Are we progressively going mad? Or is this
the insanity of a few which the world sees
as a collective malaise and so brands us all
as barbarians who have shed the animal skin
for the more sartorially acceptable?
The Latin saying above might not be
everybody's cup of tea as it were, since we
gave up the more civilised system of
education for practical learning like
planting a bomb among civilians or
physically violating the fundamental rights
of people to dissent and express a point of
view that is contrary to the one held by
those in authority.
Still for all it sums up the society in
which we live, a society that is inexorably
turning to the barbarism from which our
great and frequently trumpeted civilisation
is believed to have emerged some 2500 years
While the majority of the people of this
country were paying homage to their great
religious leader and observing the teachings
of the Buddha during the Vesak season,
those who had little respect for the Buddha
Dhamma or that of any other, were already
planning the villainy that would make Sri
Lankans bury their heads in shame and the
world to look at us aghast.
It was only the next day that the public
heard about the abduction and torture of
Keith Noyahr, a journalist from another
Sunday newspaper who worked diligently but
kept his head low. While journalists before
have been subject to physical violence and
even death as in the case of Richard de
Zoysa and some others in those dangerous
years in the late 1980s , it is only in
recent years has there been such a concerted
attack on journalists irrespective of
ethnicity or their political orientation.
It must be admitted however that Tamil
journalists have been victims of brutality
more than those of any other ethnicity.
President Mahinda Rajapakse himself admitted
last week to some editors he met that there
was considerable agitation in the country
when it became aware of the fate of Keith
Naturally it was the main topic of
discussion when we met at Paradise Club, our
favourite watering hole in
after the Vesak holidays. There was genuine
shock and anger among the habitu‚s of
Paradise Club as we gathered that evening.
The tragic event of the days before was
somehow lightened by a comic sub plot in
which the principal character was a chap
called Lakshman Hulugalle who heads
something called the Media Centre for
National Security (MCNS). It is one of those
nondescript organisations obviously set up
to provide the fellow a job, now that
environmental degradation, especially the
felling of trees is thoroughly frowned upon
by the Environment Minister and the world at
large. Perhaps Hulugalle would care to tell
us something more about it some time later.
Not favoured reading
"I say you fellows be careful. The Sunday
Leader is not the favoured reading of the
powers that be," said Kosala "The Fixer"
Kehelmala, a man about town with a nose and
ear to the ground.
"Some fellows burnt your printing presses
the other day. Have they caught the
arsonists?" asked Dr Ananda (Andy to the
foreign NGOs) Ansabage with a knowing smile
on his lips.
"You must be joking," remarked Goti
Sinhakodiya, recently elected a big noise in
the corporate world. "You think those who
come and go through high security zones and
checkpoints as though they owned the damned
things are ever going to be caught?"
"Look you guys seem to have missed an
important point in the hullabaloo that
followed. In fact even the big noises in
journalism seem not to have noticed it and
so it has passed by everybody," I said.
"Ado Pachoris, so what is this great thing
that everybody has missed?" asked Tissa
Isakudichchi, secretary to the Ministry of
"I am talking of the Noyahr abduction,
torture and eventual release," I said.
"I say Pachoris, he is not telling us what
really happened no. He didn't make a
statement no. Otherwise the police could
have made some arrests already," argued
Isakudichchi, rising to the defence of the
Missed the point
"That is not what I am about," I said.
"There is something else that has been
missed. If you read some of the stories and
commentaries written after the abduction,
they said that had the newspaper and its
editors not contacted high-ups in the
administration immediately they heard about
the abduction of their colleague and got
them to move in the matter, Keith Noyahr
might not have got away at all."
"So what is wrong with that. They probably
saved the man's life," observed Puli
Pachchathanni, the poet laureate of
"That is so Pachoris," chipped in Wendy van
Rinderpest that one time beauty queen of
"Are you complaining about it?"
"No, of course not," I remonstrated. "But
you chaps miss the point just like my
colleagues in the media. If it is claimed,
as it has been even by some writers from
NGOs, that it was the promptness with which
the authorities were contacted and informed
that saved Noyahr from further abuse, what
does it tell you people."
"Ah haa, I begin to see some light,"
chuckled Hamid "Fast Cash" Mansoor,
"I see what you are getting at Pacho, you
are a marvel. You should have been an
investigator," added Pandu Pusvedilla of the
Notorious Peace Committee.
"Perish the thought. We are being
investigated enough without me joining them
too," I added
"Are you saying that the authorities could
not have helped save Noyahr from further
torture, had they not known who to contact
or how to contact?" asked Bandu Bahubootha,
university academic turned NGO top dog.
"I am not saying so at all. But if what has
been claimed by the journalists and other
writers is correct - and I don't know
whether it is - then the conclusion surely
is that somebody knew whom to reach to stop
the torture and have Keith delivered at his
"I say now I come to think of it, Pacho is
right in reaching that conclusion. But that
is not all. Noyahr was dropped near his home
in the early hours of the morning. Now did
the vehicle that brought him back from Dompe
at that time of the morning pass through
checkpoints without being stopped and
searched? These are questions that need
answers," Dr Ansabage said with a worried
look on his face.
"Remember the call from his mobile phone was
traced to some place near Gampaha? That
means the vehicle had passed through dozens
of checkpoints from the house in Dehiwela
and back again" I added.
"Don't you people worry," Tissa Isakudichchi,
the secretary to the Ali Boru Ministry added
confidently. "Three special police teams are
inquiring into this incident. They will find
"Oh yeah. Just like they found the others
who attacked and killed journalists, is it?
Who told you all this, that Hulugalle fellow
who is talking through his hat or whatever
he has on that hat stand of his?" laughed
Kesara Kasalagoda, Royal College and SSC and
they all laughed with him as Isakudichchi
Maybe the poor fellow needs a Isakudichchi.
What times we live in indeed.