Politicians are a peculiar lot. They think no end of themselves and never own up to their lapses. Of them, one may say, with apologies to Bernard Shaw, those who can, do, and those who can’t, bash the media. Politicians who are capable of living up to people’s expectations can be counted on the fingers of one hand. Hence, we often have most of those at the levers of power venting their spleens on journalists to cover up their failures which are legion.
Yahapalana leaders seem to believe in their own false propaganda. Having failed to make good on their election promises, they are now trying to have the frustrated public believe that the situation is peachy-keen, but the media are all out to paint a bleak picture of it.
President Maithripala Sirisena has recently faulted the electronic and print media for ‘negative reporting’ and ‘attempts to increase their ratings or circulation at the expense of the government and its development programme’. He is entitled to his opinion, but the messenger should not be blamed for the message.
The government has, under its control, a publishing house, television channels and radio stations to praise its leaders; its propagandists, credit where credit is due, are doing an excellent job with no heed for their credibility where singing hosannas is concerned. So, why should the government leaders worry about the independent media which tell them what they don’t want to hear?
President Sirisena needs to be told that the media cannot be expected to report on the Moragahakanda reservoir being flooded, on a daily basis. Ceremonies to launch road construction projects are held frequently, but no road has got built so far. The yahapalana leaders, before the last general election, promised the people of Kurunegala a Volkswagen factory, but that has become pie in the sky. Crafty local businessmen are making the most of the government’s yen for dollars to tide it over and putting various crooked deals through. Some of them have already obtained vast extents of state-owned land for a song on the pretext of launching mega factories to bring in foreign exchange.
The yahapalana leaders also took the youth for a ride before the last two elections by pledging to create one million job opportunities. The cost of living has gone into the stratosphere. A coconut sells at Rs. 85 and a kilo of rice at Rs. 100.00 or more. Only the super rich can afford the luxury of eating rice with pol sambol three times a day! Corruption is rampant among government politicians and their bureaucrats. Sri Lanka’s ranking on the global Corruption Perception Index 2016 has dropped to 95 from 83 in 2015. The government is all out to cover up the biggest ever financial fraud in the country—the Central Bank bond scam—and this may be the main reason for the sharp drop in the country’s corruption perception index rankings. Officials are hounded out of their jobs for exposing mega rackets. The recent sacking of Chairman of the state-owned Lanka Coal Company, Maithri Gunaratne, is a case in point. Such an intrepid official would have been rewarded in any other country for blowing the lid off a mega racket and trying to save a great deal of public funds. Ruling politicians menacingly heap abuse on upright state officials like the Auditor General in public in a bid to intimidate them. Nepotism continues and police steer clear of government politicians and their backers. No media organisation worth its salt can ignore the seamier side of yahapalanaya.
If the government fulfils its pre-election promises to bring economic relief to the masses, eliminate bribery and corruption, restore the rule of law, create one million jobs and launch development projects then the media will be without anything negative to report on. They will be left with no alternative but to write sunshine stories and President Sirisena will be able to watch TV, listen to radio and read newspapers without seeing red.