June 11, Colombo: Transparency International Sri Lanka(TISL) has vehemently condemned the disruption of a workshop they had organized on investigative journalism for the second time and urged the government to take stern action against those who were responsible.
In a press release the civil society organization said it has been conducting training programs for journalists on the subject of investigative reporting against bribery, corruption and good governance for many years.
The TISL said it introduced a similar program for the Tamil language journalists with the intention of encouraging them to write investigative reports on the recommendations made by the Lessons Learnt and Reconciliation Committee (LLRC) to ensure good governance.
The entire process of the program was publicized through the media in view of complete transparency and selection of the participants was done through application process. The program had already been conducted for Sinhala language journalists.
However, when they held the program for the Tamil and Muslim journalists from North and Eastern provinces and Colombo at the Deer Park Hotel, Giritale on 22nd May 2014, the hotel has informed TISL that they could not conduct the workshop based on instructions received from the Ministry of Defense.
Following the cancellation of the first workshop the TISL has decided to hold the workshop at the Goldie Sands Hotel, Negombo, but this was disrupted by an organized group of persons who arrived at the premise.
The protesters have accused Transparency International Sri Lanka of supporting terrorists and claimed that the workshop was to train people to give evidence against Sri Lanka in an international investigation and TISL says they have evidence that these protesters were transported to Negombo from outside.
"Despite continuous emphasis by our representatives that this workshop is legal and not something against the country, the police did not take any action to disperse the protestors," the TISL said.
Instead of dispersing the crowd, the police had ordered to stop the workshop saying that police protection can be provided only if they stop the workshop and leave Negombo.
"The police acting in favour of the protestors imply that there is an invisible but powerful hand behind the incident," the TISL said in its statement.
The TISL says the journalists who took part in the workshops were registered with and accredited by the Ministry of Mass Media and Information but the protestors claimed that these journalists are Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) agents.
"If these journalists are LTTE representatives as claimed, the Ministry of Mass Media and Information should then take responsibility for it," the organization remarked.
The TISL says the journalists were labeled as LTTE agents because they are Tamils and since they work in the Tamil language.
"Such acts are an obstacle to the reconciliation process and at a time when we speak of national unity, the violation of rights of the Tamil journalists cannot be approved. We firmly believe that Tamil journalists should also have the right to receive training like the Sinhala journalists did," TISL stressed.
Following the disruption of the workshop in Negombo, the TISL has taken the journalists to the Galadari Hotel, Colombo and there also the hotel management had asked them to leave the hotel within one hour after check in.
"When we inquired further the hotel management said that a powerful organization had forced them to remove the journalists from the hotel threatening that if not complied with they would personally come and remove the journalists from the premises," the TISL explained.
The TISL says it has since come to light that people from the Military were among protestors.
"When we are in dire need of a strong civil administration, the Ministry of Defence overuses their powers. Interference in to civil administration has restricted human rights and violated good governance. This is not an isolated event but an undemocratic attempt to stop the efforts to combat corruption," the TISL said.
Read full press release from Transparency International Sri Lanka