President’s wish and ours
Posted on October 20th, 2017

Editorial Courtesy The Island

The yahapalana leaders specialise in tilting at windmills, nay, media outfits. Everything they touch turns into an unholy mess instantly. The whole government is in a shambles with its big guns chasing their own tails and making colossal blunders, which are legion. But, never do they own up to their mistakes. It is the media that has to take the blame for their bungling and snafu. Thomas Jefferson famously said that given a choice between a government without newspapers and newspapers without a government he would just as soon have the latter. That was because he was a venerated statesman known for his wisdom and love for democracy. But, Sri Lankan politicians notorious for their intellectual bankruptcy, more often than not, make known their desire for having a government without newspapers. Their barbs at journalists stem from their deep-seated antipathy towards the media.

Both President Maithripala Sirisena and Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe raked the media over the coals on Thursday, at different venues. The President socked it to journalists at the D. B. Dhanapala commemoration while paying a glowing tribute to the legendary editor. The PM, true to form, ranted and raved, at a media briefing, about wide publicity given to a joint statement issued by the Asgiriya and Malwatte Chapters, opposing the moves being made to frame a new Constitution. Accusing a section of the newspapers of having fabricated the news items at issue, he indulged in bashing editors to his heart’s content. But, the Asgiriya and Malwatte Chapters have reiterated they are opposed to the proposed Constitution, as we reported yesterday!

President Sirisena went so far as to accuse some journalists of being in the pay of politicians. Every profession has corrupt elements within its ranks and the media has its fair share of them. It is no secret that the Gestapo of the yahapalana government maintains dossiers on media persons and the Sirisena-Wickremesinghe government should, therefore, be able to expose the journalists who are being paid by politicians. Let the President be urged to name and shame the bad eggs in the garb of journalists. Mere rhetoric and sweeping statements won’t do.

Politicians turn hostile towards the media when they get exposed for their incompetence. The cantankerous yahapalana grandees’ frequent diatribes against the media reminds us of a local comic flick called Weda Beri Tarzan (‘Incompetent Tarzan’). Every time the pompous hero attempts a wild swing, holding a liana and letting out a yell, he hits a tree slap-bang and gets grounded. He curses the tree for sitting in the wrong place! There is more cursing than swinging. This is what the yahapalana worthies are also doing, in a manner of speaking.

The yahapalana big guns are praising Dhanapala because he is no longer present among us. If he were alive today and critical of the present regime, he, too, would be vilified. The legendary editor was lucky that in the socio-political milieu he lived and worked in, the country was not short of statespersons, whom he immortalised in his famous book, Among Those Present. They really felt for the country and tirelessly worked for the people; they were not scared of elections. They also did not fault the media for their failures, which were rare. They had the strength of character and decency to own up to their lapses without bad-mouthing their critics.

President Sirisena has wished the country had hundreds of Dhanapalas. We wish we had statespersons like the ones Dhanapala was fortunate enough to work with, instead of a bunch of bush-league, corrupt politicians the country is plagued with.

Legendary Prime Minister W. Dahanayake carried only a small suitcase, containing all his belongings, when he left Temple Trees. According to an apocryphal story, he vaulted over the Temple Trees parapet wall, which was low at that time, and went back home by bus. But, today, politicians who enter such hallowed places carrying only suitcases, leave with their belongings packed into forty-foot containers.

Not even their worst critics ever accused DS, SWRD, Daha, Dudley, Sirimavo et al of corruption. Bond scams etc were never heard of under their governments. We think we have to be practical even in wishing. So, we wish we had a couple of such honest, patriotic statesmen to lead the country.

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