‘Joint Opposition’ condemns govt. bid to control media 
Posted on April 29th, 2016

By Shamindra Ferdinando Courtesy The Island


Former External Affairs Minister Prof. G. L. Peiris yesterday said that a controversial missive issued by newly appointed Parliamentary Reforms and Mass Media Secretary Nimal Bopage advising the media not to use the term ‘Joint Opposition’ to denote the dissident group of the UPFA should be examined against the backdrop of the Geneva-based Inter-Parliamentary Union (IPU) recognising the group loyal to former President Mahinda Rajapaksa.

Claiming that the continuous use of the term Joint Opposition was illegal, immoral and unethical and breach of media freedom, attorney-at-law Bopage warned individual journalists as well as television and radio presenters of legal action unless they discontinued the practice.

Now that Media Minister Gayantha Karunatilleke has disowned the statement issued by the Secretary to his Ministry, the latter could no longer remain in that post. Responding to a query by The Island, Prof. Peiris said either Bopage should resign on his own or Minister Karunatilleke should sack him.

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Prof. Peiris expressed the belief the IPU would inquire into the latest developments.

The former law Prof said that though Minister Karunatillke had publicly repudiated the statement the truth was Bopage wouldn’t have issued it without receiving specific instructions from his minister. Prof. Peiris said that the government had been compelled to suspend an obvious attempt to suppress the media due to strong protests by the Joint Opposition as well as the media.

Prof. Peiris alleged that an SLFP faction in the government had been making a desperate bid to counter the growing popularity of the faction led by those loyal to former President Rajapaksa.

The government would certainly step up pressure after May Day, Prof. Peiris said, adding that the incumbent rulers couldn’t stomach the rapid emergence of a powerful political force capable of meeting the challenge.

The directive issued by the government through Bopage reflected its growing apprehension of political developments, Prof. Peiris said, explaining various attempts made by the UNP and those SLFPers in the government to undermine the Joint Opposition. The former FM pointed out that the government had continuously refused to recognise the Joint Opposition in parliament because the ruling coalition feared the grouping’s popularity

The SLFP has repeatedly rejected the Joint Opposition requests for permission to function independently in Parliament.

Prof. Peiris said the UNP-SLFP coalition was engaged in a desperate struggle. He challenged those who had been critical of the previous government’s handling of the media to speak out at the attempt to control the media for political expediency.

Prof. Peiris said that former President Rajapaksa had refrained from imposing any censorship even during the war though some in his government pushed for it. The media reported LTTE statements and carried various other communiques issued on behalf of the group without hindrance, Prof. Peiris said. “Today, the media is told how to identify a particular group. This is a bizarre and ridiculous situation,” he said.

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