Various parties condemn attack on Chamuditha Samarawickrama 

  • CJE, SJB, UNP, JVP, NMSJ, Church all call for swift justice

By Buddhika Samaraweera 

Condemning the incident at the house of journalist Chamuditha Samarawickrama being attacked by a group of persons yesterday (14), several parties including the Centre for Journalism and Education (CJE), the Samagi Jana Balawegaya (SJB), the United National Party (UNP), the Janatha Vimukthi Peramuna (JVP), and the National Movement for a Just Society (NMSJ) have called on the Government to conduct an impartial and speedy investigation into the same.

In a statement issued condemning the said incident, the CJE has emphasised that the authorities should investigate the incident and punish the perpetrators. It added that if the Government fails to uncover what transpired through a transparent inquiry, it must take responsibility for the attack.

“In recent times, Samarawickrama has been vocal against corruption, misuse of public funds, and has been critical of powerful politicians. He hosts a popular morning TV show and has a YouTube channel with a large reach, and he has been using these platforms to expose large scale corruption. The consensus is that he was targeted because he gave wide publicity to these incidents.”

The statement issued by the CJE further read that at a time when Sri Lanka is under the scrutiny of the international community for alleged human rights violations, the attack on Samarawickrama would surely have adverse consequences.

“CJE believes that the Government must take immediate action against those behind the attack. It must hold a transparent inquiry, so that the public can accept that true perpetrators have been punished. The Government is responsible for ensuring the safety of all citizens of the country and to protect the Constitution, which has enshrined the right to expression,” it added.

Meanwhile, the SJB and Opposition Leader Sajith Premadasa had also issued a statement condemning the incident. In the statement, he called for a transparent, impartial and fair investigation into the attack and for the law to be strictly enforced against all those directly and indirectly involved.

“The right to freedom of expression is a universal right, as recognised by the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the United Nations Charter on Civil and Political Rights, the European Convention on Human Rights, and our Constitution. It should be emphasised that this is a right that cannot be violated under any circumstance.”

The statement further read: “We believe that censorship should never be imposed on the media or journalists and that the only censorship is ‘self-censorship’. The same applies to journalist Samarawickrama and we stand unconditionally with all those who are fighting for media freedom on his behalf.”

The JVP had also issued a statement condemning the incident, claiming that there was no doubt that the attackers had been able to enter a housing complex with security provided, near the capital and escape after carrying out such an attack as they had some backing from those who have powerful connections.

“We emphasise that the Government can never absolve itself of responsibility for this attack and urge the Government to strictly enforce the law against all those involved in this incident. No ruler has been able to perpetuate their power by intimidating and threatening journalists and suppressing the truth. We have seen many instances of journalists and media institutions being threatened and attacked. The direct culprits in many of these cases and their perpetrators have never been brought to justice. But there is a strong belief among the people that behind the incidents against which the law was not enforced, there were links between the regimes.” the statement read.

Claiming that the group of persons who carried out the attack may have had some backing from those who have powerful connections, the JVP alleged such incidents are serious in a situation where the Government is maintaining armed groups under the guise of providing security services. Therefore, the JVP had, in the said statement, requested the Government to allow the police investigations into the incident to proceed properly, and to identify all those involved in the attack and bring them before the law.

Furthermore, the UNP had also condemned the attack on Samarawickrama’s house. In a media statement released yesterday, the UNP mentioned that one of the key aims of the United National Front (UNF)-led Government that came to power in 2015 was to ensure that members of the media were no longer victims of violence.

“The UNP is concerned by the recent attack on Samarawickrama’s house. In 2015 one of the key aims of the UNF-led Government was to ensure that members of the media were no longer victims of violence. The impunity in which Sri Lanka’s media industry was targeted was brought to an end and the country is now enjoying the benefits of media freedom. This attack is a sad reminder of the past that once haunted Sri Lanka,” the statement read.

Further, the UNP had urged the Government to ensure that a swift and thorough investigation be carried out into the attack and those responsible to be apprehended and held accountable by the laws of the country.

Similarly, the NMSJ said in a statement that the Government should immediately investigate the incident and bring those responsible before the law. It also stated that the relevant authorities should take action to ensure the safety of Samarawickrama’s life.

“In a country where there have been a number of inhumane attacks and killings of journalists in the past, as well as in a country that has failed to punish those responsible for any of those killings and attacks, this incident can be considered extremely horrific. Certainly, it is another serious threat to journalists and social and political activists who express their views freely.”

The statement further read: “Therefore, it is the primary responsibility of the Government as well as the police to conduct a formal and expeditious investigation and bring those responsible before the law. If the police and the relevant authorities somehow fail to act on this incident, it will send a message to the society that the horrific acts of the past are re-emerging in this society. It’s an extremely frightening trend.”

Meanwhile, Rev. Fr. Cyril Gamini Fernando, speaking at a press briefing yesterday, stated that Archbishop of Colombo His Eminence Malcolm Cardinal Ranjith also condemned the attack.

He further noted that this would affect Sri Lanka in the international arena, considering the upcoming United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC) session, and charged that such an attack on media personnel was reflective of an effort to hide the truth from the public.

A group of persons had attacked the house of Samarawickrama in the Piliyandala area yesterday (14) morning. Speaking to the media, he said that an armed group of four persons who had arrived in a car had carried out the attack at around 2 a.m., due to which several windows of the house had been damaged.