Wijewardene?

Plaintiff: His son, Ruwan Wijewardene.

Counsel: Whats his age?

Plaintiff: My age.

Counsel: Do you say that the articles published were written with the intent to defame, and if so, why is that?

Plaintiff: The only reason I can think of is that Ruwan Wijewardene is my age and from the UNP. I cannot think of any other reason. I know the Editor very well.

Counsel: There’s no need of saying anything about the Editor. Ruwan Wijewardene is your age, so what about it?

Plaintiff: There’s no reason for the newspaper to attack me. The one reason, the way I see it, is to give Ruwan Wijewardene an advantage by defaming me and destroying me politically. I cannot think of any other reason because no one in the newspaper has anything personally against me.

Counsel: In a news item, the newspaper says “Customs say deputy minister tried to get seized copper rods released?” It means that as deputy minister you tried to get some seized goods released.

Plaintiff: It a hugely defamatory because the newspaper is trying to say that I tried to get something done as a deputy minister.

Counsel: The news item says “Customs officials have thwarted an attempt by a deputy minister to secure the release of an impounded container of copper rods from Dubai on duty free basis, a top Customs official said”.

Plaintiff: The newspaper says that minister Sujeewa Senasinghe interfered in getting seized items released by Customs.

Counsel: The news item saysThe company involved in the alleged racket together with a subsidiary had been importing 8mm copper wire rods from Dubai under the TIEP scheme and re-exporting them to India after turning them into 6mm and 3mm copper rods”. It refers to a racket.

Plaintiff: It’s hugely defamatory.

Counsel: Then, it states “As a result the State has lost Rs. 100 million in taxes”.And it states you have gone before the Court of Appeal on behalf of the company.

Plaintiff: That is not true.

Counsel: Have you appeared on behalf of these companies?

Plaintiff: I have appeared before the Customs.

Counsel: But you haven’t appeared before the Court of Appeal. But the newspaper has said so. So, you attribute the same motive to the newspaper as you stated before.

Plaintiff: Yes, the motive is as I stated before.

Mr Senasinghe has claimed Rs 2 billion as damages.

Romesh de Silva, PC with Farman Cassim appeared for the Plaintiff instructed by H.M.Siddeek.

Kushan D’Alwis, PC with Rajiv Wijesinghe appeared for the first defendant.

Manoli Jinadasa with Lasantha Thiranagama appeared for the second Defendant instructed by Samararatna Associates.

Share This Post


Advertising Rates

Please contact the advertising office on 011 - 2479521 for the advertising rates.