Sunday Leader defamation case
Lawyers vehicles barred from entering court premises
By Ananda Weerasuriya
Attorneys due to appear at the Mount Lavinia courts yesterday staged a protest by keeping away from courts for the alleged police interference, which prevented them from parking their vehicles within the court premises as Defence Secretary Gotabhaya Rajapaksa was expected at the premises.
The police had allegedly prevented the vehicles of these Attorneys from entering the court premises as Defence Secretary was to arrive for the defamation case filed by him against The Sunday Leader newspaper and its assassinated Editor Lasantha Wickrematunge.
Subsequently the lawyers had complained to the District Judge and the Magistrate on the action taken by the Police.
When the trial resumed, an Aviation Technology Director of the Air Force gave evidence before Mount Lavinia Additional District Judge Macky Mohamed. The witness said that following Gotabhaya Rajapaksa becoming the Defence Secretary he had requested the National Purchasing Authority to purchase MiG Aeroplanes for the Sri Lanka Air Force.
The Director Jayanath Kumarasiri stated this at the outset of the hearing of the case filed by Gotabhaya Rajapaksa against the Leader Publications (Pvt) Ltd., challenging a news item published in The Sunday Leader which the Defence Secretary s claim was defamatory to him.
He had claimed Rs 1000 million as damages from The Sunday Leader Publishers for defaming his goodwill by the articles published on July 15, 29 and August 5 in 2007 respectively.
The then Editor in Chief of The Sunday Leader, Lasantha Wickrematunge, and the Leader Publications (Pvt) Ltd., were made defendants in the case. The Defence Secretary sued the Sunday Leader Editor Lasantha Wickrematunge for publishing defamatory articles in the Sunday Leader Publications and for linking the name of the Defence Secretary to some transactions that alleged to have taken place whilst purchasing the MiG Aeroplanes for the Air Force.
Mr. Jayantha Kumarasiri further said that the six MiG Aero planes, manufactured in Ukraine in 2000, were purchased from a Singaporean company, namely DS Alliance, with each plane costing $ 1.6 million. He claimed that at the time of purchasing the aeroplanes its life span was two years. It was also estimated at 850 flight hours and 550 landing hours on each of the aeroplanes. He further contended that by 2004 the MiG aeroplanes proved to be more competent than the Kafir, Syama Getty and Pukara makes. It was planned to purchase four MiG Aeroplanes in 2005 and the idea was initiated in a usual manner all the way through the technical evaluation committee.
Counsel for the defendants raised an objection on the ground that the case was not filed as per the requirements of the Civil Procedure Code. However the objection was overruled by the Additional District Judge. Further hearing was postponed for January 19, 2010.
Counsel Ali Sabry instructed by Sanath Wijewardena appeared for Defence Secretary Gotabhaya Rajapaksa. Counsel Viran Corea and Suren Fernando instructed by Athula Ranagala appeared for The Leader Publications (Pvt) Ltd.