Tamil journalist reporting police inaction intimidated by senior officer

A Tamil journalist reporting the inaction of law enforcement officers in implementing a court order in northeastern Sri Lanka has been intimidated by police.

Freelance Journalist Kanapathipillai Kumanan who was covering a dispute between two Hindu and Buddhist temples, had been physically assaulted and verbally abused by the officer in charge (OIC) of the Kokkilai police station.

The journalist was taking photographs while workers were repainting the customary Tamil name at the Hindu temple entrance as “Neeraviadi Pillayar Kovil” in the Mullaitivu district. The name was earlier changed to the Sinhala “Ganadevi Devalaya” by a Buddhist monk who had recently constructed a Buddhist temple in the same plot of land.

'Pillaiyar' in Tamil and 'Ganadevi' in Sinhala are names for the Hindu god Ganesha with an elephant’s head worshiped by Hindus and Buddhists alike.

CCTV cameras

In settling a dispute of land ownership between the Hindu and Buddhist institutions, Mullaitivu District Judge S Lenin Kumar had directed on 6 May, to restore the traditional Tamil name.

In addition, the judge ordered the Buddhist monk, Colombo Medhalankara Kiththi to remove CCTV cameras installed at his temple. Court was told that the cameras were pointing towards the entrance of the Hindu Kovil.

However, the court order had not been carried out, according to reports published in the national press by Journalist Kumanan. Photographic evidence showing the CCTV cameras in place on 26 May had accompanied the story.

The Kovil trustees had sought the help of the district court on 27 May to implement the ruling. They provided reports published by the journalist as proof. Judge Lenin Kumar who reprimanded the Mullaitivu Police OIC had ordered to execute the court order immediately.

Verbal abuse

While covering the court order being carried out, Kanapathipillai Kumanan had been manhandled and verbally abused by the police officer.

“He seemed to be pretty annoyed for my coverage that exposed police inaction being used in court proceedings,” a shaken Kumanan told JDS.

“On that day there was a heavy security presence. Men on motorcycles with their faces covered were circling the area in a threatening manner. The police officer photographed me as well. A young man who was with the Buddhist monk also verbally abused me in filth.”

Kanapthipillai Kumanan extensively covering Sinhala Buddhist groups assisted by the military encroaching traditional Tamil lands, had been threatened by security forces several times.

He has been recognised by national and international organisations for commitment to using the right to information (RTI) for public interest journalism.☐



Journalists for Democracy in Sri Lanka

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