Media bashing in a peninsula – Jaffna

August 31, 2007

Uthayan Office
Uthayan Office

“Jaffna has become one of the most dangerous geographical areas for those involved in the media to work, due to killings, abductions, threats and censorship. At least 07 in the media sector including 02 journalists have been killed in Jaffna, since 2006 May. While 01 journalist has gone missing, 03 media institutes have been attacked. Many journalists have either left their profession or left the area. Although suspects have been named and the government has promised investigations, no serious investigations into these incidents have been yet initiated.”

That is a quote from the observation report released by the Joint International Committee constituted by the Reporters Without Borders (RSF) and the International Media Solidarity (IMS) that was in Sri Lanka to investigate into media freedom. We decided a long time before that report was out to respect our responsibility of looking into the plight of the media personnel in the North, which is also a part of this “Unitary” State.

Vincent Jeyan is a good friend of ours. A media colleague too. He has an eye for investigations, a strength for a journalist. He was thus turning into a very good investigative journalist. He was awarded the best journalist, working in a difficult environment by the Editors’ Guild.

We remember he told us, way back in 2004,

“I like to marry a Sinhala girl. A teacher would be ideal”

“Why is that ?”  we asked.

“Then I can also learn Sinhala well” he said.

He was one who aspired for ethnic camaraderie. We could not work towards achieving it. Recently he had brought a Tamil girl home as his wife. Yet, in a city of danger, he could not enjoy the bliss of wedded life. Recently we met him in Colombo.

“Got to pass over hundred barriers to get to a single news. To go through barriers you have to show some friendship. Got to throw some smile. Then the other side gets jittery. So you are labeled differently. We get bashed from both sides.”

Jeyan’s media life has been temporarily suspended. Not only that. There is no investigative journalist in the Jaffna peninsula who could fill the void created by Nimalarajan’s demise. There is no Maheswaran, no Jenaheswaran, no Thawaselvam, no Thayaparan in Jaffna. There is therefore no investigative journalist in the Jaffna peninsula.

Veluthanjan is a dissenting voice. He is a freelance journalist now, after serving many news papers. He is a critic of those journalists who leave Jaffna.

“Now there are no journalists. They are actors. They are playing a fake role as journalists, with other agendas. They leave to Colombo on those reasons and then work to migrate. Our parents and children live here in Jaffna. We don’t have to fabricate reasons to leave Jaffna.”

What ever Veluthanjan’s criticism is, investigating the dangers of Jaffna is a responsibility. That is reason why, M. V. Kanamylnathan the chief editor of the leading news paper published in Jaffna, the “Uthayan” has to be given an ear.

“The young don’t come for journalism. They are afraid. That is a justifiable fear. Most try to find other jobs. Every one is trying to find a way out of Jaffna. Life is that difficult now in Jaffna.”

The “Uthayan” editor escaped death by a whisker, when attacked by an unidentified para military group on 23 June, 2001. Yet he continues publication of the “Uthayan” news paper amidst great difficulty.

On 06 May, 2001 Manager of “Uthayan” news paper, K. Nanthakumar was gunned down. On 24 January, 2006 “Uthayan” Trincomalee staff reporter S. Sudeer Rajan was also gunned down. On 03 May 2006, while the government was commemorating the Media Freedom day in Colombo, the “Uthayan” news paper office in Jaffna was treated to a bomb attack. This attack killed its Circulation Manager Bastian George, better known as Suresh and an employee in the same division, Ranjit Kumar Rajarathnam. All computers in the computer division were totally damaged on purpose.

Again on 23 July 2006, Kumaradas, their Sub Editor was arrested and detained. On 15 August 2006, S. Baskaran the permanent driver of “Uthayan” was assassinated and on 18 August, their stores in Raas Street, Kopay was burnt down.

The latest in the string of attacks against “Uthayan” was on 30 April, when at about 10.00 in the morning, journalist Selvarajah Rajeevarman was shot dead at the Navalar junction by gunmen traveling on a motor bicycle.

“So now, all news editors and sub editors are me. Our editor and I have not gone home even once since March last year.” says S. Kugathasan, the News Editor.

They are the only 02 full time journalists still working with the “Uthyan” news paper that had 04 Sub editors and 08 staff reporters working full time previously.

“Now we have to satisfy ourselves with what we receive here. We are restricted to letters, statements and phone calls that we receive in office. Got to use notices to fill the pages. Due to security reasons, even local reporters aren’t working.” added Kugathasan.

Another popular news paper, “Namathu Eelanaadu” has closed shop, due to such harassments and attacks. Its Managing Director Sinnathamby Mahasivarasa was killed at his residence in Thelipillai. That resulted in the closure of the news paper.

There are now only 02 other news papers published in Jaffna, besides “Uthayan”. Those are “Yaal Thinakkural” and “Vaalampuri”. It’s the same common denominator for them too, as the “Uthayan”.  “Vaalampuri” that had over 80 local correspondents now has less than 10 operating. By now, the news paper does not have any provincial news in it’s issues. It is now compelled to carry popular national news and other such international news.

“life is more important than any news” says a young journalist working with “Vaalampuri”.

“The media accreditation card today is a death warrant. There is absolutely no recognition for that. Security men at barricades look at journalists as if they are looking at a Tiger.”

That’s Jaffna. This is from a horse’s mouth. From the editor of the “Yaal Thinakkural” news paper, S. Vamadevan.

“Motor bykes and white vans trail us. We get threatening text messages (SMS) and phone calls. We are searched. The office alone had been rounded up 06 times for search.”

Although a news paper Editor, he still uses a push bicycle for traveling. That simple is their lives. Can an unarmed cyclist avoid motor bykes and white vans ?

“We can not do anything without the permission of the military. Can’t even photograph anything for news. It is difficult to write a balance news report with all sides covered. There is some side that would interfere.”

Even in “Yaal Thinakkural” there are only 04 full time journalists. There main local correspondent, Subramaniam Ramachandran disappeared while in Vadamaarachchi area. There after others who served as provincial reporters, moved out of work.

Another repression on the Jaffna media is the restriction on news print for publishing.

“Yet even after a ban on news print, we had guts to publish 02 page news papers. But now there is news print coming with restrictions. That’s not enough. So, we publish less numbers with less pages” said, Uthayan” editor Kanamylnathan.

Earlier the “Uthayan” paper had around 16 to 20 pages. Now it has only about 08, or 10 the most. So is “Yaal Thinakkural”. It had 14 to 16 pages previously and now runs with only 06 or 08 pages.

“The Jaffna people have a feeling of being ‘left out’. They think they have been cast aside. This is a common feeling amongst the journalists too.” explains the “Uthayan” editor. “No one knows what would happen the next moment. But we have to be with the people. We have to work for them”

The North Lanka Journalists Association (NLJA) has discussed all these issues with the Army Commander in charge of North. He had promised to inform all his officers to accept the media accreditation card. But journalists in Jaffna claim, they have not seen any positive change.

The President of NLJA is the deputy editor of “Yaal Thinakkural”, M. Kathirgamarthamby. He has almost 45 years of service as a journalist, starting his career with the Lake House published Daily News in 1962. Even a senior journalist of such caliber can not lead a decent professional life.

“During the cease fire period, we initiated the North – South Journalists’ Association, supported by the Peace Council of Jehan Perera. Its President was Stanley Samarasignhe. I was the Secretary. We thought that would create solidarity among journalists in North and South. But that remains a dream.” says Kathirgamarthamby. “Only the Free Media Movement was concerned about us. They also facilitated allowances for our journalists who lost their job.”

Finally, he made an appeal to the journalists in the South.

“We make this appeal most passionately to those journalists in the South. We are also journalists in this same country. Don’t leave us as outcasts.”

While their appeal is so painful, the media culture here in the South does not even consider killings in the North for reporting. When a student, Sahadevan Neelakshan of the Media Research and Technology Institute attached to the Jaffna University was assassinated last July, for some journalists in the South he was no media personnel. Most refused to acknowledge that he was the editor of the magazine “Saaralam”, published by the university students’ association.

This isolation is a reality in the Jaffna peninsula. No youth who has some affinity, some love or a need to be in journalism would have any direct connections with the media. We discussed this issue with a student of journalism.

“Where would you think, you would work ?”

“I’m just studying because I like it. Don’t have any idea of working”.

“Then, what would you do ?”

“I will do farming”.

We asked him, his reasons for that. His short reply left us muted.

“From what is cultivated on the ground, one can live a few days, at least. From what is cultivated in the media, one can die in a few days, for sure.”

Manjula wediwardena
Athula Withanage

Mariya Called Mary By manjula wediwardena


Just now was concluded our sexual intercourse which ended the virginity of Maria.

I continue lying upon her. though my body is wet with sweat and our bodies pasted to one another. My penis is on the retreat in her vaginal canal. She is drying the sweat oh my back thumping It, warm breath emanating.

Maria, at once topples me over and kneeling on the bed with her arms folded, begins to sob. I turn my face down. My dyes close and darkness envelopes me.

I saw historical dream. In that dream there. was embroiled a strange dream.

It was Pharao period in Rome. My torso was deposited in a prison where prisoners were imprisoned. About twenty prisoners Were in various stances of trance within that limited space which was entombed by four massive stone walls. In one place is the groan of a person whose respiratory system was weak. In. another place is the. ‘1bah bah” sound of a hymn to Jebovah. In another place is a cough in another is weeping. Occasionally a sob-arises and fades away..

Though I was listening to the admixture of these sounds I hung on with my eyes the small. apurture at the top of the left Wall. Sun light was seeping bit by bit through that aperture. My eyes which were soaking in the darkness: were steep bound by that small light.

That was the birth of that strange dream.

Stars were glittering in the cloudless dear night sky. A star which began to attract to itself my attention that was devided among the multitude of stars to burst out of the sky. When that reached the proportion of the moon1 it began to develop a tail which lengthened gradually. The tail end which began to cl6se up gradually made itself into a noose, fell on my neck and began to tighten gradually. I being mortally afraid, shouted out with all my might but no sound escaped from my mouth.

When a prisoner’s foot tell on my head opening my eyes, I was still choacking my peck with my own hands and screaming silently. bolts of light were streaming though the small aperture. That light travelled about tonding every thing in that prison.

In among the prisoners was a leader. He was a handsome youth well known for his ability to interpret dreams. Joseph got the opportunity to come to Egypt as he was sold by his brothers7in a place called Donath, for twenty lucre. As he made an honest fool of himself by refusing the constant pleas of the wife of Pothiper, the Door-Keeper, Chief Sentry of King Pharao, to have sex with her he was imprisoned.

Joseph rose from where he sat, stood Majestically in front of me and addressed me in a deep voice.
“Tell me frankly the dream you had and I will interpr6t it for you¡± .

With a shaking voice, I offered him my dream. He closed his eyes, raising his lands up for a moment serenely, lowered them, opened his eyes and spoke.

“A son will be born begotten by you. He will certain go to the extreme of Atheism. Therefore him Anti Christ.

The synthesis of emotions which were. in the inner hearts of the prisoners were painting their faces. Some of them who broke loose from their concentration, rose to their feet wherever they were.

“He will at first be your death-noose. Then he will spread the danger to-the others. Whatever attempt be made, no body can forestall this birth¡± said-the interpreter of dreams in a calm, collected voice. As these words escaped his tips, all the prisoners rose. Then the began to circle around me elliptically. I was shocked. I lost consciousness in fear. In short called God.

Slowly the human circle began to shrink. All the eyes were reverted on my penis. All of them in one motion set tip on me reach one struggling sholder to sholder, waged a deathly struggle either to touch my penis on uproot it. I fell on the ground and struggled.

In the meantime some one who-came from behind, put his hand in between my legs and clung on to my man symbol. I began to writh like anearth worm, screaming myself horse. This screaming and struggling would have continued until my head struck the bed head. My hand was well wrapped around my penis.

Maria was kneeling before the prayer box all nude. Virgin Mary was looking at tier with merciful eyes open intently, in measureless sympathy, limitless pity, A tear for Maria, bursting from the eye of Virgin Mary cascaded down-the-light blue and white paint applied on the clay which had made Virgin May. Maria saw none of them. She was sweeping the ground with her eyes, with her fingers inter twined. Her lips trembled in a prayer. Her long brown hair woven in a single plait falls down her solder blades, down past the golden fine that bisects her buttocks. Her slim waist enhances the charm of her broad hip.

I witness a close up of the beauty of her hind quarters. I recline against the bed head with my eyes on her. I lighted a cigarette and filled my lungs with a long draft of smoke.

I feel somebody tapping me on my sholder. I turn. A body covered with long black hair. That is Satan. The only item of cloth on that body is a suspender. He has in his hand a tight wrapped slim rod. He asks for a light. I hold out my cigarette. He lights his rod, returns my Cigarette and reclines in the easy chair next to Maria and turns to me. He gives me a comradely toothy grin. My thoughts are wandering. I more my gaze away and turn it upwards.

I hear the Sound of tiles rattling in the roof and then two hands removing the tites. A saintly figure descends with pure white wings spreaded, through that pepingl in the root. The whole body is covered with snow white feathers. That figure with feathers wrapped around Penguine fashion and standing at attention next to the nude body of Maria, I easily recognize as the Archangle Gabriel. The war of righteousness between the angles of light and powers of darkness was slowly emerging.

Satan stands or his head on the weaving of the easy chair. He addresses Maria in a coarse and gross thundering groan.

“My dear Maria, you are the blessed in among all the women. I like you. My whole hearted unlimited appreciation is for your.

I order that the unquel, powerful creative that would be born off your blessed womb be named “Anti Christ”. That is because this creative will take the world to the summit of sin and save this world.”

Satan sits back oh the chair with a pleasant smile on his face. Maria taints and falls I cannot go up to Maria. I am forzen to the bed.

Gabriel puts his hand into a clump of feathers, pulls but a phial and sprinkles water on “Maria’s face. Her eyes dance. She wakes up and looks around. Immediately she jumps into the lap of Gabriel and in a sob asks “Oh! Gracious Arch angle Gabriel, Why do you allow ire, who was so loyal td the rather, to fall into this dismal abiss?”

The face of the Archangel, with Maria in his lap, has turned red with Unknown emotions that were not there from eternity: He is deeply-troubled. The rythm of the fluttering winds evidences his discomfort.

My nude body is awash in a small sweat. I feel the cracking of my lips, my mouth and my thoat.

Instantly Satan jumps forward, takes up Gabriel and dashes him on the ground. Gabriel himself, who was thus far steeped in a most deep ecstacy, is aflame in a burming anger, gets up and charges up to Satan. The war of righteousness breaks out. The two of them roll in a single bundie.

Satan takes in his mouth the legs of Gabriel wrings them together and poking them in is mouth, begins chewing them and swallowing them. Blood oozes from his mouth. Gabriel, mad with paid, gets hold of the staking legs of Satan, puts them in his mouth, munches them with an effort and beams to swallow them. The two of them devouring each other in this fashion is lost inside the two of them and disappear.

Though called her Maria her real name is Mary Jacintha de Silva. Her maiden name Harmer is deleted and her husband’s name whose name was Joseph de Silva has been supplanted in the place other surname.

I first saw her in the cold of last December. I was reclining on a back bench in the Church of Her Lady Garbus, waiting fore girl friend.

That was a Friday. As it was not an hour of a bustling crowd, Maria’s long prayer serinity had captured my attention. The person who was on her knees behind her, was her mother-in-law as I were to learn later.

She rose from her prayer. Her innocent pointed face, was wrapped in a black veil I was watching how she touched thrice the feet of Lady Girbus and kissed them. Then she turned without paying any head to her Mother in law and walked to the church door. A strong draft of December coming from the direction of the alter carried her veil in it and deposited it at my feet. I bentdown and took it in my hand and waited all the time tendering it to her as he was walking towards rile.

That was the first time our eyes met.

Though it was close to two years since she was married, she remained a virgin. Those who were unaware of the truth about the sexual capacity of Joseph looked on her as a barren woman. As she was deeply devoted to God, she didn’t mind the disgrace she was receiving. She had the strength of character to remain so. She remained silently bearing up everything as a true child of God, even while her mother-in-law herded her to the Church of Lady Girbus she never betrayed Joseph. Her sole existence depended solely on her devotion and the word of God.

Her husband Joseph had no world outside God. She says that his eating and drinking and all his activities are initiated with a prayer. She says may be because the word of God is that at marriage two people become one person. Joseph bears her deep love. There may be some truth in it. Who can disregard such devotion. The other things is that disregarding God’s word is mortal sin.

I also respected her devotion.
I made room for her love loved her beautiful body
I loved her beautiful body
From that time onward I called Mary Jacintha “Maria”
Our first free date occured after a long lapse of time. A person will accidentally get such an ecstatic moment. I who got such an opportunity is really fortunate. That is because, the whole heaven unfolded before me.

The two of us were left to ourselves in the Mansion of the Maria. She was ecstatic at my sight. The amorous rightne which so far was contained within her began to plush over me, first of all she kissed every inch of my face endlessly, in madness.

As the first stage drew to a close, I made her who was painting and gasping, sit comfortably on the bed and murmered in her ear. ¡°To make today an ever memorable day you must obey one and only one condition.

“Now, now, don’t be afraid. Don’t be shy. This is a condition even God approves of¡¯.

Without a word, she wrapped her right hand around my waist and rested her head on my shoulder. I heard the amorous breaths struggling within her. “From now onwards, the two of us should be totally nude. Do you agree?¡±

Maria , was flustered and asked .me “The whole day? Even while eating- and drinking?”

“Yes!, First of all I want a cup of tea. Even that should be made under that condition.”

Thought released those words lightly she was perturbed by that instant proposal. I tried to pacify her.

“Whom do you love most in this world¡± I asked petting her right hand.

She was silently studying me. for a few minutes and then tried to struggle out of her dilemma saying “You”

“No! you love God most¡± I was trying to lead her to the climax of my proposal gradually “God doesn’t approve of these unethical cloths. That is why he created man nude. That is why God himself is nude. He likes, nudity. Therefore we too must respect nudity. To please God. We will spend the day under that condition”

As I was speaking thus, I groped in among looks, eye, ticks, buttons and zips in Maria’s dressing and undid them. She was as obedient as a rabbit kid and red in shyness. In the end, the angle like beauty of Maria began to bloom in my view.

Thus Maria got used to nudity.

Her heart had blossomed out even to walk to the kitchen nude: I undressed myself and lighting a cigarette. I reclined o6to the bed head. In a moment she entered the room with a cup of tea in a tray. My smiling eyes dipped into her body. Having placed in the tea tray on the teapoy, she jumped instantly onto the bed, grabbed the pillow lovering my penis and dashed it on me.

Waves of laughter burst on rever berated in the air. The room was emersed in a sea of laughter and calmed down.

I get down from the bed and walk upto her. I carry her with both hands and palce her gingerly on the bed.

“What shall we do now” asks Maria-making an attempt to smile.

“If I were to have a baby and Joseph gets to know it¡¦¡¦.¡±A fear in her is pieced by a flickering happiness.

I bend down and kiss her forehead. Maria, without a word with her eyes rivetted on to my eyes begs with her eyes for a reply.

“You tell Joseph that the child is God’s!”