SRI LANKA: Six weeks since the ‘robbery’ of journalists Mandana’s residence – No proper inquiry held, intimidations continue and her service terminated by the Sunday Leader

Networking for Rights notes with great concern that though it is more than a month since the alleged “break-in” of the residence of Mandana Ismail Abeywickrema, Associate Editor of the Sunday Leader, no worthwhile investigation has taken place to bring the culprits to book and to find out the real reasons behind the ”robbery”. Ms. Ismail Abeywickrema is also the President of the newly formed Sri Lanka Journalists Trade Union.

NfR is further dismayed, that the Sunday Leader has terminated both Ismail Abeywickrema and her husband Romesh, Business Editor soon after they fled Sri Lanka in fear for their lives, without following due process of providing them a three month window to return to work.

The two journalists home was reported to have been broken-in by “robbers” on two occasions in  August  this year.

In the early hours of Saturday the August 24th a group of five men armed with knives and hand grenades stormed the Ismail Abeywickrema residence and searched the house including her documents for nearly 3 hours.  Photographic evidence published by the media show that the so called robbers had been going through her documents.

The gang had threatened to abduct Ms. Ismail Abeywickrema when they were unable to find the documents they were looking for. According to Ms. Ismail Abeywickrema, the gang is reported to have received phone calls while they were going through the documents; phone calls that can be easily traced if the authorities are sincere in their investigations.

Soon after the ”robbery” it was reported that two of the ‘robbers’ had been in the military and one of them had been discharged on 20th August just 4 days before the ‘robbery’.

NfR learns that, days before the incident the tyres of the family vehicle had been slashed while a body of a dead cat was found dumped on their door step.

Further concerns are raised that Ismail Abeywickrema is the victim of a sustained attack, owing to a report in the Sinhala language newspaper, Divaina, by its Defense Reporter, that she along with the Information Officer of the US Embassy, Juliana Spaven, were preparing a secret document on the Weliweriya shooting incident, to be given to Navanethem Pillay, UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, who visited Sri Lanka recently on a fact-finding mission.

NfR is concerned that police insist on terming the “break-in as a robbery”, as the gang had spent several hours going through documents in the house after disabling the phone lines.  Additionally, assaults and assassinations of media personnel have so far gone unsolved.  This poses the fear that while no genuine attempt will be made by authorities to end the terrorizing of media personnel, such attacks will only reinforce the governments agenda of suppressing free speech.

Therefore, NfR calls on the Sri Lankan government to be genuine in its efforts to reign in the attacks on media personnel, and ensure that the police bring the culprits to book. As well, we call on the management of the Sunday Leader to rescind the termination notices and ensure due process is followed when staff are forced to flee for security reasons.

Steering Committee, NfR Sri Lanka @
Kshama Ranawana, Human rights defender and Journalist (Canada/Sri Lanka)
Lionel Bopage, Peace activist and Writer (Australia/Sri Lanka),
Nadarasa Sarawanan, Peace activist and Journalist (Norway/Sri Lanka),
Nadarajah Kuruparan, Journalist and Editor, GTN (UK/Sri Lanka)
Padmi Liyanage, Peace activist and Human rights defender (Germany/Sri Lanka),
Raveendran Pradeepan, Film Director (France/Sri Lanka),
Rudhramoorthy Cheran, Poet, Play Writer, Journalist and editor (Canada/Sri Lanka),
Saman Wagaarachchi, Journalist and Editor (USA/Sri Lanka),
Sunanda Deshapriya, Human rights defender, Journalist and Editor (Switzerland/Sri Lanka)

C/O, 19447, Victory Blvd,#2, Reseda,CA 91335, USA,

Document Type : Forwarded Press Release
Document ID : AHRC-FPR-045-2013
Countries : Sri Lanka,
Issues : Judicial system, Military,