The Sunday TimesNews/Comment

17th November 1996



AirLanka steps into fly twins to London

The conjoined twins were due to leave early this morning for California via London, in an AirLanka flight, after another airline refused to take the incubator carrying the babies on Friday night.

Health Minister A.H.M. Fowzie immediately seeking the help of Aviation Minister Dharmasiri Senanayake arranged the babies to be flown by AirLanka to London and from there through British Airlines to California.

The cost of the operation including the passage of two doctors and one nurse, runs to over Rs. one million, and Mr. Fowzie had negotiated for nearly Rs. 400,000 out of the Presidential Fund.

However the initial passage of those leaving today was borne by a leading businessman who did not wish to be named.

Dr. Kulasekera, who was in charge of the babies at the Lady Ridgeway Hospital said that the ten-hour operation will be done at the Lind Loma University Children's Hospital, which had recently conducted a similar surgery very successfully.

Dr. Kulasekera said that initial reports saying that the babies had only one heart and a common liver was proven wrong after ECG and other scan reports detected that the babies had both of them.

"The two babies named Hansani and Hansika are in perfect condition for a surgery," said Dr. Kulasekera.

He said that the Loma University offered to conduct this intricate operation in response to messages sent worldwide through Internet.

"There was also a considerable amount of response from local contributors towards the fund-raising for this operation, but so far no one has deposited any money to the special account opened by the Lions Club," said Dr. Kulasekera.

However if any wish to contribute, they are requested to send in their cash to Account No. 0060000599 at the Sampath Bank, Borella.

Child sex publicity: Call for severe punishment

By Chamila Jayaweera and Arshad Hadjirin

Once again, Sri Lanka is the topic of discussion, in foreign countries tackling child sex issues. With the introduction of internet to Lankans, the issue of child pornography seems to have escalated.

With so many cases involving mere children, occurring via the internet, in the West, The Sunday Times investigated the possibilities of the same dangers occurring in Sri Lanka.

Recently, a group of foreign correspondents, eager to discover the shocking secrets behind the horror stories of exploited children in coastal areas, were assaulted by angry residents. According to reports, the assailants were trying to protect "false rumours" from being spread abroad, which spoil the image of the country.

Several leading lawyers, lashed out at the adverse light in which Sri Lanka was being portrayed abroad as a virtual haven for paedophiles and warned that this could tarnish the country's image.

Ms. Maureen Seneviratne, who has researched the subject, expressed her disapproval.

"There is a lot of undue foreign publicity being given to this issue. It is true that the authorities should take severe action against these perpetrators, but Sri Lanka, with its strong cultural heritage has been affected mainly because foreigners who visit here regularly," she said.

She blamed the foreign media for not bringing to light the harsh truth about violators in their own countries first. She accused embassies and the judicial system in Sri Lanka for being far too lenient with foreign child sex offenders. A jail sentence of at least a year, should be made mandatory, she said.

Commercial sexual exploitation of children has become much more easy,cheaper and difficult to detect, as a result of home editing desks, computer generated graphics and other high tech. editing systems, that have moved the multi-million dollar child porn industry into the home.

Dr. Arthur C. Clarke, the father of satellite communications, claimed that with individuals being able to access their own web-sites, photographs of children exploited in the nude are easily sent across undetected.

Local Internet experts say that the only intervention against such offenders at present is through service providers, who can refuse to sell space to anyone they know is providing child sex material.

Seargent Anura Gamage of the Hikkaduwa Police, told The Sunday Times, that keeping tabs on the issue was becoming increasingly difficult. He explained that a lot of foreign tourists were more careful now, not being confined to hotels, but forming agreements with very poor families in exchange for a place to stay and children to associate.

The situation is similar in other areas on the coastal belt, as confirmed by police officals.

Reports on the internet, which portray Sri Lanka as a country tangled in the web of child prostitution stress that despite all the protection and support existing for sexually exploited children, "including legislation and rehabilitation programmes , the need for much broader awareness and greater political and financial commitments is vital."

And she was the thirteenth

By S. S. Selvanayagam

Controversy over the deportation of teenager Chitra Rajendran from Denmark has triggered a chain reaction in political and legal circles as well as in the media.

Average Europeans have a general belief that 13 is an unlucky number and they are even scared to number their households with No. 13. It seems to be true in the case of deportee Chitra Rajendran.

So far twelve Tamil refugees have been deported from Denmark after their applications for refugee status were rejected by the Danish authorities. Chitra is No. 13 and her case has caused an international crisis.

The Tamil refugees claim they would be harassed and arrested by the Sri Lankan authorities, whereas the host countries feel the other way that Sri Lanka is safe for them to return under the People's Alliance government which has promised to maintain human rights.

The controversy unfolded in Denmark itself. Chitra is an 18-year-old girl who hails from Kopay in the Jaffna peninsula. At the age of 15 she went to Denmark and was pursuing her studies there in the Danish language.

She claims that because of the internal civil commotion in 1993 in Sri Lanka, her mother sold her property and sent her to Denmark. There she lived under the supervision of her mother's sister Sellammah Navaratnam and from 1993 to 1996 she studied in Denmark.

Chitra was recently taken in by the Danish authorities and kept in prison for two weeks on rejection of her application for refugee status in Denmark. It is learnt that she had made an appeal to the Ombudsman in Denmark and was waiting for a decision.

Danish newspapers and human rights movements as well as students in Denmark made a hue and cry in protest against her detention and the attempt to deport her. Her school students and voluntary organisations reportedly raised funds to fight her case.

Even though the appeal to the Ombudsman was pending the Danish authorities decided to deport her to Sri Lanka as it appeared to them that Sri Lanka was now safe for any Tamil to return.

When the decision to deport Chitra to Sri Lanka was taken, many in Denmark openly protested against it expressing fear that on arrival in Colombo she might be arrested and harassed by the police.

Disregarding these protests she was deported from Denmark and she arrived in Colombo on November 1. Danish newspapers and human rights movements raised concern over the deportation. Her school inspector in Denmark, Kaston Winthar strongly protested and appealed that she be brought back to Denmark.

Two Danish officers brought her to Sri Lanka and handed her over to Sri Lankan Immigration officials. Chitra told lawyers that at the time of her arrival at the airport in Katunayake she had no identity card or passport.

A group of journalists in Denmark who were closely following these developments had decided to verify and report the actual ground situation in Sri Lanka. Thus nine Danish journalists arrived in Colombo to monitor developments.

On arrival at the Katunayake Airport, Chitra was legally passed and cleared through Immigration and Customs and went to a relative's house in Dehiwela.

On November 2, foreign journalists tried to contact her and get an interview. Danish electronic media journalist Troels Aagaard of Foreign News Desk, Danish Broadcasting Corporation gained access to interview her and broadcast Chitra's interview in Denmark.

On the same day, SLBC in its news broadcast said a Tamil deportee from Denmark was missing and she was being sought by the police. It was also said the Danish authorities had failed to inform the Sri Lankan authorities about the deportation.

Chitra's relatives in Dehiwala having heard this news refused to keep her through fear. At this juncture, TV journalist Jenson Gens Mollar of TV II, Denmark reportedly intervened. He found her accommodation at Mount Lavinia Hotel.

On November 3, she returned to her relative's house at Dehiwela but was arrested by the Dehiwela police and kept in custody on a seven-day detention order. At the time of the arrest, it is reported that Danish TV journalist Mollar and SLBC journalist were accompanying her. The SLBC journalist was questioned and his statement recorded by the police.

In this situation Chitra's relatives in Denmark and Danish solicitor Christel Falk Woenner - who appeared for Chitra retained Sri Lankan lawyers K.V. Thavarasa and Mrs. T. Gowry Shangary to look after her interests here.

Investigations were directed by SSP Pathmasiri Liyanage and conducted by Chief Inspector T.M.P. Tennekoon, OIC, Dehiwala police and a special team from that station. Mount Lavinia SSP refused to speak to the press regarding allegations of the conditions under which the girl was remanded.

The media including foreign journalists and human rights activists had been barred from any contact with Chitra on the orders of the IGP.

Police headquarters said investigation into certain allegations of LTTE connections against Chitra had now completed and she was likely to be released soon.

Meanwhile, officers of the Crime Detective Bureau (CDB) contacted lawyer K. V. Thavarasa who was looking after the interests of Chitra in Sri Lanka and wanted him to be present when they questioned the four Danish journalists, recorded their statements and searched their hotel rooms in Colombo.

ASPs SP Ranasinghe, N. Dharmaratne and OIC CI Nuwan Hettasinghe on the directions of the IGP, W. B. Rajaguru accompanied by Attorney Thavarasa went to Mt. Lavinia Hotel. "TV II Television, Denmark journalist Jenson Jens Mollar was taken to CDB headquarters and his personal belongings searched.

Then the CDB officers visited Nis Olsen Egon of "Politiken" newspaper who was staying at Hotel Intercontinental and recorded his statement. Thereafter they went to the Grand Orient Hotel where journalist Ole Hoff Lund of "Berlingske" newspaper and Morten Jastrup of "Information" newspaper stayed and recorded their statements.

At the end of these searches, the four journalists were detained at Beach Way Hotel, Mount Lavinia under heavy police guard until November 15. They were barred from outside contact except the Consul- General of Denmark, Palle Bjorn Rasmussen. The detained journalists contacted the Danish Consul- General and asked him to retain lawyer K.V. Thavarasa to appear on behalf of them as well.

Police were to look into the bona fides of the four journalists who followed Chitra's deportation from Denmark. It is unusual for as many as four journalists to follow a single woman deportee all the way to the country of her origin. We are interrogating them on the basis of these unusual circumstances, a senior police officer said.

The heads of the Danish media groups which sent the journalists here faxed messages saying they were on official reporting assignments and their detention was a violation of democratic freedom and international principles.

On November 10, a major international row was brewing over the detention of the journalists. Eminent local lawyer M.L.M. Ameen, PC, appealed for their immediate release to avert any further damage to the country's image. Mr. Ameen, in a hard hitting letter to the IGP stated that the police action was high handed and uncalled for, with no valid reasons yet being given for their detenion. Free Media Movement too intervened and expressed grave concern over the detention, warning the world might think Sri Lanka was trying to hide something dreadful.

On November 13, our sister paper "Midweek Mirror" published a picture taken secretly by its photo- journalist Lakshman Gunatillake from the roof-top of an adjoining building of the Beach Way Hotel where the journalists were kept. The Danish government too intervened.

As the impact of the new developments, the Danish Consul-General tried to contact the journalists in detention over the phone several times but he was told the journalists were sleeping. As the wife of one of the journalists was frantic to find out the situation, she pleaded with the Consul-General to visit them and find out the position.

The Consul-General, having failed to contact the journalists till noon, phoned lawyer Gowry Shangary and said he was highly worried. The lawyer too tried over the phone, but to no avail.

The National Security Council took up the matter and a decision was taken to deport the four journalists.

The lawyer and the Consul-General decided to go to the hotel in person in the evening. Meanwhile the lawyer was informed that the deportation order had been made by the Defence authorities and they would be deported any moment.

In the evening, the lawyer was informed that the detained journalists would probably be sent back home by the first available British Airways flight and to be ready at the CDB headquarters. The reasons for the deportation order were not revealed. But it was mentioned that the deportation order would be handed over to the deportees at the time of their embarkation.

On the same unlucky 13th night by 10.30 p.m. the Danish journalists were packed off in a British Airways flight.

After the deportation only was there any official government announcement on the drama which had till then been hushed up.

The Ministry of Defence in a press release said, "Shortly after the arrival of Chitra in Sri Lanka four persons from Denmark arrived in Colombo and have been associated with her and moved closely with her in Colombo. Of the four Danish nationals concerned, two had described their profession at point of entry at Bandaranaike International Airport as 'student', one as 'reporter' and one as a 'TV mat'. In respect of the declaration in the disembarkation card they had indicated their purpose of visit as 'holiday' in the case of two of them; and 'other' in the case of the 3rd."

The release added, "It later transpired that all four persons were journalists and had admitted to Sri Lankan authorities that they were really visiting the country to cover for their newspapers and the TV station the return of Miss Chitra. However at no time did they seek press accreditation from the Department of Information as is the procedure to be followed by journalists on assignments in Sri Lanka."

It further said, "In the circumstances, given their close association with Chitra about whom there is strong suspicion of LTTE connections, it was thought necessary by the police to detain the four persons to question them further and ascertain their bona fides."

We have nothing to hide, say journalists

As the four Danish journalists were being deported from Sri Lanka on Wednesday night at the Katunayake Airport, another Danish journalist flew in apparently to report on what was happening to his colleagues.

At the time of his arrival, he was not aware of the deportation of his colleagues. Soren Ostergaard Sorensen, the deputy editor of "Berlingske Tidende" Danish newspaper came in on mission for the detained journalist especially for Ole Hoff-Lund of the same newspaper.

He remained in Sri Lanka for a short period and was scheduled to return home on Friday. The Sunday Times interviewed him before his departure.

S. T.: Whom are you representing?

Mr. Sorensen: "Berlingske Tidende," one of Europe's oldest newspapers. It is a liberal-conservative newspaper, the second largest in Denmark. We are having a lot of international services. We have 15 correspondents around the world. Normally we cover Sri Lankan affairs from our Bangkok Bureau in Thailand.

S. T.: Do you feel that Danish journalists or Danish newspapers are under any pressure from the LTTE?

S: No. We don't feel any pressure from the Sri Lankan conflict. We have covered the questions of inter-ethnic crisis very closely in the last years. We and our paper emphasise peaceful solution.

S. T.: What would be the impact of the deportation of the Danish journalists from Sri Lanka?

S: We do not understand how a country can deport people without giving the reason. We think it was an attack on the freedom of media. We are very happy that the international organisations of journalists are taking up the question and we expect Sri Lankan authorities to give a full explanation.

S: T: Why did the Danish journalists fail to get accreditation from the Information Department of Sri Lanka?

S: I believe there have been some confusion on this matter. The journalists were not told exactly what to do. They had nothing to hide. They were here on a normal journalistic job. Unhappily they were not able to do the job because of the deportation. I personally hope that people of Sri Lanka will not believe in the rumours that the Danish journalists were here for any other purpose than journalism itself.

S: T: What would be the Danish government's reaction on this matter?

S: The Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Denmark is following the situation closely and the media in Denmark have tried hard to get the government to act in this matter. I expect that our government would take steps to contact the Sri Lankan government and demand an explanation for the deportation. This is a matter of principle and matter of free press and normally it is a very high priority in Denmark.

S. T.: Are you sure the Danish journalists were on a legitimate business?

S: Completely.

S.T: Why did the Danish government deport Chitra Rajendran?

S: After more than two years of examination in our refugee centres, it was stated that she has no plausible reason for political asylum in Denmark. It was stated that she would be in no risk when she came back to Sri Lanka. This was a reason why the Danish journalists came here. They wanted to see whether it was right that she was in no danger.

S.T: Is there likely to be any change of mind about the refugee problem in Denmark after the deportation of the journalists?

S: It has created a big debate in Denmark. This is not a matter which is threatening the government.

S.T: Is there any sympathy wave surged in Denmark towards the refugees?

S: The case of Chitra has had a lot of attention. People had a lot of sympathy for her. Therefore the people would follow very closely what would happen to her. Normally things are quite open for foreigners and I consider as a positive thing that Chitra can get such popular support from the other side of the continent. -SS

Continue to the News/Comment page 3*Alleged bribe *President seek people's mandate *Special IDs issued *Under PA, Lanka not on road to NIC but to PA-NIC, says UNP *An anathema to politicians *What about the independence of the judiciary?
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