Tuesday, March 23, 2010

MTV attack: Police take their time

by Shamindra Ferdinando - A group of men yesterday (March 22) afternoon pelted stones at the head office of the Sirasa TV and Radio at Braybrooke Place, Colombo causing damages to some vehicles parked in the premises.

A section of the employees retaliated by throwing back the stones at the attackers before the police intervened. The television interrupted its regular programme to telecast the attack in the presence of the police and the arrest of some of the attackers.

Director of Information Anusha Palpita told The Island that about 100 to 200 persons had launched a protest outside Sirasa premises before some of them launched the attack.

The Braybrook Place office had been targeted earlier. During yesterday’s incident several Sirasa employees received injuries.

A heavily armed gang caused heavy damage in a raid on Sirasa studios at Pannipitiya in January 2008. The police are yet to arrest the culprits, who carried out the attack.

A senior spokesperson for Sirasa told The Island that they had thwarted an attempt by the attackers to storm the premises. He said that the attackers had caused heavy damage before the police responded to their pleas for help. Had they intervened immediately, the attack could have been averted, he said.

Justice and Law Reforms Minister Milinda Moragoda and Asath Sally, both UPFA candidates contesting from Colombo, visited the Sirasa offices, where they condemned the attack. They said that the perpetrators of this attack should be arrested. UNP Deputy Leader Karu Jayasuriya and JVP frontliner Sunil Handunetti, too, visited the scene.

Police headquarters spokesman SSP Prishantha Jayakody told The Island that persons engaged in the protest had shouted slogans and carried placards against a live performance in Colombo by top US artiste, Akon. He said that the police had baton charged the unruly crowd and arrested several attackers. The TV footage included scenes of senior police officers kicking some of the attackers and pushing them into police vehicles.

Akon performed in India about a week ago at the invitation of Shah Ruk Khan. Akon’s performance in Colombo at the SSC grounds on April 24 is arranged by Platinum Entertainment (Pvt) Ltd, and MTV/MBC. Sources said that there had been protests against an Akon hit showing scantily clad women dancing near a Buddha statue.

Sirasa showed some of the attackers arriving at the scene in an SLTB bus, which the station claimed was attached to the Kelaniya SLTB depot. Sirasa sources told The Island that the police could have seized the bus, though they allowed it to leave with the majority of attackers. Sources said that a section of the attackers had come in vehicles.

© The Island

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Tuesday, March 23, 2010

MTV attack: The Akon factor

By Dinidu de Alwis - A soaked poster lying on a bush gave a hint to where and why the stones would have come from. It read “Don’t bring down Akon to Sri Lanka”. Another, lying mere inches away said “Chase away Sirasa who are trying to disrupt the Sangha Saasana”. Nearby on the ground a flowerpot lay shattered. The culprit, a half-brick lay where its base once was.

Capital Maharaja, the head office of MTV/MBC was attacked yesterday afternoon by protesters who arrived at the office suddenly. Eyewitness accounts put the number at two busloads, arriving at the scene in Sri Lanka Transport Service (SLTB) buses. One such bus was seen parked near the Viharamahadevi Park and a group of about 50 men gathered around it soon after the stone throwing was subdued by police riot squads.

“We heard a noise coming from the front of the building, and we saw large crowds gathering in front of our office” a spokesperson for MTV said. The slow moving crowd started pelting stones at the Capital Maharaja Building, and “as an act of self defence” the staff returned the same stones which were thrown at them back to the protesting crowd. MTV staffers also used a firehose to good effect to thwart the mob. the hose lay curled on the side of the building, with shattered glass and stones all around it. It lay like giant snake that had done its job and wanted no more action.

Video footage recorded by the private TV station shows crowds pelting stones at the building, and then making a hasty retreat when Police arrived at the scene. Reports indicate that sixteen protesters were arrested.

The attack, which eyewitness accounts suggest was spurred as a result of opposition to the proposed performance by Senegalese rapper Akon, comes a year after the MTV transmission station in Depanama was besieged by unidentified persons and set on fire.

Sri Lanka previously saw a violent act related to a musical performance in 2004, when a hand grenade that was lobbed at a concert led by Bollywood superstar Shah Rukh Khan killed two including a pregnant woman. The event was attributed to Buddhist fundamentalists, as the performance fell on the one year death anniversary of popular religious figure Ven. Gangodavila Soma Thero.

Perambara previously reported on the growing opposition and the potential for violence against the performance by Akon. The two facebook groups which have grown by more than two thousand members since then, alleged that Akon’s music videos were insulting to Buddhism and that the artist should not be allowed to perform in Sri Lanka.

MTV spokespersons did not link the Akon concert to the attack. Some even suggested that the concert could have been used as a ruse by those who wanted to get back at the station. “There have been threats on the station for some time,” Susil Kidelepitiya, a former Sirasa news director, now candidate for the opposition UNP said.

MTV however is not the only promoter of the Akon concert. Repeated attempts to contact Sri Lanka Tourism Promotion Bureau, a key partner in organizing the performance has failed.

© Perambara.org

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Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Detained journalist appeals to Court

by Chitra Weerarathne - Free Lance Journalist Ruwan Amarajith Weerakoon, currently in detention custody, through a lawyer, filed a fundamental rights violation application against the CID and the Terrorist Investigation Department.

He had said that he had been illegally arrested on March 15, and thereafter detained in TID custody.

The petitioner requested the Court to direct the CID and the TID to release him from unlawful custody.

The petition said that the detainee had been arrested while he was receiving medical treatment at the Nawaloka Hospital Colombo.

The petition will be supported in Court, shortly.

© The Island

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Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Sri Lanka : Detained ex-army chief's wife questioned by CID

Detained former Sri Lankan army chief Sarath Fonseka's wife Anoma was questioned by the CID officials in connection with the ongoing investigations against her husband.

"The CID questioned her for about three hours last evening," the Daily Mirror said today quoting reliable sources, after which she charged the government with not sparing any member of her family.

"I was the only one left out by the CID in this case. All our relatives have now been questioned," the news paper quoted Anoma as saying.

The general's wife said "under the present political circumstances" she expected questioning by the CID.

"I am ready to face them. I am not scared to tell the truth," she said.

"The CID had to pause questioning as Mrs Fonseka had to take meals to Gen Fonseka who is under detention at the Naval headquarters," the report said.

JVP MP Anura Kumara Dissanayake has also been asked to appear before the CID, the Fonseka led (JVP dominated) Democratic National Alliance (DNA) party said.

Anoma has told reporters that "Fonseka who helped in eradicating terrorism will not in any way assist terrorists." She said her husband was suffering from accumulation of phlegm inside the lungs which is very dangerous.

"He has been told to be careful about cough and cold." "Only I have been granted permission to take food for him. Despite the court granting permission, it is yet to materalise that we have been given a order from the higher ups. I don't think they have even heard about warm water (required for him)," Anoma said.

DNA General Secretary Vijitha Herath told a news conference prior to the questioning that his party comprises politicians who were ready for any eventuality, and therefore they would not shy away from any of such threats.

© The Times of India

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Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Sri Lankan protests over court martial of Fonseka

Sri Lankan opposition groups demonstrated in Colombo on Tuesday demanding the release of former army chief Sarath Fonseka, who attempted to unseat the president in recent elections.

Hundreds of activists from the JVP, or People's Liberation Front, which backed Fonseka's failed bid for the presidency, shouted anti-government slogans outside the main railway station.

On Monday dozens of unidentified men pelted stones at an independent television station in Colombo in what was thought to be a politically motivated attack before next month's parliamentary elections.

The latest protests came ahead of another court martial hearing against the detention of Fonseka after he lost the presidential election to incumbent Mahinda Rajapakse.

Fonseka, who led the military to victory over the Tamil Tiger rebels last year, fell out with Rajapakse and the two became bitter political foes.

Court martial hearings are due to open on April 6, two days ahead of parliamentary elections at which Fonseka is a candidate from the Democratic National Alliance, a party backed by the JVP.

Fonseka entered politics after quitting the military in November, six months after the separatist Tamil rebels were finally crushed after decades of ethnic bloodshed on the island.

When he resigned from the military, Fonseka said that Rajapakse suspected him of planning a coup.


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Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Sri Lanka: MTV suspects bailed out

All 16 suspects who had been arrested over yesterday’s mob attack on the MTV/MBC head office at Braybrooke Place have been released on bail, the police said today.

Police Spokesperson S.P. Prashantha Jayakody told Daily Mirror online that all the evidence had been produced to court and the police would conduct further investigations.

“For the moment all the suspects have been bailed out,” SP Jayakody said.

An armed group believed to be associated with a notorious Deputy Minister attacked the MTV/MBC office at Braybrooke Place yesterday afternoon severely damaging the place.

MTV staff members were attacked by stones and the staff had retaliated by throwing the same stones at the gang afterwhich the gang had fled the scene.

Police who arrived at the scene made atleast 16 arrests.

Eye witnesses had said that some of the attackers at the scene had held placards against the upcoming concert by popular international artiste Akon for which MTV/MBC is a sponsor.

© Daily Mirror

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