Leader Editor: Fonseka said he heard white flag story from third party

I was aware that the comments made by Mr. Fonseka would raise a controversy and so I decided to carry the news item as a lead story in the newspaper. -- Sunday Leader Editor
By Manopriya Gunasekara

The Sunday Leader Editor Frederica Jansz this week told the High Court trial-at-bar of former Army Commander Sarath Fonseka that before the publication of the controversial ‘white flag’ statement she was informed by Mr. Fonseka that he had heard the information from a third party.

She said that Mr. Fonseka, during an interview with her, said he had heard two days after the end of the war, that Defence Secretary Gotabaya Rajapaksa had instructed Brigadier Shavindra Silva to shoot any of the LTTE leaders who were coming to surrender during the final stages of the conflict.

She said that before the interview was published in the Sunday Leader she had telephoned Mr. Fonseka and sought clarification as to who had conveyed to him the order reported to have been given by Mr. Rajapaksa and he had explained that it was the journalist who was with the 58th Brigade reporting on the military operations, who had disclosed the details.

The trial-at-bar Bench consists of Deepali Wijesundara (President), W.T. M. P.B. Warawewa and M.S Razeen.

Ms. Jansz said that she had gone for the interview with another trainee journalist and a photographer and was accompanied by Lal Wickrematunge, Chairman of the Leader Publications. The trainee journalist had taken down notes of the interview, except on the question about the ‘white flag’ issue, she added.

She said that though she usually carried a tape recorder for such interviews, on that particular day she had given the recorder to another reporter who was going to interview Western Provincial Council Minister Udaya Gammanpila.She said that at one point in the interview Mr. Wickrematunge had told the trainee reporter and the photographer to leave as he wanted to raise a personal issue, and after they left he had asked Mr. Fonseka as to who was responsible for the assassination of his brother, Lasantha Wickrematunge.

However she said that she did not pay attention to what was said by Mr. Fonseka who responded to that question.

“Thereafter I recommenced the interview and took down notes. Only Mr. Fonseka and Mr Wickrematunge were present at that time. As I had heard earlier that LTTE cadres coming with white flags to surrender were shot dead. I asked him what took place,” she said.

“At this point he explained that what he said was what he had heard two days after the war had ended,” she said. Mr. Fonseka had explained that Norway and some other countries had contacted Mr. Basil Rajapaksa by telephone and informed that Pulidevan, Nadesan and Ramesh wanted to surrender and that information had been passed on to the Defence Secretary.

She said that she was aware that the comments made by Mr. Fonseka would raise a controversy and so she decided to carry the news item as a lead story in the newspaper.

Ms Jansz said that she had spoken to Brig Shavindra Silva about the comments made by Mr. Fonseka and he was shocked at it, but did not want to comment on it until permission was given by the military.
Ms. Jansz also told courts that she surrendered to courts a well-bound note book which contained the notes of the interview with Mr. Fonseka, but the book shown to her in courts now had its binding loose.
The trial commenced on Monday and was scheduled to continue its sittings on Tuesday, but as Ms. Jansz informed courts that her mother was undergoing an operation on that day, sittings were fixed for Wednesday.

At the end of Wednesday’s (Oct 6) hearing Defence Counsel informed courts that since Thursday and Friday were Parliamentary days and Mr. Fonseka had made a request to attend Parliament, court sittings should not be held on those days. Accordingly the case was fixed for tomorrow.

Deputy Solicitor General Wasantha Nawaratna Bandara with State Counsel Dilan Ratnayaka, Yohan Liyanage and Lakmini Girihagama appeared for the prosecution.

Attorneys Nalin Ladduwahetti, Angelo Bendict, Mervyn Silva, Gunaratne Wanninayaka, Kelum Ubeysekara, Niroshana Perera, Aruna Ihalavithana, Pradeep Mahamutuwela, Namal Rajapaksa, Priyadharshana Ilukpitiya, Janajith de Silva, Premani Lokupitiya and Cyril Wijekoon instructed by Paul Ratnayake Associates appeared for the defence.

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