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Asian Tribune is published by World Institute For Asian Studies|Powered by WIAS Vol. 12 No. 2856

Ranjan’s Recordings: who on earth is the butt of the joke?

Hemantha Yapa Abeywardena writes from London...

The voice recordings that do the rounds on the internet, which allegedly to have been made by Ranjan Ramanayke, the actor-turned parliamentarian, play into the hands of the cynical public of Sri Lanka, while enforcing the skewed perception that they hold about the institutions in question.

Although the authenticity of the recordings has been called into question by the parties directly involved in the saga, most likely on the advice of their respective legal teams, the task appears to be much harder than they think, as the technology for voice analysis is not rocket science any more.

There are plenty of tools that are available online for the purpose, especially with the aid of AI – artificial intelligence – that take into account the pitch and volume of the voice to be analysed, using highly-reliable algorithms.

Even YouTube can do an impeccable job, if the authenticity of the voices needs to be analysed. The video publishing platform is no stranger to this form of challenges, as it has to deal with thousands of complaints about copyright violations on daily basis.

In short, the affected parties do not have to wait until the Government Analyst performs the job – or declines on the grounds of lack of resources.

Leaving aside the technology, there is no match for the potential of the human ears, when it comes to making a distinction between a real voice and that of a fake one.

In this context, even a descending messiah from thin air will not be able to reverse the perceptions of those who listened to – and enjoyed in doing so – the recordings on the social media, which is spreading like Australian bush fire, causing panic, uncertainty, embarrassment and even potential death.

Although we expect the big players, who inadvertently got caught in the recordings, of high integrity, superior morals and exemplary behaviour, it’s clear that they are no different from the rest of us, when the veneer of authority is slightly misplaced by a breeze of human vulnerability.

They have their own grievances, complaints and of course, ambitions too, despite the artificial inhibitions imposed by the rules of the roles they play. There is no better person to open the sluice gates of emotions than a professional actor with an infectious charm.

Mr Ramanayake may know why he kept recording the conversations that he had with his dear and near ones; perhaps, even he might not know why he did that, because there is no evidence to support the notion that it was for blackmailing; in fairness to him, judging by what has been leaked so far, he doesn’t appear to be a person of that calibre; nor does he appear to be a threatening person by nature.

He, however, seems to be a great charmer when it comes to getting closer to women; they trusted him and laid bare souls without knowing that highly sensitive chats had been recorded while leaving them in the dark – and now in lurch.

As the recordings are being released in dribs and drabs, those who claim to be on the moral high ground portray – and demonize - Mr Ramanayake as the only parliamentarian who tends to resort to using expletive-filled language while flirting with women closer to him, implying those who did not record their corresponding conversations were whiter than white.

By extension of this argument, they further imply that the actor is the only politician ever to have influenced the powerful of the institutions under spotlight in the past, simply because there are no digital footprints to say otherwise.

Our incompetent politicians are obsessed with amending the constitution as if it was the magic wand in order to address the burning issues faced by the public. Yet, the calamitous state of affairs that came to light through the recordings of Mr Ramanayke actually took place, while the independent commissions, brought about by the latest amendment, were supposed to keep an eye on the functions of the major institutions.

All in all, what the recordings highlight seems to be just the tip of the iceberg; the butt of the jokes is the general public, not the characters caught up in the conversations in the middle of the night in shortened attires, glorifying what is not covered.

It’s high time the public looked through a different prism, when it comes to choosing the folks to represent them, if they really want to change the status quo. Until then, endless constitutional amendments will do very little to keep the ugly spectacle of abuse of power at bay.

- Asian Tribune -

Ranjan’s Recordings:  who on earth is the butt of the joke?
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