A “Mervyn Silva” in Yahapalanaya

When yahapalanaya threatens

Island Editorial

We thought journalists would be able to carry out their duties without let or hindrance when the likes of Mervyn Silva were relegated to the political dustbin about two and a half years ago. But, worryingly, there are some self-proclaimed yahapalana politicians who are of the same ilk as Mervyn, within the ministerial ranks of the present government, troubling the media.

On Wednesday, Minister of Tourism Promotion and Christian Affairs John Amaratunga laid bare his true face following a meeting with a group of irate members of the public, who protested against the dumping of Colombo’s municipal waste near their homes in Wattala. Visibly infuriated, Amaratunga trotted out some lame excuses for allowing the rotting garbage to be shifted to his electorate. Then came a curve ball from a journalist and all hell broke loose. Amaratunga lost his temper and launched into a tirade. There was no carpet around. Else, he would definitely have bitten it.

A video of the incident shows Amaratunga, in a fearful rage, hurling raw filth at journalists and approaching one of them menacingly at his Wattala party office. He threatens to beat them all much to the amusement of his hangers-on, who laugh fawningly. Their asinine giggling must have gone through any reasonable person’s brain like a railroad spike. Emboldened by his lackeys’ servile reaction, the minister continues to vent his spleen on the media. Taking his cue from the minister, a bodyguard snarls at the beleaguered journalist while a policeman tries to remove the media personnel to safety. (Codgers like this john, malik and marapona are a disgrace to yahapalanaya.  Sensible Youngestrs like Canada’s Justin or France’s Macron must emerge to salvage Sri Lanka.  Germany’s Angela, though old, is indeed a visionary -TW)

This is what happens to politicians when power goes to their heads; they take leave of their senses. It is the arrogance of power that brought down the Rajapaksa government. The present dispensation is also heading for disaster.

A journalist is neither above nor below anyone else. Anyone’s right to be critical of the media or journalists cannot be questioned. Instances of misreporting and breach of media ethics, intrusion of privacy etc are not uncommon. In short, the media is not infallible—far from it. However, legal remedies are available for the aggrieved parties when journalists err or overstep their limits or even act maliciously. Threatening journalists or attacking them is not the way. Under successive governments messengers have come under brutal attacks. Journalists were attacked or even killed and media institutions set on fire under the Kumaratunga and Rajapaksa governments. The JRJ and Premadasa regimes were also characterised by numerous crimes against the media. The yahapalana government came to power, promising to protect journalists and media freedom. But, it seems to follow Machiavelli, who said, “The promise given was a necessity of the past; the word broken is a necessity of the present.”

If the government thinks it can cover up its inefficiency, incompetence and failure to deliver on its promises by flaying or attacking the media, it is mistaken. The yahapalana administration ought to stop barking up the wrong tree and get its act together.

A journalist has a right to raise questions and demand answers thereto from anyone who holds public office. If that right is denied to him or her he or she will be no better than a clerk or a stenographer. Are the so-called yahapalana leaders, too, bent on emasculating the media and reducing journalists to mere putty in their hands?

The government boasts of having introduced the Right to Information Act. It, no doubt, deserves praise for doing so. But, of what use is such a constitutional guarantee when its ministers threaten to beat journalists to death on being asked difficult questions?

The yahapalana regime consists of politicians representing the SLFP and the UNP. Both these parties have a history of harming journalists. They have held ministerial posts in governments responsible for killing journalists though they are now pretending to be paragons of virtue. Depending on them to protect media freedom and journalists is like banking on butchers to protect cattle!

Thank you Minister Amaratunga for having let the public know yahapalanaya for what it really is!

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