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Media under Irony

A reportage from Sri Lanka (1)

by Carla Lee, Colombo, 10 March 2009

Once again, the barbarous State Violence was operated in Sri Lanka, where one can be arrested by abductors. The ‘abductors’ were apparently policemen and their ‘colleagues’, who could be varied from the policemen or Special Task Forces (STF) to the Tamil paramilitary groups, which are closely working with the government. And the abducted was a journalist.

On February 26th N. Vithyatharan, the senior Tamil editor of the Colombo based-Sudaroli newspaper and Jaffana-based Uthayan was evidently abducted in the morning but was ‘declared’ to be ‘arrested’ in the afternoon. It happened in ‘bright morning light’ at the funeral ceremony, in which people are supposed to be solemnly pray for the souls of the departed.

“We saw the White Van coming. Three in police uniform first came out from the Van to drag down him and try to push him inside the vehicle. It was around 9:40 am.” One eye witness accounted.

When three policemen faced strong resistance of their abducted, three men in civilian clothes came out from the Van to ‘help’ the policemen. Abduction was completed.

“It is obviously abduction. If you need to arrest somebody, why don’t you inform the person properly to arrest?” One human rights activist in Colombo exclaimed.

According to another witness, N. Vidyatharan asked abductors ‘who are you?’ The answer was they’re from Dehiwala police station. (‘Dehiwala’ is the outskirt of Colombo) “But they didn’t show any document or warrant let alone their ID card”, the witness said. “They stamped down those who were trying to prevent the journalist from being taken.” He added.

In the ‘White Van’, which is a typical indication of abduction in Sri Lanka, N. Vidyatharan had been attacked on his head and heels. He was dumped at Demattagoda by ‘abductors’ and ever since detained at the Crime Division of the Police in Demattagoda (‘Colombo 9’ quarter). He was suspected, according to the police, of getting a call during the air raid on Colombo by the Liberation of Tigers of Tamil Eelam (or LTTE) on February 21ST. The police allegedly did not know if he was a journalist, but trailed the suspecting phone number. However, police didn’t make clear “Who” or “Where” was the call from either.

“At that night, I was washing my shoes hard to remove gums, having conversation with my father. My father told me that ‘put some oils’ to remove gums and then suddenly power was gone.”

One of the three children of N. Vithyatharan described about the night when LTTE’s air raid was followed by power cut in Colombo. Since then, the three children haven’t attended school. Instead they visited their father two or three times a nearly every day with their mother. “How can I study when my father was ‘arrested’ in such a way?” Another child asked with light tears in the eyes.

The police also summoned several Tamil journalists, including President and Secretary of Sri Lankan Tamil Media Alliance (SLTMA) for interrogation in a connection with N.Vithayatharan, against whom the authority seems to try to indict Terrorism charge. As nothing found wrong about the ‘suspecting’ call, the authority now said they need to investigate another call, which was from foreign country.

It is observed that he was ‘arrested’ for his critical position on the ongoing warfare in Vanni, the country’s North, where some unknown number of civilians (estimated from 80,000 up to 350,000) have trapped between the Sri Lankan Armed forces and the LTTE. The both Sudaroli and Uthayan, for which N. Vidyatharan is an editor, have criticized the military operation on the politico-ethnic conflict. The both papers have had a history of being attacked or harassed by the seemingly State-sponsored goons for their criticism on the government.

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