Gotabaya Rajapaksa – O Tempora O Mores
There is no difference or should be none between human beings. But, is that a reality in Sri Lanka? No. Certainly not. The most recent incident where Gotabaya Rajapaksa, Defense Secretary lost his temper and used foul language brought home some truths about human behaviour, at least from some sections of our people.
The language and tone of the delivery evoked a huge outcry from journalists across the civilized world. The international press and electronic media were aghast and responded immediately. Just like humans and even animals who help each other to face, for example, a harsh winter. But, the local media true to form remained mum. Why? We would leave that to you readers to come to your own judgment.
At the expense of quoting Thomas Niemoller ad nauseum, fellow journalists consider those words; “And then they came for me…”. It could and will be you next. That is certain. Your silence is telling.
That the occupant of high public office in our land could utter such foul, lewd and disgusting words: indeed the language of the gutter – speaks volumes on the depths to which Sri Lanka has sunk.
Gotabaya Rajapaksa may have or did indeed play a pivotal role in winning the war for which we all remain grateful – this however does not give him the prerogative to believe that we remain subjugated – mere serfs – who continue to live in a land where he reigns as Lord of the Manor.
It is indeed unbecoming and disgraceful of Gotabaya Rajapaksa, a public servant, to have uttered the threats he did against this newspaper, and today we wish to reiterate our position which we did during his hysterical ranting that The Sunday Leader will not be cowed by them.
Gotabaya Rajapaksa more than any other public servant has paid lip service to the building of a decent society in Sri Lanka. It is all the more shocking then, that he should conduct himself in such a low manner.
Given the office he holds, we have no doubt it is well within his power to do us harm, whether or not through the abuse of the state machinery that lies at his disposal. We have therefore no choice but to give his threats the widest possible publicity in the hope that this will persuade him to desist from the course of action he may contemplate, to eliminate the Editor of this newspaper or do physical harm.
Rajapaksa knows better than anyone that The Sunday Leader has consistently been critical of consecutive regimes not for partisan reasons but to uphold the democratic values essential to our society. Yet, none of his predecessors have ever stooped to the level he has.
When we contacted him last week it was purely to ascertain if he was aware that the management at SriLankan Airlines had taken a decision to change a wide bodied A340 scheduled to fly to Zurich on Friday July 13, to a smaller A330, in order to accommodate a pilot who he himself admitted “is a close friend”, to bring down a puppy dog for him from Zurich. The change in aircraft would have resulted in 56 passengers having to be off-loaded costing the state owned airline hundreds of thousands of rupees.
He was called by The Sunday Leader not with any intention to defame him or otherwise but merely to clarify what we had been told by sources within SriLankan Airlines. Instead, of responding with civility he resorted to abuse using foul language and threats.
Our second telephone call to him on Friday July 6, was to tell him that we had since decided not to carry this story following a telephone conversation we were told that had taken place between a confidante to the President and himself. Rajapaksa had maintained he knew nothing of a flight schedule change and would “fly the dog down on another airline” if this was indeed the case. The reason for the second telephone call was to tell him that The Sunday Leader would not carry the story but it was NOT because he had threatened its Editor the previous evening.
He however, again turned abusive and used the most foul, lewd and disgusting language, going so far as to say ninety percent of the people in Sri Lanka wanted the Editor of this newspaper dead.
Chilling words indeed, given that it is only a mere three years since its previous Editor was murdered in broad daylight and his killers continue to roam free. He further accused us of accepting “monies” from the US Ambassador, NGOs and Paikiasothy Saravanamuttu – Executive Director of the Centre for Policy Alternatives. Rajapaksa should know better than anyone that The Sunday Leader is not one to be swayed by third parties. Indeed, when there is news that is in the national interest, be assured that nothing will prevent The Sunday Leader from publishing it. We urge Gotabaya Rajapaksa, even now, to respect the office he holds, and to conduct himself with the dignity and decorum the people of Sri Lanka have a right to expect of him. It does not become his brother the President nor him that he should threaten journalists or indeed, plot violence against them.