The night when long knives reigned supreme terrorised Germany. After Hitler took power, journalists and dissidents were assassinated on that night. With sharp knives in hand, he led his Nazi army like rabid dogs after journalists and dissidents. Journalists in Sri Lanka were terrified in Black January, similar to the night when Hitler’s sharp knives reigned. For journalists in Sri Lanka, January is a nightmare. During Mahinda Rajapaksa’s government, Marvin Silva, Mahinda Rajapaksa’s chief disciple, broke into television.
The date was January 26, 2008. Marvin stormed into the television studio with a lethal army and began threatening journalists who dared to criticise Mahinda and the Rajapaksa family. Unable to bear Marvin’s threat, TV journalists began attacking him as well. At the time, the image of a bloodied Marvin emerging from the television and being escorted out by thugs was popular. That evening, Lal Hemantha Mavalage, a television programme producer and journalist, was stopped and stabbed in his car in Athugiriya by a group of thugs.
The time was exactly 11 pm. Lal Mawalage, who was severely ill, was immediately admitted to the hospital. He complained to the police about the thugs who stabbed him with sharp knives. On the same day, international human rights organizations issued statements condemning the mob attack. Amnesty International stated that frequent attacks on journalists are a matter of serious concern. None of the thugs who attacked Mavalage were arrested. Marvin Silva, along with Mahinda and the Rajapaksa family, flew by helicopter the very next day like heroes. Mahinda’s government’s message to journalists was that the dogs are set loose.
After the Black January of 2008, the next Black January came in 2009. In January 2009, Mahinda’s government occupied Kilinochchi with arrogance. On that black January day, Sirasa TV, which strongly criticized Mahinda’s government, was burnt down. After that, on January 08, the editor of ‘Sunday Leader’, famous journalist Lasantha Wickramatunga was killed. It was in that Black January that the Sri Lankan media organizations and journalists who criticized the Rajapaksas were afraid. Even today there is no news about the thugs who set Sirasa on fire and the killers of Lasantha.
The next Black January came in January 2010. January 2010 was heated by the 2010 presidential election battle. In this presidential election battle, the well-known journalist Prageeth Eknaligoda, who made a cartoon book satirizing the Rajapaksa family, is mysteriously went missing. Nothing known about what happened to him even today. His wife travels around the world to find her husband.
January 2011 was not black because the Rajapaksas were afraid of the resolution brought by the United Nations Human Rights Commission against the Rajapakses’ human rights violations. The Maitri-Ranil government came to power in 2015 because people stood up against Black January, when journalists were hunted. Even though the Maithri-Ranil government came to power in 2015, there was no justice for the journalists who disappeared, were killed and were assaulted in Black January from 2008 to 2010. The reason is because Maithri and Ranil worked to protect the Rajapaksa family
Despite being served with charge sheets in the United States for Lasanta’s murder, Gotabha was elected president in the 2019 presidential election. The struggle, however, forced Gotabaya and the Rajapaksa family to confront the irony of fate. Gota was forced to flee the country as journalists fled for fear of black January During Mahinda’s administration. Similarly, the Rajapaksa family was forced to flee. To put down the aragalaya, Gotabaya and the Rajapaksa family appointed Ranil as president.
Ranil put an end to the fight. Ranil took office as President on January 1. ‘Tele Vakiya,’ a popular programme on ‘Siyata’ TV, harshly criticised the Rajapaksas during the conflict, and Ranil, who later became president to protect the Rajapaksas. While other media outlets stripped naked and praised the government, ‘Tele Vaaki’ hit right where it needed to hurt. Everyone began to wonder who, why, and how this ‘tele vakya’ was taking place. He is the first victim of Black January’s Lal Hemanta Mawala. In the middle of the night, Marvin’s thugs stabbed him. He had no idea that the black January would come after him again when he exposed the thieves and robbers who stole the country’s property on television without fear.
Precisely on January 23, 2023, a Parliamentary Select Committee was appointed to investigate the ‘tele vakya’ written on President Ranil’s speech which he delevered. During the government of JR, a in the political history of Sri Lanka parliamentary committee was appointed to investigate a journalist. The reason for that was that the then Foreign Minister A.C.S. Hamid’s picture was published with a wrong caption. Jane Fonda, a popular Hollywood actress at that time. Published photo description was as the Foreign Minister Hamid observing an industrial town in South Korea under a photo of her rowing on a river with a friend.
Elsewhere, Hameed’s photo was placed as observing the factories in South Korea. Hamid thought this was a deliberate insult. He suspected that the Observer wanted to imply that he was rowing with the Hollywood actress. He complained to the Speaker and said that his parliamentary privileges had been violated. Observer Editor Harold Peris and Deputy Editor Philip Corey were called to the Parliamentary Privileges Committee. This is what the Observer newspaper said in its editorial on May 29, 1978.
The burial of former Sunday Observer editor Harold Peirs will be held this evening at Borella Cemetery. He has reserved a niche for himself in political history, albeit by accident. As editor of the Observer in 1978, he, along with assistant editor Philip Corey, were the only journalists to be tried by the whole House as a court for a breach of parliamentary privilege….’
This Harold Peiris’s son Saliya Peiris, a famous lawyer who became the president of the Bar Association and who is being heavily attacked by Ranil and the Rajapaksa government for standing up for the struggle. Ranil attacked him not once or twice. Now they are going to punish the journalist for criticizing Ranil’s speech and violating parliamentary privileges by using the Privileges Committee that punished Saliya Peiris’s father. That was in Black January.
Mahinda’s government suppressed journalists with weapons. Lal Mawala, a journalist who was attacked by the weapons by Mahinda’s government. Today Ranil’s government is going to silence him with parliamentary privileges, reminds the TV drama ‘Sudu Adagena kalu awiadin’ (Wearing white the black has arrived).