“Defense Secretary Rajapaksa reportedly threatened Daily Mirror Editor Champika Liyanarachchi following the publication of a series of articles on the activities of the LTTE-breakaway Karuna group in the East. After the call from Gothabaya, Liyanarachchi contacted Karuna directly. Karuna assured her that his cadres would not harm her and added that he would complain to Gothabaya in writing about the incident. Gothabaya has since publicly admitted he called Liyanarachchi but denied that he threatened the editor and expressed his concern at the media’s intolerance of constructive criticism. Presidsent Rajapaksa reassured her that the GSL wishes her no harm and expressed regret at the Defense Secretary’s conduct. This most recent example of Government of Sri Lanka (GSL) attempts to suppress unflattering media reports confirms other accounts of the Defense Secretary personally issuing threats” the US Embassy Colombo informed Washington.
The Colombo Telegraph found the related leaked cable from the WikiLeaksdatabase. The cable is classified as “SECRET” and discuses Sri Lanka’s media suppression situation. The cable was written by the AmbassadorRobert O. Blake on April 19, 2007.
The ambassador wrote; “A less detailed version of this story was made public on April 18 when it appeared in other local newspapers and on the ‘BBC Sinhala’ website, as well as on the LTTE website Tamilnet. The Morning Leader reported that Rajapaksa called Liyanarachchi, criticized ‘anti-government stories’ published in the Daily Mirror, and added that Karuna was “not very happy” with the newspaper’s reporting. A separate Embassy contact told us that in late February Gothabaya made a similar call to Mr.Ranjith Wijewardene, Chairman of the Wijeya Group, the company that owns the Daily Mirror. Gothabaya threatened Wijewardane and complained about the disloyalty of the newspaper. In this case as well, the President later called Wijewardane to downplay the incident and explain that Gothabaya’s bark was worse than his bite. Our contact said that this is actually a common practice for the brothers and described it as their ‘good cop, bad cop strategy.’”
Placing a comment Blake wrote; “The GSL has already compiled an unenviable record of media intimidation. These reports of threats delivered personally by the Defense Secretary are two of the most detailed and credible of several accounts that have reached us about such inappropriate outbursts from the Defense Secretary. The latest is disturbing in that it tends to confirm the relationship between Gothabaya and the renegade Karuna group. In view of Liyanarachchi’s specific appeal to the Ambassador that high-level U.S. intervention not be undertaken, we recommend against the Department raising the Defense Secretary’s alleged threats with the Sri Lankan Ambassador or other GSL officials.”