CID in devious bid to stifle the Media


Journalist Saman Gamage

 A journalist attached to our sister paper the Divaina, Saman Gamage, has been noticed to appear in the Gampaha Magistrate’s court in relation to the case filed by the CID against Brigadier Devapriya Gunawardene and others over the Rathupaswela incident. The court had issued the notice on a request made by the CID. The latter has reported to courts that the issue of the Divaina of May 28, 2017, had carried an article by journalist Saman Gamage titled "Menna Rathupaswela eththa kathawa" (Here’s the true story about Rathupaswela) which had contained the following sentences –

'නාස් ලණුව ගැලවුන උන් මෙන් රගන ඔවුන් නීති පොතේ එක් එක් වගන්ති ගෙන, අද මෙ වීරයන්ට එල්ල කරමින් සිටිනුයේ ඉතාම නින්දිත ප්‍රහාරයන්ය'
(Loosely translated as: Unconscionable attacks are being launched against these heroes, citing various sections of the statute books by persons whose behaviour is like that of loose cannon.)

"රටේ මිනිස්සු මුන්ට පිස්සුදැයි අසන අතරේ මතුවෙමින් තිබෙන පොලිස් රාජයයට දෙස් දෙවොල් තබන්නාහ"

(The people of the country pose the question whether these persons have gone mad and curse the emerging police state.)

 It is difficult to directly translate into English what has been written in idiomatic Sinhala. However the translation given here is the gist of what was said in those two Sinhala sentences. The CID reported to courts that the writer Saman Gamage had thus found fault (dos thabamin) with the officers carrying out the investigation into this crime. They also claimed in courts that by referring to the CID officers carrying out this investigation as ‘madmen’ (pissu)  and ‘bovines’ (the CID has interpreted ‘naas lanuwa gelavunu un’ as referring to bovines whereas the phrase denotes anythging that lacks control or restraint) this journalist had tried to bring ‘psychological pressure’ (mansika balapemak) on the officers carrying out the investigation and to bring them into disrepute among the public (mahajanaya athara aprasadayak ethi kireemata).

 And that Gamage had maliciously (dvesha sahagatha) tried to create public outrage (aprasadaya) against the officers carrying out this investigation, which in turn would have the effect of making people reluctant to come forward to inform the CID of what they knew about this incident and that this will be a major barrier to the administration of justice in this case. They had therefore requested courts to issue notice on journalist Saman Gamage to appear before courts under Section 124 of the Criminal procedure Code Act No: 15 of 1979.

 This writer has read the said article in the Divaina on 28 May 2017 and wishes to state that there is nothing wrong or unacceptable in that article. Gamage has not called any officer of the CID a madman. What he has said is that people are asking whether these people are mad – which is indeed true. The present writer too has been asking himself that question and has discussed it with many people even though I may not have written about it to the newspaper. Furthermore, Saman Gamage has not called any officer of the CID a bovine. He has used a figure of speech in writing ‘naas lanuwa gelavunu un’ which denotes a situation where control and reflection is absent and the phrase is roughly similar in usage to the English phrase ‘loose cannon’.

 In any case, to claim that the two sentences quoted by the CID in their B report has brought ‘psychological pressure’ to bear on the CID officers concerned is ridiculous. Since when has the CID been manned by namby-pambies who are traumatized by a newspaper article? Quite on the contrary, it is the CID that causes trauma to other people. Everyone knows how ‘Kondaya’ was made to make a confession in the CID giving a graphic description of how he raped and murdered a pre-schooler when he had done nothing of the sort. Kondaya made a complaint to the Human Rights Commission about this and it may be relevant to see whether any officers involved in Kondaya’s case are involved in this investigation as well. It may in fact be a good idea to run a whole series of articles about cases filed or complaints made to the HRC against CID officers so that the public may get a better idea of whether a CID officer could be brought under psychological pressure by two sentences in a newspaper.

 Furthermore, to claim that the said article in the Divaina would have the effect of preventing those who had information about the incident from coming forward to give evidence is also absurd. The Rathupalswela incident has been discussed over and over again in the media and in political debate and those who would want to give evidence would already have done so. Those who had no interest in doing so would have kept away anyway. What is the new evidence that anybody would want to give now? This is an incident that is several years in the past. The said article in the Divaina is not about an incident that has just occurred. Saman Gamage has filed a Fundamental Rights case through senior lawyer Kalyananda Tiranagama in the Supreme Court against the CID the contents of which will be revealed to the public later.

 However the most important matter in this case that should come to the notice of the Editor’s Guild and other relevant bodies that represents media interests is that the CID has invoked  Section 124 of the Criminal Procedure Code to get notice issued on Saman Gamage to appear in courts. What this provision of the Criminal Procedure Code states is that "Every Magistrate to whom application is made in that behalf shall assist the conduct of an investigation by making and issuing appropriate orders and processes of court, and may, in particular hold, or authorize the holding of an identification parade for the purpose of ascertaining the identity of the offender, and for such purpose require a suspect or any other person to participate in such parade, and make or cause to be made a record of the proceedings of such parade."

 This provision requires Magistrates to assist in investigations by issuing appropriate orders. However a reading of this section makes it plain that this is for things to do with the investigation and not to be used for extraneous matters such as hauling journalists before courts for things they may have written about an incident that is several years old and has been discussed over and over again in the media and on political platforms. If a precedent is created whereby Section 124 of the Criminal Procedure Code is used by the police to have journalists hauled to courts, what will happen to press freedom in this country? The most serious issue is that the CID has invoked this Section of the CPC against a journalist who specializes in matters relating to the police and national security and the armed forces.

 In the relevant B report that has been filed in courts, the CID had originally typed a request that Saman Gamage be ‘advised to refrain from publishing such articles’ and then this has been crossed out and it has been altered to requesting courts to issue notice on this journalist to present himself in courts. This smacks of an attempt by the CID to use courts to stifle any kind of inquiry into their doings. Can one even begin to imagine what will happen if a body like the CID is shielded from media scrutiny and allowed to act with the impunity they are obviously seeking?

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