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12th September 1999

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Australian paceman Jason Gillespie who fractured his leg
in a disastrous mid-field collision with captain Steve Waugh,
being carried to a helicopter in Kandy to be flown to
Colombo for emergency treatment. He will take no further
part in the tour and is to be flown back to Australia.
Pic by Shane Seneviratne
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AG censors media freedom debate

By Ayesha Rafiq

Attorney General Sarath de Silva has informed Speaker K. B. Ratnayake that Parliament should not proceed with a motion calling for greater media freedom because there are cases pending in court but the opposition has challenged the advice of the AG.

The Attorney General is reported to have given his opinion to the Speaker following a government move to delay the debate, now fixed for October 8. The motion is sponsored by both government and opposition MPs. The Attorney General has said several criminal defamation cases against editors of national newspapers are pending in court, and a debate at this stage could be sub-judice.

The motion signed by MPs from the UNP, ULF, PLOTE, LSSP, CWC and the TULF and supported by MPs from other parties calls for the repeal of criminal defamation laws, the replacement of the Press Council, the introduction of a Freedom of Information Act and to introduce legislation consistent with media laws in liberal democracies around the world.

Opposition UNP Leader Ranil Wickremesinghe, a signatory to the motion, told The Sunday Times yesterday that as the Attorney General himself was an interested party in the pending cases referred to, he believed the Speaker should not accept the AG's opinion as binding.

He said the government had given a firm commitment for a debate on October 8 and they should go ahead with it. He said that if legislation were to be delayed because of pending cases, then few if any bills could be passed. Mr. Wickremesinghe pointed out that on an earlier occasion a UNP member raised this issue when Justice Minister G.L. Peiris was presenting amendments to the State Properties Act and the Speaker permitted the debate to proceed though there were pending cases related to the matter.

"The Parliamentary motion merely calls upon the government to expedite legislation to introduce laws and amend or repeal existing laws and is not an introduction of laws by itself," Mr. Wickremesinghe said.

Meanwhile the Commonwealth Press Union (CPU) and the British based international media freedom group Article XIX have organised an international colloquium on 'Freedom of Expression and Defamation' in Colombo from Wednesday to Friday.

The Colloquium will have several international lawyers and human rights advocates.

Media Minister Mangala Samaraweera will make the opening address while the keynote speech will be made by Abid Hussain, UN Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Opinion and Expression.

Death threat to Jeyaraj

By Shelani de Silva

Minister Jeyaraj Fernandopulle has told Cabinet colleagues that he received death threats on Tuesday night after he spoke out on the Channel 9 episode.

Mr. Fernandopulle said he had left parliament around 6.50 p.m. and was heading to his ministry, when his receptionist had informed him that he got a threatening call.

While agreeing that the call was mainly due to his comments on the Channel 9 issue, the minister said he could not point a finger at anybody.

"I cannot say whether the call came from a person who was directly involved with the issue. It could be that someone was trying to sling mud at the Government," he said.

However it was serious enough for him to inform the Cabinet about it . "I thought the ministers should know about the call specially after I heard that the Satana editor was killed. I did not ask for more security and am yet to inform the President," he added.

Judges call for records in cases against AG

The two Supreme Court judges appointed to look into the allegations of moral turpitude against the Attorney General have called for case records from the District Court, the Court of Appeal and the Judicial Services Commission, legal source said.

Justices Ameer Ismail and Shirani Bandaranayake who have been appointed to probe the allegations against Attorney General Sarath Silva by Ravaya Editor Victor Ivan and W. B. Jayasekera who cited Mr. Silva as a co-respondent in his divorce case.

The sources said Justice Bandaranayake had called for the case records of from the District and Appeal Court of the divorce case while Justice Ismail who was inquiring into Mr. Ivan's complaint had asked for documents from the JSC. These documents sought by Justice Ismail include an affidavit handed over by the Supreme Court in 1997, letters and a report received from human rights lawyer Kalyananda Tiranagama on allegations against Magistrate Lenin Ratnayake to the JSC.

Meanwhile LSSP MP Vasudeva Nanayakkara whose call for a parliamentary debate on the appointment of the chief justice was rejected by the Speaker on Friday, will submit a motion to parliament for the removal of Mr. Silva in the event he is appointed as chief justice, The Sunday Times learns.

Mr. Nanayakkara's main objection will be made on the grounds of misconduct and dereliction of duty as the AG.

UNP spokesman Dr. Karunasena Kodituwakku said his party would not like to speculate on an appointment as it was a sensitive issue. But he said UNP Leader Ranil Wickremesinghe had asked President Kumaratunga to observe the tradition of appointing someone whose integrity was not in question and who could earn the respect and confidence of the whole country and not just the government, and not to appoint someone with political motives.

JVP spokesman Wimal Weerawansa said that while the JVP would not accept the appointment of Mr. Silva as chief justice on grounds that it was politically motivated but that the party had not yet decided on what to do.

CID hunting vehicle owner

By Chris Kamalendran

Criminal Investigations Department (CID), probing the killing of Satana Editor Rohana Kumara, has a description of the vehicle used by the assailants and are on the trail of the vehicle owner, Senior Superintendent and director Keerthi Gajanayaka said yesterday.

"We will have to go by evidence which is available. We have to proceed carefully in the investigations," SSP Gajanayaka told The Sunday Times.

He said the CID was seeking public assistance to gather information about the crime and statements of at least 15 persons including Parliamentarian Premaratna Gunasekara who had happened to pass the vehicle carrying the assailants had been recorded so far.

Mr. Gunasekara told police that the parked car had flashed the headlights on to his vehicle as he passed Pengiriwatte on his way to a function.

Meanwhile Satana deputy editor Senaka Ekanayake said unknown persons had visited his residence on two occasions after Mr. Kumara's murder on Tuesday night.

The remains of Mr. Kumara will be brought to the 'Satana' office at the Borella supermarket before being taken to Kanatta.

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