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Asian Tribune is published by World Institute For Asian Studies|Powered by WIAS Vol. 12 No. 2701

The Leader- Awakening to a horror

By Palitha Senanayake

Recent attack on the printing press of Leader publication evoked mixed feelings. It was condemned by many while certain quarters greeted it with a sense of remorselessness. Even many of those who superficially condemned the act did so for the simple reason that they did not wish to be identified with those who support the violators of ‘press freedom’. Press freedom is considered a ‘sacred cow’ by the civilized world and hence a physical assault of this nature certainly points to the presence of an anarchic proclivity in the society which will not augur well for the sustenance of that society. Yet, then why this lurking sense of poetic justice: is it moral depravity on the part of those or is it really poetic justice?

The role played by national news reporting and journalism cannot be over emphasized in offering a sense of direction and a regulatory impetus to a nation in that, it is often believed that the media is the ‘forth estate’ of the nations governance. The three preceding estates being, the Legislator, the Executive and the Judiciary. Placed in a position as significant as that, it would be the bounden duty of those who man the media institutions to conduct the affairs of their institutions in a manner that is worthy of such august positioning. Any positioning of power entails responsibility in the exercise of that power and a national positioning entails a national responsibility. Sanctimony does not fall from the sky; it has to be earned with ones conduct.

The advent of democracy has catapulted the media in to an even crucial position. In modern day elections, it is not he best intended or the most able candidate who will win. Often it is the candidate with the best campaign or the best propaganda who comes out the winner. In fact in the modern world, media has substituted for what arms and ammunitions accomplished in the years gone by in capturing state power. Therefore no media, especially national media at that, can exonerate itself of the happenings in a society because it is the collective action of everybody responsible, that has brought upon that state of affairs on that regime. The saying that ‘every country has a Government that its people deserve’ should be rather revised to mean that the ‘every man deserves the society he lives in’, because the social milieu we live in is very much of our own making.

About 18 months ago, watching Lasantha Wickremetunge interviewing Anton Balasingham over a popular TV channel owned an operated by the Maharajah group, any responsible citizen of this country would be dismayed to notice the extent to which the profession of journalism could be abused by the very persons who pontificate as the saviors of free media. It was certainly a case of the questioner tossing up his questions like juicy full tosses in a game of cricket for the batsman to score as he pleases. Yet even in a cricket match if a reputed bowler bowls so accommodatingly to the batsman such a bowler would become a suspect of a ‘match fixing’ exercise, meaning unfair play in a game of cricket. But here we have an Editor of a ‘responsible’ news paper and a ‘leading’ journalist acting as the cheer leader of an internationally outlawed ‘most ruthless terror group’ in the world indulging in sheer one sided propaganda exercise in an attempt to embarrass, nationally and internationally, the legitimate Government of the country!

How could a responsible media man indulge in such ‘media freedom’ when Tigers are the group that has posed the biggest threat to this nation state for the past 30 years, subjecting the people to terror, mayhem and murder threatening to tear this very nation asunder. The conduct of this ‘newsman’ becomes all the more serious in the context where this particular organization, the LTTE, has refused to accept the sovereignty of Sri Lanka and have threatened, during the past few years, to declare war against the Sri Lankan society almost at the drop of a hat. This is certainly not the conduct of a national news paper group that consider itself to be a member of the fourth estate of the nations governance but rather the conduct of a newspaper group that has no respect for the Government, law and order, democracy, and the very moral integrity, of the country within which this newspaper group operates.

We have had propagandist who have made freedom fighters out of serial killers and invented causes for their mayhem out of mere effects, but that was all in the name of ‘Peace’. ‘Leader’ being a national newspaper has been consistently extolling the ‘skills’, ‘brilliance’ and ‘virtues’ of tigers and the fact that the Leader group of newspapers was a ‘follower ‘ of Tigers with avowed loyalty to them was not a secret.. But the question is, is it media freedom or down right treachery in helping a fascist organization to takeover this country?

The high point of the Leader group’s loyalty to the LTTE is when it attended the Geneva talks in February. The Leader staff opted to stay in the same block that was reserved for the Tiger delegation, while the hosts had prepared separate accommodation for the Sri Lankan press. Lasantha Wickremetunge was seen raising his thumb every time Anton Balasingham started to address the talks ‘Thumps up’, implying that Balasingham will end up right on top at the talks. It would be a waste of news print and media time to discuss the comments and observations of a person like Anton Balasingham who is the advisor and the propagandist to the most ruthless killer group the world has ever known: but the irony is that the editor of a legitimate newspaper group should stoop down to make himself another tool of propaganda at Anton Balasingham’s disposal just because he has an inveterate hatred towards the Government in power. The question is, is it democracy and press freedom? What is the rationale of this journalism? Getting the tiger to do undemocratically what you could not do with the elephants democratically? Are such people entitled to seek refuge in ‘democracy’ and ‘press freedom’ when their rights are being impinged upon? Is it any surprise that those who cohabit and sleep with tigers should wake up to terrors?

LTTE is an organization where dissent means death and in such a milieu it is inevitable that dissent will manifest in the form of armed opposition. When the Leader newspaper group espoused this philosophy directly and indirectly it stands for the position that dissent should not be tolerated. Is such a group of newspapers entitled to enjoy the civilized protection of “freedom of the press”? Here is a case where some people who could not take any more of the criticism by the Leader group, decided to burn the printing press. If they were in the same mindset, like the LTTE (leader’s mentor), they should eliminate the entire Leader group physically. The leader group should therefore be thankful to the attackers for not being as bad as the LTTE.

The leader group is trying to have the cake and eat it too. They seek to champion terror and anarchy while enjoying the fruits of democracy and press freedom. The Sri Lankan state is also at fault for spawning this situation. If the Tigers were proscribed as in other countries it could have taken legal steps against the Leader Group for eulogizing an organization proscribed in the country. But the proscription was revoked by the previous Wickremesinghe Government for the CFA and even the present Government seems to have compunctions in doing away with the CFA.

Gotabhya Rajapakse, the Defence Secretary recently went on the record saying that he does not read the English papers, because it gets his morale down very badly. To wage an anti terror drive of this magnitude you need a cohesive philosophy and a spirited and dedicated security forces. To dampen the morale of the country’s leaders and the enthusiasm of the forces would be an immense bonus to the enemy. Does anyone expect Churchill to have tolerated Joseph Goebbels operating from London at the height of their war with Germany? So is it that the Leader Group acted in line with their ‘fourth estate’ responsibility but their duty as the ‘fourth estate’ was towards the Elam state of Prabhakaran and not against the state of Sri Lanka?

It is an obvious fact that between Mahinda Rajapakse and V Prabhakaran, Lasanth Wickematunge would prefer Prabhakaran very much more. But the unfortunate thing is if Mahinda Rajapakse was Prabhakaran, he would handled the dissent to his Government just the way Prabhakaran does, in his rogue Elam state.

Now to the question; who may have done this? It is convenient to point a finger at the Government defense establishment because, it had taken place within the limits of the high security zone and, the Leader group has been incessantly critical of the Government Defense establishment.

This criticism is despite the fact that the country’s defenses have improved tremendously compared to what it was two yeas ago? Come to think of it: could that be the very reason why the leader group is critical of the defense establishment?

On the other hand there are thousands of people, Sinhalese and Tamils, who have lost their kith and kin due to this senseless war. When the Sri Lanka security forces alone have lost more than 20,000 members due to the activities of the LTTE, how do you expect them to react towards the LTTE and their patronizes.

According to the ‘Chandrika/ Gehen Perera doctrine’ the fact that 300 Tamils died in the riots of 83 created Prabhakaran with moral license to kill and create mayhem indiscriminately till it suited him. Going by the same logic how many Dutu Gamunu’s do you expect the 20,000 deaths in the Sri Lankan armed forces would have created? And what feelings would those Dutu Gamunu’s having towards the Leader Group who has not only justified and white washed the LTTE activities but also have tried to create a new diplomatic culture for the LTTE?

The other areas of criticism that the Leader group concentrated was the corruption and waste within the Government. Nobody would expect everything to be well with the Government. Even the ordinary man on the road is feeling the heat of the cost of living.

But to take the Government head on in one of the areas that it has recorded success and then to attempt to denigrate it would be a sign of mental imbalance. Writings of some journalist manifest rabid complexes and vanity inherent in the writer. Some writers never see any good even in the best of Governments but the Opposition is always good irrespective of what they do. This is a kind of ‘anti establishment sicknesses. Such non balance reporting would erode the credibility of the paper and when the credibility is thus eroded, who would believe what that newspaper says any more, even if it is truth? This gives the Government the bonus because it could afford to ignore what these agents of hatred are saying. Those who are blind to the physical danger of Prabhakaran can not be so discerning to see the danger in corruption, waste and incompetence.

There is a message in this act even though it is wonton, and that message is to the INGO’s, Religious dignitaries, Putative peace activists and all others who pander the terrorist. “Patronize and pander he LTTE if you must, but remember that you would be doing so at your own peril”. When you sleep with the Tigers, you are bound to be awakening in to horrors!

- Asian Tribune -

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