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Tamil newspaper office attacked, Govt alleges insider job

Photographs Uthayan

The office of the Tamil newspaper, Uthayan, was attacked during the early hours of Sunday morning, with equipment set fire to and employees assaulted.

Six masked men are reported to have entered the building in Kilinochchi, and opened fire injuring two staff members and setting equipment ablaze.

The owner of the Uthayan, and TNP MP, E. Saravanapavan, his staff informed him that the masked men had been shouting in Sinhala and possessed cricket stumps.

Saravanapavan said:

“This morning at around 4.45am three people with arms – two were carrying pistols and one was carrying what looked like an AK-47 – came into the building and scared away the security staff."

“They shot at the panel board and put kerosene all over the place. Four printing wheels got burned. The main part of the machine was destroyed. They also threw press oil everywhere.”

Speaking to the BBC, he added:

"In the office the manager was sleeping on the floor. They hammered him,"

"Another boy was badly hit - he needed stitches between his ear and his jaw."

The Sri Lanka meanwhile accused the Uthayan newspaper of an insider job in order to "tarnish the government's image".

The Director General of the Media Center for National Security Lakshman Hulugalla was quoted on the MOD website as saying:

“The setting fire to Uthayan newspaper printing office has been an inside job to tarnish the government’s image,”

Army spokesman Brigadier Ruwan Wanigasooriya said:

“The Military has no requirement to engage in acts against freedom of expression. There are a large number of different media institutions in Sri Lanka and anyone following what is published/broadcasted/telecasted would know that criticism on Government as well as Military are very common,”

Downplaying the damage inflicted, he added:

“Only three paper rolls are partially burnt along with few papers, no damage to any printing machines, and power supply has been interrupted due to heat. When power is restored the paper can resume its operations, perhaps today itself,”

“As things appear, it is obvious that the publicity gained by the paper through this alleged attack on its printing press is enormous. The local as well as international political mileage that the Tamil National Alliance (TNA), as well as other international pro LTTE organisations propagating the ideology of establishing a separate state in Sri Lanka, gain by way of discrediting the Government and Military is much greater than the physical damage. This publicity will surely be used by them to support their widespread claims that international interference is essential for local reconciliation.”

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