By Maryam Azwer
EPDP leader Douglas Devananda vehemently denied any EPDP involvement in the brutal attack on Uthayan News Editor Gnanasundaram Kuganathan.
Uthayan publisher and TNA parliamentarian, Easwarapadham Saravanapavan, last week claimed that he had reason to suspect that the EPDP was behind the attack, which took place on Friday, July 29.
“They have had a vengeance against us for a long time now,” said Saravanapavan. “They must have thought that if they attack a senior journalist, they would frighten the others as well.”
When contacted for a response, Douglas Devananda dismissed these allegations, and also said, “I don’t know why Saravanapavan said that. He told the police that he did not suspect anyone.”
Saravanapavan, however, said that he had mentioned his suspicions of the EPDP.
Devananda went on to claim that these allegations were part of a political agenda. “Why should our people be involved? These are lies being spread for political reasons,” he said.
The Uthayan publisher however said, “As far as Kuganathan’s matter is concerned, the gravity is understood only by the armed group/ political party EPDP. Douglas Devananda is taking the law into his own hands because the President supports him.”
The EPDP were also the prime suspects linked to the May 2006 attack on the Uthayan, when a group of gunmen opened fire on the Uthayan offices, killing two and causing much damage to property. “The men who carried out that attack had also demanded to see Kuganathan,” said Saravanapavan. “This [the recent attack] was not the first attempt on Kuganathan’s life,” he said.
He also noted that the attack could not have been motivated by any personal grudge against the news editor. “He [Kuganathan] is a person who does not cultivate animosity with anyone,” said Saravanapavan.
The attack on Kuganathan may also be connected to the recently concluded local government elections in the Northern Province, at which the TNA (Tamil National Alliance) secured the most number of votes, said Saravanapavan.
He explained that, shortly before the elections, “none of the other media carried statements made by the TNA. I’m not saying that Uthayan supported the TNA, but they did carry statements made by the TNA, as well as by others – the President, Basil Rajapaksa, and Douglas Devananda. There is a possibility that people recognized the message of the TNA through this paper,” he said.
Saravanapavan said that Kuganathan had received a telephone call on Friday afternoon, and someone had inquired as to what time he would leave the office that day. Under the impression that the caller meant to visit the newspaper offices regarding a news story, Kuganathan had provided the caller with the information.
On his way home from work, Kuganathan was assaulted by two men who beat him up with iron bars.
Following initial hospital reports that Kuganathan was in a critical condition, President Mahinda Rajapaksa instructed Inspector General of Police N. K. Ilangakoon to conduct investigations into the attack and submit a report to him.
A first report was handed over to the President by the IGP on Wednesday (August 3). When contacted by The Sunday Leader on Thursday, IGP Ilangakoon said “The inquiry is in progress, we cannot tell the media anything now.” He added that information would be made available only in a week’s time.
Police Spokesperson SP Preshantha Jayakody on Friday (August 5) said that no arrests had been made yet, and a special team, under the command of the SSP of Jafffna, is conducting investigations.
The Uthayan publisher meanwhile stated that news editor Kuganathan, who had been with the newspaper for twenty two years, was now recovering. Saravanapavan said that although the staff of Uthayan were naturally shaken up by the attack, there would be no change in the newspaper’s expression of its views.
However, he also said that he did not have much faith in the police investigations. “I will assure you they will never catch the person. Submitting a report is different from releasing facts. Has the IGP released it to the media? This is all an eyewash,” he said.