November 24, 2009

His Excellency the President Mahinda Rajapaksa
Presidential Secretariat
Colombo 1
Sri Lanka
Fax: +94 11 2446657

Hon. Amarasiri Dodangoda
Minister of Justice and Law Reforms
Ministry of Justice and Law Reforms
Superior Courts Complex,
Colombo 12
Sri Lanka
Fax: +94 11 2445447

H. M. G. S. Palihakkara
Permanent Mission of the Democratic Socialist Republic of Sri Lanka to the UN
630 Third Avenue, 20th Floor
New York, NY 10017
Fax: (212) 986-1838

Your Excellencies,

On behalf of the 3,400 members of PEN American Center, an international organization of writers dedicated to protecting freedom of expression wherever it is threatened, we are writing to welcome the release of Tamil publisher Vetrivel Jasikaran and his wife Vadivel Valarmathy, and to express our continued concern for journalist Jayaprakash Sittampalam (J. S.) Tissainayagam.

According to our information, Vetrivel Jasikaran, a Tamil publisher and owner of the E-Kwality Printing Works and journalist for the news web site Outreach Sri Lanka and his wife Vadivel Valarmathy were released on October 26, 2009, after the State Prosecutor announced that there was no evidence to support the charge that the couple had links with terrorist acts or organizations. They were detained for 19 months. The couple was arrested on March 6, 2008 by the Terrorist Investigation Division (TID) in Colombo, and held under the Emergency Regulations (ER) for allegedly aiding and abetting Tamil journalist and Outreach Sri Lanka editor J. S. Tissainayagam in his activities. All three were held for five months without charges. There were allegations of police ill-treatment against them during that period. It is widely believed that they were targeted for their reporting and analysis on the conflict between government forces and the LTTE in the northern part of the country.

J. S. Tissainayagam is currently serving a 20-year prison sentence with hard labor for his critical writings. On August 31, 2009, a High Court in Sri Lanka handed down his sentence for “causing communal disharmony” in his articles published in 2006 by the magazine North-Eastern Monthly. He was also found guilty of raising funds to publish the magazine. A confession made by Tissainayagam while in police custody and allegedly forced under torture was used as evidence to convict him. His sentence is currently under appeal.

PEN American Center welcomes the release of Vetrivel Jasikaran and Vadivel Valarmathy, but remains concerned that J. S. Tissainayagam is being held in violation of his right to freedom of expression. We therefore reiterate our call for his immediate and unconditional release, in accordance with Article 19 of the United Nations International Covenant of Civil and Political Rights, to which Sri Lanka is a signatory.

Thank you for your attention to this matter.


Hannah Pakula
Chair, Freedom to Write Committee Director

Larry Siems
Director, Freedom to Write and International Programs

H. E. Jaliya Wickramasuriya
Ambassador of Sri Lanka to the U.S.
2148 Wyoming Avenue NW
Washington DC 20008
Fax: (202)-232-7181

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