From ‘traitors’ to ‘racists’
Posted on January 29th, 2016

Island Editorial

Politicians, intoxicated with power, vent their spleens on their critics the way tipplers heap abuse on the rocks they stumble over. The Rajapaksa government had many such elements, Mervyn Silva being one of them. They branded those who refused to toe their line ‘traitors’. The critics of the present administration are vilified as ‘racists’.

Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe was in action in Parliament on Thursday! He flayed the media to his heart’s content. His diatribe may be dubbed a verbal madu waliga attack on journalists. Media reports on contradictory statements government leaders make on the proposed war crimes probe, among other things, had irked him beyond measure. The PM also faulted the media for not condemning Bodu Bala Sena General Secretary Ven. Galabodaatte Gnanasara Thera, who disrupted the Homagama Magistrate’s Court recently. He is entitled to his opinion and his right to criticise the media cannot be questioned.

Asgiriya Maha Nayake Thera Most Ven. Galagama Sri Attadassi Thera has said something positive about Ven. Gnanasara Thera, as we reported yesterday. It will be interesting to know what the government has got to say about the prelate’s statement.

It was a supreme irony that missing journalist Prageeth Ekneligoda happened to be praised by Prime Minister Wickremesinghe, who is the leader of the UNP which vilified Richard de Zoysa, a veteran journalist and artiste, abducted, tortured and killed in February 1990. The then UNP government abused the slain journalist posthumously in Parliament in the most despicable manner in a bid to justify his assassination. It even made an issue of his sexual orientation!

The PM made a very serious allegation; an editor had got a fellow journalist abducted in a white van under the previous government. He also tarred all journalists with the same brush by claiming that their hands were not clean and he had evidence to prove that. The question is what prevents him from exposing the errant journalists. That will be a great service to Sri Lankan journalism. The editor concerned must be arrested forthwith for having a serious crime perpetrated. Those who carried out that abduction may be responsible for other crimes against civilians including journalists. The new government which is championing media rights should have ordered a probe into that particular white van abduction immediately after grabbing power in January 2015. Is it that the present dispensation is keen to probe only the allegations of crimes against its rivals and the armed forces?

Where were the present-day champions of judicial independence when the houses of Supreme Court judges were stoned by UNP goons led by Kalu Lucky in 1983 as the then JRJ government was furious that the ruling in a fundamental rights case against the police had gone in favour of Vivienne Goonewardena. Did the self-appointed defenders of ethno-religious minorities, protest in Parliament against the 1983 anti-Tamil pogrom and call for action against the perpetrators of racial violence who were mostly UNP goons?

The government has condemned—and rightly so—the BBS chief for scolding Ekneligoda’s wife in court. But, why did its leaders refrain from condemning the lawyers who went berserk in the Colombo High Court in 2011, when the White Flag case judgment was given, and abused a female judge in raw filth? More recently, lawyers and police hurled abuse at one another in a courtroom freely, forcing a Magistrate to suspend proceedings. The government leaders did not utter a whimper of protest. Why?

Now that the PM has taken up, in Parliament, the issue of Ekneligoda’s disappearance again, the government should explain why it has not probed a damning allegation made by no less a person than the then Chief Opposition Whip Joseph Michael Perera (UNP) against the army on July 08, 2008. Perera said attacks on journalists and media institutions were being carried out by a ‘special team’ controlled by the then Army Commander Lt. Gen. Sarath Fonseka. He called upon the Rajapaksa government to arrest the offenders immediately. Lasantha was killed a few months later in January 2009. Before setting up a war crimes tribunal and treating the media to lectures on ethics and the virtues of reconciliation the government must probe this particular allegation it officially made in Parliament.

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