Defence concludes cross examination of Sunday Leader Editor

By Manopriya Gunasekara

The High Court Trial-at-Bar hearing the ‘White Flag’ case, in which Mr. Sarath Fonseka is charged for making a statement to the Sunday Leader that Defence Secretary Gotabaya Rajapaksa ordered to kill any LTTEer surrendering, held sittings for three days this week.

Ms. Jansz is being re-examined by Deputy Solicitor General Wasantha Navaratna Bandara. Major General Shavindra Silva is due to give evidence tomorrow. The case is being heard by High Court Judges Deepali Wijesundara (President), W.T. M. P.B. Warawewa and M.S Razeen.

Proceedings on November 9

At the outset of the case, Defense Counsel Nalin Ladduwahetti informed the High Court Trial-at-Bar that there were unwanted persons moving around the accused Sarath Fonseka when he was being brought to court. Accordingly, the Bench summoned Keselwatta Police OIC Chief Inspector Rohana Gamage and instructed him to provide additional security to the accused and to be vigilant regarding persons who were moving around close to him.

Sarath Fonseka, the accused, being brought out of Court at the conclusion of proceedings on Thursday. Pic. by Saman Kariyawasam

When the trial re-commenced, witness Frederica Jansz said that during her evidence at the initial stages she believed that she had attached the clarification (sent by the accused Sarath Fonseka) regarding the ‘White Flag’ story to the application she sent as an entry to the judges of the Editors’ Guild Awards programme.

Nalin Ladduwahetti (NL): I suggest that when it is proved that what you said is a lie you change your stance.

Frederica Jansz (FJ): Certainly not. I am telling the truth.
NL: The other day in your evidence you said that you attached the clarification.
FJ: The other day I honestly believed that I sent the clarification. On that particular day I signed up to 30 applications in the capacity of the Editor on behalf of the newspaper.
NL: But it was clearly asked whether you attached the clarification.
FJ: I had no reason to lie, I believed I sent the clarification.
NL: Didn’t you mention that you ticked 'Yes' in the box where it had been asked whether the article had been disputed?
FJ: Yes
NL: Didn’t you lie when you said it was attached?
FJ: That was not a lie, I did not have the file to check it.
NL: You did not say that I will check the file and let you know, or that you cannot remember.
FJ: I did not say that.
NL: Do you give evidence on what has actually taken place or on what you believe?
FJ: On events that have taken place.
NL: If I did not produce this document (in Court) the lie would have remained.
FJ: I did not have reason to lie.
NL: Regarding the application you have made a false statement or a correct statement. Can you give me a direct answer?
FJ: I have not lied.
NL: It was only when you saw the file today that you knew that the answer you gave earlier was a lie.
FJ: It is not a lie, but it was incorrect. I do not have a reason to lie about the application.
NL: While giving evidence (in this case) you wrote two articles about the Awards programme of the Editors’ Guild.
FJ: Yes.
NL: You were writing without knowing what was in them.
FJ: I was writing about the violations by the judges on the panel and the standards.
NL: Didn’t you think that your application was rejected because there was a problem in it?
FJ: No. I have written two letters to Prof Tissa Kariyawasam the Chairman of the panel and the President of the Guild, but have not got an answer.
NL: They did not waste their time to reply.
FJ: They should have done that.
NL: Did you attach the clarification and the article ‘Her Story’ with the title ‘Her Story’?
FJ: No.
NL: You agreed that you will abide by the decision of the panel and signed.
FJ: Yes
NL: You have broken that agreement.
FJ: No. I wanted the reason for the rejection of the application. I was a member of the Guild. They should have responded.
NL: You have signed that you will agree with the final decision of the panel.
FJ: There are certain standards that should be followed by the panel.
NL: You produced to courts the court proceedings (the evidence) and a receipt with the address of a law firm.
FJ: Yes.
(The receipt produced by the witness was shown to court)
NL: Was this receipt issued to you?
FJ: Yes. Rs. 2,000 was paid for it.
NL: Do you know that other than to the Defence and Prosecution, copies of the proceedings (evidence) have not been made available to anyone else?
FJ: Honestly, I did not know about that. There were a couple of mistakes in the report regarding the case published in the Daily Mirror. The editor wanted the copy of the proceedings.
NL: You did not have confirmation on the ‘White Flag’ story before it was published.
FJ: No. Mr. Basil Rajapaksa said he had heard about it.
NL: What exactly did he say?
FJ: When I asked him whether he heard about the ‘White Flag’ story, he said he knew about it.
NL: Defence Secretary Gotabaya Rajapaksa did not confirm it.
FJ: Yes.
NL: Therefore you published the story about the Defence Secretary without any confirmation.
FJ: I published it as it was told by the former Chief of Defence Staff and a Presidential candidate.
NL: You mean, as an Editor and a journalist, you say that a story told by someone could be published even if it is not confirmed?
FJ: Yes, it was confirmed by the former Army Commander.
NL: You mean the person who tells you the story can confirm it.
FJ: Yes.
NL: In your evidence earlier you said that the headline of the story was 'Gota ordered them to be shot'.
NL: Is there a difference between the words ‘shot’ and ‘kill”?
FJ: In this context there is no question about the difference between ‘shot’ and ‘kill’ because this is about a war.
NL: Can't there be persons who get injured in the war?
FJ: There could be, but Mr. Fonseka said in a different context.
NL: What is the meaning you give to the readers?
FJ: The meaning is correct.
NL: Have you passed your Advanced Levels?
FJ: Yes.
NL: According to the English you learnt does ‘kill’ and ‘shot’ give the same meaning.
FJ: Yes.
NL: 'Gota orders them to be shot' and kill give the same meaning.
FJ: Yes, this is a war situation.
NL: When you work as a journalist is this the same way you report?
FJ: Yes

Proceedings on November 10

NL (drawing reference to the December 13, 2009 Sunday Leader) Is there a mention that the persons coming to surrender were killed?
FJ: It is mentioned in the third paragraph.
NL: That was not told to you by Mr. Fonseka.
FJ: He told me that, it is in my notes. He later told me a third party had told it to him.
NL: Did he confirm that it had taken place?
FJ: He confirmed it.
NL: In your note book isn’t it mentioned that the persons coming to surrender with white flags should be prevented?
FJ: I don’t know about that.
NL: Other than a mention that this was told by a third party is it mentioned that it actually happened?
FJ: Yes, he told me that.
NL: Can you show to court that it actually happened?
FJ: The way he told me, I thought it really happened. It was told by the former CDS and former Army Commander about seven months after the war. I believed it actually happened. There was enough time for him to get it confirmed.
NL: Is there a mention that Mr. Fonseka said this?
FJ: It is mentioned in the notes to kill those who attempted to surrender.
NL: Are the words ‘wanted’ and ‘attempted’ in your article?
FJ: Yes, in the second page it is mentioned they "wanted to surrender".
NL: Do not waste time.
FJ: It says they "wanted to surrender".
NL: Do you mean “wanted’ and “attempted’ give the same meaning?
FJ: Yes.
NL: Do your readers get the same meaning when you use ‘attempted’ and ‘wanted”?
FJ: Yes.
NL: Have you written an article about the Defence Secretary, other than this particular article?
FJ: No.
NL: Then why are you on bail.
FJ: After the war was over action was filed by him for defaming him through an article which I had written. Bail was granted after contempt of court charges were filed for violating an order given by the courts.
NL: I suggest that you wrote the news item in a controversial manner as you were against Mr. Gotabaya Rajapaksa.
FJ: No, I have no dispute with him. Mr. Fonseka claimed that the Defence Secretary had committed war crimes. Any journalist will publish it.

Proceedings on November 11

Deputy Solicitor General (DSG) Wasantha Nawaratna Bandara commenced re-examination of the witness.
DSG: Did you do an interview with Ms. Anoma Fonseka (for the October 10th issue)?
FJ: Yes.
DSG: Was it a face-to-face interview?
FJ: It was a telephone interview.
DSG: She was lamenting.
FJ: Yes.
DSG: You published this the day after this case commenced.
FJ: Yes.
DSG: Has there been any complaint about this?
FJ: No.
DSG: The Defence questioned you about obtaining copies of the court proceedings (evidence).
FJ: Yes.
DSG: Can you explain to the court what the reasons were to get these documents?
Judge Warawewa: We may have a separate case to find out the reasons.
DSG: If it is not explained it could be misinterpreted.
Judge Warawewa: The witness cannot see these records.
DSG: There is no fault in it. This has been done in order to correct something which has appeared in another paper. This has been obtained through a law firm.
Judge Warawewa: That would be a wrong precedence. If this practice is adopted in other cases witnesses will get the evidence and get prepared.
DSG: This has been obtained by a law firm. The witness is not at fault. She has taken this only to correct something which had appeared in another newspaper.
Judge Warawewa: Please try to prove the case without entering into disputes with the Bench.
DSG: Isn’t it that confidentiality should be maintained with regard to the applications sent to be considered for the Editors’ Guild Awards?
FJ: Yes.
DSG: Which is the institution which should do this?
FJ: It should be the Sri Lanka Press Institute (SLPI).
DSG: Before your application was submitted to courts did you see it in the hands of anyone else?
FJ: I saw it in the hands of the Defence Counsel. I made inquiries from the SLPI and was told by them that a copy had been given to Mr. Ladduwahetti and disciplinary action was being taken against the person who had provided it.

NL: No one has given anything regarding this application from the SLPI. What I produced was a specimen application used to apply for the awards. In any case it was the witness who granted permission to submit the documents.

Judge Warawewa: The Defence Counsel sought the permission to submit the file regarding the application and it was after permission was granted by the witness that the file was called for.

DSG: My junior counsel reminds me that the witness granted permission for this. Therefore there is no problem.

Further hearing has been fixed for Monday.

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