Politics in the name of patriotism
By Dilrukshi Handunnetti
Lambasting The Sunday Leader and its Editor comes
naturally to JVP Parliamentary Group Leader Wimal
Weerawansa. He does it often and with great finesse,
making maximum use of the parliamentary privileges he
As an advocator of media freedom, Weerawansa if nothing
else has been consistent with regard to the allegations he
makes against the paper, insisting that The Sunday Leader
is soft on the LTTE as well as Norwegian facilitators. In
doing so, he is not too concerned about the factual errors in
his utterances, but no matter.
On other things like the talks venue and the Cease Fire
Agreement (CFA) he has been much less consistent.
It was the residue of that same ancient battle that became
evident as he made a statement of national importance last
Tuesday (7) morning, which was nothing but a waspish
attack on the newspaper's credibility at which point he urged
the authorities "to rethink whether the newspaper should be
allowed to continue."
Urging stringent action against the publication of a report
submitted by the LTTE during Geneva talks on the
paramilitaries, Weerawansa claimed that some names of
intelligence officers and EPDP activists have been included
in the list, placing their lives at grave risk. Weerawansa
perceived that The Sunday Leader had a history of
compromising national security in a bid assist the separatist
cause, and worked hand in glove with the Norwegians to
help the Tigers achieve their goal.
There was no comparison possible to his fertile imagination
as he made sweeping statements and wild allegations
against the newspaper. In a bid to impute killer motive, he
said, "They published details of Kadirgamar's house and
weakened the security of his home, then character
assassinated him and finally assassinated him." He declared
thus knowing fully well a statement of that seriousness could
only be made in parliament under the full cover of privilege
where MPs can prance like monkeys in heat and make any
allegations as none could reply.
Next, he demanded that the Norwegians be removed from
the peace process forthwith, something he had recalled
rather late. Just before the Geneva talks, the JVP went into
silent mode and did not dabble in Norway bashing. Now that
Norway had laid the red carpet for the Tigers which
Weerawansa is thoroughly irked about, he appears to be
back to square one.
During the day's debate on the Electronic Transactions Bill,
it was UNP Parliamentarian Dayasiri Jayasekera who picked
holes in Weerawansa's argument. He challenged the
government to investigate the real issue - as to who
furnished information for the Liberation Tigers to produce a
comprehensive report on the paramilitaries operating in the
north east who function allegedly with state assistance.
Jayasekera insinuated that the same "mole" who leaked the
information to the LTTE on the paramilitaries might have
faxed Weerawansa's enraged speech. What is more, the
danger might be coming from within. He refuted
Weerawansa's outlandish charge that the The Sunday
Leader had compromised national security in publishing a
document that had already been submitted by the LTTE in
Geneva for appropriate government action.
He thought it was funny to have patriotism dripping from
Weerawansa's carefully maintained moustache against an
allegedly treacherous act whereas the truth would be some
government informant had provided the sensitive
information to the LTTE. "That is worthy of investigation," he
"There was no need to attribute bad motives to the
newspaper for placing the report in the public domain.
There is no question of breaching national security when
the LTTE is already in possession of the information with
which a comprehensive report had been produced and
presented in Geneva. Instead of fighting petty battles, the
government should investigate into the manner in which the
information was leaked," Jayasekera charged.
Wednesday's topic was the National Enterprise
Development Authority Bill which was presented by
Spokesman, government peace delegation, and extremely
controversial Minister Rohitha Bogollagama.
Naturally, there was more interest in the peace initiative but
Bogollagama not wishing to open the floodgates to criticism
perhaps both on the initiative as well as his much written
about Geneva conduct, wanted all queries to be written and
sent across for answer. Nobody had such scholastic interest
and naturally there were no answers.
The other man who held sway during the week was UNP's
Ravi Karunanayake. He flitted from the economy to the JVP
and to peace talks but managed to thread the arguments to
Commending the bill, he said that the only drawback was the
existence of bloodthirsty political parties like the JVP. "They
are nothing but wolves in sheeps' clothing," he said,
referring to the Marxist extremists who have stood in the way
where peace and economic advancement were concerned.
Urging the government to alienate parties with extreme
views in a bid to progress, he said that prices were
escalating but there was not a hum from the red brethren,
now comfortable riding the political high horse.
Karunanayake also observed that there were two ways to
attack a country's economy - through the bullet and the
ballot. The JVP bullet efforts have not been successful but
through the ballot they have got elected and set this country
on a path of no return.
When hearing no noises from the JVP ranks, the MP
innocently suggested, "According to the JVP theory, talks
should be held within Sri Lanka. Perhaps, they preferred
Kotte as the next venue?"
Stifling the media
Next, Karunanayake said that the JVP was also stifling the
media. "There was no need for the reds to criticise the
publication of a report that had already been made public,"
he said, referring to the LTTE report on paramilitary groups.
To this point, Media Minister Anura Priyadarshana Yapa
protested that Karunanayake was whitewashing and Minister
Rohitha Bogollagama also added his two cents, saying that
the issue was very grave.
As for JVP's Sunil Handunnetti who spoke thereafter,
Karuna-nayake's comments were not worthy of reply as they
"stemmed from pure jealousy for a political party that has
come a long way."
Karunanayake was also to say that parties that claimed the
CFA compromised national security and was against the
constitution had now agreed to respect and uphold it raising
questions as to who was really endangering national
And so the proceedings ended with the next scheduled
meeting being on March 21. In the meantime, it is up to the
JVP to more vociferously campaign for the stifling of media
institutions that fail to toe their line. [The Sunday Leader]