“We will hunt you down and kill you like a dog”

Poddala Jayantha | Published on June 6, 2011 at 12:53 am

I feel it would have been better if they had killed me rather than subject me to that inhuman degrading torture. To go back to that time is to re-live every painful moment. The day I was abducted and tortured is seared in my memory. Branded upon my soul. The words of my abductors lash out at me, I heard them then, I hear them now as I write this article.

“If in the future you speak against the government and make anti government statements to the media, if you engage in picketing after this, we will hunt you down and kill you like a dog. You are a headache to us too. So shut up and stay down like a dog, if you open your mouth again we will have to send you to the mortuary.

Poddala Jayantha (at left) was known for his beard. Here he is seen accepting an award for Journalistic Excellence at the Editors Guild Award Ceremony in Sri Lanka

They had tied my legs and hands, blindfolded me tightly with strips of cloth and also bound my mouth. I cannot bring myself to detail the inhuman treatment and torture meted out to me as my abductors did this. I’m a man known for my beard it is my  signature look. My abductors cut off my beard and stuffed much of my facial hair into my mouth and down my throat. They then flung me into the back of a vehicle face down and kept on repeating the threats I described above.

A few minutes later I was flung out of the moving vehicle on to the side of a road and I heard the sound of a revved engine as the abductors sped away.

I rolled around to break free and kept rubbing the strips of cloth over my mouth on the gravel and finally I was able to break free of them.  But I was still blind-folded. Every time I heard a vehicle I screamed for help but they just kept moving along. Finally some three wheelers stopped and the drivers of these three wheelers (tuk tuks) asked me curiously, ‘who are you?’ ‘Why is this, what has happened to you?’

‘I’m a journalist, my name is Poddala Jayantha, I said. I was abducted and beaten and then they left me here, please could some one take me to a hospital,” I pleaded.

Even though the crowd that had now gathered were keenly asking me many questions it did not look as if anyone would come forward to release me from my misery or untie the strips of cloth that bound my hands and legs.

But a minute later one of the three-wheeler drivers present said, ‘Oh this is that reporter who appears on TV.” Immediately with that recognition I felt the tense vibe around me change.

“Brother, what happened here? He asked in a concerned voice. I heard another tuk tuk driver call the police on his mobile.

Another person tried to loose my bonds but his friend advised him against it. ‘Don’t do that,’ he said. ‘We may get into trouble, just wait till the police arrives.’

Now the crowd surrounding me had grown to great proportions but not one in that crowd came forward to take me to hospital.My pain was unbearable by this time. ‘ Please,’ I asked anybody who would listen, I will even worship you, please take me to a hospital.’ I have a child, don’t let me die here on the road. Please, please, I begged of that voyeuristic crowd so quick to gather to watch my distress yet so morally paralysed by the culture of impunity that pervades the country, they were unwilling to act. Unwilling to stick their necks out to help a fellow human being lest they too be swept into this tornado of hate and violence.

However after more pleading, a few of the people around me helped untie me and also took away the tight blindfold. Another one observed, “if we wait for the police to come, this fellow will die here in front of us, the police will not come, let us just tell the police anything but we will take this man to hospital”.

A severely injured Poddala at the Accident Ward in Colombo

I then came over with a severe cough. This was because the facial hair was now stuck in my throat and mouth. The man who had intrepidly spoken of taking me to hospital despite what the police might say, then put me in his tuk tuk and sped to the Colombo National Hospital.

June 1, 2009 was just another day at the office. I worked for the Lake House Group of newspapers, which is state owned. After work I took bus number 138 to Nugegoda and then changed to bus number 119 and arrived in Ambuldeniya. Before proceeding to my home I stopped at a wayside boutique to buy two vegetable roti for my wife and young daughter, and walked towards Mahawatte Road that would take me to my home. I turned into Mahawatta Road and had gone only a few yards when I saw a White van (the white van had become a symbol of untold dread as it prowled around Colombo abducting dissident journalists and activists) parked on a side of this narrow lane. There was now only room for one person to walk, passing this parked vehicle. As I walked forward through the narrow space and passed the White van, the sliding door of the van suddenly opened and I was violently pulled inside by some thugs. I had not noticed until then that two persons had also been following me on foot. They too now pushed me from behind into the van. They then got into the van to join their colleagues in crime.

I recall seeing only  a backseat in the van before I was pushed face down on the floor and my hands and feet bound tightly. I was also blindfolded. All this happened while the van was being driven very fast. When they were tying my legs together I screamed loudly, and they ridiculed me saying’ You shout as loud as you like, no one will hear you outside. And of course you are quite used to shouting loudly during all your picketing aren’t you?

Poddala leading a demonstration

They then beat me on my legs with poles and the sheer pain of it made me scream again loudly. This prompted them to quickly bind my mouth with strips of cloth as well.

I then heard one person in the van rebuke one of my tormentors, “He is not going to be broken by that, man, here, put his leg on top of this and then hit him.” I felt my leg being put over something like a wooden log and I felt a searing pain as the pole came down swift and hard on my leg even as I lost consciousness.

What happened after that I recall as if in a dream. I felt my beard being cut and then the cloth over my mouth loosened and the clumps of thick hair being poked into my mouth. The cloth was then re-tightened around my mouth.

I remember them starting to work on my other leg and beating both limbs with poles.

Suddenly I felt my leg being burnt and the pain of it brought me back into consciousness. “Can you hear what we are saying….remember this well…. If in the future…..”

I also felt some cold liquid being poured over my body. I thought they were pouring petrol on me in order to set me on fire, but that did not happen.

I was admitted to the Accident Ward of the Colombo National Hospital at about 7.30pm. A team of some 6 or 7 doctors painstakingly cleared my throat and mouth of all the hair and first concentrated on clearing the air passage. My left leg had been broken in two and steel rods had to be inserted to join the pieces together. No bones had broken on my right leg though there were severe contusions and therefore it had to be fully bandaged.

Since I had been mercilessly beaten all over and also on my lower stomach my urinary tract was not working properly and a catheter had to be inserted for me to pass urine. Altogether I was in the Accident Ward for 29 days and was on crutches for another 6 months.

About two months after I came home from hospital I was able to restart my work for the Sri Lanka Working Journalists Association (SLWJA) and on October 10, also able to open its new office building that had been under construction for some time. Except for those from Lake House, the editors of almost all the newspapers attended the opening ceremony and the next morning the front pages of the Island , Lakbima, Divayina, Lankadeepa, Daily Mirror, carried banner headlines about this with a picture of myself.

This proved to be lethal publicity. The next day again I received death threats over the phone but the number was hidden and unidentifiable.

“So you started work again did you. We told you to stay down like a dog did we not? Wait and see what we do to you.” The voice threatened.

A few days after this the editor of the Lanka newspaper Chandana Sirimalwatta was abducted and it was later announced that he was taken into custody by the CID. This fact only went to prove that the abduction was carried out by the State. Without any hesitation as a human rights activist I vociferously spoke out against this abduction, and it was not long after that I again started receiving death threats.

This was certainly taking a toll on my family life but I was determined to move forward and to fight for freedom in my country. The decision to walk away is always the hardest to make whatever the circumstances. It is so with all the journalists now forced into exile because of threats to their lives and liberty from the Mahinda Rajapakse repressive regime.

Meanwhile I had still not recovered fully from my injuries and would have to travel for treatment from Kahathuduwa, Piliyandala to the Colombo National Hospital . A commute I felt would be fraught with danger and the possibility of murder or a worse torture than I what I had been subjected to before. I could not live with my conscience if I stayed silent while the regime trampled on the rights of journalists. The only way to survive the Rajapakse regime was to sell your soul to them, to sacrifice at the alter of the Rajapakse Temple your life, your dignity and your principles.

I took my wife and child and left the country of my birth.

 

To be continued

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


8 Comments to ““We will hunt you down and kill you like a dog””

  • Minister Mervin Silva: I chased Poddala, will break limbs of journos in public. Pillay warns Sri Lanka

    23March 2012. Minister Mervyn threatens to break limbs of journos– treacherous Journalists. Minister Mervyn Silva (transcribed from Sinhala): 0:00 ” Yesterday there was a vote, I am thankful for all media for showing live coverage for hours (on debate at UNHRC). 0:10සුද්දන්ගේ මුණු ඇටිකෙහෙල් ගිලපු උගුඩුවො වගේ http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eMzX6Td5zwA Whites were flushed in red (when they were criticized on their hypocrisy by members of the UNHRC) at vote. We got 15 votes (against US resolution), they (USA) got 24 votes, 8 abstained praising Sri Lanka. 15+8 is 23 for us, 24 for white (USA). White won by only 1vote majority. 0:37 So, Mr. Obama, at the end, there is no dance and there is no drum either. No body can interfere in this country. But I regret about our bastards who were born here betrayed us in Geneva. Sunnda Deshapriya, Nimalka Fernando, Poddala Jayantha; I am the one who chased Poddala Jayantha from Sri Lanka. I say it in public. They left because of me. There is another, Paikiasothy (Saravanamuttu). They gave evidence against this country in Geneva. 1:27 I say in public.. (publish this in media). If you get caught to me in Sri Lanka, the one who break your limbs in public will be Mervin Silva (Mervin himself), I tell this with responsibility (to: Sunanda Deshapriya, Nimalka Fernando, Poddala Jayantha and Paikiasothy Saravanamuttu, claimed to be ‘traitors). 1:39 No matter who plot against me, this is my country, your country. I am a good Sinhalese Buddhist. I wont allow any one to sell my Sinhalese-Buddhistness. If you (gathering) say that “you should leave Mervin”, then I give you every one a leaf of beetle, bow and take farewell. 2:12 My parliament seat is given by you, it will remain until 2016. My ministerial post was given by President (Rajapaksa). it will remain unchanged until he is in power. 2:33 My party electorate organizer post — not only Kelaniya seat ( in-charge of) and I expect I will have to be in-charge of one or two more electorates ”

    Minister Mervin Silva made these comments after Sri Lankan journalists and rights defenders gave evidences of Human Rights violations in SL at UNHRC (US backed Resolution on Sri Lanka to calling GOSL to implement LLRC recommenations)held on 22 March 2012 in Geneva.

    Related post:
    1. Arrest this thug! http://www.nation.lk/edition/editorial/item/4312-arrest-this-thug.html

    2. How Sunanda Robbed Money And Rs 30.9 million Unaudited FMM http://www.colombotelegraph.com/index.php/how-sunanda-robbed-money-and-rs-30-

    Pillay warns Sri Lanka over reprisals
    http://www.thesundayleader.lk/2012/03/23/pillay-warns-sri-lanka-over-reprisals/

  • 23March 2012. Minister Mervyn threatens to break limbs of journos– treacherous Journalists. Minister Mervyn Silva (transcribed from Sinhala): 0:00 ” Yesterday there was a vote, I am thankful for all media for showing live coverage for hours (on debate at UNHRC). 0:10සුද්දන්ගේ මුණු ඇටිකෙහෙල් ගිලපු උගුඩුවො වගේ http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eMzX6Td5zwA Whites were flushed in red (when they were criticized on their hypocrisy by members of the UNHRC) at vote. We got 15 votes (against US resolution), they (USA) got 24 votes, 8 abstained praising Sri Lanka. 15+8 is 23 for us, 24 for white (USA). White won by only 1vote majority. 0:37 So, Mr. Obama, at the end, there is no dance and there is no drum either. No body can interfere in this country. But I regret about our bastards who were born here betrayed us in Geneva. Sunnda Deshapriya, Nimalka Fernando, Poddala Jayantha; I am the one who chased Poddala Jayantha from Sri Lanka. I say it in public. They left because of me. There is another, Paikiasothy (Saravanamuttu). They gave evidence against this country in Geneva. 1:27 I say in public.. (publish this in media). If you get caught to me in Sri Lanka, the one who break your limbs in public will be Mervin Silva (Mervin himself), I tell this with responsibility (to: Sunanda Deshapriya, Nimalka Fernando, Poddala Jayantha and Paikiasothy Saravanamuttu, claimed to be ‘traitors). 1:39 No matter who plot against me, this is my country, your country. I am a good Sinhalese Buddhist. I wont allow any one to sell my Sinhalese-Buddhistness. If you (gathering) say that “you should leave Mervin”, then I give you every one a leaf of beetle, bow and take farewell. 2:12 My parliament seat is given by you, it will remain until 2016. My ministerial post was given by President (Rajapaksa). it will remain unchanged until he is in power. 2:33 My party electorate organizer post — not only Kelaniya seat ( in-charge of) and I expect I will have to be in-charge of one or two more electorates ”

    Minister Mervin Silva made these comments after Sri Lankan journalists and rights defenders gave evidences of Human Rights violations in SL at UNHRC (US backed Resolution on Sri Lanka to calling GOSL to implement LLRC recommenations)held on 22 March 2012 in Geneva.

    Related post:
    1. Arrest this thug! http://www.nation.lk/edition/editorial/item/4312-arrest-this-thug.html

    2. How Sunanda Robbed Money And Rs 30.9 million Unaudited FMM http://www.colombotelegraph.com/index.php/how-sunanda-robbed-money-and-rs-30-

    Pillay warns Sri Lanka over reprisals
    http://www.thesundayleader.lk/2012/03/23/pillay-warns-sri-lanka-over-reprisals/

  • Lasantha led the fight sincerely but how can you say that him being brutally murdered was a logical conclusion to this fight. It may have been inevitable given the nature of the beast he was fighting but certainly not logical. Mr Poddala Jayantha’s political preferences have no place in this debate. The issue is not who he voted for (that is his prerogative and his fundamental right to freely choose) what is important is that he was abducted and threatened with death. He was beaten, his leg broken and he was left to die on the side of a road. You say he has no right to leave but if he didn’t he may now be dead. Everybody has a right to live and to do everything possible in pursuit of life. You quote Satre, I will now quote Voltaire, ” I disapprove of what you say, but I will defend to death your right to say it. I detest what you write but I would give my life to make it possible for you to continue to write.” I presume you are insinuating here that Mr. Poddala Jayantha voted for and one time worked the Rajapakses and therefore his own actions decided his future. No sir, this is not an argument that will stand the test of morality and ethics or even logic.

  • How easy it is for someone to comment that you have betrayed your fellow journalists without living through the terror that you did.

    As journalists we live and breathe what we do. It is not a job but a ever present feeling that runs through your veins and into your heart. I can not imagine what it would feel like to have to leave your country and not be able to forfill your yearning to see Sri Lanka become a free media country.

    What needs to be remembered here is yes this man is a journalist and he always will be no matter where he lives, but does he not deserve the right to ensure he remains a father to his daughter and a husband to his wife? If you believe he has turned his back then you have obviously yourself been tortured of the humane morals and ethics of family values.

  • I am feeling very sorry for you Mr. Jayantha but don’t you feel that you have betrayed your fellow colleagues by leaving them behind? In my understanding, notwithstanding the threats and intimidation the leaders of any struggle should stay with their fellowmen until you achieve your demands. Now at the end, what we have on the plate is that you are living overseas peacefully with your family and at the same time your fellowmen who believed in you are left with the enemy. Take late Lasantha for an example. He was really ‘unbowed and unafraid’ and it was not contrived just to attract dissenters. He led the fight to a kind of logical conclusion. You everybody knew very well where you were going.
    Our actions decide our future. Sartre said “existence precedes essence”. No one to blame for! One question to Mr.Jayantha: If it is no secret, can you please tell me which presidential candidate you voted for in 2005?

  • Such happenings did not take place in Asian Countries and S.Lanka
    claiming to be a Buddhist Country, so provided for in its Constitution,
    behaves in a most inhumane manner to retain Power at any cost.

    India maintains silence to whatever happens in Sri Lanka, indicating
    their support for the kind of Democracy practiced in S.Lanka.

    • Full of salient poitns. Don’t stop believing or writing!

  • Wow what a story I suggest anyone to read this, you think SL has media freedom after reading this. I think not, my heart felt for you Poddala Jayantha

Post comment

You must be logged in to post a comment.



Eye Witness

poddal final2

“We will hunt you down and kill you like a dog”

I feel it would have been better if they had killed me rather than subject me to that inhuman degrading torture. To go back to ...