Gotabaya, Sartah and Sunday Leader – The triangular love-hate story

19 Dec 2009

Sunday Leader has been traditional ally of UNP and its West biased policies. It has equally notorious history of publishing controversial stories related to the government and especially against president Rajapaksa and his brothers.

When the fight against terrorism was launched, The Sunday Leader was the master mind behind the false allegation of “Mig-7 deal” of the air force.UNP and its media ally wanted to defame the government and block support of the people to the fight against terrorism at the very inception.

The Sunday Leader repeatedly published controversial news against Defence Secretary Gotabaya Rajapaksa. Therefore, Defence Secretary opted to file a case against the Sunday Leader. In the courts, The Sunday Leader was unable prove their false allegations. Therefore they agreed to publish a formal apology in the news paper. In addition they agreed not to publish any more defamatory articles against Defence Secretary as part of settlement of the case without paying demanded compensation. Thereafter, The Sunday Leader took all the precautions to not to publish any defamatory allegations specifically against Gotabaya Rajapaksa.

The burst of patriotic bubble of Sarath Fonseka
It all burst again when they published a headline news article last week quoting presidential candidate Sarath Fonseka that “Defense Secretary Gotabaya Rajapaka personally ordered Brigadier (now Major General) Shamindra Silva to shoot Prabakaran and his close associates in cold blood.”

The news was spread in international media in a flash. The government and security forces were in embarrassing situation in the light of West’s allegation of War Crime charges. There was an agitation in the nation that Sarath Fonseka has betrayed the government and security forces. The War hero suddenly exposed himself to be a traitor. The whole presidential election campaign of Fonseka was in complete disarray.

When the opposition for Fonseka’s statement was insurmountable, he called a press conference and denied the news report and blamed the Sunday Leader for misquoting him. However by the time Sarath Fonseka has already done the damage to his only selling point in the campaign.

Maga hitiyoth tho nasi, gedara giyoth abu nasi
Now the Sunday Leader is in extremely awkward situation. They have already promised the courts that they will no longer publish defamatory news against Defence Secretary Gotabaya Rajapaksa. When Sarath Fonseka denies the alleged news report, the responsibility of the news fall into the hand of the Sunday Leader itself. That is why Sunday Leader editor Fedrica Janz was quick to make a statement to the media that the Sunday Leader has not misquoted General Fonseka at any stage. She went further saying that the General himself spoke to her and conveyed that the story was absolutely right.

Since the Sunday Leader defend their news item, the only way for Sarath Fonseka to clear his character is to take legal action against the news paper rectify the news story.

Gotabaya Rajapaksa’s fresh demand of defamatory charges
Adding to the complexity of the issue, the lawyers of Defense Secretary Gotabaya Rajapaksa have sent a fresh letter demanding for one billion rupees to the Sunday Leader newspaper Chairman Lal Wickramatunga and Editor Fredrica Jansz as damages for publishing the alleged defamatory article.

Now the Sunday leader is in an awkward situation where if they try to clear Sarath Fonseka by accepting the publishing of false headline news item, they will be caught up back with demand of defamatory charges by Defense Sectary.

Will the Sunday Leader play the role of “Siri Sanga Bo”?
The stage has set now that either Sarath Fonseka or the Sunday Leader has to be the looser. We can wait and see if the Sunday Leader is willing to play the role of ‘Siri Sanga Bo’ to save Sarath Fonseka for the day.

References:
- Defence Secretary claims Rs 1 b for defamation from Sunday Leader
- Attorneys withdraw from "Sunday Leader" case
- An End to "Sunday Leader" Slander!

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