The drone camera of a private TV channel which had ignited a debate over its being seized by the police while it was taking pictures and videos of the scale of demonstrations at the inauguration of the Sri Lanka - China Industrial Zone in Hambantota, would not have suffered that fate, had they notified the Police about their high-flying reporting venture into the space of diplomats with remote control equipment, Deputy Minister Ranjan Ramanayaka said yesterday.
Ramanayaka said when he questioned as to what had happened in Mirijja, Hambanthota and why had the police seized a drone camera, Police higher-ups told me they had to proceed with full-scale security and could not have afforded any flying electronic equipment get in the way of the security of the diplomats.
“Police Media Spokesman DIG Priyantha Jayakody told me that the TV channel had not apprised them of their sending a drone camera to the area to report the incident,” he said.
“Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe and Chinese Ambassador Yi Xianliang were present. The Security had been stepped up in the area for the safety of the Prime Minister, the Chinese Ambassador, the ministers, deputy ministers, diplomats and other dignitaries,” he said.
DIG Jayakody told me in addition to providing security to the Prime Minister and the Chinese diplomats, they also had to act in line with a Court order.
“The TV channel concerned had not consulted the Police nor obtained permission as such to speak or informed them that they would send a drone camera to the area,” he explained.
Asked if it was necessary for the media in a country that boasts of people’s right to information among other things, to obtain permission from the Police to cater to the people’s right to information, Minister Ramanayaka said, “ there is a way to go about it, but not at the expense of violatingthe space of security measures or law and order in force,” he said.
“Enjoying media freedom is definitely allowed, but going wild and crazy with it or abusing it at the cost of the order of things cannot be allowed,” he said.
“What if a TV channel let loose a drone camera when a man is on his honeymoon?” he asked.
When questioned whether he was worried about the people in Hambantota whom the police dispersed using tear gas and water cannons, Ranjan Ramanayaka said, “Apparently they were not protestors. As Minister Mahinda Amaraweera had put it, they were a gang of supporters of certain politicos in Hambantota who had come forward to instigate clashes between the Police and the people and if one of them got killed by the Police, they could gain petty political advantage over the government by such tactics,” he said.
According to Ramanayaka, the Hambantota protest took place by the persuasion of some Pradeshiya Sabha MPs who had received hundreds of acres of land from Hambantota through the grace of MP Namal Rajapaksa, who were in fear of losing them. Also behind the protest are some of Namal’s associates from the Blue Brigade and his union of friends at the Carlton, said Ramanayaka.
There is no need for the people of Hambantota to be unhappy about the industrial zone which the government is trying to set up, as the youth in the district would receive thousands of job opportunities as its result, he added.