Declaring war on the media
Yahapalana Prime Minister (PM) in Parliament last week fired a thundering broadside at one of the most potent contributors to the 2015 regime change. The media had stepped out of line since then he alleged. Media, print and electronic, some given singular star rating mention, were poked, trussed, pinned down, excoriated, lambasted and hammered in Parliament.
It was a virtual take no prisoners exercise a la Osama style, except for selected and favoured humbugs. He spoke with his trade mark hands in the pocket style, best seen at Venerable Sobitha’s funeral. Speaking over the heads of MPs, he avoided eye contact as usual.
“I fear the newspapers more than a 100,000 bayonets’ (Napoleon)
It was at once passionate, inspired, tough, replete with trade mark snippets of SL history relevant or not, unforgiving, threatening, fearless - in a style and manner that was never wasted ever on the LTTE at the worst of times. His supporters were mesmerized but unsure whether to thump the tables or just gape at him in reverential awe. Was this a Yahapalana battle - the PM of SL v the media, with no holds barred? Was the media the real enemy or was it frustration at the many contradictions now pouring out of the non performing Yahas themselves that had tweaked him?
The PM waxed eloquent. Apparently SL had the best police force in ‘Asia’ long ago. No one knows when or who was second best or who were in the selected list. Were China, Japan, Philippines, (American colony) Indonesia (Dutch East Indies colony) or Vietnam (then French and called Indo China) or Royal Thailand considered or was this a strictly Empire Games twister with only India’s incorrigibly notorious, abysmally corrupt force competing and with Burma also running? The SL police are today streets ahead of such competition. Was this a specious finding of the British, SL’s colonial master for 150 years? The same British who had attempted genocide of the Sinhalese in 1818 in Wellassa in front of British commanding officers eating their breakfast of bacon and eggs. In 1915 the British declared martial law and shot natives at will at the crack of dawn. No wonder they coined a phrase ‘I’ll have your guts for breakfast’.
The PM also said SL had a super judiciary, once .He wanted to know (from no one in particular or was it from all) what happened ever since to both. No one answered. That happens when he asks questions from his ‘golayas’ (followers), some of who thump tables, undecidedly and gently, not knowing what they should do to show approval.
After spending nearly 40 years in Parliament and being PM 3 times, it is great pity he does not know what happened. Not only to the police and the whole judicial system but to the entire government service during both his salad and also ‘achcharu’ Front days in the 68 years since independence. Has he forgotten the 600 policemen shot in cold blood by the LTTE in the East 1990? They had been ordered by the government in which he was a Minister to surrender in order to keep the pretence of a murderous peace alive. This heinous crime has still not been judicially reviewed. Does he believe the sacrifice of 600 hapless men who had to dig their own graves before they were shot had no effect on the people and Police service thereafter? Did he implore the heavens or at least the West then? Did he protest, show dissent, anger or sorrow? Did he?
Does he not remember as a new MP and junior minister what happened in the late 1970s to the judges of the Supreme Court? Their houses were stoned by government hired reconvicted criminals for entering a verdict against the Kollupitiya police that had beaten up Mrs. Vivienne Goonewardene the septuagenarian nearly blind, former MP, wife of a former Minister. She had protested some American global misdemeanour? Why did the police act as they did? Maybe uncle ‘Yankee Dickey’ had the answers.
The PM still added that he wished ‘to investigate the Police’. Has he not heard of his own state minister who when pulled up by the police for breaking the law, called the sergeant a drunkard and wanted him punished. So much for ‘investigations’.
The PM said ‘politicians (meaning MR’s people which then included many in Yahapalana now) got the police and army to kill people’. Does he remember the JVP insurgency of 1989-90 when he was a Minister and 60,000 Sinhala youth were selectively murdered, many as a result of government MPs chits given to police and army officers to ‘destroy’ them? All in one year. Did the PM expect the police and judiciary to be the same (best in Asia?) after these cataclysmic events? Was Rip van Winkle a Dutch Burgher then?
The PM, with reference to the death of a Sinhalese youth after police intervention at Embilipitiya in January 2016 had the media cornered on the ropes for relentlessly criticizing the conduct of the police. This included accusations of murder. Arrests of policemen have since been made. Why did criticism of alleged murder by the police now galvanize the PM? Was ‘Yahapalanaya’ losing the police too?
Almost as a justifiable comparison or else to put the ‘hunters’ as he calls his critics, off the scent, he reminded MPs (one of whom being the Minster of Education believes Napoleon lost the battle of Waterloo in 1915 during WW2) about how the gun toting US police killed a ‘black’ youth at Ferguson in 2014. In 2015 US police killed 1135 people, mainly African American and almost all unarmed. The PM didn’t mention that nor did the mesmerized if not dozing ‘supportive’ parliamentarians ask. He went on to say the UK police also shot and killed someone last year in UK. He didn’t mention Modi’s India. There, 6 inspectors killed a total of 432 with one Inspector Sharma alone killing 112.In 2015, 20 wood cutters in Andhra Pradesh were killed while in 1987, 42 Muslims were killed in the Hashimpura massacre. An innocent Brazilian, Menezes, apparently mistaken for a terrorist was shot in the head 7 times at London’s Notting Hill tube station in 2005. The UK Police trained by the SAS used hollow point bullets which are unlawful in war. Menezes face was unrecognizable. What is the connection to SL? Should SL police be compared with Western police forces adapt at shooting citizens often very selectively. SL Police whatever their faults, are not selective of race/colour (western) and caste/community (Indian). Except when it comes to ruling politicians.
It was a welcome move to know that the government will not ‘betray’ the Army. Whether the public or the army believes that is left to be seen. Dear ‘Jon’ (Ch4) appeared not to when he interviewed the PM. The Special Forces long range troops were exposed and decimated by the actions of an errant police inspector in cahoots with the government media, electronic especially, when he was PM for the second time in 2001. Earlier when he was a Minister, President Premadasa secretively gifted weapons ammo, cash and cement to the LTTE. Apparently and foolishly to help the LTTE to fight the IPKF, an ally of SL then. If the ‘war’ took tens of thousands lives more and 2 decades longer to end, a major part of the reason can be traced to this unforgiveable villainy. It meant another 12,000 soldiers and 50,000 civilians died consequently. Who remembers any minister or government MP raising even a finger to protest Premadasa’s treachery?
Then there was the period of infamy when his party MPs, shockingly and bewilderingly dismayed by the victories of the Army at Killinochchi and Elephant Pass in 2009 as the end game beckoned, ridiculed and mocked the forces in parliament. They questioned whether the victorious battles were not at Madawachchi and Grand Pass in Colombo! Did any other country when it was fighting for survival have any MPs like this? One even compared the soldiers to cattle. He like the others survives, thrives and hovers around the PM. Only in SL. The PM himself set the miserable mood when he derisively mocked the recapturing of Thoppigala in the Eastern jungles in 2008. He referred to it as a bit of insignificant tree covered area. Even the IPKF of now nuclear armed India, were repulsed many times there. Did the PM or the other rotten MPs at least grieve for the gallant dead of the Army?
The PM launched himself especially at 2 members of the media who have no right of reply. There was talk of someone being a frog and another devil. Was it not his uncle who introduced him to calling humans various animals when he condemned university students in the late 1970s? Did the PM call someone else another animal recently too. Croaking like this does indicate a frustrated soul.
The PM then went viral and challenged his critics from among the ‘hunters’ as he called them, to confront him. Like in the film ‘High Noon’. “Exciting”, like it was for UK Secretary Swire visiting Jaffna. It was Eartha Kitt, singer, dance, cabaret star extraordinary of whom Orson Welles said”she is the most exciting woman in the world” that said ‘Englishmen need time’.
The PM said for every one person they brought to the confrontation, he would bring 10,000. Yes this was the Yahapalana PM, second most powerful man in SL to the C in C. Here he was, throwing down the gauntlet to the hapless media yet feared by some, for a physical show down. In 1977 his uncle President JRJ did something similar. He challenged the Tamils, not the terrorists, to wage war. Only SL knows the cost of that ill advised remark. Was the PM as usual a silent Junior Minister then?
In 1983, Colombo attempted national suicide under the same JRJ government as mobs allegedly and remotely controlled by Ministers beginning with Colombo no less committed horrific mayhem on a hitherto unknown scale, island wide, less the North and East. The LTTE reaped what the UNP sowed with its juggernaut 5/6th parliamentary majority, then manifesting itself as marauding mobs or ‘goondas’, moving with blitzkrieg speed. Hundreds of thousands fled SL, while unforgiving thousands joined the LTTE. Those who fled included hundreds of the best professionals SL had. Most made up the formidable ‘Diaspora’ that provided skilled propaganda and international publicity and huge funds for the LTTE. They also gave solid vote banks for Western politicians and skilled services to their lands of refuge.
Western and Indian politicians tightened the screws on SL .They even had the audacity to tell the SL government to stop its final offensive in 2009. The Diaspora emboldened by the Yahapalana pitch and the West’s (‘whole world’ for SL now) kisses of death, bay for Sinhala Buddhist blood. They know that today the new meaning of ‘reconciliation’ is to crucify the military heroes and attempt to reverse the result of the war.
Who remembers the PM, then a Minister, speaking with the same passionate fervor on HR, media and laws of war as he does today? JRJ wrongly but freely quoting Caesar instead of Cicero with no fear of contradiction as now, said ‘in times of war, the laws are silent’ to justify criminal acts beginning with the lifting of the habeas corpus act in Jaffna in 1979.This allowed his nephew, the Jaffna Security Force Commander, given powers to bypass the Commander of the Army, to set the stage for 1983. National agony for 26 years followed. There were 100, 000 deaths. Cries of genocide have been raised again.SL was in 1983 onwards called a ‘pariah’ state - at least by the PM’s ‘whole world’ (West and white).According to the PM SL, is today the darling of the same ‘Whole world’. All in the PM’s political strides.
Can anyone who preferred to keep silent when the best and most renowned Tamil library in the world was burned to the ground in Jaffna in 1981, speak of reconciliation, and break down of the judicial system or the faults of an independent and free media? Of course they can in SL as no one is guilty when in power and amnesia is a congenital disease. It is selectively so.
The PM it is assumed for some obviously high level governance or security reason, but which completely baffled many, kicked in about not allowing a Buddharakitha or Somarama (B or S) to ‘rise’ again. Both are dead. Few would know or remember either well, if at all? So why resurrect them? They were Buddhist priests in any case. The former was a co conspirator in the assassination of PM SWRD Bandaranayke (1960) while the other was the man who shot and killed SWRD. What did the PM infer? Did he mean to warn off national minded Buddhist priests in general or just the BBS leader? Why was he not direct? Why did he not also say SL can’t afford to allow another Velupillai Prabakaran to rise or ‘Rev’ Emmanuel the GTF agitator to rouse communal hatred again? Does he know that 11 countrymen have gone to join ISIL? What is the threat that resurrecting B or S constitute? Is it to the nation or his party?
The PM wanted to assure the public that there was no difference in opinion on Geneva. He interpreted the President’s contradictory statements accordingly. The PM’s ‘whole world’ (West and white) thinks otherwise. He then flung in “We have not signed the ‘Rome Statute”. He corrected it to”I have not signed the Rome Statute”. What was the confusion between ‘we’ and ‘I’? Is it the same confusion between him and the President on Geneva?
The PM once promised the youth chewing gum and gold chains the next time at election time. The youth had not asked for it. Before the 2005 election he told the Southerners who asked for the rail extension to Kataragama from Matara that he is for expanding only the road networks. However railway extensions are being planned merrily on ‘selective’ routes today. Last year he promised Volkswagen (VW) cars made in SL for all at 2.6 million bucks. Meanwhile VW is being accused of massive cheating. VW was Herr Hitler’s Peoples car. This provoking selective fire on B or S ghosts complements his prowess for broadcasting inanities.
Take it like a man PM. Leaders do not threaten. Threatening the media or journalists selectively or otherwise will surely boomerang. It is good for all politicians to remember “Journalism can crush any man” (William Hurst).
‘Mirror Mirror on the wall is the Island, Nation or Derana the blackest of them all?’
- Asian Tribune -