Award winning Tamil journalist J.S. Tissainayagam who was incarcerated in Sri Lanka prison for his writing, refuted statement made by the former Attorney General of Sri Lanka, Mohan Peiris, to the UN’s Committee Against Torture that Tissainayagam accepted complicity in the charged crime [of supporting terrorism] by expressing remorse in the letter requesting Sri Lanka’s President for a pardon. Publishing the full text of the letter, Tissainayagam told a Colombo paper that "any allusion to my admitting complicity is completely false," and added that he only apologized for any embarrassment that his writing may have caused Mahinda Rajapakse or his Governement.
Full text of Tissainayagam’s response published in Sunday Leader follows:
It was brought to my notice that [a delegation led by] the former Attorney General and now Senior Advisor to the Cabinet on Legal Affairs, Mohan Peiris, had made reference to me in an official reply to the Committee Against Torture (CAT) in Geneva this month.
This is what was said, “Concerning specific cases raised by the Committee, a delegate said he had been personally involved in the case of J. S. Tissainayagam. Mr. Tissainayagam personally wrote to the President asking for a pardon, saying he was remorseful for what he did. He had been convicted and sentenced, but his complicity in what he did was confirmed by his letter, which was sent through his lawyers. He did receive a pardon.”
I wish to state that any allusion to my admitting complicity is completely false. I did write to the President, the letter which I now publish in full. Working as a journalist for over 20 years I never wrote to cause anyone personal embarrassment. I only wrote to highlight issues of public interest and in the hope the president and the government would take action to rectify the problems. If any of my writings had caused embarrassment to anyone (whether the president or anyone else) I had no qualms in apologizing as causing embarrassment has never been my intention.
I am unaware that embarrassing the president or the government of Sri Lanka is a crime and that was not the crime I was accused of in the High Court of Sri Lanka in September 2008. I wish to state that I have never committed any crime. Therefore, admitting remorse or complicity to any crime, in this letter to the president or otherwise, does not arise.
Tissainayagam was convicted by the Colombo High Court in September 2008 for “causing communal disharmony” and was found guilty of funding his publication with LTTE money.
Tissainayagam was sentenced for 20 years, but was later released after international pressure including a statement issued by President Barack Obama in honor of World Press Freedom Day (2009), where he expressed concern for Tissainayagam and said his case was "emblematic of the hundreds of journalists who face intimidation, censorship, and arbitrary arrest." Tissainayagam and journalists like him are "guilty of nothing more than a passion for truth and a tenacious belief that a free society depends on an informed citizenry," Obama said in his statement.
Tissainayagam is currently a Fellow at Harvard’s Weatherhead Center for International Affairs, after working as a Fellow at the Neiman Foundation for Journalism, Harvard University, in 2011.