Ministry defame lawyers defending a defamation case
On July 10th, the Ministry of Defence website posted an article defaming lawyers defending Leader Publication (Pvt.) Ltd, the publisher of The Sunday Leader newspaper.
The Ministry of Defence website branded the lawyers anti-patriots and as having "a history of appearing for an defending LTTE suspects in the past"
On Friday July 10, at 6.31 p.m. The Ministry of Defence, Public Security, Law & Order posted a scurrilous article on its web site naming lawyers appearing for and on behalf of Leader Publications (Pvt) Ltd, publishers of The Sunday Leader newspaper titled 'Traitors in Black Coats Flocked Together?'
The article named President's Counsel Srinath Perera, Upul Jayasuriya Attorney-at-Law, M. A. Sumanthiran, Attorney-at-Law, Viran Corea, Attorney-at-Law and Athula Ranagala, Attorney-at-Law who appeared for Leader Publications, as having "a history of appearing for and defending LTTE suspects in the past."
The article, which carried no byline further said, Quote, "It was the observation of some senior independent Lawyers who were present in court that day, that this team of Lawyers share a common anti-patriotic sentiment fired by pro UNP activism and following.
The Director General for the Media Centre for National Security disregarded the fact that the article appeared on an official Government website and stated "This is media freedom which you all have been fighting for."
Lakshman Hulugalle, Director General for the Media Centre for National Security (MCNS) said, "This is media freedom which you all have been fighting for."
He disregarded the fact that such an article had appeared on an official Government web site stating, "The Defence Ministry web site is open for public opinion. Unlike the web site operated under my ministry the MCNS, which is strictly monitored and not open for public opinion." Hulugalle added, "Nevertheless, this is not a statement made by anybody - this is free comment. This is an expression of media freedom."
The President of the Editors Guild expressed his shock and dismay.
Manik De Silva, President of the Editor's Guild expressed shock and dismay. Asserting that he had no time yet to discuss this with the rest of the Guild. De Silva, however maintained that in his personal view, "I am shocked that an article like this appeared. I understand that the defamation action against The Sunday Leader is a personal action of the Defence Secretary and the web site which this was published falls under the defence ministry. So I don't think this was a proper forum to launch an attack on somebody who is defending a defamation case filed against them by the Secretary.
It is important to note that the previous lawyers (lawyers that were to appear in the case originally) had withdrew from this case "for reasons beyond the comprehension of any one".
Upul Jayasuriya Attorney-at-Law said, "We are sad the lawyers are being pressurised not to appear for trial particularly when the previous lawyers for reasons beyond the comprehension of any one withdrew from this case."