‘White Van godfather and criminals still free ; Illegal firearms and phones still with them” : LeN Editor reveals to Lankadeepa

(Lanka-e-news -30.July.2015, 11.10PM) The  godfathers of the white Van murder culture are still free and the telephones that were utilised in connection with these crimes had still not been discovered , Lanka e news editor Sandaruwan Senadheera revealed. He made this revelation during a discussion with Lankadeepa at an interview pertaining to the website bans and the harassment inflicted on journalists.

Q
The ex president says , now in Sri Lanka (SL) there is no media freedom , and many media are functioning with partiality favoring certain groups . What is your opinion ?

A
It is very unfortunate he seems to have  forgotten the name his father gave him first . He forgets his name Percy Mahendra and becomes Mahinda. Later , he goes on a march on behalf of the people to Kataragama . Then he forgets this Kataragama walk completely , so much so , that  each member of his family has to use a helicopter even to travel  a small distance .

People like Mangala , Chandrika and Sripathy who propelled him to power are forgotten by him , and puts on pedestal those who brought in suicide bombers . He forgets the army commander who won the war for him. He forgets the speech he made in parliament and trails behind racists and religious extremists. Now, he has conveniently forgotten it is  just six months ago he was the president of this country during the last 9 years. During that brutal reign , he set fire to media Institutions , murdered journalists and abducted them , but now he has forgotten them. He has forgotten how the media was made to work for him unfairly in his favor.  This forgetfulness in English langauge is termed ‘amnesia’. In Sinhala it is called ‘pissu’ (insanity).

Q.
There are diverse views regarding the arson committed on the Lanka e news website portal. Some say it was set on fire by yourselves. Police at that time talked about  various things that were found there . What is the actual truth? Why was Lanka e news set  on fire.

A
Why should I set my own precious Institution on fire ? Not only the Institution , about three thousand books which I had carefully collected from my school days were destroyed. The wedding photo of my parents, the souvenirs of my children were all destroyed. Therefore , I am not mad to destroy my own valuables. At that time I was not in Sri Lanka (SL) . The police alleged they found various things , perhaps because they wanted to say they found condoms. Are condoms used to set fire? Condoms are used for a protective purpose .

The  necessity to commit arson on the Institution arose because Lanka e news published the report on Mahinda Rajapakse ‘s (president at that time) visit on the sly to take treatment at cancer hospital located in Houston , America which treats cancer patients exclusively . Those who commited the arson should be investigated and punishment duly meted out.

I am thoroughly disappointed and disillusioned over the failure of the new government too to conduct an investigation. When a VIP of the new government was told about this , he said , until I return to SL and make a complaint , an investigation cannot be launched. This is a most queer and stupid answer. To launch an investigation into a crime , need the victim of the murder rise from the grave , come back and lodge a complaint?

Gota_White_vanQ
Weren’t  you and another of Lanka e news taken into custody over the attack launched on Poddala Jayantha ?

A
It was an individual nearby in a shop, an eye witness to the  attack on Poddala who  first revealed the attack. He phoned me and said “ an individual resembling Poddala Jayantha , one of your  ‘people’ was just now forced into a white Van and driven away,  as  he was alighting from the bus at Embuldeniya junction.” Immediately I told my news editor to inform Mahinda Rajapakse the president at that time , and telephoned Poddala. His phone was ‘dead’. We probed whether he left office.

In fact he had left office. When we phoned his home , he hadn’t reached home. From that point of time we took prompt action to search for Poddala. At that moment , Mahinda Rajapkse was having discussions with a media group. Poddala had not participated in that discussion. In any event , the assailants who abducted Poddala ,owing to the prompt measures taken by us, could not murder him .Hence  they had to release Poddala after attacking him.

Myself and our news editor at that time Bennet Rubasinghe were taken into custody that afternoon itself to take revenge under the Kekille King’s laws  because we took prompt action to expose the episode, and we became aware of it well ahead.

After keeping us at the police station a whole night , they somehow tried to remand us , the police officer who produced us before the magistrate realizing this was an injustice against us did not request court to remand us. We were therefore granted bail.

Later the case was dismissed. Both of us had to go to the police and sign the book for months on end every Sunday. The police officer who did not make the request to remand us had to suffer because he acted fairly. The following day , he was transferred to Trincomalee. That is how the Rajapakses enforced their Kekille laws , though they  are now speaking about their purity .

Q
What  truly happened to Prageeth Ekneligoda who was employed at Lanka e news ? Was he with you last before he left ?

A
He was not in our employ. Besides , he had never taken any money for the services he rendered to Lanka e news. He is a very close friend of mine for a long period. The day he left me last is most crucial and unforgettable. I still see him in my dreams.

That was two days before the presidential elections .. Prageeth phoned me that morning and told that in the vicinity of his house there is stationed a number -plate less white Van. I warned him not to get out of the house , and I will do whatever possible for his protection, but  Prageeth told me he had already left the house.

A little while later he arrived at my office. Then he waited for a long time at the office expecting an individual unknown to us  supposedly coming form Dambulla. Finally he told at about 7.30 p.m. , that individual had arrived in a three wheeler ,and he is going with him who is near the Cargills shop at Rajagiriya . I asked him who is this and where he is going ?

Prageeth before leaving told me that individual is  an important person , and he has to be introduced in connection with  the election campaign of Sarath Fonseka. That was the last I saw him. It is that individual who was responsible for the abduction . If he was trailed he  could have been identified.

I am still feeling sorry that I could not take that action. It is only the following day at about 10.30 a.m that we became aware that Prageeth has not gone home. Since that day until today we are searching for Prageeth . May I add , it is my belief ,  if I had come to know that night itself Prageeth had not reached home that night , it would have made  a big difference like in Poddala’s case where we promptly took action . In any event , a white Van was spying on our office until about  2.00 early morning   that day.

There was an individual wearing a tie even that early morning. By now a lot of information had been unearthed in this case , and as the CID is conducting investigations , it is best nothing is said about it. It is hoped that those responsible for Prageeth’s abduction will be duly  punished.

Q
As regards Ekneligoda’s death , some pointed  an accusing finger at the Rajapkse regime and a minister of the present government ?

A
You are referring to ex minister Champika Ranawake. I don’t believe that. Niether did I ever believe that. Those who accuse say , because Prageeth wrote an article about the sexual life of Champika, the latter  was responsible for  the abduction. That article was not written by Prageeth.That responsibility I accept.

Champika was not directly attacked in that article . The article that was  splashed  via the internet was  just a false mudslinging.

Prior to Prageeth’s final abduction,  in  August he was subjected to another  abduction. At that time the article you are referring to had not been published. The abductors on the first occasion are responsible for the second one too. When that is the true picture, accusing Champika without a foundation is wrong. That is tantamount to maligning both Champika and Prageeth , unfair and an insult to both of them.

Q
Udaya Gammanpila says , under their government , investigations will be launched again  into the deaths of Lasantha Wickremetunge, Prageeth Ekneligoda and other journalists, and their abductions.

A
First thing is Gammanpila must form a government. For a government of his to be formed, it will take many decades. By that time investigations would be over , and the accused would have been punished. Moreover , when all these journalists including Lasantha and Prageeth were being murdered and abducted, where was  Gammanpila ? was he a ghost billa without real existence?

Q
Why did you leave Sri Lankan soil?

A.
After the assassination of Lasantha Wickremetunge  in 2009 ,  I was questioned by the CID and other security divisions on 9 occasions. Just two days before the presidential elections 2010 , Prageeth was abducted . Following the announcement of the final presidential election result , based on information received we moved to places of  security .

Just 30 mins. later a group dressed in black arrived in a Cab vehicle surrounded our office and conducted a search. Thereafter they put a lock from outside on the door , and left. They cut our water supply and telephone lines before leaving. Meanwhile I came to the place my office was one night . Not even a moment had passed , the Cab vehicle came back. I had no choice but flee.

On one night within 15 mins. I received 40 calls threatening  ‘wherever you are we will kill you . Your whole family will be killed.’ That phone number is with me. They were computer generated numbers.  It is only after remaining in hiding for  about a month , I left the country.

Q
Why was Lanka e news banned?

A
That answer can only be known by asking that question from Mahinda Rajapakse. Anyway , what I feel is , following the killing of Bharatha Lakshman , we were publishing the actual facts pertaining to that murder while the Rajapakse regime was moving heaven and earth to camouflage the truth ,that perhaps  led to the ban.

Q
There are criticisms against some of the harsh words used by your website ?

A.
Lanka e news is the news portal that was subjected to maximum  harassment. While the  Rajapakse regime abducted my friends;  my media assistants were being arrested without reason and jailed; my properties and belongings  were being set on fire ; my news media was totally banned; my staying  in the motherland where I was born and lived for 48 years was disallowed , and I was chased out . Surely in such circumstances it is stupid for anyone to expect me to use endearing , charming and soft   language. Besides, what I wrote during the last five years was aimed at alerting and awakening the people who were asleep, and to enlighten them. Now that  has reached  their doorstep. The ban is lifted now, and the society could  grow more virtuous, and accordingly our language too will change to suit the welcome change in the future.

Q
Many of the journalists who fled the country have returned. Why is that you have not returned?

A
There are two reasons for that. One reason is , though there are no abductions of journalists by white vans and  setting fire to media Institutions have ceased. Their godfathers and the criminals are free. No one has been taken into custody. Will you believe that a large quantity of weapons of the Presidential security division that went missing during the Rajapakse regime have still not been discovered? Do you know mobile phones used by the murder squads which were not registered anywhere have still not been found?  That means they are still being used , and danger is still lurking .

The second reason is, after I had gone out of the country , there is  an inside information service which I have launched.  That is active with nearly thousand of group of every  sector voluntarily  contributing. Hence, I have  a thorough and accurate evaluation in regard to the actual situation in the country. After  my inside information service confirms there is nothing to fear, and after the security division of the country where I am now living too advises that I need not harbor any fears in regard to my security in my own country , I shall arrive in Sri Lanka.

Q
How did you gather information about Sri Lanka ?

A
I did not do anything alone. I am happy that large groups of Sri Lankans  fearlessly stood by us making sacrifices and providing information to Lanka e news . That is, there are groups that value truth. If they were not there , Lanka e news would not be there. I thank the grateful public who helped us with cash, gifts and in kind when our website portal was reduced to ashes, and our website was completely banned.

Disscussion with Tharindu Jayawardena in Lankadeepa
Translated by Jeff