Peace for the World

Peace for the World
First democratic leader of Justice the Godfather of the Sri Lankan Tamil Struggle: Honourable Samuel James Veluppillai Chelvanayakam

Saturday, April 30, 2016

Federal system not meant to divide Sri Lanka - Wigneswaran

Federal system not meant to divide Sri Lanka - Wigneswaran


April 30, 2016

The chief minister of Sri Lankas Tamil-dominated Northern Province has said that the long-sought federal system in the North and the East to devolve power will not lead to the division of the country. 

“Federalism is an arrangement to keep the country together, not to divide. There are many examples in other countries as to how federalism had not divided countries,” Chief Minister CV Wigneswaran said. 

Speaking to reporters in the northern town of Vavuniya yesterday, the Tamil chief minister said people in the countrys south must study federalism to reach conclusions. 

He said the minority Tamils advocate federal arrangements for the rest of the seven provinces too. 

Wigneswaran, a former Supreme Court judge, has been under fire in the south after the adoption of a resolution in his northern provincial councils calling for a federal solution to the north and east provinces. 

The resolution adopted by Tamil National Alliance (TNA) aims to have the federal solution included in the current constitution-making process. 

The government headed by President Maithripala Sirisena and Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe has launched a process to formulate a new constitution replacing the 1978 statute. 

The Tamil demand for a federal system dates back to the days when Sri Lanka, then Ceylon, became independent of the British rule in 1948. 

Later, the campaign was extended to a separate state demand when the LTTE fought a decades-old war with the government to carve out a separate Tamil homeland.

 With the defeat of the LTTE in 2009, the TNA adopted a softer approach to give up on the separatist demand. 

However, Wigneswaran has expressed views which reflects the sentiments of the Tamil extremist polity. Politicians from the Sinhala majority have criticised Wigneswaran for raising communal passions at a time the central government was taking steps to achieve reconciliation with the Tamil minority. 

The TNA hopes to submit the federal proposal when the draft for a new constitution is discussed in the national parliament.  
Source: PTI -

Cannabis smuggling operations increase across North-East
220 Kilos Ganja in transit to Colombo from Kurunagar, Jaffna captured in Puttalam

30 April 2016

Sri Lankan police have intercepted at least two attempts to smuggle cannabis across the Tamil North-East in the last week, as drug dealing continues to rise across the former conflict area.

Tamil Diplomat reports that over 200 kilograms of cannabis was seized by Sri Lankan police after they searched two vehicles travelling from Mannar last week. Meanwhileanother smaller seizure of 8kg was also made in the district, in the Talaimannar islet.

The coastal town has become an increasingly popular route for drug smugglers to deliver packages of narcotics which are thought to be produced across the Palk Strait in Southern India.

Smugglers have also looked to smuggle drugs to Jaffna, with Sri Lankan police stopping a fishing boat which was returning to Point Pedro on Sunday. A M Jaffar, Assistant Superintendent of Police for the Kankesanthurai region, though confirmed no drugs were found on the boat.  Acting on a tip off, Sri Lankan police raided the vessel but only found a sack of tamarind and a motorcycle. All 4 men aboard the boat have since been arrested.
Though illegal drug use has increased across the North-East since the end of the armed conflict, many Tamils also worry that the recent spate of smuggling has given Sri Lankan police a new reason to arbitrarily detain civilians.

In Trincomalee, three people who were abducted by unidentified individuals in vans were subsequently revealed to have been detained by Sri Lankan police on drug-related charges.


මහින්ද එපා

Sri Lanka Brief30/04/2016
The discovery of a cache of weapons used by the LTTE in the north last month has led to security concerns that the LTTE is seeking to regroup. In the aftermath of this incident there have been many arrests including former LTTE cadres who had failed to surrender to the government at the end of the war nor gone through the required rehabilitation process. It is reported that there have been over 23 arrests in the past month. This has led to opposition parties to claim that national security is under threat by the LTTE and those who continue to support it. On the other hand, these arrests, and the manner in which they are taking place, are creating a sense of fear and foreboding amongst the people in the north.

The National Peace Council is concerned about reports from the north which indicate that legal procedures have not been followed in the case of many of these arrests. One of the most feared features of the previous government was its utilization of security forces personnel to take away those it perceived to be threats, enemies or suspects in what became known as “white van abductions.” 

Although the new government recognized the flawed nature of the Prevention of Terrorism Act, which has lower protections for suspects, and pledged to review and repeal it, the law remains in force and security forces continue to use it.

The present government won two successive national elections last year on the votes of ethnic and religious minorities who had become the focus of governmental impunity and virtually unanimously voted against the former government. The government has also committed itself to a process of transitional justice in which the truths about the past will be ascertained, accountability for war crimes and human rights violations will be ensured which include the wrongs of all sides, and there will be institutional reforms so that the past does not recur.

The National Peace Council calls on the government to remain committed to its pledge to move forward in accordance with internationally accepted standards in a manner that will heal the wounds of the past and rebuild trust between the ethnic and religious communities and the state. We also call upon the TNA, as the main representatives of the Tamil people, to strengthen the confidence of the general population in its commitment to democracy by dissociating itself from the LTTE and its acts of violence and terror even as it continues to fight for the political rights of the Tamil polity in the country.

Governing Council

National Peace Council

Antecedents Of July 1983 & The Foundations Of Impunity

Colombo Telegraph
By Rajan Hoole –April 30, 2016
Dr. Rajan Hoole
Dr. Rajan Hoole
…Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold; Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world,
The blood-dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhere The ceremony of innocence is drowned;
The best lack all conviction, while the worst Are full of passionate intensity.” – W.B. Yeats, from the Second Coming
Humiliation and Rebellion
In the last chapter we referred to the authoritarian impulse of Southern leaders and the ruling class in general. The party in power could handle the Southern opposition by using agents or party toughs. But the North- East was not amenable to such methods of control. As Southern leaders proceeded to exacerbate the ethnic problem from 1956, they became more nervous about the North-East slipping out of their control. In these circumstances, there was a strong temptation to suspend the Law and send in the hoodlums, in the futile hope that it would work. Such methods have been used by nearly all governments against trade union action in the South. The Sinhalese working class could of course hope for redress from a future government it would help to elect. But with a minority which was beginning to feel that the whole system was against them, these methods set off a reaction that was in its turn totalitarian and intolerant.
Take the incident early in S.W.R.D. Bandaranaike’s government of 1956 where thugs of the ruling party set upon Tamil leaders protesting on Galle Face Green near the Parliament, assaulted them and subjected some of them to grievous humiliation. In the process the assailants stripped Dr. E.M.V. Naganathan, one of the three founding leaders of the Federal
Party, forcing him to run into Galle Face Hotel. The Police stayed away under instructions or were too demoralised to intervene. If this had been done to strikers or to the opposition in a rural Sinhalese area, the harm would have been minimal. But when done to the leaders of an electoral minority, it amounted to a collective insult. This in turn led to a closing of ranks among Tamil nationalists and, among the Tamils, violent sentiments and intolerance of dissent, with the ready evocation of the term ‘Traitor’. A potent element in the collective experience of Tamils is a deep sense of humiliation proceeding from the culture of the State. Those who have felt its cutting edge opine that it has played a greater role in the course of Tamil politics than the demand for rights.
Even a man of such mild temperament as the Federal Party leader, Mr. S.J.V. Chelvanayakam, was moved to say privately, “A handful of cow dung thrown on Bandaranaike’s back would do far more good than volumes of reasoned argument”. That was a good 20 years before Tamil militant violence came to be seen as a problem.
Tarzie Vittachi’s book Emergency ‘58 traces the violence of 1956 and ’58 to be the work of political gangs, often zealots charged by the rhetoric of the ruling party. In the Preface he refers to Gandhi:

Remembering Sivaram (Taraki)

Image courtesy Tamilnet


Today’s event focuses on one man. Today morning, there was a protest in Colombo, organized by a coalition of media freedom groups and others, demanding accountability for Sivaram’s murder. It is fitting that events to remember Sivaram are held in both North and South, as he had also worked and lived in South and had many friends in the South.

Although the events today focuses on one man, we can also reflect on broader issues related to free expression, democracy and human rights. I will share brief thoughts on some of these.

The man

Much has been said and written about Sivaram. I have never met him or his family, and have read only few of his writings. So I have little to share about him, and will restrict myself to one thought. Sivaram appears to have benefitted from having had the opportunity to write and publish unpopular views in mainstream English papers based in Colombo. This is well captured in a tribute to Sivaram by Mr. Gamini Weerakoon, editor of “The Island”, who had offered Sivaram a job during which he came to be known as “Taraki”. Despite his (Sivaram’s) views being different or opposed to dominant editorial positions of mainstream media in the South . Mr Weerakoon says he had taken the risk of publishing Sivaram’s views, even when they were “sailing close to the PTA”. Today, it maybe pertinent to question whether Sivaram himself allowed and promoted freedom for dissenting views as an editor? Does Tamil media in the past and today, promote and allow plurality and dissenting views? As we remember Sivaram, it’s good to reflect how much media today – including web media – provide opportunities for views different or opposed to that of its ownership and editorial policy.

Freedom of Expression 

A few days ago the newly appointed Secretary to Media Ministry issued an official circular in Sinhalese only, giving “political advice” to journalists, which appear to be in favor of the present government. When he was questioned about this, he had reportedly asked that anyone who needs translations can get it done by themselves. The government also appears to be making efforts to compel news websites to register. The Prime Minister and Ministers have discredited journalists in public. In the North, this month, journalists have been assaulted and threatened, a camera broken and although these incidents have been reported to have been settled amicably, we should not treat such incidents lightly. We certainly have more freedom of expression now than under Rajapakes, but just this month indicates we have a long long way to go.


After 11 years, including 475 days of “good governance”, we are no closer to accountability for those who killed Sivaram. That’s also the case for many other journalists who had disappeared, been killed, assaulted, and media institutions that have been subjected to arson and other attacks. Three days from now, on 2nd May, also here in Jaffna, we will remember the killing of Uthyana staff, on eve of World Press Freedom day. Press Freedom day in Sri Lanka will remain bloody red and no amount of rhetorics, discussions and provision of privileges to journalists by the government can take this away. Only genuine structural reforms together with accountability will help erase the stains.

Abductions, Extra-Judicial killings and PTA 

Sivaram was abducted and killed extra-judicially. 11 years later, this month, we see an alarming rise in reports of abductions in the North and East. Some of those abducted have been reported to have been found in custody of TID. Fate and whereabouts of others abducted still appear to be unknown. There have also been an wave of arrests under the PTA, a draconian law which this government had promised to repeal, a law which has been widely used to suppress free expression, including my own. When we remember Sivaram, we cannot and should not ignore this context, today, particularly in the North and East of Sri Lanka.


Today we have a monument for journalists killed in Jaffna. We were able to lay flowers, light lamps and have a commemoration, after which, we came here to the historic Jaffna library for this commemorative event. Memorialization is a tradition that successive Sri Lankan governments and armed groups such as the LTTE and JVP had frowned on, restricted and prevented through threats and violence. This government had allowed memorialization to some extent, but had also tried to restrict and crackdown on some memorial events, such as on 18th May last year. But let’s try to push this tradition, while being careful of not glorifying violence and abuses of the past.

Concluding reflections

Sivaram benefitted and used the little bit of space that was available for plural and dissenting views. He paid for dissent with his life. Perhaps a meaningful way for us to pay tribute to him would be to persevere with that tradition of dissent, plurality and defiance, for ourselves and others. Without plural and dissenting views to that of majority and of the powerful, it will be difficult to address root causes of the ethnic conflict, especially grievances and aspirations of numerically minority communities. Welcoming and appreciating plural views and dissent is also crucial to find ways of dealing with war related past abuses, including ones against journalists and media workers. Dissent is also important to address historical injustices within and across communities such as economic injustices, caste, class and gender.

Three benefits from IMF deal for SL’s external financing profile – Moody’s

Sri Lanka’s 1.5 billion US dollars deal announced with the IMF will have three benefits for Sri Lanka’s external financing profile, Moody’s Investors Service said in a statement.

Marie Diron, Senior Vice President, Sovereign Risk Group, Moody’s Investors Service, and the lead sovereign analyst for Sri Lanka highlighted the three points below.

Firstly, program disbursements together with forthcoming multilateral and bilateral loans will provide external liquidity to ease immediate financing pressures.

Secondly, the financing will likely be at more favorable terms than Sri Lanka can avail of through the market, which alleviates debt servicing cost pressures.

Thirdly, if the agreement restores investor confidence in Sri Lanka’s policy framework, it could ultimately support more stable private external inflows, such as foreign direct investment.

The agreement comes as Sri Lanka’s sovereign credit profile is increasingly under pressure from its large fiscal deficits, high debt levels and poor debt affordability.

"If the program supports Sri Lankan authorities’ efforts to boost tax revenues and better manage state owned enterprises, it would address constraints on economic growth and reduce fiscal imbalances, thus improving the sovereign’s credit profile," Diron said.

"However, we expect bumps in the fiscal consolidation path due to difficulties in implementing revenue raising measures and the possible crystallization of some contingent liabilities."

Sri Lanka reached a three year staff level agreement Friday to borrow 1.5 billion US dollars from the International Monetary Fund subject to Executive Board ratification in June.

Mr. Prime Minister, Please Be Serious About Economic Governance!

Colombo Telegraph
By Hema Senanayake –April 30, 2016
Hema Senanayake
Hema Senanayake
Let me write freely. I knew that Prime Minister and his close political associates strongly believed that they know economics better. Therefore, they did not pay any attention to any serious government official or other economic analysts who performed their duty outside the government by airing their views through media. Politicians thought that they can instruct the government officials as to what they should do. This wishful thinking has almost ended by now. The economy is in a mess. It seems politicians have now surrendered to officials.
Officials of every kind might think that they can now dictate to the elected officials of the government as to what they should do now. There are chances that the political authorities would listen to them this time around because they come with IMF side by side. First, let me prove my point, so read the following quote carefully.
“It is politically difficult. We need to raise taxes. Policymakers need to convince the public that they should be able to pay more taxes. There’s no other choice as the government will have to collect more revenue.”
Who said this? It was the Deputy Governor of the Central Bank of Sri Lanka (CBSL). Please read it again. He insists that “…that there is no other choice.” I do not agree with him. These officials, I define as inexpedient, I mean in regard to the very job they are supposed to perform that is to take care of the country’s economy and economic governance. Do you need a proof? Let me give you just one example but this one is astounding.
CBSL is the official economic advisor to the government. Its Board of Directors known as Monetary Board met on February 23rd 2015 and made the following decision:
“… the Board instructed the Superintendent of Public Debt to conduct a 30 year Treasury bond auction during the week and arrange to list sovereign bonds in Euro Clear Exchange in future.” (Board Paper No: MB/ER/4/2/2015, date 23-02-2015).

Rajapaksa meets Udayanga in Thailand while FCID hunts for the wanted Sri Lankan in Ukraine

Basil who fled within 24 hours of brother’s defeat cause of Vasudeva’s fleeing to Cuba after saying ‘shall attend Kirilapone rally even if I die’

–SLFP media spokesman

LEN logo(Lanka-e-News- 30.April.2016, 7.45PM)  Vasudeva Nanayakkara (the somersault Sultan whose foul language stinks a mile ) who vowed  , he will attend this year’s May day rally somehow had run away to Cuba because he cannot  be on stage at the Kirilapone May day rally along with the racists on the workers’ commemoration day, said  SLFP media spokesman Dilan Perera.
Dialn Perera addressing a Press briefing of the SLFP , went on to say , “it was Basil Rajapakse who organized the May day rally at Kirilapone instead of  participating in the SLFP rally at Galle , thereby creating divisions.
Basil Rajapakse is these days roaming the streets across the country and distributing money. He is counting and giving  money saying , this amount is for food , this amount is for  Bus ,this amount is for arrack  and so forth. Last presidential elections too he distributed cash. Even the pencils , pasting material and ladders were sent from Colombo. Yet they lost. Basil is of the view by giving cash they can triumph.
Who fled first after the defeat ? Who deserted his brother Mahinda Rajapakse and fled within 24 hours? It was Basil Rajapakse and none other. It is this deserter Basil Rajapakse who has now come back and is trying to be an SLFP  rescuer.  I would like to ask from Mahindananda Aluthgamage and Dallas Alahaperuma whether both of you are aligned with this Basil Rajapakse ?
Even last month the topic of conversation was , Basil it was Basil Rajapakse led  Mahinda Rajapakse to  defeat. Today because of the stupid eccentric actions of Basil , the joint opposition has been polarized. The SLFP ers who are against the UNP were halted from going to the SLFP rally at Galle by Basil Rajapakse.
This  was  made more clear when  Vasudeva who asserted he would attend the Kirilapone rally even  if he dies vanished  to Cuba. This is because he cannot be on stage with the racists. Now, this bruise has begun to fester with Basil Rajapakse’s distribution of cash.
We wish to tell our beloved friends what will be taking  place at Kirilapone  grounds is knowingly or unknowingly splitting  the SLFP party ,“ SLFP media spokesman bemoaned.
by     (2016-04-30 14:45:03)

Will media secretary ignore PM’s order too?

Will media secretary ignore PM’s order too?
Apr 30, 2016
New secretary of the media and information ministry, lawyer Nimal Bopage is seemingly ignoring an order by the prime minister to meet him immediately, after he had sent a press release to the media without the knowledge of his minister or the deputy minister, reports say. He has been instructed so by an adviser to the president who had got him appointed to the position. In this scenario, not only the minister and the deputy minister, but also the prime minister is seemingly to be ignored by Bopage.

The PM has told ministers that the joint opposition is not something prohibited. It might not get recognition within parliament, but they are allowed to function as a separate group.
Also, he has stressed that it is a blatant violation of administrative ethics for a third party which has nothing to do with parliamentary affairs to issue media statements over a matter of parliament. Such authoritarian actions will create inconvenience to the president and himself, the PM noted. The media secretary’s having crossed the limits of his powers and acting thus over a matter for which even speaker Karu Jayasuriya has been unable to give a solution, has created a crisis in the national government. It is clear that anti-government forces are behind this entire episode. Those forces have been able to use the media secretary to their advantage even without his knowing it. 
Bopage was the working director of Rupavahini Corporation during the final stages of the Rajapaksa regime. At a media briefing yesterday (29), he said he would obtain advice from the IGP and the attorney general with regard to the use of the term joint opposition. That statement clearly demonstrates his stupidity.
A media expert commented to us, “If the AG and the IGP give instructions to the media ministry with regard to the terms it should use, such things happen only in dictatorial regimes, not in democratic countries.”

Lack of political will and charming promises

Sunday, May 01, 2016

The Sunday Times Sri Lanka
With a woeful history of repressive state regulation of the media still fresh in our collective memory, the ‘Yahapalanaya’ Government’s announcement this month that it will set up an ‘independent authority to regulate the electronic media’ caused many to jib nervously and shy away.

Unconvincingly persuasive explanations

Apparently the proposed authority would be vested with the legal power to determine complaints against the electronic media. As explained charmingly enough by ministerial worthies, the ‘Government will not be involved with the process’ and this was only due to the fact that the electronic media itself had requested for such an authority.

Sri Lanka is however no stranger to persuasive explanations which, when taken to the stage of determining policy, often rebounds to the detriment of the country. The unfortunate fate of the 1997 Broadcasting Authority Bill is a good illustration thereto. Scarcely did the dew dry on the exuberant promise of the Chandrika Kumaratunga Presidency when her administration brought this obnoxious Bill before the House.

The Bill sought to establish a Board of Directors which was top-heavy with ex-officio government members including Secretaries of Ministries. The Minister was given unfettered discretion to appoint the rest. Adding insult to injury, the Bill stipulated that any of the appointed members including the Chairman may be removed from office by the Minister without any cause assigned. This Authority was given the power to issue licences to radio and TV stations. But the conditions under which this licensing power was exercised were clearly contrary to law.

Lessons of the past

For example, the Authority was mandated to look at the “current needs of the broadcasting industry and satisfy itself that the applicant is technically, financially and professionally competent” The wording was vague, affording unlimited discretion to the Authority. Licences must be applied for annually and the Authority may suspend or cancel any licence issued if its directions are not complied with. No notice was required and no procedural safeguards were specified.

A right of appeal was provided to the Court of Appeal though this was not sufficient as a protection by and of itself. The common practice in developed jurisdictions is that the issuance and removal of licences must be only after a public hearing and with extensive natural justice safeguards. Meanwhile, this Bill gave the Minister the power to issue general or special directions to the Authority. It was the Minister who appointed the Appeals Tribunal which was tasked with looking into complaints regarding issuing of licences, content of programmes and so on.
Given its highly intrusive content, it was unsurprising that the Supreme Court issued a stern reprimand to the Kumaratunga administration in unequivocally ruling the Bill as unconstitutional. The Court reminded the Government that “the ultimate guarantor that the limited airwaves/frequencies shall be utilised for the benefit of the public is the State.’

As the Justices acerbically warned however, this principle does not mean that the regulation and control of airwaves/frequencies should be placed in the hands of the Government in office for the time being. It was observed in an injunction that remains valid decades later that ‘the airwaves/frequencies, as we have seen, are universally regarded as public property. In this area, a government is a trustee for the public; its right and duty is to provide an independent statutory authority to safeguard the interests of the people in the exercise of their fundamental rights. No more, no less. Otherwise, the freedoms of thought and speech, including the right to information will be placed in jeopardy.”

Discrimination cannot be tolerated

An important part of this public trust was that state bodies such as the SLBC and SLRC could not be treated with more favour than private broadcasting stations. The Supreme Court’s rationale at the time was cogent; ‘such distinctions drawn in terms of expected standards of performance as well as accountability for the maintenance of these standards is invidious and offensively discriminatory…we have formed the opinion that there is no rational basis for treating state bodies with special favour.”

Using international legal principles, the Court pointed out that the electronic media could only be regulated in order to ensure that over-the-air communications would function efficiently in order to fully secure freedom of expression. In finding that the freedom of thought as well as the freedom of expression had been violated, the Justices informed the Government that the Bill had to be approved not only by two thirds of Parliament but also pass muster by the people at a referendum. The Bill was withdrawn from the Order Paper of Parliament and did not resurface thereafter.

This judgment is a healthy precedent to keep in mind. But let us not forget that this move of the Kumaratunga Presidency at the time was only thwarted by the Court then in the heyday of upholding public interest litigation through a Bench which boasted some of the best judicial minds in the Commonwealth. Indeed, its decision on the Bill was a key reason (among others) as to why the tone of that Presidency turned definitively hostile against the Court, leading to the politicization and ultimate decline of that institution.

Structural reforms are needed

Given this unhappy history, it is perhaps predicable that two decades later, the announcement of a government initiated regulatory body would be met with wariness rather than unmitigated delight. Ideally, such a move should have come from within the broadcasting industry, similar to the self-regulatory mechanism operational in regard to the print media.

So as the Minister of Media and his deputy winningly talk about ‘helping’ the electronic media, this Government must live up to its own promise to bring about structural independence of the state media rather than just moving a few people in and out. The state broadcaster and telecaster must be transformed into public service broadcasting units. Archaic broadcasting laws must be repealed. If the Government embarks on these structural reforms, its interest in the private electronic media may then be greeted a tad less suspiciously.

But in the absence of political will and commitment on these lines, charmingly persuasive promises made by the Minister and his Deputy just will not suffice.


Sri Lanka BriefEditorial, The Sunday Leader.-01/05/2016
More laws – less Justice: Marcus Tullius Cicero, Roman philosopher, politician and a great orator of his time.
We need to find refuge in the words of such wise men, even 2000 years after they were made, to overcome the stupidity of our modern day rulers who try to fashion our lives through their directives and even legislation.
A hitherto unknown bureaucrat, recently appointed the Parliamentary Reforms and Media Secretary, Nimal Bopage, issued an astounding press release on Thursday warning the media engaging in ‘illegal and unethical’ use of the words to promote a section of MPs belonging to one main governing party, who call themselves the ‘Joint Opposition’. The Joint Opposition created by several MPs is without the input of either the Leader of the Opposition or the Joint Opposition Whip, he has said, claiming that according to reports the Joint Opposition is engaged in organising political propaganda and some media are aiding the promotion of it. Bopage has said that even the Speaker has pointed out to the faulty concept of a Joint Opposition and that the professional integrity of experienced journalists would be severely damaged. Misuse of media in such a manner sets bad, illegal precedents and journalists could be personally liable. Various persons would attempt to accomplish their narrow gains through misuse in the future. The secretary has requested journalists to follow their conscience to put an end to media misuse and to preserve the ‘thriving media freedom’.
While taking note of the gratuitous advice of this neophyte in the media on wellbeing of journalists, more important is what law would be transgressed if the words ‘Joint Opposition’ are used as he contends?
Whether a media secretary should be considered the patron and the guardian deity of journalistic ethics and morals, only journalists and their institutions can decide. Besides the issue of a ‘Joint Opposition’ is one that concerns parliament and parliament only. The parliament is not only the supreme legislative body in the land but also the supreme court as was evident when it impeached a Chief Justice recently – for wrong or right reasons. Why then is this newly appointed panjandrum taking on not only the onerous duty of advising the Fourth Estate but that of parliament as well? Clearly he is rushing in where wiser men would fear to tread. In our opinion, any group of legislators in a parliament has a right to group together and give the group a name. We have heard of a ginger group, a Dudley faction and JR faction and different factions of many splinter parties. Since in this instance there will be two oppositions (though each definitely distinguishable) it should be an issue for the Speaker together with parties to decide.
The Sirisena-Wickremesinghe government should take care to prevent involvement of bureaucrats in politics which could lead to allegations of political partisanship of the government.
Most governments, though carried to power virtually on the shoulders of the media, have a habit to kick their carriers once in power. The media, due to the very nature of political developments, begin to criticise those whom they have helped into power. No politician will like biting criticism and thus by almost reflex action lash lusty kicks on their former supporters. That seems to be the affliction of theYahapalanaya government too.
Undoubtedly there has been some harsh criticism – on some very grave mistakes or frauds – by the media that has embarrassed some politicians. But that is the duty of the media which has to be appreciated.
The Yahapalanaya government had decided to re-invoke the Press Council Law – the law enacted by the United Front Government of Sirima Bandaranaike and the Marxists to tame the press after taking over the then independent group of Lake House newspapers. That law had draconian measures such as: Preventing any government employee talking to the press without sanction of a ministry secretary and the appointment of a Press Council devoid of representatives of the press – save one pro government journalist who happened to be more pro-government than the government.
The press has not caused any embarrassments to the new government other than to report on the embarrassments caused by its members to government. Though the Press Complaints Commission now appears to be functioning satisfactorily sans some Machiavellian characters whose shadows darkened it, has been considered necessary to bring back the Press Council law that was opposed vigorously by J. R. Jayewardene.
Now it has also been decided to establish a body similar to the Press Council Act to control the electronic media which also played a decisive role in bringing the Yahapalanaya to power. The usual carrots are being offered such as: the stake- holders will be consulted on vital issues. Once controlling institutions are established the faithful bureaucrats’ concern will be only for themselves and a cracking down on independent journalists to impress bosses.
Ranil Wickremesinghe, during his premiership during 2001- 2004, was closely associated with the establishment of the Press Complaints Commission and the scrapping of the Criminal Defamation Act, which was being used to virtually threaten the media into submission.
It is admitted that the best form of governance in a democracy is to have no control of the media at all but to establish strong binds of friendship and understanding between politicians, proprietor and journalists for the practice of free and fair journalism.
The freedom of the ambitious political stooge and the bureaucrat is much more disastrous to a democracy than the freedom of the proverbial Wild Ass.
Sunday Leader