“Tempest In A Tea Pot!” Or Is It?
For writers to this publication to be threatened or abused in less-than-Parliamentary terms is pretty well par for the course, particularly by members of that element of the media which defies description if one is not to step in to the gutter.
Gotabhaya Rajapaksa’s unseemly tirade against Frederica Jansz has had an interesting response from the local media and punditocracy. At the risk of provoking the ire of the large number of ill-bred, uneducated yobs who seem to read this column with surprising frequency, let me first say a sincere “thank you” to Paikiasothy Saravanamuttu whom I have neither met nor conversed with but about whose level of essential civility and intelligence there has never been any doubt in my mind. He published an unvarnished, absolutely reasonable request to the President for the removal of the latter’s brother, the Defence Secretary. Of course, our village idiots parading as journalists will typically launch into their usual chorus of ‘Tiger supporter!’ and similar accusations at the tops of their over-extended voices in response to this demand which, in any democratic country would be a ‘no brainer.’ But then, this is the ‘Miracle of Asia’ and invective of that type goes to confirm the intellectual and moral bankruptcy of the authors of such imprecations. In fact, what it amounts to is hooting someone you didn’t like in kindergarten and running like hell, except that now you don’t have to run because you’ve got the local ‘kossa’ in attendance armed with a T56! And I only exaggerate marginally!
To a large extent, the display of boorishness emanating from the Defence Secretary (and his supporters and defenders) is typical of such circles, and has, again, been greeted with a media silence which, in the current Sri Lankan circumstances, speaks far more eloquently than words would have. That silence is, most sadly, indicative of the slough of fear and sycophancy into which this country has sunk with the dominance of thugs, murderers and brigands parading as government. In fact a large part of the sycophantic impulse, too, is bred of fear.
Entering the circle of the “usual suspects of silence” has been a rather unusual person: the head of the journalists’ organization with primary responsibility for protection of its members from precisely this kind of abuse and intimidation. This woman was only recently elevated to the pinnacle of a daily newspaper whose owner is best known for his brokering a deal that resulted in Velupillai Prabhakaran laying his hands on an inordinate amount of money that he applied to the annihilation of scores of Sri Lankan servicemen and civilians and skewed the result of a Presidential election. The lady’s predecessor had been unceremoniously removed for having the effrontery of displaying an inordinate amount of objectivity at the paper of which he had only recently been appointed founding editor. The ‘new broom’ certainly did not display anything resembling a proclivity to sweep clean the debris deposited by the Defence Secretary. She refused to lift the proverbial finger in defence of a member of an organization that existed specifically to defend its members from threat and intimidation, particularly of a most serious nature and by the second most powerful person of a government with a clearly displayed capacity to visit violence on its opponents. Instead, she goes about her preparations for the forthcoming pantomime which will be titled, “See no evil, hear no evil, speak no evil.” Doubtless she will be suitably compensated with 5-star hotel accommodation in a plush Swiss hotel the next time an opportunity arises for a rag-tag bunch of Sri Lankans to visit Switzerland, with or without benefit of a meeting of the United Nations Human Rights Council on the schedule. After all, enough evidence has already been given of the inebriated and their friends going on such all-expenses-paid trips to Geneva for there to be any reason for this lady to be the exception.
As for her fellow journalists doing follow-up interviews with Gotabhaya Rajapaksa? Well, I am sure there will be appropriate compensation for that service, too, even though that particular whitewash came off a less-than-glistening shade of that colour! After all, previous displays of ‘compliant behaviour’ were recognized by permission to publish in the broad light of day rather than under cover of darkness and are not to be scoffed at!
We have been spared one major hypocritical voice at this time, however. The guy. who produced some kind of ‘requiem’ to the founding editor of The Sunday Leader when the latter was butchered by assassins within sight of a government checkpoint more than three years ago, seems to have chosen not to weigh in with a smarmy homily on democratic practice and freedom of the press, etc. etc. perhaps, because silence is golden when one seeks to feather an editorial nest provided by the Royal Family!
These are but a few of those claiming mastery of journalistic penmanship or, at least, ascent to positions of power in the media who have weighed in or been conspicuous by their silence. However, it would be interesting to see what kind of reception any efforts by these denizens to enter that other PEN may receive! No, the silence of the Sri Lankan media when the editor of the last English newspaper acknowledged as critical of the Rajapaksa Regime is threatened with death constitutes a(nother?) watershed. That response is beginning to seem like one of the biggest exercises in avoidance, obfuscation and rank cowardice in the history of the Sri Lankan media and, for ANYONE with a decent bone left in his Sri Lankan body, it can only be cause for shame.
A new and critically important question in the current circumstances would be whether there is any hope in The Miracle of Asia of those of conscience rising to the defence of those brave enough to stand up to the forces of violence and despotism that are blanketing our nation? God knows they need defenders, particularly since the majority of them continue to be women!