The CID has questioned former President Mahinda Rajapaksa on the abduction of the then Associate Editor of The Nation newspaper Keith Noyahr, in May 2008. That incident should have been probed and punishment meted out to the perpetrators a long time ago. Strangely, the present government, too, failed to do so in spite of its platform rhetoric. It suddenly wakes up to the delays in probes into the attacks on the media only when it gets into hot water, on the political front.
Some Sri Lanka Podujuana Peramuna local government members are reported to have attended a council meeting, wearing black armbands as a mark of protest against the CID questioning Rajapaksa. Such actions are uncalled for. Rajapaksa is in this predicament because he did not have the abduction of Keith properly investigated. His government obviously shielded the perpetrators. The CID is right in having questioned him. It must spare no pains to get at the truth and make the abductors and their masters pay for their sins.
Everyone is said to be equal before the law. (But the yahapalana leaders who have taken upon themselves the onerous task of restoring the rule of law do not attend courts to give evidence in spite of being repeatedly summoned. They trot out lame excuses.) When former leaders are interrogated by the police on their commissions and omissions while they were in power, their successors realise the need for acting with some restraint. It is hoped that what Rajapaksa has had to contend with over the abduction of Keith will have a deterrent effect on the yahapalana grandees who shield lawbreakers of all sorts.
Rajapaksa was the commander in chief of the armed forces at that time of the abduction at issue. He has got the credit for defeating the LTTE and, in fact, used the war victory to win the 2010 presidential election. Similarly, he must be prepared to share the blame for the attacks on journalists allegedly carried out by some armed forces personnel, on his watch.
Keith’s abductors had no intention of releasing him when they tortured and questioned him. They apparently wanted to elicit the information they needed and kill him. Therefore, his torturers must have asked him the questions their master/s wanted them to put to him and demanded answers. Those queries will help the investigators establish the identity of those who ordered his abduction. The police said last month it had sent a special team to Australia, where Keith is currently resident, to record a statement from him. We only hope they asked him the right questions without being swayed by political influence.
Meanwhile, let the government and the CID be urged to record a statement from UNP heavyweight Joseph Michael Perera. Two months after Keith’s abduction, making a special statement in Parliament, on behalf of the UNP, Perera, in his capacity as the Chief Opposition Whip, declared that attacks on journalists were carried out by a special army unit, controlled by Army Commander Lt. Gen. Sarath Fonseka. He called upon the Rajapaksa government to make arrests. The Rajapaksa government did not heed that call, for obvious reasons.
The UNP owes an explanation to the public and the media freedom campaigners as to why it did not have the members of the special unit at issue arrested after capturing power in Jan. 2015. Worse, it did its damnedest to make Fonseka the President in 2010, albeit in vain; five years later it appointed him, following his defeat at the last parliamentary election, which he contested from a different party, to Parliament through the National List and elevated him to the Cabinet. Thereafter, it strove to make him the Minister of Law and Order and, thankfully, its attempt came a cropper. So much for the present administration’s concern about the well being of the media!