31 October, 2020

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And The Beatings Go On

By Kath Noble

Kath Noble

The Government is getting really good at denying responsibility for attacks on the media. Within hours of the incident at the Uthayan office in Jaffna on Saturday, its spokesman had issued a several hundred word statement claiming that it was an ‘inside job’. How’s that for efficiency? If only it put a fraction of that energy into finding proof of its imaginative theories, we might actually be convinced.

Unfortunately, it has not been able to identify the culprits in even one previous case, although there have been many.

That is what I would describe as an ‘interesting phenomenon’.

The statement claims to have spotted a rather different ‘interesting phenomenon’. It says that Uthayan is the only newspaper to have faced harassment in the ‘recent past’, which it suggests is odd because Uthayan is owned by a TNA parliamentarian who is ‘actively campaigning against the Government and the Military in the North and East’.

The first point to note is that unless one adopts a very narrow definition of the phrase ‘recent past’, this is simply not true. Faraz Shauketaly of The Sunday Leader was shot less than two months ago. Less than six months before that, the editor of the same newspaper, Frederica Jansz, left the country claiming that she was under threat, having had a run-in with the Defence Secretary. And before that, it was the turn of Lanka-e-News. Its office in Colombo was attacked by arsonists, and its news editor Bennet Rupasinghe and a journalist Shantha Wijesuriya were both jailed for a time. Its editor, Sandaruwan Senadheera, also fled the country. Cartoonist Prageeth Ekneligoda‘s disappearance took place just three years ago. That all seems like ‘recent past’ to me.

But let’s concentrate on the last few weeks.

In that period, Uthayan has indeed suffered disproportionately – it has been attacked twice. On April 3rd, an armed gang trashed vehicles and computer equipment at its distribution centre in Kilinochchi, in the process injuring four members of staff. Then came the attack of April 13th at its Jaffna headquarters. This time the security guards fled and the armed gang set fire to the printing press and a stack of newspapers awaiting delivery.

That is certainly curious.

Even more peculiar is that it is not only the newspaper owned by a TNA parliamentarian that has suffered. The TNA itself has also come under attack. On March 30th, a mob of about 50 people threw stones at a public meeting organised by TNA MPs in Kilinochchi. Several participants were injured. However, they managed to capture one of the assailants and hand him over to the police, who were supposedly providing security for what was a pre-approved event. He was identified as a member of the CID. Photographs and even a video of the attack was made available to the authorities, but the man was released. No arrests have been made to date.

This was clearly no ‘inside job’.

In other words, while the TNA is ‘actively campaigning against the Government and the Military in the North and East’, somebody has been attacking the TNA. That is the second point to note.

Point number three concerns another ‘interesting phenomenon’. Until the last few weeks, Uthayan had not come under attack since the first half of 2011. On March 16th of that year, a police constable entered its premises and threatened the staff, saying that he would set fire to the building. On April 7th, the Jaffna Mayor declared that the newspaper would not be allowed within the confines of the municipal council and issued instructions not to give any advertisements or news to Uthayan. On April 29th, a reporter was beaten up on assignment at Jaffna University. On May 28th, another reporter was attacked on his way to work near the Jaffna Hindu College playgrounds. On June 16th, a photographer was attacked at a TNA meeting. On July 5th, the TNA parliamentarian owner of Uthayan received a death threat over the phone. On July 29th, the news editor was seriously injured in an assault on his way home near the Navalar Road Army camp. However, from then until the end of 2012, Uthayan was challenged only in court, according to a list that the newspaper has circulated.

And the last elections in the Northern Province were in July 2011.

Given that there is supposed to be a poll in September this year, the attacks on Uthayan would seem to be part of a very established pattern of election violence.

If the Government expects us to believe that it is not responsible, it has only to arrest the culprits and ensure that no further incidents take place. With thousands of soldiers roaming around the Northern Province, this really shouldn’t be too difficult.

The credibility of the election depends on it.

Of course, for that to be a problem for the Government, the poll must actually happen.

In the last few weeks, key personalities have been suggesting that it would be better not to have a provincial council in the Northern Province. Gotabhaya Rajapaksa told The Island that a hostile administration could be ‘inimical to the post-war national reconciliation process’, and a whole lot of his hangers-on have been agreeing, in quite exhausting detail.

Bizarrely, their argument rests on the assumption that power should only be devolved to one’s supporters.

This may be a reasonable way to run an army, but we are of course talking about a democratic country. Democracy means that elections must be held even when the Government isn’t going to win!

Really ‘inimical to the post-war national reconciliation process’ would be for the Government to cancel the September poll on the basis that the people of the Northern Province want the TNA to form an administration.

To do so would be to justify continued support for Eelam.

What is needed is the exact opposite. The Government must focus its attention on undermining separatism, which means that it must work to show that Tamils can live in Sri Lanka. Fear of a TNA administration is understandable, since the TNA has not done enough to distance itself from the struggle for Eelam. However, even if the TNA wanted a separate state, it could not achieve it alone. It would need the very serious backing of the international community, including India, and while distrust of those countries is natural given their records, we should not forget that they all helped to defeat the LTTE. They know that a return to violence would be devastating, so convincing them that it is not necessary should be pretty easy.

Eelam will be a distant memory if the 13th Amendment is made to work, and letting the TNA run the provincial council would be a very good first step.

Unfortunately, the Government may be more interested in consolidating its own power. Indeed, it might actually be quite happy to see the pro-Eelam struggle reignite, in much the same way as it has directly or indirectly encouraged the anti-Muslim campaign. Neither is good for the country, but they may both help the Government to project itself as a necessary evil – the only administration capable of responding to such threats.

If that is the case, the media had better brace itself for much worse times to come.

*Kath Noble’s column may be accessed via http://kathnoble.wordpress.com/. She may be contacted at kathnoble99@gmail.com.

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Latest comments

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    Kath Noble

    You minutely analyze the statements issued by the government. Very good. Do you similarly examine the contents of Uthayan?

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      @OutRider

      Whatever the content of Uthayan, no mothers son or daughter has the right to burn down presses, media outlets or beat up, maim and kill journalists. Tell us what you think about the content of the Lake House newspapers, Rupavahini, ITN and SLBC? Since some people in SL disagrees with what they say, does it give them the right to burn those places down to the ground? I disagree with the comments of people like Leela, Sumanasekara and a few others who comment in this forum. If I knew who they were and had the power, would that give me the right to burn down their houses?
      There is one thing this government, it’s supporters and racists need to understand. The TNA is here to stay. The Tamils are a majority in the North. If an election is held in September, the Tamils will vote overwhelmingly for the TNA. The only way the governmnet can win is through terror, intimidation and massive rigging.

      Kath Noble says, “Democracy means that elections must be held even when the Government isn’t going to win!” That is something the GOSL and it’s supporters need to understand. It’s that simple.

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        Presi Dunce Bean

        Your overreaction only betrays that you have to agree with the undeniable fact that Uthayan publishes only unadulterated garbage. You are right, the media outlets you have named are supportive of, or biased towards, the government. But the Sinhalese people have access to media that is critical of the government as well so that they can form a balanced opinion of their own. Therefore Uthayan should show journalistic responsibility and stop acting destructively. Tell me the name of one professionally qualified journalist working for Uthayan.

        There is one thing the LTTE rump, TNA and other Tamil racists and their supporters need to understand. The unitary state of Sri Lanka is here to stay. The Jaffna Tamils are a tiny minority (10%) in the country. Any day an overwhelming majority of Sri Lankans will vote against any attempt to weaken the unitary foundation of the state. The only way Tamil ethno-fascists can have their way is through international terror, intervention and massive disinformation.

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          The issue is that Sri lanka is not a unitary state, there would be no problem if it was. As for the TNA, it cannot be grouped with the likes of the ltte and is not an extremist group but one that chooses to seek a workable solution but it is apparent that a workable solution is not the agenda and will never be so unless democracy is re-established and seeds of goodwill are sown from the top.

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    miss noble you like ost people who write this nonsense forget the 3 years ago there was A full scale war going on in our country . may be you have never heard of inside jobs . this is exactly what the LTTE would do and have done for years . are you idiotic why would the military or the govt beat up a tamil news paper and leave them to start crying like babies .

    Havent you heard the TNA does NOT want the 13 th amendment , they want to bitch and moan and hope that somewbody creates a seperate country for them by bitching and moaning that they couldnt get by killing thousands .
    Even if the 13 th amendment is given there should be heavy military presence because with TN politicians and there brethren here there will always be the risk of separatisum .

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      There’s a world outside the well you’re in Abhaya. Sadly, you’re obviously unaware of it.

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    Now threats to attack MTV over some news coverage. This govt seems to thrive on use of thuggery, abduction, coercion. More like a Mafia set up. The Godfathers are well known in this case. While all the siblings sport white aryan and kurakkan shawl, one man out, the ugly duckling who does the dirty work.

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    Kath, Uthayan was not attacked by inimical forces.

    Rather, they attacked themselves several times in a frenzy of self-flagellation.

    Ask Mervyn Silva!

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    The Sri lanka military foot print in the north and Jaffna is so heavy that nothing happens without them! The point is clear, this much militarization is counter-productive on a number of counts – it makes civilians insecure, and clearly blame for violence rests firmly with those who have a monopoly on violence in Jaffna today – the military in collusion with the Rajapakse regime stooge, warlord Devananda.
    The mystery is why the Govt. of India does not pursue the latter’s extradition to face murder charges in Chennai rather than fingering and flirting with the Rajapassa regime.
    Well, well I guess India’s worried that its skeletons will tumble out of the closet along with Rajapassas, Pribakarans and Devanandas once that can of worms is opened – hence the games played in the name of human rights also at the Commonwealth of Clowns (CHOGM to be) headed by an Indio?!

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    The Sri Lankan media really does not need sanctionious meanderings on the problems it faces from this government by someone like K. Noble who was one of its most enthusiastic supporters one upon a time but now funnily, has changed tune!

    These are people who stood aside, who closed their ears, eyes and mouth when the media was terrorised not so long ago. They have no right to preach now. Humbugs.

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    “INSIDE JOB”. This is what the “Media Mogul” of the Defense Ministry said, within hours of the incident in Jffna.

    Do you all remember what he said when the Presidential Advisor was killed in Kolonnawa? He said Duminda Silva was not involved in that incident. What has happened later. Duminda Silva has been declared a “suspect”. It is strange how this man is tolerated at the “helm” of affairs at the Ministry of Defense.

    If I remeber correct, he is a man who has been fined by the Courts. Yet he holds high position in this important Minstry under the President. These type of appointments takes place, I believe, only in Sri Lanka. It is our “MIRACLE”.

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    Terrorism has reared its ugly head again in Boston killing three innocents. One was just eight years old,and he was only cheering his dad.

    Two hundred more innocents were injured with several in a critical condition.

    Srilankan inhabitants mourn these deaths and have great sympathy for the injured and pray for their quick recovery.

    Srilankan inhabitants have been spared this misery for nearly four years now.

    But they have been attacked relentlessly from many fronts for eradicating this same terrorism and creating a peaceful environment.

    The attackers are only interested in how the terrorism was eradicated and not the benefits derived in the form of freedom.and personal security.

    These constant attacks orchestrated and delivered by the anti Govt elements and their Western friends have encouraged the trouble makers with in as well as outside with tendency for terror and some who have been associated with terrorism to come out in the open and threaten to create separation.

    And Kathie reckons uthayan coming under attack by irate Tamils is horrible and the Govt is responsible.

    Hasn’t the Govt got bigger Fish to Fry?,

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      “Terrorism” is not some sort of disease or manifestation that is uniform in characteristics or intent. It is largely a political tool, often used by state and non-state actors, where the features are generally to terrorise innocent non-combatants (unarmed civilians)by causing fear, chaos, destruction and generally undermines the rule of law.

      It is also aimed at publicity that brings attention to a cause (whether the cause is just or not depends on background and history etc). It would perhaps be useful to look at several dictionaries on definitions and applications.

      The nation of Iraq was terrorised by the US/UK military and resulted in the murder of two million innocents. Israel terrorises the subjugated Palestinians daily. 9-11 killed only about 3000 people by contrast. The US terrorises civilians in the Afghan/Pakistani border daily with drone attacks whose victims are mostly children. It is wise to look at these issues with perspective.

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        @Lasantha Pethiyagoda

        …you say,

        The US/UK terrorised Iraq.
        Israel terrorises subjugated Palestinians.
        The US terrorises civilians in the Afghan/Pakistani border.

        …now how come you left out the GOSL and armed forces who terrorise Tamils in the North and East. How come you did not mention that successive governments and their proxies since independence have terrorised the Tamils and from time to time the Christians and Muslims?

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      ‘But they have been attacked relentlessly from many fronts “for eradicating this same terrorism and creating a peaceful environment”.’
      WHAT???
      You are joking aren’t you?

      It isn’t for ‘attacking terrorism’ mate! Its about the way that it was done that endangered and killed too many innocent CIVILIANS who were strategically placed in the middle by BOTH SIDES. The one side was a ‘terrorist’ group (clue is in the name incase it isn’t obvious to you) question is what was the other…
      And there wouldn’t be an issue if there was indeed a ‘peaceful environment’. There are people who have lost life, limb, the will to live out there. But you? You’re simply heartless.

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    How come you have not touched on this aspect:-

    lankaenews.com/English/news.php?id=13644

    The truth is not known only to K.Rambukwela in S.Lanka!

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    In due course a Catastrophe is Inevitable in Sri Lanka!

    Is this Mettha, what Buddha preached about?

    Sri Lankans have never learnt a lesson after ending a bloody war with Tamils! Now they want war like the crusaders did, in the name of Buddha-asana! Now with other fronts, Muslims and Christians!!

    Buddhist Jihad is attacking Christians in Sri Lanka.
    The Christian churches around Sri Lanka are being attacked as never before.
    Yesterday at least two churches were attacked by the Bodu Bala Senava (Buddhist Power Force) and their racial wing.
    Today at least two house churches were forced to close down due to the pressure from BBS.
    Here is a list of few churches attacked by BBS in the recent past.

    1) 9th March-Batticaloa- unidentified people burned down the church of Ps Gajendran at 2am.
    2) Last week a mob led by monks had gone in to the Gethsemane Church in Hikkaduwa and threatened and asked them to stop the meetings.
    3) On 17th Sunday a mob led by monks had gone in to the Brethren Church in Agalawatte and threatened them to stop the meetings.
    4) On 17th Sunday 4Monks with a cameraman had gone to the Margaya Fellowship Church at Sevanapitiya in Polonnaruwa and accused the Pastor of converting Buddhist and asked him to stop the ministry. The Police had arrived subsequently and advised the Pastor and gone.
    5)17th Sunday at Suriyaweva in Ambilipitiya –a house Church was visited by monks and asked to stop the meeting as they were not registered with the local Authority.
    6)Weeraketiya-A house Church was attacked.
    7) On the 10th March the Assembly of God Church place of worship at Kottawa was visited by monks and the Police and told to stop the meetings as they had not obtained permission from the local authority.
    8) On 2nd March Pentecostal Assemblies Church place of worship at Kottawa was visited by monks and a mob and told to stop the meetings as they had not obtained permission from the local authority.
    9) On 2nd of March or thereabout Pentecostal Assemblies Church place of worship in Galle was visited by monks and mob and told to stop the meetings as they had not obtained permission from the local authority
    10) On 12th March or thereabouts a Pastor working in Agnukolapallssa was threatened. Police asked him to stop services, it was reported.
    These are only a few.

    Interestingly none of these are reported in the local media.
    And the authorities are ignoring these attacks.

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    Attacking a press pro or anti Government is akin to attacking the freedom of speech and violation of its right to publish. If the news published is the untruth then law has its own course of dealing with these elements. Unfortunately, some jugheads and buffoons are made to sit and judge the fate of the press and its freedom.

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