For press freedom by Sunanda Deshapriya
By Gayan Kumara Weerasingha
Police suspect that the recent attack carried out on Siyatha media network was by a contract gang. A top police ranker stated that it is not clear whether the contract was given by a personal rival or by a person who had been provoked by a news item or a programme broadcast on this network.
However, he emphasized that the attack was not as a result of a rival media network because Siyatha was comparatively new and had no rivals. Police suspect that the attackers might be a paid gang that had links to the underworld. The police officer further said that the attack has been carried out by an inexperienced group. On the instruction of President Mahinda Rajapaksa, investigations have been handed over to the Colombo Crime Division.
Roshantha Kariyapperuma – Chairman of Siyatha told LAKBIMAnEWS that President Mahinda Rajapaksa spoke to him after hearing of the arson attack on Siyatha. Kariyapperuma stressed that they had no animosity towards the government and were on the best of terms.
What is the latest situation about the attack on Siyatha?
Now it is almost a week. Special police investigations have been carried out. Investigations are now being handled by the Colombo Crimes Division.
Are you happy with police investigations?
We canít comment about that at the moment. We have confidence that something will be come out of it
What is the reason behind the attack?
That is an issue beyond our imagination. We never knew that we had enemies till this happened to us. We could have taken pre- emptive measures if we knew that there would be an attack and that we had enemies. A year has not even elapsed after the launching of our TV channel. During this time we have never even received a single phone call threatening us. The other thing is we are with the government.
A responsible minister of the government told a press conference that employees of Siyatha had attacked it, because they had not been paid their salaries.
I donít like to talk about him. Siyatha was attacked on July 30. Normally salaries are paid on the 31st. If it is a weekend, we take steps to pay salaries a day earlier. So this time around we paid salaries on July 30 on the day Siyatha was attacked. This goes to show that the allegation against us are wrong.
Though you say that you are with the government, there are rumours that you supported General Sarath Fonseka during the last presidential election.
There is a rumour to that effect, but it is not true. This statement has been made by a person who wants to disrupt our rapport with the government. I donít think that the attack was based on such statements.
What if we say that you and the president were not good friends and that the attack was because of this?
No. we have no dispute with the President. My wife and I were in Canada for the last six months. My wife Sangeetha was to deliver the baby in Canada but I came to Sri Lanka often. My wife returned three months after the delivery. When Siyatha was attacked, it was after two weeks of our arrival to Sri Lanka. There were rumours that we were not living in Sri Lanka. The president called me on the morning Siyatha was attacked. He spoke to me for a considerable length of time on the phone. However, even he was not in Colombo at the time of the incident. The secretary defence was also not there.
Will it take time for Siyatha to recover?
The damage is considerable. We have not insured the company. The estimated damage is around 50 million rupees. We have to suffer the loss personally.
Under these circumstances will it close?
No, we will not close. There are around 300 employees in Siyatha. All of us will get together for a revival.