Media

Returning Tamil journalist shocked of 'betrayal' by fellow Sinhalese

A Tamil journalist arrested on his return from exile to Sri Lanka is shocked by attempts to undermine his professional integrity by widely known Sinhalese journalists.

Punniyamoorthi Sasikaran who positively  responded to an open invitation of the government by returning to the island was arrested by Sri Lankan authorities on 20 January at the country's main airport and later released on bail. He has been banned from travelling abroad for five years while being ordered to report to the notorious Fourth Floor of the Criminal Investigation Department (CID) in Colombo every month, located over 300 km away from his eastern home town.

Following his arrest former Free Media Movement (FMM) Convenor Sunanda Deshapriya has publicly called to investigate Sasikaran on human smugglers, the same charge levelled by Sri Lanka authorities.

No information

Sasikaran 'has not been known as an activist or journalist in Sri Lanka. H (sic) has gone to Australia through human smuggler. Human smuggling rings  needs (sic) to be investigated,' Deshapriya has written in his blog.

"No information has been provided re Puniyamoorthy Sasikaran’s activism or journalism in Australia," it alleged.

Disturbed by this damning accusation, Sasikaran told JDS how he has learnt from bitter experience that free movement is not a right enjoyed by every returnee.

"I was forced to leave my homeland in 2012. That was not a period where Tamil journalists from the north and the east were able to safely  leave the country  from the Colombo airport. I had no other option than taking the dangerous boat ride to save my life. It is sad to see a fellow journalist who had to flee due to threats, betraying others."

The former FMM convenor has recommended to authorities in a Sinhala website that 'Sasikaran should have been allowed to  reach home in Batticaloa first and then interrogated.'

Sri Lankan government has been severely critisized by international human rights organisations for arresting Tamil returnees at the airport.

'Baseless accusations'

Several Sinhala nationalist publications have also questioned Sasikaran's journalist credentials.

"Those who make such baseless accusations should be aware that facts need to be verified before making them public," he said.

Threatened in Batticaloa

A journalist and a rights activist from  eastern Batticaloa, Sasikaran was forced to flee to Australia in 2012 due to threats to his life.

Before fleeing the country he worked as a provincial correspondent for Ran FM and Sudar Oli Tamil journal. He was also an activist involved with the campaigns of Sri Lanka National Fisheries Solidarity Movement (NAFSO) and Campaign for Free and Fair Elections (CaFFE).

While in exile Sasikaran has been working as a journalist for Australian public broadcasting radio SBS. A month before arriving in Sri Lanka, Journalist Sasikaran has written to President Maithripala Sirisena to assure his safety.

He has been called to appear in courts on 20 July to face charges on illegal immigration to Australia.

In addition to journalists from the Tamil speaking north, several media workers from the east were forced into exile due to threats following the unresolved killing of senior journalist Aiyathurai Nadesan in 2004.

© JDS