The Sunday Leader

To Whom It May Concern: Please Stop Intercepting My E-Mails!

This column is bound to provoke the ire of that battery of “defenders of the realm” who have made it their business to attack anyone who even vaguely resembles a critic of the regime that gives them sustenance. No matter, as they used to say, “The dogs may bark, but the caravan proceeds.”
But, that digression apart, I am addressing this communication “to whom it may concern” because I need his intervention to ensure that the telecommunication  companies that  his government controls cease and desist from interfering with my email, using a variety of ruses. I make this appeal primarily because I am told that the Telecommunications Regulatory Commission was moved from the purview of another Ministry to the Ministry of Defence of which the President is the Minister and (dare I say it?) his brother is the Secretary. In addition, I am told that the single area of expertise of the Secretary of that Ministry is computers, with particular reference to internet communication.
I must admit I have also seen Mr. Mangala Samaraweera’s statement in the legislature that the internet communications of literally hundreds of Sri Lankans are being “hacked” and telephones “tapped.” It has also been stated that the expertise of the Peoples Republic of China is actively employed in internet surveillance in Sri Lanka.  But then, what are friends for (if not to hack your opponents’ emails and “tap” their phones!)
I have every faith in this regime’s commitment to the tenets of democracy despite the proclamation of one of its MP’s who, a newspaper owner, no less and despite being loudly committed to media freedom, went on record that it is perfectly okay to intercept people’s personal, private communications.
The Telcos have, I must admit, a trump card in that those of us living in Sri Lanka do not have a plethora of choices in the matter of Internet Service Providers (ISP) and telephone companies and are, therefore, compelled to stay tied to one or the other of them which are but a phone call away from a Plumeria Palace from complete and absolute government control.
When internet correspondence between me and my grand-daughter (and daughter) began “disappearing” about a year ago, I was a little puzzled.  After all, the travel arrangements of a woman who had left these shores as a Sri Lankan pre-teenager and was returning for the first time after about four decades, and her daughter, was not likely to contribute to riot and civil commotion and, therefore, of sufficient importance to The State to necessitate its interception and “disappearance.”  That should have been the experience of some dissident seeking to overthrow the government of this land, not merely seeking to firm up her travel and holiday arrangements on a limited budget!
Bad enough? About the same time, I began to experience difficulty in getting my columns to the Sunday Leader through email!  Now, talk about impatience! All that those tinkering with those communications had to do was wait a few days, till the following Sunday, when they could buy a copy of this newspaper and see it, literally, in black and white or, if they objected to paying money for a newspaper that they read in spite of their better judgement but because they need to know what their opponents were up to, they could go on the “web” and check it out at no cost whatsoever.  After all, is not that what the “dirty tricks squad” of one of the professorial types already does?
The people in the Customer Relations unit of Sri Lanka Telecom/Mobitel promised to look into my complaint and then NEVER got back to me.  If further confirmation of my suspicions was required, a while later, we went through the same sequence of events. Not so much as an acknowledgement of my communication on that occasion, though!  And this was in spite of the fact that both communications were sent under registered cover!
Ah, well, I thought, let us change to another ISP because in any event, without even the interruption of intercepted emails, the service was so poor that I was reduced to travelling to a large town many kilometers away and accessing the internet through a friend’s computer if I had need of it!  Even in the days of the carrier pigeon one would not have been reduced to this kind of “temporary address change” in order to communicate!
Anyway, getting closer to today, I change to Dialog and, before too long, it seems as if my internet communication is headed down the same path.  For instance, a couple of days ago, it took in excess of 12 hours for an email from a fellow newspaper columnist to reach me and then a friend of ours arrives to stop over the night with us and asks what I thought of the newsletter which she sets up for my small business enterprise, sent me from less that 30 miles away earlier in the day. It is now 7:00 a.m of the day following and I still have not received that piece of mail.  Again, I would suggest that all of this effort on the part of whoever is doing this and the aggravation to me and mine could be avoided by checking my website the address of which is available to the whole wide world!
Given my own experience over more than a year it would extremely difficult to dismiss as untrue or a figment of his imagination, Mr. Mangala Samaraweera’s recent statement in the legislature in this connection.  The fact that telecommunications has been moved under the control of the Ministry of Defence relatively recently would also tend to suggest more than a coincidental connection.
Anyway, I have an offer to make to anyone interested in my communication, be they of a personal, political or business nature:  I am prepared to send copies of EVERY email I send and every email I receive from now on to an address of his or her choice.  Would this, at least, help avoid the useless effort on one side of this fence and the needless aggravation on the other?
Now I ask every fair-minded reader of newspapers in this country – and this includes the newspaper owner/publisher who has expressed the opinion that intercepting private correspondence is perfectly kosher – whether this is not an eminently fair and practical proposal? But, “To Whom It May Concern:” would you PLEASE exert your not-inconsiderable power and put a stop to this state of affairs and return my email communication to where it moves faster than a letter by “snail mail” or even a piece of paper tied to the leg of a carrier pigeon? After all, even if I have been known to criticise your benevolent hegemony in the Miracle of Asia, am I not deserving of at least this tiny Royal Boon?

1 Comment for “To Whom It May Concern: Please Stop Intercepting My E-Mails!”

  1. Ajith Boralugoda

    Hi! ,

    Have you ever heard DATA ENCRYPTION in computer terminology.
    I would recommend you install PGP ( Pretty Good Privacy) for your e-mail tool, I assume OUTLOOK etc.
    So it does not matter how good the chinese hackers are it is plain IMPOSSIBLE to crack PGP

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