UNP leader sues over 'defamation'

[TamilNet, Wednesday, 24 November 1999, 18:05 GMT]
The leader of Sri Lanka's main opposition United National Party (UNP) and its Presidential candidate, Mr.Ranil Wickremasinghe, has sent a letter of demand to the Chairman of the Associated Newspapers of Ceylon Ltd., through his lawyers, warning of legal action against the Chairman for defaming him by publishing a press statement of President Chandrika Kumaratunge, unless the Chairman forthwith retracts the false allegation and apologizes to him.

The lawyers' letter of demand states that the press release from the Presidential Secretariat of November 19,1999 under the caption "Statement by the President on Ranil Wickremasinghe's offer to allow LTTE administration of the North and East" had been handed over to them by Mr. Wickremasinghe with instructions to address the letter to the Chairman, together with copies of the issues which carried the said press release.

The text of the letter of demand sent by the law firm, Samararatna Associates, is given below:

"We are instructed that the statement contained in the aforesaid Press release that out client (Ranil Wickremasinghe) has a plan to hand the administration of the north and east to the LTTE should our client win the forthcoming Presidential election is totally false."

"It is also highly defamatory of our client and more particularly so in view of the fact he holds the offices of the Leader of the United National Party, the Leader of the Opposition and is also the Presidential Candidate nominated by the UNP for the forthcoming presidential election."

"The press release and your publications further characterises our client as being 'dishonourable' as a person whose ' bona fides on the ethnic problem are highly questionable' and as a person who is planning ' betrayal of the Sri Lankan people'.

"The press release and your publications also describe our client as being a political dishonest person who is acting with the objective of contriving for himself " a short cut to power".

"Our client has been a member of parliament continuously since 1977 and has held responsible office in this country including that of Prime Minister."

"The aforesaid allegations are false and have been made maliciously with the object of defaming our client and in an attempt to hold him up to ridicule and to lower his esteem in the minds of the public."

"We are further instructed to state that Her Excellency the President is misusing her position as President and Press Releases to attribute false statements to our client and to defame our client for her immediate political purposes. You have also published the said statement with similar intent."

"In the premises we are instructed by our client to take necessary legal action against you for having defamed our client unless you forthwith retract the aforesaid false allegation and also the said defamatory statements made against our client and apologize to our client."

"We are further instructed to state the Press release claims to be statement by Her Excellency the President on our client. Accordingly on 22nd December 1999 when Chandrika Bandaranaike Kumaratunge ceases to hold office as President and thereby loses the immunity from legal proceedings she presently has, our client will institute legal action against her for the recovery of the sum of Rs: 500 million as damages for defaming our client".


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