a 'new media culture'
often sweep the intellectual horizon and find 'media culture' to be
a subject which they think they are competent enough to hector
journalists and the hoi polloi.
Samaraweera, when a palace guard of the Chandrika Kumaratunga
establishment, considered himself a high-priest of media culture and
preached on it, particularly when under attack by the privately
owned media. Once in an inspired outburst he declared that
'journalists could be bought for a bottle of arrack.' This brought
down on him the wrath of the journalists not so much because be had
referred to the 'fondness of the bottle' of the writing tribe but
probably because of the quality of the substance referred to and the
quantity estimated by the then minister!
recently Milinda Moragoda announced his intention of opening a press
club at the premises of the Tourist Board as an attraction for
tourists. We have our doubts whether the unkempt, scrubby,
dirty-jeans brigade, sipping arrack in press clubs would be a
tourist attraction. The last press club we had in the Fort - we
presume it still exists - was patronised more by three-wheeler
drivers and Fort workers in a hurry to have one or two quick ones
for the trains, before they departed. Nonetheless, Moragoda's
appreciation of the thirst of the tribe has to be appreciated even
though a view was expressed that if journalists were to help boost
the tourist industry, they might as well be rewarded in tangible
benefits such as drinks on the house at the new press club!
the world over are a difficult tribe to please.
Once when we were comparing the professional standards of
journalists with a former distinguished editor of an Indian
newspaper, he related a story where at a press conference hosted by
a textile magnate, free suit lengths were presented to journalists.
One of the more demanding types protested. He had said: 'You are
giving us free suit lengths but who is to pay for the tailoring
charges?' That had happened many years ago. We doubt whether the
economic plight of our fellow Indian scribes are the same today.
week, it was President Rajapakse's turn to hold forth on media
culture when he addressed a meeting of the Ministry for Media and
Information at Temple Trees. He had wanted the media 'depoliticised'
and 'media institutions to adopt more ethical and responsible
policies portraying the truth,' the government's favourite paper,
the Daily News reported on Wednesday. He had emphasised on the need
'to get rid of the prevailing political culture at most government
well said, Mr. President, we say. But pray how could it be done? The
President did not spell it out.
the media, particularly the press, can be depoliticised is by ending
the 'Ehei hamuduruwane' (Yes, of course your lordship) mentality.
This mentality was introduced into Lake House by Rajapakse's own
party when they took it over, lock, stock and barrel.
that time, the British presumption in law, the 'Queen can do no
wrong' came into application at Lake House and all other state
After Sirima Bandaranaike, this principle was followed by
Jayewardene, Premadasa, Kumaratunga and now Rajapakse.
a president says, the state media heartily cheers the next day. And
when President Rajapakse made those profound observations on the
media on Wednesday, the Daily News editorial cheered lustily on
said: "We are glad that no less (emphasis is ours) a person
than President Rajapakse has taken up a host of media issues which
had been hotly debated over the years.Now that the President has
prompted a rethink on these questions."
oh why should a president be exalted to a position; 'no less a
person than the president?'
the President has spoken on the subject is the reading public
expected to believe that dramatic changes will follow?
do not blame the editorial writer or editor for these comments. They
had to follow tradition. If not by tradition he would have been out
of the mighty edifice the next day. What would his fate have been if
the editorial said that the President had spoken glibly and not
shown the way how the media could be depoliticised?
reality, newspapers or other media dealing with politics can never
be depoliticised. Lake House when it was taken over by Sirimavo
Bandaranaike was fully committed to the UNP.
But that was their business and they had the right to do so.
What President Rajapakse is doing is: using state owned
institutions, funded by the public for its own glorification. The
slavish attitude of these institutions and the so called journalists
is indeed nauseating.
President Rajapakse wants to introduce a depoliticised media
culture, it has already been suggested that these institutions be
sold on the stock market and legislation enacted so that editorial
boards comprising journalists be appointed to decide on editorial
policy. But will that ever happen?
talk of a new media culture is hypocrisy at its best and comes out
when politicians have no answers to direct criticisms made against
media culture of a country can only reflect the prevalent political
culture. A refined, idealistic, sophisticated media culture is not
possible within a political culture of thuggery, corruption and all
the imaginable evils.
like having a look-alike near you...
is not that I don't like budget airlines darling. If I'm stranded in
Alice Springs of an evening with a parched lower lip and a pebble in
my shoe it's not for long I will wait before I hop on to a Virgin
Air flight and pop back into town.
is it an inherent dislike of kurakkan pittu and pol sambal at 30,000
feet. Granted a sip of fine wine and a nibble of Gruyere will be
more to my taste, but then you've got to take the good with the bad.
Life is full of this without the that. So when that comes along I
tend to grab and grab wildly.
thing with Mihin is that it is neither here nor there. Is it a bird,
is it a plane, is it a twister; who knows? Twisted perhaps but then
we are talking about the gin of the sour variety are we not. I feel
a feeling that this bally airline of yours is running on a beer
budget and paying champagne salaries to Sour-gin. Pity neither the
beer not the champagne reaches the customer.
stirred me to the core dearie when I read that Sour-gin was being
supported by his loving papa to fly the plane or something. Nothing
like a father and son duo lapping up Paradisian funds to feel a
flutter in the heart. No doubt the senior-gin is a kindly fellow
with the milk of human kindness sloshing readily about him... and
talking about milk sweetheart what's this about your udder. I mean
other brother Chum-al.
it's the cash cows, then it's the natural cows and now it's the
buffalo. Isn't it enough you fellows control80 percent of the purse
strings dearie? Really one would think you were Julie Andrews behind
the curtains during the yodel sequence the way you pull and push
strings. But do you need to milk the bally place dry as well? I
don't know if Chums by ordering a buffalo special delivery to his
home was intent somehow on making his own curd. He shouldn't have
bothered. The way you chaps act it's enough for any milk to curdle.
skimming lightly over brother Chum-al's new occupation as a farm
hand - perhaps he was inspired to learn the ways of the grass root
by the farmers who embellished him with sticks and stones in Deduru
Oya the other day. Nothing like a warm welcome to make you feel warm
forsooth, me thinks the mad cap has either got a sudden penchant for
musk or he is missing his colleagues down Diyawanna Oya. Nothing
like having a look-alike near you to think alike no?
it is not only the cuckoo in your presidential nest Sour-gin who
interests me of a morning dear. No sooner I wake from my deep dream
of sleep like Abou Ben Adam there standing before me is...no...no
not the angel of light but you. Why the thought of you haunts me
this way is beyond me. Perchance you and I were intertwined in a
what a sight you make darling. In dazzling white, a streak of
vermillion red around your shoulders, there you stand with a list. A
list of fellows in your circle of gophers and hangers on that will
tickle my fancy and get the ole juices flowing. In your dreams
darling. Well I suppose strictly speaking in this case, in mine.
last week it was a cornucopia of delight darling, what with Sour-gin
on the one hand, brother dearest on the other hand and Gota nowhere
be Gota took flight on Mihin dear in which case it's unlikely he'll
be back in a long time. If that's the case,I can truly sigh a sigh
of relief from my bokka and say with a sincerity of a shy curate in
love with the village courtesan, Mihin Air...sweet meya.
and pandang in Paradise
travel has disrupted my otherwise keen scrutiny of the local media.
When I did get time last weekend I tried to catch up with any
interesting, unusual or quirky news I might have missed by reading
back copies of some newspapers.
almost every politician, whether in government or opposition,
sticking his oar into subjects that they seem least competent or
mandated to speak on, there is rarely a dull moment as you could
guess from your own daily experience of life this side of Paradise.
is true of course that if by some genetic disorder politicians
suddenly lost their voices, the people of Paradise would need to
look elsewhere for their regular injections of humour and comic
relief. May such a calamity never befall our nation. May their tribe
survive for several millennia and contribute to be the tragi-comedy
that is life in our Paradise isle.
was while I was engaged in the search for something to enliven the
weekend that I came across it.
heaven sake, I thought, how could the habitu‚s of Paradise Club
who gather regularly to exchange news, views and current gossip have
missed those pearls of wisdom that were dropped from ministerial
I reached the end of the news item I breathed a sigh of relief. All
is not lost. There is at least one minister who has nothing but the
interests of the nation at heart. Karu maru, I thought.
is it that none of those chatterboxes and peddlers of juicy nuggets
of information that could only be ferreted out by a genuine
newshound or an experienced whistle blower, never mentioned a word
it was mentioned when I was on my foreign travels though I must
confess that I did not run into Foreign Minister Bogollagama at any
departure or transit lounge.
jab in the solar plexus
that as it may, as some writers never tire of saying when they wish
to return to the original subject after a little of bit of diversion
which we all do, I thought I'll rile the Paradisian clubbers with a
jab or two in their solar plexus.
what were you chaps up to in my absence? Anything interesting
happened or was said in this great capital of ours where one wades
knee-deep in water even to get to your neighbour who is up to his
neck in it anyway?"
it was the usual things you know. The security forces killed so many
Tigers and the Tigers killed so many soldiers and then some crazy
journalist tots up the score for the week as though he was writing
for the sports page," Kosala "The Fixer" Kehelmala
said, bored to the soles of his latest Italian shoes.
nothing of importance was said by our worthy leaders? Come on chaps,
these are people who talk even in their sleep though half of that is
not fit to appear in a family newspaper. What about officials? They
do come up for air now and then like fish with open mouths and weave
the wildest fantasies," I tried to egg them on but like the
fish they were not biting, unusual for this normally garrulous
there was this Justice Minister chap who was grumbling that his
ministry secretary was not briefing him before he goes to cabinet
which makes him look a damn fool when surprises are sprung on him.
Seems like another in-house battle between minister and
secretary," contributed Joe Pandanpakse, an old Joe and an
up-and-coming businessman, a recent addition to our group. He is an
American Green Card holder and is humorously called the Capo of the
Los Angeles Mafia.
may not be with us for long. If the gossip is true, he is tipped for
a diplomatic posting, if they could find a vacant spot. There are so
many countries where Sri Lanka has yet to show the flag like the
Cook Islands or the Falklands. If not they will chase away an
ambassador who is already in place and plant him there.
for a jolt
that as it may, if I might say so again (and maybe again and again
because things here do not happen sequentially but chaotically) my
prodding and pushing seems to get nowhere.
our habitu‚s got world weary and or is it that nothing surprises
them any longer and nothing will until the Tigers come along in
their propeller driven planes and drop a nuclear bomb in the middle
of Galle Face Green.
that will awaken them from their lethargic attitude to life. I can't
believe that in the two weeks during which I savoured airline food
enough to put me off flying, our enlightened and enlivening group
had turned itself into such an uninteresting bunch like the average
parliamentarian on a Friday afternoon.
so I thought.
when we met at Paradise Club as we do so many days in the week, I
asked them whether they had read the thoughts of Minister Karu
what has he said," inquired Kandiah (call me Ken) Vinasapathi,
formerly of the Civil Service, who after his many years as a public
servant when they actually served the public, consider ministerial
utterances as a mixed blessing.
he always reminded us younger habitu‚s, it all depended on the
mix. Some ministers were mixed up. Some others were blessed with
brains and still others were blessed with brains that had atrophied
shortly after birth.
I said and paused for dramatic effect. "According to this news
report Minister Karu Jayasuriya has said that it is extremely
necessary to eliminate wastage, especially unnecessary expenses by
state organisations. Those are almost his exact words. He has said
that most state organisations squander money having tamashas in
five-star hotels, erecting pandals and garlanding dignitaries
attending them. This wastage of public funds must stop, the Minister
says. Now don't you think that is sensible?"
say Pachoris. If the man wants to stop wasting public funds, he
should not have joined the cabinet. In fact he should not have
crossed over with 16 or 17 others and claimed ministerial posts
whose costs are enormous for a small country like ours," said
Kesara Kasalagoda, Royal College and SSC.
I am for garlanding ministers and politicians. There is always the
faint chance they will throttle themselves with it. The chances are
dim, but then we could live in hope," said a trenchant Felix
Katepittu, veteran diplomat now retired.
only that Pachoris, Karu Jayasuriya helped swell the cabinet to make
it the biggest in the world. That man will go down in history for
the wrong reasons," added Basil Pingaddi, also known as Mr. 20
Percent ('inflation you know').
don't you think he speaks sense? He has the country's interests at
heart and wants to cut down on unnecessary tamashas," I said in
Maru Karu's defence.
he has Sri Lanka's interests at heart, why is he reported to have
asked Rs 50 million for each of those who crossed over with him to
help their electorates? Imagine Rs.50 million when one-third or so
of the population seems to be suffering from malnutrition or do not
have enough to eat," Pandu Pusvedilla of the Notorious Peace
Committee said cuttingly.
if Karu wants to cut down waste ask him and his political
pole-vaulting pals to quit politics and look elsewhere for a living.
And ask him to tell all this to his cabinet colleagues who are
travelling the world and staying in luxury hotels all at our
expense," added Dr Ananda Ansabage.
if they all work free with no salaries and perks," asked Mabel
Manasgathe trying to be helpful.
dear, that would be a bigger tragedy which this country cannot
afford. Hypocrisy should be eliminated along with waste,"
Kandiah Vinasapathi added with finality cutting Karu Jay's cost
cutting adventure down to bite size.
re-enters world stage
week's summit between US President George Bush and Russian President
Vladimir Bush - the Lobster Summit - at Bush's seaside family resort
is said to have eased tensions between the two countries whose
relations have been deteriorating rapidly in recent times.
the summit could have commenced a healing process, what most
political analysts failed to note was that it signified the return
of Russia as a world power having been relegated
to 'second class status' from a superpower status
that the Soviet Union had, with Russia as the main component.
most Third World countries, Russia's return as a big power is
significant because in the absence of a countervailing power the
sole superpower was riding through Third World countries like a
posse of cowboys riding through town with none to oppose. It enabled
even George Bush's ally Tony Blair to declare that the violation of
sovereignty of countries was justifiable in the defence of human
rights. By that he meant only certain countries and the human rights
of certain people - their friends.
is indeed ironic that some of us in poor countries who were highly
critical of the Soviet Union and supported the United States during
the Cold War have now reversed our roles.
the fall of the Soviet Union in 1991, it withdrew from Eastern
European countries that the former Soviet bloc formed and also gave
up some of the former Asiatic republics of the Soviet Union. Russia
cut down on its nuclear force and conventional forces while its
economy was reduced to shambles within years with its citizens
begging on the streets.
two terms of Putin as president saw the dramatic rise to power of
the Soviet Union and he was talking Turkey with President Bush last
of the contentious issues between Russia and the US now is the
installation of a radar system in the Czech Republic and Poland
which Russia says is to counter its nuclear defence missile system.
Czech Republic and Poland had been in the Soviet sphere of influence
even though they are now in NATO. Russia says that Western Europe
faces no missile threat today while the US maintains that it is
meant to counter a possible missile threat from Iran which Iran
laughs off, pointing out that the European nations are its biggest
has earlier threatened that if the US goes through with the
installation of the proposed radar system, Russia would install
missiles in Western Russia targeting Europe, bringing back dreaded
memories of the Cold War days with Russian SS-20 missiles aimed at
Europe while US Pershing and Cruise missiles were aimed at the
Soviet block of countries
at Maine had instead proposed a project to modernise the
capabilities of the Russian operated radar in Azerbaijan as well as
link it to the system of a new radar facility that is being built in
Southern Russia. He has also proposed making the 'shield more
regional,' bringing in NATO and setting up joint early warning
missile launch centres.
the proposal is accepted Russia will not have the need to base new
rocket forces in the European part of Russia in order to parry the
threat that will arise from the missile defence system, First Deputy
Prime Minister and former Defence Minister, Sergei Ivanov was quoted
talks had been quite cordial and President Putin had said that
'despite known disagreements that are unavoidable in open, honest
dialogue, a policy of comprehensive development of bi-lateral ties
in all areas would continue.'
have said that the surest sign of progress has been on the front of
reduction of the stockpiles of long range nuclear weapons to the
lowest possible levels.
the Lobster Summit Russia's Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov and US
Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice were scheduled to begin talks on
reducing the nuclear arsenals of the two nations, before the
expiration of the Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (START) in 2009.
very significant proposal made by Putin had been that instead of
bi-lateral talks between the two countries the dialogue should also
be extended to a number of other countries in Europe and that it
would be useful to form a NATO-Russia Council which reports said had
found favour with administration officials.
are other contentious issues such as the independence of Kosovo from
Serbia which the US wants but Russia, an ally of Serbia, is
objecting to and also the lack of democratic reforms in Russia which
the US is complaining about.
Bush's prime objective, analysts said, would have been to enlist
Putin's support for wider economic sanctions aimed at Tehran's
as a big player on the world stage where for more than a decade the
US has been playing the key role with its allies as supporting
actors and only China being left out is a welcome development to the
poor of the world.