New Delhi: While Sri Lanka’s politics has been going through one episode of mayhem after the other, the International Federation of Journalists has taken serious note of the transfer of police inspector Nishantha Silva, a key investigator in several major cases involving attacks on journalists in the island nation.
According to Sri Lanka Mirror, which describes Silva as “one of the most talented officers in the CID”, he “was handling investigations pertaining to cases filed on the abduction and murder of 11 youths, the Lasantha Wickremetunga murder as well as on the assaults on (journalists) Keith Noyahr, Upali Tennakoon and Namal Perera”.
Silva was heading the investigations into several high-profile investigations into attacks on journalists. This includes the abduction and assault of Rivira’s former editor Upali Tennekoon, Nation deputy editor Keith Noyahr, senior journalist Namal Perera, as well as the assassination of Sunday Leader editor Lasantha Wickrematunge, and others.
Silva was reportedly transferred on the order of the minister of law and order on direction of president Maithripala Sirisena.
Sri Lanka Working Journalists Association (SLWJA) president Dhuminda Sampath said: “We believe that this sudden transfer was made to held up the above mentioned courts cases, and under these circumstances, we are shocked as media freedom and safety of journalists are in danger.”
Meanwhile, the SLWJA leadership have been threatened for speaking out against issues facing the media, particularly threats to journalists in the state media organisations.
Silva investigated the killing of 11 children between 2008-2009 and had secured an arrest order last week against the country’s top military official when he was shifted on Sunday, an official said.
“He was about to arrest admiral Ravindra Wijegunaratne when his marching orders came,” a senior police official told AFP. “This is a serious blow to half a dozen high profile investigations.”
Sri Lanka was tossed into turmoil on October 26 when President Maithripala Sirisena controversially sacked prime minister Ranil Wickremesinghe and replaced him with former rival Mahinda Rajapakse.
As it stands, a constitutional deadlock has paralysed the country with Wickremesinghe insisting that he is still prime minister.
“The IFJ is seriously concerned by the ongoing political crisis in Sri Lanka, and the threats and harassment of journalist union leaders for standing up for freedom of expression, press freedom and journalists’ rights,” the IFJ said in its release.
“Expressing solidarity with its affiliate Sri Lanka Working Journalists Association and all other journalists in Sri Lanka, the IFJ urges the Sri Lankan government to uphold press freedom, editorial independence and journalists’ rights; ensure the safety of the journalists and union leaders, and those responsible for threats and harassment on them punished according to the law.”
According to news outlet South Asia News, Silva’s transfer was cancelled after the “inspector had appealed to the National Police Commission (NPC) over his transfer”.