Sri Lanka deports Indian reporter covering ex-warzone

Updated 28 December 2013
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Sri Lanka deports Indian reporter covering ex-warzone

COLOMBO: Sri Lanka has deported an Indian journalist arrested on a charge of working in the island's former war zone without media credentials, police said.
The 24-year-old, who was working for a magazine based in the Indian city of Chennai, was arrested on Christmas Day for photographing military installations in Sri Lanka's north, police spokesman Ajith Rohana said.
"We deported him this evening without pressing charges," Rohana said.
"But, we deleted all the pictures he had taken in the north."
Rohana said they suspected the reporter, identified as Tamil Prabhakaran, was trying to produce a documentary and write articles tarnishing the image of Sri Lanka.
Police said he had come into the country on a tourist visa and travelled to the former war zone without declaring that he was on assignment to report from the embattled area.
There is no official censorship in Sri Lanka, but foreign journalists travelling to the former conflict zone are still required to submit their passport to the military before entering, four years after the end of the war.
A British TV crew was also barred from travelling to the Jaffna area just before a Commonwealth summit in Sri Lanka last month that was dominated by a bitter dispute over war crimes.
Also in November, authorities forced out two Australian media rights activists after accusing them of entering the country on tourist visas and participating in a rights forum.
The New York-based Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) accused Sri Lanka of keeping up a policy of harassing independent journalists despite the end of the fighting with Tamil rebels in May 2009.
"Sri Lankan President Mahinda Rajapakse continually insists that his administration has nothing to hide, yet time and time again, we see authorities harass and intimidate journalists in an effort to prevent them from doing their work," CPJ Executive Director Joel Simon said.
He had also called for Prabhakaran's immediate release.
Indian diplomats said they had been granted consular access to the reporter and were told earlier Saturday that he was being deported.
Sri Lanka has resisted international pressure to address allegations of war crimes committed during the military's final push against Tamil rebels in 2009 that ended the decades-long war.
According to the UN and rights groups, as many as 40,000 civilians may have died as troops loyal to the mainly Sinhalese government routed the Tamil Tiger rebel movement in its last stronghold in Jaffna in 2009.
Colombo denies the allegations but has began compiling a death toll from the war.
During the height of fighting, Sri Lanka prevented independent journalists traveling to the island's north, drawing criticism that it was a war without witnesses.


Top Indian court says it will not probe French fighter jet deal

Updated 14 December 2018
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Top Indian court says it will not probe French fighter jet deal

  • Congress party accused Narendra Modi’s administration of graft following a deal to buy 36 Rafale planes and the decision to pick Reliance Defense as a domestic partner
  • India’s Supreme Court ruled there was no evidence of commercial favoritism

DELHI: India’s Supreme Court said Friday it would not probe the government’s multi-billion dollar decision to buy French fighter jets.
The opposition Congress party accused Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s administration of graft following a deal to buy 36 Rafale planes and the decision to pick Reliance Defense, owned by billionaire Anil Ambani, as a domestic partner.
Reliance has no aeronautical expertise and was chosen ahead of state-run Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL), which does, triggering allegations of a scam.
But the court said there was no evidence of commercial favoritism.
“Having heard the matter in detail, we find no reason for any intervention by this court on the sensitive issue. Perception of individuals cannot be the basis of fishing and roving enquiry by this court, especially in such matters,” the 32-page verdict said.
“We can’t compel the government to purchase 126 aircraft and it’s not proper for the court to examine each aspect of this case. It isn’t a job of the court to compare pricing details. The country cannot afford to be unprepared or underprepared in a situation where our adversaries are stated to have acquired not only fourth generation, but even fifth generation aircrafts, of which we have none,” the court added.
Indian defense procurement rules state that a foreign firm must invest at least 30 percent of the contract in India to help to build up its manufacturing base and wean it off imports.
HAL was the sole contender for being the local partner of Dassault Aviation, which makes the Rafale jets, but when the deal was sealed in 2015 during Modi’s Paris trip it was Reliance Defense that got the contract.
“In our opinion, the Supreme Court judgment is totally wrong. The campaign will certainly not drop and we will decide if we will file a review petition,” one of the main petitioners Prashant Bhushan said after the verdict.
“This isn’t the first time when the Apex court has failed us in ordering a probe in cases of high-level corruption,” he told reporters.
Congress said the Supreme Court was not the forum to rule on such a sensitive defense contract.
“The verdict of the Supreme Court is a validation of what the Congress party has stated months ago. Only forum is a Joint Parliamentary Committee (JPC) which can probe the entire corruption in Rafale deal,” said the party’s chief spokesman Randeep Surjewala.
Ambani denied there had been a scam, saying the allegations were politically motivated, while the ruling Bhartiya Janata Party (BJP) demanded an apology from Congress leader Rahul Gandhi.
“Truth always triumphs. Court’s judgment on the Rafale deal exposes the campaign of misinformation spearheaded by Congress president for political gains,” president of the BJP Amit Shah said.
Dr. Satish Mishra, from the Observer Research Foundation think-tank, said that the court verdict did not mean that the Rafale deal was beyond reproach.
“It only means that the court does not have enough evidence to order a probe into the deal,” he told Arab News. “If the government does not have anything to hide then it should order an independent inquiry or set up a joint parliamentary team to clear the doubts raised by the opposition, otherwise the charges will remain in the public domain. The BJP is in a defensive mode after the defeat in the regional elections. Allegations of corruptions have sullied the image of Modi, the only asset that the party has. I don’t think the verdict in any way vindicates the PM or the BJP.”