The Sunday Leader

Political Thuggery At SLBC

by Ashanthi Warunasuriya

SLBC

One year has already lapsed since the good governance government came to power. While some were boasting about the achievements they had made during this time, others have some serious concerns about the conduct of the government.

One of the major concerns is the undue political influence it has had in State owned institutions. Reports have revealed that recruitments, transfers and even promotions are currently being carried out under political influence at some State institutions.

The Sri Lanka Broadcasting Corporation (SLBC) is now in the spotlight due to several irregular practices. The Campaign for Free and Fair Election (CaFFE), last week wrote to the Media Minister and the chairman of SLBC raising concerns over the political influence in SLBC.

In the letter CaFFE notes that it has been reported to CaFFE and the Sri Lanka Human Rights Commission that the SLBC administration was unduly influenced by a government minister and a SLBC trade union to remove Ms. Sudhammika Wijeratne, who conducts several popular radio programmes for the channel.

“You are aware of the fact that Ms. Wijeratne’s removal is not based on her professional conduct, but the political conduct of her husband Ajith Prasanna. If having an opposing political view against a government minister is a reason for his wife to be disqualified from conducting programmes at SLBC that would be a disgusting act. It is an insult to the professionalism that should prevail at a state owned media institution,” Keerthi Tennakoon, Managing Director of CaFFE said in the letter.

With this letter, it has now been revealed that other employees of the SLBC have also lodged complaints to the Human Rights Commission against similar incidents of undue transfers based on political influences.

Tennakoon told The Sunday Leader that similar incidents of political influence took place when former President Mahinda Rajapaksa was in power.

 

Shameless acts

“These things were done during the Rajapaksa era. Sudharmika’s political views do not matter to us. But there has been no issue about her professionalism. So her husband’s political career should not be linked to her job. A similar issue was faced by Ms. Priyani Gunawardhana who conducted that programme a long time ago. That was done by the Rajapaksa regime. We raised our objections against such acts on those days as well. But ultimately it ended up with her being appointed as a secretary of a Minister. These are shameless acts. Everyone have a right to do politics. It is not civilised behavior to torment anyone because of the political opinion of his or her spouse,” he said.

When asked whether similar complaints have been made by other employees at SLBC and whether CaFFE is representing them as well, Tennakoon said that no other complaints have been received so far and that they would appear on behalf of anyone who is being discriminated by a government body.  Sudharmika had joined SLBC in 1997 while doing a sociology special degree at the University of Colombo. She has studied journalism as a subject and has passed both the written and verbal interviews held by the SLBC. Having joined as a relief presenter, she has become a permanent employee at the SLBC in 2001. She is currently working as a programme organiser at the  SLBC.

“We work according to the wishes of the existing government. I worked as the coordinator of the Subharathi programme. Even though my husband did politics I did not let it affect my professional life. I was removed from Subharathi due to instructions from the top brass. Now I hear that they are planning to give me a transfer. My son is doing his OL’s this year, if something happens to me it would affect his mentality. I have even asked my husband to stop doing politics. He asked me to do my job and to let him do his job. There are no complaints about my professionalism. So it is unfair to do this to me. Keerthi Thennakoon of CaFFE has said that he would stand against these activities. If I have not made my husband’s politics affect my work then there can’t be any problem here. But since I love my job I bear up anything” Sudharmika said.

It is clear that her husband’s political conduct has become a reason for the authorities to discriminate her. It is both a clear violation of her fundamental rights and also an uncivilised deed.

“They say that this government is a coalition. Even the ministers who joined the government from our side said that they had to go for a coalition to save the supporters from being assaulted or even losing jobs. A top Minister had also said such things. But we can now see that most of our people working in the state sector have been discriminated. But supporters of the UNP who have not even passed the Ordinary Levels have been appointed as directors. My wife is not doing any politics. She is totally committed to her job. Even the present government has not said anything against her work. But she has asked me to stop doing politics saying that ministers such as Sarath Fonseka had asked so. I am neither an MP nor a Provincial councilor. I’m representing my own views. It is these people who are not allowing us to live like humans,” Sudharmika’s husband Retired Major Ajith Prassanna told The Sunday Leader.

 

Complained to HRC

Even the former director of the SLBC has lodged a complaint at the Human Rights Commission (HRC) saying that he too has been given a transfer on November 2015 without a fair reason. The commission is yet to issue its recommendations on the issue.

He had joined the SLBC relief staff in 2000 and has become a permanent member in 2001. He has worked in news and programme sections for over 16 years. In November 2015 he has received a letter under the signature of the SLBC chairman informing that he has been transferred to the Welfare branch, where even with his director post he cannot practice as a journalist.

Even though employees can be given transfers to parallel subjects, there should be fairness in the matter. This is not the first time we hear such things. This was a common occurrence during the Rajapaksa era. But Under the present administration transfers have even been given in the lowest tiers where acting transport officers have been demoted to the post of driver.

Meanwhile recruitments and promotions under undue political influences have also begun to take place in the SLBC. Recently a petition has been filed at the Supreme Court against the undue recruitment of 74 UNP supporters and providing promotions. The petition has been filed by several trade unions including the Sri Lanka Commercial Trade Union where they have claimed that under the 100 day government the SLBC has recruited 24 employees. Even two senior ministers of the government have vowed not to let that happen in the future.

SLBC employees have also revealed that there is a scheme under cabinet approval to give appointments to a group of outsiders as compensation for political support however the authorities have so far been unable to finalise the matter. Senior officials have denied any inside problem at the SLBC.

“We are concerned of these issues. We would represent the aggrieved if needed. We have been informed of Sudharmika’s issue. But so far nothing serious has taken place. But we would stand against any misdeed. Recently Ministers Dilan Perera and Mahinda Amaraweera have also expressed their concern on the matter. We too have discussed the matter with the administration”, President of the SLBC, Sri Lanka Nidahas Sewaka Sangamaya, Suraweera said.

The Sunday Leader spoke to the authorities and asked them why these uncivilised practices can’t be stopped.

“We recently spoke about the SLBC. This is a national government. So there can’t be any specific political view in the institute. The present government must act in harmony with us. We are monitoring whether that is being done” Minister Mahinda Amaraweera said.

The name of Nimal Premasiri, the chairman of Jathika Sewaka Sangamaya, has also been mentioned in these events. Even though he did not prefer speaking about the matter at first, eventually he said that they are not engaged in political thuggery.

“The government cannot go forward by keeping Rajapaksa stooges in key positions. Sudhammika is the wife of Ajith Prassanna, who has spoken against the Disappeared persons Act. How can the DG work with a person with such relationships?” he said.  Media minister Gayantha Karunathilake said that he would personally look into these allegations.

1 Comment for “Political Thuggery At SLBC”

  1. Ikarus

    This is the way when a GONPALAKAS as the head directs the ASSOCIATES to pave paths to take REVENGE other than the improvement or maintaining the quality of service.

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