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'Defamed' Rajapaksa asks Ranil to cough up Rs 2 billion

President Mahinda Rajapaksa had sent a "Letter of Demand" to the Leader of the Opposition, Ranil Wickremesinghe, seeking SLRs 2 billion for allegedly defaming him, reports PK Balachandran.
Hindustan Times | By PK Balachandran, Colombo
UPDATED ON JUL 08, 2007 05:41 PM IST

President Mahinda Rajapaksa had sent a "Letter of Demand" to the Leader of the Opposition, Ranil Wickremesinghe, seeking SLRs 2 billion ($17.96 million) for allegedly defaming him in a recent public speech at Kegalle The Sunday Times said.

Rajapaksa's lawyer told the paper that its sister Sinhala-language publication Lankadeepa had also been asked to pay SLRs 2 billion because it had published Wickremesinghe's objectionable remark.

The Sri Lankan government is worried about the trenchant criticism it has been subjected to in recent times in regard to the political and economic management of the country, and the human rights situation in it.

The government has looked upon such criticism as motivated by a desire to create public disaffection towards it, and indirectly hamper the on-going successful military operations against the LTTE in the Eastern sector.

Bid to revive libel law

According to media reports, President Rajapaksa was keen to revive the criminal defamation law, repealed by the Wickremesinghe government in 2002. But he gave up the bid in the face of stiff opposition both within his cabinet and from the media.

A discussion paper on the need for such a law was given to the cabinet by the Justice Ministry recently. While some members of the cabinet supported the revival move, others opposed it. When media organisations got wind of it and raised a stink, the government announced that it had no intention to revive the law.

However, top sources said that individual provisions of the law might be inserted in to the existing statutes as Sri Lanka continued to be under a State of Emergency.

LTTE bid to escape from Toppigala foiled

Meanwhile, Sri Lankan land and sea forces foiled a bid by some hard pressed LTTE cadres to escape from the Toppigala jungles in Batticaloa district to the LTTE-controlled part of the Wanni.

Naval Spokesman Com DKP Dassnayake told Hindustan Times on Sunday, that the Security Forces had intercepted a party of escapees in the jungles of Kuchchaveli in Trincomalee district, and killed three of them.

However, a flotilla of LTTE boats had tried to land in a bid to rescue the fleeing LTTE cadres. But this was foiled by Sri Lankan naval vessels which attacked the LTTE's boats and destroyed two of them, off Pulmoddai in Trincomalee district.

The pro-LTTE website however said that the LTTE's Sea Tigers destroyed three Sri Lankan naval Dvora Fast Attack Craft (FAC) in the all-night engagement.

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