Yesterday, July 5, there was an attempt to abduct a web journalist, Santha Wijesooriya, reported the BBC Sinhala Service. The incident is reported to have happened at Nugegoda. Santha Wijesooriya noticed that he was being followed by a white van and took the precaution of changing his route in order to avoid the van. While he was doing so two persons attempted to catch him. One caught by his shirt and tried to drag him towards the van but he managed to kick the person away and escape. Thereafter, he reported this matter.
Santha Wijesooriya is a person who is known to have been working with several websites. He is well known as a web journalist. He has also written many articles relating to corruption and mismanagement. One of the recent articles he has written is about the link between the Rajapaksa family and Julampitiya Amare a.k.a. Geegana Gamage Amarasena, the criminal who has been evading warrants for many years while enjoying the close company of many associates in the government.
Santha Wijesooriya in his article gives a great deal of information about Amare. In the article Amare is supposed to have been remanded the first time for an alleged crime at the age of 18. Thereafter he has worked as a security guard at the Walawwa (chateau) of Nirupama Rajapaksa. In July, 2002 a number of prisoners at Tangala Prison staged a riot against the guards. Amare was identified as a leader in that riot. The government at the time stopped the riot with the use of the armed forces. It is reported that during the riot President Rajapaksa who was then an opposition Member of Parliament went to the prison with the then Minister of the Interior and it was after he called on Amare that he surrendered. Later he became the best known underworld leader in the south. He is suspected of 24 murders, 15 robberies and around 20 arson attacks. However, he was evading arrest and had acquired about 100 acres of land by force and was freely enjoying possession. Recently he sold about 20 acres of land.
Santha Wijesooriya gives considerable detail about the criminal activities of this man and how he was protected by some members of the Rajapaksa family. The article, written in Sinhala may be found here. It was a few days after the publication of this article that the abduction attempt took place.
Just last week we reported the arrest of several persons by a unit from the Ministry of Defense who entered their premises and inspected all the computers, two of which were confiscated. A total of eight persons were produced before a magistrate who granted them bail. According to reports the magistrate criticised the police stating that it is not permissible to arrest anyone thinking that they might commit a crime.
The attempted abduction of Santha Wijesooriya and the attack Srilanka Mirror (please see our statement) are part of a series of actions by the Sri Lankan government which maintains a consistent attack on all web publications. In a situation where local print publications are controlled by intimidation and attacks web journalism has become an important alternative media which provides information otherwise not available to the public.
All such actions are taken on the basis of national security. When each incident happens the responsibility is denied by the Ministry of Defense which is the controlling agency in all matters relating to 'internal security'. However, that the Ministry of Defense is carrying out an extensive activity under the guise of internal security is well known.
An assumption that is fast becoming established is that there are no legal limits to the powers of the Ministry of Defense. No justification needs to be given to anyone for whatever the Ministry of Defense does.
How an institution can function completely outside any kind of legal responsibility to justify its actions on the basis of the law has no rational explanation. Such explanations are no longer considered necessary. That the government can do whatever it likes is the unofficial doctrine that is operating in the country and it is this approach that provides the motivation for persons undertaking such abductions and illegal attacks on websites, including illegal arrests and also secret surveillance of individuals as was reported in the case of the president of FUTA recently.
It is the duty of the parliament and the judiciary to question the mode of operation of the Ministry of Defense. As long as they fail to do so there is no guarantee of any protection for any individual on whatever attacks on their civil liberties.
There needs to be an investigation into this attempted abduction. However, judging by the absence of inquiries into previous abductions there is scepticism among many as to whether such an investigation will take place.