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Last updated: 24 August, 2009 - Published 14:20 GMT
 
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Media 'responsible' for police abuses
 

 
 
President Rajapaksa has convened a special  meeting with senior DIGs (photo by Chandana Perera)
President Mahinda Rajapaksa, who convened a special meeting with senior DIGs last week, has paid compensation to Angulana victims

Victims of abuses and media activists have accused polarised media of partly responsible for the alleged serious abuses by the police and security forces.

The public in the south have reacted very angrily after recent incidents of two young people dying while in police custody in Angulana, Moratuwa and a brutal assault on a student in Malabe.

The wife and the son of the former director of Colombo Crime Division, and a group of police officers are accused of abducting and brutally assaulting Nipuna Ramanayake, a young IT student.

At least 18 police personnel and the family members of Senior Superintendant of Police (SSP) Vaas Gunawardena are currently detained in custody.

 I am very sad to hear incidents of police abuses in the south. But if the media in the south accurately reported the killing in Trincomalee, these unfortunate incidents would have been avoided
 
Dr. Manoharan, father of a Tamil victim

Sinhala language newspapers and electronic media have widely publicised the recent abuses by the police in the south.

“I don’t think it is the police to be accused,” Chandana Sirimalwatta, the editor of Lanka Sinhala weekly told BBC Sandeshaya.

“The government, including the head of state, has been giving out signals to the police to the effect that they won’t be punished for any abuse.”

However, many media activists are of the view that media, Sinhala nationalist newspapers in particular, are also responsible for the breakdown of law and order in the south.

'Terrorism' vs 'democracy'

“During the war between the government forces and the LTTE, nationalist Sinhala media spread the ideology that all Tamils are LTTE supporters,” says Rohitha Bashana Abeywardene.

Mr. Abeywardena is the spokesman for the Journalist for Democracy in Sri Lanka (JDS), a recently formed exiled media workers' organisation.

SSP Vass Gunawardena (photo: Sunday Times Sri Lanka)
SSP Vaas Gunawardena's family members are accused of abducting and assaulting a student

“When five Tamil students were killed in January 2006, Sinhala media either tried not to report the incident or to portray the victims as LTTE supporters.”

Dr. Manoharan, father of one of the young victims in Trincomalee, agrees.

“I don’t think media in the south did justice to my son,” he told BBC Sinhala service.

Irida Lanka, a newspaper affiliated with Janatha Vimukthi Peramuna (JVP), has been very supportive of the government’s military offensive against the LTTE.

“Our newspaper adopted a policy of supporting the unitary state of Sri Lanka and we could not support any anti-democratic militancy,” says Mr. Sirimalwatta.

“And the security forces were carrying out operations to wipe out terrorism in this country,” he said.

Bindunuwewa massacre

That approach by the Sinhala media outlets, says Sunanda Deshapriya of Free Media Movement (FMM), encouraged security forces and the police to continue their abuses in the south.

“I am very happy that they report the incidents in the south," he said.

 Our newspaper adopted a policy of supporting the unitary state of Sri Lanka and we could not support any anti-democratic militancy
 
Chandana Sirimalwatta, Editor, Irida Lanka

"But the same media did not bother to carry a detailed report by the human rights commission that clearly pointed the finger on the police when a group of young Tamils were massacred in Bindunuwewa."

26 young suspected former LTTE members were killed by a mob of a few hundred Sinhalese villagers armed with knives, rods and torches while the inmates were sleeping in Bindunuwewa detention centre in October 2004.

The Sri Lankan Army detachment that was posted there had been withdrawn the previous day, for unknown reasons.

After a years-long investigations and trials, all of the accused, including police officers, were acquitted and released.

Mr. Deshapriya says the attitude by the Sinhala media is a reflection of Tamil media coverage under the LTTE.

Tamil media

“During the ceasefire between the LTTE and the government, we carried out a research in the LTTE-controlled areas,” he said.

“Tamil newspapers were behaving as if no murder was carried out by the LTTE. While the Tamil media was accusing the government for every abuse, the Sinhala media were accusing the government for every murder and abduction.”

Dr. Manoharan says apart from the institutional nationalism, some journalists were intimidated by the parties not to report the truth in a conflict situation.

SS Raja, who accurately reported the murders in Trincomalee according to Dr. Manoharan, was gunned down within few weeks of the incident.

The medical doctor who has treated many Sinhala security force personnel in Trincomalee has since fled the country with other family members due to fear for their life.

“I am very sad to hear incidents of police abuses in the south. But if the media in the south accurately reported the killing in Trincomalee, these unfortunate incidents would have been avoided.”


A selection of your views:

I want to tell all Sri Lankens that most of us left sri lanka due to the reason of butchers paradise. So we expat have right to say the affairs of the country . Sri lanka's friends are libiya Iran ,venisula where no press freedom so it is our duty to expose.
Ruwan, Melbourne, Australia

It is so funny that most people who are living abroad seem to have absolute opinions about the situation here. To Ananth from Toronto who claims SL having Nazi style concentration camps, FYI i was there in Menik Farm last week. while I do not say the conditions are perfect they are far better than what you get in the slums of Mumbai and the Slums of S. Africa. Iron Curtain!! Where?? in 30 years people have been freed of terrorism and are free to go anywhere in the island.
Dinesh, Colombo, Sri Lanka

Ananth's response is typical of that of a terrorist supporter, unnecessarily trying to smear propaganda on an unrelated topic. Admittedly, the police need to learn some restraint, but it is impossible to expect normality in a country that has been so recently ravaged by unspeakable Tiger terrorism. Give it time and I'm sure the police will reform themselves.
Annonymous

Under the Mahinda Rajapaksa regime violations of human rights such as attacking mediapersonnel is reported very frequently. Recent inciodents of abuse of power is reported and I think it is an eye opener to everybody.
Jayathilaka, Maryland

Only talking about police brutality in the south? How about the absolute Sinhalese dominated Police + Armed Forces brutality that is overrunning and destroying the Tamil people in that island as we debate? The majority of Sinhalese people do not have the intellectual or the emotion to accept Tamil people as equal. International community should force their way into the North and East of the island where the Sri Lankan government has placed a modern day iron curtain and report the truth especially where the 300,000 Tamils are being held as prisoners in congested Nazi style camps.
Ananth, Toronto, Canada

First of all I would like give my thanks to BBC Sinhala service for providing this opportunity for the readers comment some words about Sri Lanka police sevice. I have been in several countries in the world for my official and private requirements. As usual when I am visiting a country, first thing is I am making a country study. I have never seen impolite policers in any country. But in sri Lanka ninety precent of police officers are very impolite.
Dayaratne Bandara, Riyadh, Saudi Arabia

All the defence forces have to be contribute their fullest support to the government and the president to build a pease full country. we were in strong mentally condition after the news of END WAR. so, we are looking after what will happened on future. now the time to refresh all the things even parliament. some MP are acting their own role. they cant play with innocent people.police or what ever responsible people cant take county law in their hand.
Joseph Nanayakkara, Verona, Italy

Yes That is what you should expect when a whole country is terrorized by one of worlds brutal terrorists organization. Of course you can not expect the normla democracy at that time. But now terrorism is not there. Now people in sri lanak dont take any excuse.
Sha Rat, Colorado, USA

I have reitarated in this forum as well as in the other forums as long as Mahinda rajapakse is there there is no freedom for press. he is the person who creates all the troubles. ie Lasantha wickramatunge assasination he is the prime responsible person the sri lanken police is hiding the real facts.
Ruwan, Melbourne, Australia

In my country already responsible people likw Hon Wimal Weerawansa and the most of the local media has spoken about this and H.E president himself has condem the both insidents. But you are trying to politilise the situation while Majority of Sri Lankens are in the understanding that this is personalize incidents which could be happen in any country like the iraqi prisners abused by us and british solders.
Jagath Chandrawansa, Moscow, USSR

I do not understand why other civilized people are worried about this country. This countrymen are bunch of idiots and jokers. The main Man in this photo is the biggest hypocrite.
Annonymous

It is not correct to blame the media for the high handed actions of a few bad apple Police officers. The problem with the media was created by the media themselves as some took money from the LTTE and misreported facts in a favorable manner to the LTTE. The BBC was also one of the culprits. They have lost a lot of credibility since then. The President and Government should make it clear to the whole nation that nobody including Ministers, Police and Defence forces Personnel are above the law and will be prosecuted to he full extent of the law if found guilty.
Siri Fernando, New York, USA

 
 
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