An addition to Part 2 of the content analysis of Sunday Times editorials
Posted on January 25th, 2016
By Professor Shelton A. Gunaratne
My article titled “A content analysis of The Sunday Times editorials in first 15 years of current century – Part 2 of a two-part analysis”(Lankaweb, 12 January 2016) referred to 15 editorials in the non-stratified random sample I used to generalize my findings for the period 2000-2015. A technical glitch, however, cut off the synopses of six of the 15 editorials from the printed version. I reproduce below the missing synopses in chronological order to enable those who would have wanted to ascertain the reliability of the results by comparing the stratified (by year) and the non-stratified samples:
- March 5, 2001: “Home and away …” asserted the “government has anything but efficient economic management on its mind” despite the “fairy tale voyages of a charming President [CBK] … basking in the warmth of the fond adulation of Western leaders.” Citing an Asian Development Bank report that says almost 40 per cent of Sri Lanka’s population is either “poor or vulnerable to poverty,” and a statement by World Bank Research Manager David Dollar that Sri Lanka and Pakistan are the only two “non-globalizing” countries in South Asia, the editorial said the country’s plight is reflected not only in its economic indicators, but also in “the general attitude and behavior on display by the PA power cabal” as evident from the size of the Cabinet and the ostentatious campaigns to build a Presidential complex.
- July 15, 2001: “Vox Populi Indeed?” contended that voters failed to comprehend the connection between president CBK’s decision to prorogue parliament as a political maneuver to avoid the government’s defeat and holding a national referendum that would cost the nation a massive Rs. 600 million to Rs. 1 billion. It asked: “If the Government loses the referendum, does that mean that the Executive Presidency which the PA, UNP and the JVP are unitedly against, remains?” This superbly written editorial asserted that the coupling of the prorogation with the referendum was “tantamount to a political war-dance enacted by a moribund government.” Thus, constitutional reform “has become needlessly politicized and linked to the very survival of the government.”
- August 4, 2002: “What Next?” sarcastically concluded that the Norwegian-mediated Ceasefire Agreement seems to have “done its job well as far as the LTTE is concerned.” Asserting that no talks have materialized since the signing of the agreement, it berated the Norwegian-led SLMM for engendering undesirable changes in the Eastern Province where the Muslim community fears “the LTTE threat aimed at them, their property and their way of life” resulting from the withdrawal of the SL security forces. It claimed that a nascent Muslim jihadi movement has begun raising funds for armed rebellion against the LTTE. It accused Sambandan’s TNA was “playing quisling to the LTTE,” which is operating from the standpoint of a quasi state. It condemned the latest SLMM for referring to a “Balance of Power” in these areas of the Island implying a balance between two equal partners.
- March 7, 2004: “LTTE Verdict on Dissent” attacked the LTTE for shutting down dissent by following President Jayewardene’s strategy of forcing all TNA candidates to sign their resignation letters before the election, then by banning all Tamils from contesting elections from any party outside of the TNA. The editorial surmised: “They are trying to have the cake and eat it. They want their ‘puppets’ and none else elected to Parliament at the Centre, and at the same time ensure that there is no dissent whatever to their rule in the North and East.” Referring to the situation arising from the impending split within the LTTE in its Eastern command a “veritable political land-mine in the Tiger den,” the ST cautioned the two governments in Colombo to “tread gingerly, if not astutely” on the dangerous terrain.
- February 27, 2005: “The UN Growls–But Does the Tiger Care?” was another tirade against the Tigers on the issue of child soldiers whereon “the LTTE has a consistently successful history of targeting the world at large — for its scorn.” Commenting on the UN Security Council’s listing of the LTTE as one of the terrorist organizations recruiting children and the Secretary General Kofi Annan’s report that the LTTE has recruited 4,700 child soldiers since 2001 ceasefire agreement (not counting the 40 post-tsunami recruits), the editorial observed: “To the seasoned arbiter, both the Security Council statement and the LTTE’s reaction to it sound as routine as the pittu served in Prabhakaran’s Vanni for breakfast.” It blamed the insouciance of the UN for the Tigers’ thumbs down for targeting them. It concluded: “We can rest our case. By the time the UN “considers” its sanctions, the LTTE would be recruiting its new batch of baby-brigadiers.”
- October 22, 2006: “Development with Devolution” supported the ruling of the Supreme Court that “the merger of the North-East Provincial Council is ultra-vires (outside the law) of the Constitution.” It branded the merger as “one of the biggest political shams in the country … a classic lesson of how a system of government, forced down the throat of the nation has had a life of its own in areas it was not meant for.” It described the 19 years of the existence of NEP Council as “a contradiction of what devolution (power to the periphery) is all about.” It occupied almost a quarter of the whole country and was “a contradiction of what devolution (power to the periphery) is all about.” The ST claimed that the PC system has “proved to be an utterly useless exercise merely duplicating the work of the Central Government and local councils.” It made its position absolutely clear: “We have long argued that the District ought to be the unit of devolution citing the examples of the US, Canada, India, Australia etc., though federalism is an exercise in futility given their sheer size in comparison to Sri Lanka.” It went on to assert: “While there still might be other viable alternatives that could be discussed at any future peace talks, they cannot revolve around the PC system which has failed to take off in the North and East and come a cropper in the rest of Sri Lanka as well.”
[I consider this editorial to be one of the best written by a national newspaper in Sri Lanka providing a dispassionate solution to the country’s ethnic, political and developmental problems.]