By Malinda Seneviratne –
When a journalist calls someone to obtain opinion about a non-issue, i.e. something that did not happen but is said to have been about to happen, it is not illegitimate, except of course that one would think that there are happened-things that ought to be focused on. When it is done (and this is pretty clear in the case at hand, i.e. regarding a conversation with the Defence Secretary) with a view to provoke and the non-issue is dropped while the outcome of provocation is highlighted, it is still legitimate. It is also pathetic.
Gotabhaya Rajapaksa can import a puppy. He can import and elephant if he wants to. If it is legal and if he has the money, that is. There is an element of extravagance here that will not be applauded, but that’s his baby. When pinched to the point of exasperation, he blinked and that’s sad, especially one who did not flinch at the invective leveled against him when he took on the LTTE.
It is now clear that he had nothing to do with any of the plans (which did not materialize) that the said journalist referred to. He was therefore hounded in a manner unbecoming of a senior journalist and he blew his top, in a manner unbecoming of a senior official.
Naturally the exchange has provoked a lot of response, including expressions of horror about media personnel being threatened. The ‘horrified’ are the usual suspects, many whose sensibilities were tough enough to take in horror-creation by the LTTE. Among them, the most amusing in fact, is Paikiasothy Saravanamuttu. The man is upset by the use of foul language. Fair enough. He says he has called for Gotabhaya’s resignation on three occasions. Laughable. Saravanamuttu, a known apologist for the LTTE and a happy receiver of stolen goods (robbed from his outfit by fellow LTTE-whitewasher Sunanda Deshapriya), can’t afford to talk. His hand-in-glove operations with LTTE supporters abroad is well documented. So when this anti Sri Lankan ‘Sri Lankan’ seeks to speak on behalf of the public, saying that we should not pay Gotabhaya’s salary, it is funny.
He goes on to say ‘Ms Jansz’s fellow editors have yet to rise to her support and in condemnation of this chilling exchange’. Well, sorry Ms. Jansz. And Mr. Defence Secretary, this was uncalled for; you should know better than to waste your breath and if you do decide to breathe this is not the way, not because Ms. Jansz is a journalist but because she is a citizen, regardless of history, political loyalties and complicity in projects that have facilitated the principal enemy of the people, the LTTE. You are out of order, Mr. Defence Secretary and ‘heat of the moment’ is not excuse enough, ‘I was provoked’ is not enough although we do understand and sympathize. We know you are made of sterner stuff; it is beneath you, anyway, to even bother to respond to each and every pipsqueak who wants to chit-chat with you over nothing. And sorry also, Ms. Jansz, very sorry, I can’t say ‘hurray’ about the ‘professionalism’ displayed by you. Happy, Sara?
If people are ‘upset’ by my reluctance to pat Jansz on her back and howl with her or on her behalf, here’s some background.
When the Athurugiriya safe house used by the Sri Lanka Army Military Intelligence Corps was exposed on January 2, 2002, she quickly moved into action. Although the then Commander of the Army clearly stating that the military intelligence team in question was engaged in covert operations and the Director of Military Intelligence confirming the fact, she went right ahead and exposed all the members engaged in the operations. Neither those ‘exposed’ nor their families whined and screamed that their lives were in danger. They did not seek protection in Western embassies. The LTTE hit squads eliminated almost all of them. Now that’s the outcome of ‘responsible journalism’ I suppose. Frankly, it is sickening.
Back to Saravanamuttu. Towards the end of his rant, he loses it totally (well, it’s not that he has not lost it all a long time ago, I admit). He begs the people to stand up and condemn and get Gotabhaya to resign. He’s saying ‘I really don’t know why on earth you people are not getting it!’ He begs for ‘a groundswell of public opinion calling for his resignation or removal’ Mr. Know-All is preaching to the ‘ignorant’ now.
His friends abroad and in Colombo’s little clubs where non Sri Lankans actually think Saravanamuttu knows anything about anything ought to read this particular missive (in the Daily Mirror) again and again. It proves one thing: He doesn’t have a clue about how Sri Lankans think and act.
He has strutted around as though he is actually a representation of a sizable segment of the public, simply by tagging himself ‘civil society’. A bunch of party-goers in Colombo cannot speak for the rest of us. They speak for themselves, even as they assume to speak for us. This is why there is dismay and not horror about Gotabhaya blasting Jansz. It will not generate groundswell. And the more the likes of Saravanamuttu demand ‘groundswell’ the less likely that it will materialize, simply because objectors are pretty circumspect about what kind of fellow-objectors they will stand with.
Here’s Saravanamuttu’s parting shot: ‘Even if we cannot transform the ugly and nasty in our midst, we must surely recognise it for such’. I think Saravanamuttu wrote the piece sitting in front of a mirror. Now that certainly deserves a ‘hurrah!’