Opposition Leader Ranil Wickremesinghe yesterday hit out against the Government’s unofficial media blackout of the Aluthgama religious violence and charged that the regime was complicit in permitting the Bodu Bala Sena rally in the area to go ahead on 15 June.
During a meeting with media activists and journalists at his Jawatte office yesterday, Wickremesinghe claimed that the Government had issued letters to all print and electronic media about reporting on the communal clashes in the two southern towns.
“The letters said that if print media did not comply, lawsuits would be filed and in the case of electronic media, broadcasting licences would be revoked,” the Opposition Leader told the journalists and activists.
Wickremesinghe went on to say that journalists and editors were aware of how to report incidents like the clashes in Aluthgama in a sensitive manner, so as not to incite further tensions.
“This censorship was not to maintain the peace, it was to cover the Government’s sins,” he charged.
The Opposition Leader claimed that certain Government teams had colluded to send the Bodu Bala Sena group into the Aluthgama area on 15 June, before the clashes erupted.
“It was filth that was spoken about at that rally, not Buddhism,” Wickremesinghe said in his strongly-worded remarks.
He said that the Government had done everything in its power to prevent news of the massive damage caused by the violence to life and property, but in the meanwhile it had ensured the Bodu Bala Sena got ample space to air its views in the media.
The Opposition Leader claimed the Government was aiming to portray an assault on a Buddhist monk as being the reason for the clashes, but this was in fact not the case.
“The Government tries to portray that the Sinhalese people of the area had been angered by the assault on the monk. But it was not the Sinhalese of Dharga Town who engaged in the violence that night, it was outsiders,” he asserted.