Nine years later, in two separate incidents five army personnel were arrested during the past few days for the inhuman assault on former Daily Mirror Deputy Editor and The Nation Newspaper Associate Editor Keith Noyahr on May 11, 2008. This follows similar arrests of Army intelligence officers after the defeat of the former regime at the presidential election on January 8, 2015 for the brutal killing of former Sunday Leader Editor Lasantha Wickramatunga, the disappearance of Lanka e-news journalist Prageeth Ekneligoda and the attempt on the life of former Divaina and Rivira Editor Upali Tennakoon among others.
Noyahr and Tennakoon are still living whereas Ekneligoda’s fate is still unknown. Hence, only the two of the four former senior journalists can throw some light as eyewitnesses in identifying the assailants, who had attacked them in case they are among those arrested. Tennakoon and his wife have already identified several of those arrested as being among those who attempted to kill him. Noyahr, who is domiciled in Australia is yet to identify any of his assailants whether they are among those arrested.
When Ekneligoda went missing in 2009 many pointed fingers at an individual who was a minister in the previous regime as well as in the present. Breaking his silence after more than five years, even a former close buddy of that minister, after breaking ranks with him soon after the present government assumed office, called for an investigation into the fate of the web journalist for obvious reasons. But when the CID tracked several Army intelligence officers in connection with the case, the Opposition including that the former buddy of the said minister suddenly found the stripes of an LTTE cadre in the journalist. Some of those who accused the minister had also described the turn of events as a conspiracy against the war heroes who fought the LTTE in defence of the Motherland.
Upali Tennakoon cannot be described as a LTTE sympathizer, just because he had identified security forces personnel who made an attempt on his life. Throughout his journalistic career, he has been a Sinhala nationalist and a strong adversary of separatist forces. Nobody can justify the assault on Tennakoon just because the suspects are Army personnel, who may have personally dedicated and sacrificed their youth in the battlefront. For than matter even Noyahr was also a respected journalist who had never sided with or sympathized with the LTTE or any other secessionist elements.
There clearly seems to have been a far cry between the collective efforts of the security forces in fighting the separatist forces and some of the illegal actions of individual soldiers which had been carried out either for personal gains or on orders of higher ups with vested interest. During the well-known Chemmani case or Krishanthi Kumaraswamy rape and murder case nobody was able to justify the crime merely because the culprits were Army personnel with the entire country standing against them.
Validating our point further, during the previous regime 12 STF personnel were arrested in connection with the famous “Trincomalee five case” or the cold blooded killing of five students on the Trincomalle beach on January 6, 2006. Besides, the leaders of the Mahinda Rajapaksa government said the service rendered by former Army Commander Sarath Fonseka in defeating the LTTE cannot be offset by his personal actions and he was cashiered without even his pension and his medals, when he politically challenged President Rajapaksa as the then common opposition’s presidential candidate.
Needless to say that the security forces including the police and the Civil Security Department must be respected and given the due credit for their unparalleled dedication and sacrifice during the war against the dreaded LTTE. However, those arrested for attacks on the journalists including former Daily Mirror Deputy Editor and The Nation Newspaper Associate Editor Keith Noyahr should be brought to book.