Prominent Tamil Editor Abducted In Colombo

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London marchers with a clear message on the situation of journalism in Sri Lanka
London marchers with a clear message on the situation of journalism in Sri Lanka

TAMILNET reports that the prominent Tamil Editor Nadesapillai Vithyatharahas been abducted in Colombo.

Eyewitnesses told TamilNet that armed persons and men in police uniform who arrived in three white vans Thursday morning abducted Nadesapillai Vithyatharan, 58, the prominent editor of Jaffna-based Uthayan daily and Colombo-based Chudaroli.

The abduction comes six days after Mr. Vithyatharan was grilled by the Sri Lankan Terrorist Investigation Department (TID).

The TID had questioned him Sunday for six hours on news and views that appeared in his papers on Sri Lanka Army (SLA) attacks on civilians in Vanni and about his interactions with the officials of the Tigers in the past.

Police spokesman Gunasekara, who first said that the editor was abducted by unidentified men, hours later claimed that he had been arrested.

The ‘abduction’ took place around 9:45am at Mahinda Parlour in Galkissa (Mount Lavinia) on Galle Road while Mr. Vithyatharan was attending a funeral of a close relative.

Three of the armed men were in Police uniform and two in civilian clothes.

‘When relations tried to prevent him from being taken away the armed men intimidated them, pushed them and took Vithyatharan away,’ according to a note from the Chief Editor of Uthayan.

Eyewitnesses said one of the white van was bearing registration number HX-0640.

The Deputy Chief of the US Embassy in Colombo, James R Moore, who visited Jaffna two weeks ago, had had a meeting with the editorial staff of Uthayan, which has been functioning under very trying conditions for more than two years.

Vithyatharan is the Editor-in-Chief of Colombo based Chudaroli and editor of Uthayan, published in Jaffna.

Both the papers have faced threats and attacks in recent years.

In May 2006, armed paramilitary gunmen who entered the office of the Jaffna daily Uthayan and opened fire, killing two staff including the daily’s marketing manager and causing injuries to two staffers.

Meanwhile the senior Politician and the Parliamentary Group Leader of the Tamil National Alliance (TNA) R. Sampanthan on Wednesday described the so-called ‘investigation’ by the Criminal Investigation Department (CID) as ‘unwarranted interference in my freedom of thought,’ in a letter addressed to the Sri Lankan President Mahinda Rajapakse.

Mr. Sampanthan further said that there is ‘clearly a malicious effort’ to create an environment hostile to him, the objective of which is to ‘suppress the truth.’

He was questioned by the CID on a statement he made at a media conference at the Sri Lankan Parliamentary complex on February 17 2009 pertaining to the position of Tamil civilians in the war zone in the Mullaiththeevu District, and the Tamil civilians who had crossed into Sri Lanka Army controlled territory.

The full text of the letter sent by Mr. R. Sampanthan to Mr. Mahinda Rajapakse follows:

‘His Excellency President Mahinda Rajapakse,

President, Democratic Socialist Republic of Sri Lanka,

Temple Trees.

Colombo 3.

‘Your Excellency,

‘Media conference held by the Illankai Tamil Arasu Kadchi (ITAK) on 17th February 2009 at the Parliamentary Complex.

‘The Illankai Tamil Arasu Kadchi (ITAK) held a Media conference at the Parliamentary Complex on 17th February 2009, pertaining to the position of Tamil Civilians in the war zone in the Mullaitheevu District, and the Tamil Civilians who had crossed into Government controlled territory.

‘I addressed the Media conference, and also answered questions.

‘An officer of the Criminal Investigation Department (CID) visited my residence at Colombo on the evening of 23rd February and orally informed me that the CID would like to record a statement from me pertaining to the Media conference and requested me to attend the CID office at 9.30 am on 24th February for the said purpose.

‘I was present at the CID office, as requested.

‘I wish to state that the officers who interviewed me did so with the utmost courtesy.

‘At the Media conference, I referred primarily to the casualties – deaths and injuries of Tamil Civilians in the war zone, how these injuries were largely caused, the inadequacy of food, medicine and shelter, and the complete lack of transparency in regard to what was happening as a result of Government personnel including the Government Agent, Doctors, and other Government Civilian staff, United Nations and other Humanitarian Agencies and their staff and the Independent Media both domestic and foreign being kept out of the war zone.

‘I also referred to the extreme difficulties being faced by those who had crossed into government controlled territory.

‘I am glad to state that just 2 days later on 19th February, the Human Rights Watch, an internationally reputed Human Rights Organisation, has in a comprehensive report issued by it, confirmed the substance of the statements made by me at the Media conference.

‘I was informed by the senior officer of the CID that the they were acting on the instructions of the Inspector General of Police.

‘Some in your Government, may have been irked by what transpired at the conference, and this so-called investigation, despite the courtesy extended to me by the CID officials, constitutes an unwarranted interference in my freedom of thought and action as a democratically elected representative of the people, and the leader of a political party which very substantially democratically represents the affected people.

‘You cannot be unaware that the democratically elected representatives of the Tamil People are prevented from having any direct contact with the displaced Tamil People either in the conflict zone or even after their arrival in government controlled territory.

‘May I please ask what the Government is seeking to conceal by such actions.

‘I must also mention that certain programmes on Government Television Channels have made slanderous references to me both while commenting on the Media conference and the interview the CID had with me.

‘There is clearly a malicious effort to create an environment hostile to me, the objective of which is to suppress the truth.

‘I do not know what further developments there could be, and, I consider it my duty to keep you informed of the above, so that such improper conduct by some in your Government would be brought to an end.

‘R.Sampanthan,

Member of Parliament,

Trincomalee District

Parliamentary Group Leader

Illankai Tamil Arasu Kadchi.’