The case of Tissanayagam and response to President Obama
Tissanayagam is in the news again. This time, no less a person than
US President Barack Obama has included Tissanayagam’s name in the
statement issued by him on World Freedom Day.
Possibly, President Obama had been misinformed by the officials to
include the name of Tissanayagam in his statement on World Freedom Day
Tissanayagam has been indicted under
the Prevention of Terrorism Act
Sadly, the statement was made at a time his (Tissanayagam’s) high
court trial is proceeding where the prosecution has closed its case
after leading the evidence of 12 witnesses and the defence is leading
the evidence presently.
In an admissible confession, accused Tissanayagam had admitted his
links with the LTTE.
The confession was admitted in evidence at the court trial. There was
material that showed his close links to Sivaram alias Tharaki one time
editor of Tamilnet.
Tissanayagam was associated with several opinion making publications
of the LTTE organization and was part of their propaganda outfit and was
instrumental in securing funding for LTTE publication. He has also links
with prominent personalities of the LTTE.
The process by which Tissanayagam was brought to trial shows it was
attended to without any delay. This was possible because of the nature
of the evidence against the accused. Tissanayagam was arrested on March
Tissanayagam was indicted by the Attorney General on August 11, 2008.
High Court trial commenced on September 9, 2008.
The indictment is filed on the satisfaction of the Attorney General
that there is sufficient evidence to indict an accused. As the dateline
revealed the accused had been swiftly brought to trial.
It is likely the advisers to President Obama had not disclosed to him
the evidence against the accused and the swift manner in which he was
brought to trial and the strength of the evidence against the accused.
If these facts were made known to President Obama, he may not have
included the name of Tissanayagam.
In this context, it would be appropriate to face before public the
background to his arrest. First of all, it is necessary to point out the
legality of the process of investigations, the arrest and the subsequent
legal action taken.
The Constitution of the Democratic Socialist Republic of Sri Lanka
(1977) recognizes freedom of speech, expression and publication as
fundamental rights of all citizens of the country. This in turn gives
the constitutional recognition and protection to media freedom in the
However, like any other country in the world, Sri Lanka too imposes
pro bono restrictions on the exercise of freedom of expression, speech
and publications. This is simply because of the possibility that this
freedom can be misused for many purposes, including damage to the
Therefore, freedom of media in Sri Lanka is subject to the legal
restrictions imposed in the interests of racial and religious harmony,
with regard to parliamentary privilege, contempt of court, defamation or
inducement to an offence, and some others too considered necessary for
the good of society.
The media does not operate in a vacuum. In Sri Lanka it operates in
an environment of a civil conflict that has been going on for decades.
It should be noted that in the context armed hostilities, the
belligerents could use the media as an effective weapon to carry out
psychological warfare and propaganda against each other.
When it comes to unconventional warfare, such as terrorist warfare;
psychological operations and propaganda operate in extremely subtle form
that it becomes a laborious task to differentiate between true media
work and mendacity of propaganda.
Terrorists usually lure people who are already work in the media
through money or other benefits or attractions, to make them to carry
out propaganda work using the platform of the mass media.
These media willing or unwilling agents of terrorism always appear to
act as independent journalists and some even as the self-proclaimed
crusaders of media freedom to prevent disclosure of their true motives.
Due to these circumstances, Sri Lanka has categorized misuses of the
freedom of speech, expression and publication including media freedom by
terrorists as offences under Prevention of Terrorism Act (1979).
Therefore, any person who causes or intends to cause violence, or racial
or religious disharmony or feeling of ill will or hostility between
different communities by his/her words, spoken or by any other way of
expression, is a terrorist.
Propaganda elements of LTTE terrorists of Sri Lanka use a threefold
strategy to carry out their operations. They promote communalism among
the Tamil Diaspora around the world, justify the LTTE’s terrorism and
persuade Tamils to fund the terror outfit.
On the other hand, they spread fabricated stories on the human rights
situation in the country and attempt to bring international pressure
against the Government fighting against terrorism. They adapt a
defensive strategy to avoid them being cracked down by the law by acting
as some kind of crusaders of media freedom in the country.
These self-proclaimed media freedom fighters often file reports full
of invective, quoting various incidents of what they call “attacks on
independent media workers”. These reports invariably contain false facts
related to the quoted incidents or expose only the half-truths to
support the hidden agenda of their originators.
The following report filed by defence.lk exposes the true facts in
the case of Tissanayagam.
Tissanayagam is the only recognized journalist who has been taken
into custody on suspicion of having connections with terrorist
activities, by the Terrorist Investigation Department (TID) of the
Police. March 6, 2008, the TID raided two neighbouring offices at a
Shopping complex of Kotahena, down Jampettah Street on reliable
information that the LTTE had been running a press and a web-based
propaganda institute there.
President Barack Obama
During the raid it was found that a press owned by one Jaseekaran had
been running under the name E-kuality Graphics Private Ltd, at No 12,
Jampettah Street, Colombo 13. The next-door office at No 12, was that of
Outreach Multimedia Private Ltd.
TID initially took Jaseekaran and Miss Valarmadhi into custody.
Later, on the information revealed during the investigations,
Tissanayagam was taken into custody on March 7, 2008.
The arrest of Jayeprakash Tissanayagam and his accomplices was shown
to the world as the Government’s arbitrary arrest of a group of
independent journalists. The suspect’s long-time hobnobbing with various
foreign funded NGOs and his career as a journalist gave a snowballing
effect to the story.
Many international civil rights groups, foreign embassies, INGOs
without making a slightest effort to verify the facts have started
sending heaps of letters to the law enforcement authorities to release
According to the statement made by Tissanayagam, he had come into
close terms with known LTTE propagandist Dharmaratne Sivaram alias
Taraki while he had been working for the Sunday Leader in 1999.
Spreads out ideologies
Together with Taraki, Tissanayagam had toured the Trincomalee,
Batticaloa and Vavuniya areas where the LTTE was then very active.
Taraki was the editor of Tamilnet, the LTTE’s official mouthpiece on the
Internet, and known to be the mastermind behind the all-Goebbelsian
propaganda of the outfit that spread out its tribal ideologies. As a
result of this connection with Taraki, Tissanayagam had quit the Sunday
Leader and started a pro-LTTE magazine named North Eastern Herald with
Taraki in 2002.
Tissanayagam further stated that he had joined North Eastern Herald
because it drew lot of foreign funds and therefore he found it to be
very profitable to work there. An office affiliated to the Switzerland
Embassy named SIDA had been its main financer.
The directors of the company formed to carryout the publication were,
Dharmaratne Sivaram, Shivakumar, and Yuvialan Thangarajh (A lecturer at
Eastern University ). The magazine had been published up to November
2005, until SIDA stopped funding to the company.
The main objective of making money through foreign aid for which the
company was started was no longer achievable. According to Tissanayagam,
a person named Karuniyan Arulanandan had agreed to provide funds to keep
the company alive but failed in his part.
What was interesting about the above mentioned business venture was
that it was carried out mainly to draw foreign funds and seemed to have
no any intention of becoming a self-financing business.
Its main business, the publication of the magazine too had no market
penetration but was mainly published as an opinion maker in favour of
the LTTE at international forums. Like many such organizations run by
foreign funds, the business made easy money for the people involved and
ceased to exist as the financer turned its back. This is the bitter
truth of many bogus rights activists in this part of the world.
In 2004, the main suspect of the case, Vetrivale Jaseekaran had come
to meet Tissanayagam and proposed him to start another venture that can
draw a good amount of foreign funds. According to Tissanayagam, he had
come to know Jaseekaran via another journalist in 2000, during one of
his tours to Batticaloa.
Consequently, a company named Renaissance Publication and Guarantee
Limited had come into operation under the directorship of Jayeparkash
Tissanayagam, Vetrivale Jaseekaran, Kathiravale Vignashwaran,
Balasubramaniam Wasanthan alias Shivakumar, Rohitha Bhashana
Abeywaradane, Sathasivan Baskaran, and Vadivelu Valarmadhi. The company
had started its office at No 82, Bandaranayake Mawatha, Colombo 12 and
started publishing a pro-LTTE magazine- North Eastern Monthly since
The North Eastern Monthly had been published under the direct
guidance of LTTE and its content therefore had been aimed at subtly
promoting tribal and sectarian ideologies championed by the LTTE. It has
been found that LTTE had directly funded the organization through its
agents in Colombo.
In early 2006, Tissanayagam together with Jaseekaran had started
another company named Outreach Multimedia Private Ltd. According to the
evidence revealed so far, this new company had been started at the
behest of the LTTE with the aim of carrying out internet-based
propaganda for the terrorist outfit. The company directors were
Tissanayagam, Jaseekaran and another individual named Terald
Abeygunawardane. The last individual, Terald Abeygunawardane is
currently in hiding to avoid police arrest.
After starting the new company, Tissanayagam and the team had made a
proposal to another INGO named FLICT with the aim of finding much
desired foreign funding. As per the evidence, the company had made a
written proposal to the INGO requesting Rs. 2.3 million in 2006 to start
a fully equipped web- based media organization. However, for some
unknown reason the INGO had not considered the proposal serious enough,
and had not been very quick to release the funds. As a result, the
disheartened entrepreneurs had lost their interest on the new project
but continued their activities in the Renaissance Publication and
In mid 2005, Tissanayagam had come into close contact with a hardcore
LTTE cadre called Baba. On the instruction of Baba, Tissanayagam had met
LTTE heads in Kilinochchi at least twice in 2005 and 2006.
The North East Monthly had been published every month during
2005-2006 periods adhering to the guidance provided by the LTTE. As the
evidence had started to pile up, Tissanayagam admitted that Baba had
given him money for publishing the magazine.
However, Tissanayagam had testified that he had refused the money
offers made by Baba saying that someday the police may track him down.
The TID had found that Baba had deposited Rs. 50,000 at least on three
occasions at an account that belonged the Renaissance Publication, at
the Hatton National Bank, Kotahena.
Finally in early 2007, Tissanayagam seemed to have got cold feet of
drawing direct funds from a terror outfit and stopped publishing the
propaganda magazine in June 2007, as the company could not find any
other source of funding.
Thereafter, Tissanayagam had joined another INGO named ITI (One Text
Initiative), established for “peace building” in this country in 2007.
During this time, he had also worked as a freelance journalist for The
However, responding to the early request made by the Outreach Multi
Media, the INGO, FLICT had suddenly decided to provide Rs. 950,000 to
Tissanayagam and the team in early 2008. With this sudden fortune, the
team of directors had reorganized themselves and re- launched the
It can be reasonably suspected with the available evidence that
Tissanayagam had obtained money from LTTE knowingly that it is a
terrorist organisation. Also, it is worthwhile to note that Tissanayagam
had received the payments of which the TID has substantial proof, during
a time when the LTTE was carrying out many civilian massacres, bus
bombings, train bombings etc.
If Tissanayagam was a responsible citizen, he could have come to the
police and revealed the information he knew about the terror agents in
Colombo. However, the possibility cannot be ruled out that Tissanayagam
was actually another individual like those free media fighters who had
been lured by the terrorist outfit exploiting his greed for money. This
possibility comes to the surface when looking at the profile of
Jaseekaran, the main suspect of the case.
Tissanayagam has been indicted under the Prevention of Terrorism Act
and the case is being heard at the courts.