20 September, 2021

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Bond Scam: Ranil Goes Against His Uncle’s Wish

Sri Lankan Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe, once a press freedom campaigner, now wants to punish media institutions under the Section 22 of the Parliamentary (Powers and Privilege) Act, is clearly against the Colombo Declaration on Media Freedom and Social Responsibility.

Strength in unity: The revised Colombo Declaration on Media Freedom and Social Responsibility was signed last Wednesday by Ranjit Wijewardene (Newspaper Society), Uvindu Kurukulasuriya (Free Media Movement), Sanath Balasuriya (Sri Lanka Working Journalists Association), and Sinha Ratnatunga (Editors' Guild). Kumar Nadesan, Chairman of the Sri Lanka Press Institute was also present.| Sunday Times Photo Caption

Strength in unity: The revised Colombo Declaration on Media Freedom and Social Responsibility was signed by Ranjit Wijewardene (Newspaper Society), Uvindu Kurukulasuriya (Free Media Movement), Sanath Balasuriya (Sri Lanka Working Journalists Association), and Sinha Ratnatunga (Editors’ Guild). Kumar Nadesan, Chairman of the Sri Lanka Press Institute was also present.| Sunday Times Photo Caption

The Colombo Declaration which was signed by the Prime Minister’s own uncle, the chairman of the Newspaper Society, Ranjit Wijewardene along with Uvindu Kurukulasuriya (Free Media Movement), Sanath Balasuriya (Sri Lanka Working Journalists Association), and Sinha Ratnatunga (Editors’ Guild) said; “The provisions in the Constitution seeing out restrictions relating to parliamentary privileges should be removed as this is constitutes an unnecessary privilege conferred on members of parliament and is not reflected in modern standards relating to the right to freedom of speech, expression and information. The Parliamentary Powers and Privileges Act (1953) should be returned to its original position and consequent amendments to the Act should be specifically repealed.”

The 100 day programme promised “immediate and long-term measures … to safeguard the independence of media personnel and institutions”, and that the “right to freedom of thought and expression will be strengthened”.

However in a letter addressed to Secretary General of Parliament, the Prime Minister said both former Chairman of the Committee on Public Enterprises (COPE) DEW Gunasekera and certain media institutions should be penalised under Section 22, of the Parliamentary (Powers and Privilege) Act for reporting COPE draft report on the alleged bond scam.

In the letter Wickremesinghe has specifically criticised the Sunday Times which belongs to his uncle Ranjit Wijewardene.

The Newspaper Society of Sri Lanka, The Editors’ Guild of Sri Lanka, the Free Media Movement and the Sri Lanka Working Journalists Association were the joint signatories to the Colombo Declaration of 1998, that was revised in 2008 and accepted UNESCO’s Windhoek Declaration that asserts that the right to a free press as a fundamental right of the people and recognised the fact that the Sri Lankan Government is a signatory to the Colombo Declaration on Media, Development and Poverty Eradication which includes the promotion of a free, pluralistic and independent media committed to social justice and development.

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Latest comments

  • 13
    5

    If Mahinda Rajapakse was anti-media and if Ranil has become anti-media, what does it say about media ?

    Sri lankan media has a problem. they don’t deserve freedom.

    They have proved it over and over again.

    • 0
      0

      S 28 The punished which may be imposed by Parliament for any
      offence under this Part shall be admonition at the Bar of
      Parliament or removal from the precincts of Parliament.

  • 12
    1

    There is no free media in the world except gossip columns, gossip newspapers.

    In Sri lanka, every news medium is a gossip medium.

    They don’t publish the truth.

    • 4
      0

      Agree that most media in Sri Lanka (and abroad) is gutter-centric; but this report is genuinely in the public interest. To invoke an abuse of privilege runs contrary to a promise of this government i.e. a right to information.

    • 3
      0

      It might also indicative of those who exercised absolute monopoly presenting the views that MR Government wanted to hear rather than facts, have been still out numbers other ilk in these media institutions and are in control. If the same mobs are at helm of these organizations, doesn’t matter whether MR replaced by Ranil or MS, they covertly work their way out. Also, changes wont take place overnight.

      Media freedom is nothing to do with the issue being discussed; it is about publication of a committee investigative report which is in draft stage; published without the approval of the committee with a clear intent to gain some unfair advantage when general election is around the corner. Is not it clear?. Mere publishing such a report is wrong and then trying to muddy the issue highlighting media freedom is at risk is only shows the shrewdness of those who took up the issue, believing the voters can be easily manipulated.

      If someone published this type of report believing it is ok to the public consumption, if such publication affects an individual or another party, there requires a resolution process to see if the report is good enough to be considered for public consumption. And,if it in fact caused any damage to the grieving party as they claim. In this context, what Ranil does can be considered as an act of restoring media freedom,not otherwise.

      If a media personal acts with some hidden intent publishing some half-baked report, then he/she should be made accountable for spreading rumors and gossips. There had been enough said about this issue alleging the Governor and what we want now is a impartial report. Either way, clearing of any wrong doing by the Governor or implicating him would have been a deal breaker but the investigation hasn’t get to the stage. Haste at which the Gunasekara took things into his hands is unbecoming of a Chairman.

      • 0
        0

        Agree with you fully.

  • 10
    7

    Ranil gets into controversies after controversies and its any body’s guess whether he could lead his party UNP to victory in the coming
    polls. At least until the election date, he should be diplomatic in his dealings with public,if he wants to win the election and there after he has five years to play around.

  • 5
    1

    Well, of course, this is Sri Lanka. Politicians no matter what colour they represent are all the same.

  • 4
    2

    The Parliamentory Previleges Act is yet law and has not been superceded, amended or recinded. It yet applies, desspite the good intentions in the document on Media freedom and Social responsibility.

    The law has to be respected, especially by the parliamentarians. If they disagree with it and defy it, they should be ready to go to jail as Mahatma Gandhi did, for defying the Salt Monopoly Act in British India.

    Will our politicians, who have treated every law in this country with scant respect, do so?

    Dr.Rajasingham Narendran

    • 0
      0

      This report adds to the general discourse on a public issue. If Mr. Gunasekara misrepresented it, then it should be addressed via a debate in the public domain, instead of relying on abuses of privilege.

      Reason being, this government promised a right to information. The right to information is clearly at odds with many current pieces of legislation like the Parliamentary Privileges Act; but it is incumbent upon this government to adhere to the spirit of one of its key electoral promises. Why promise a right to information but rely on something contrary to it?

      • 2
        0

        Good governance requires respect for the law, following it and applying it impartially. We cannot pick and choose the laws that we will follow or ignore, as is convenient to us. We cannot demand good governance and behaviour of the lynching mob at the same time.

        We can have a cultured public debate. This is our right. But it should be based on facts and must be to increase our awareness. It should not confuse, confound and mislead us. If the law is defective or wrong, let us agitate to correct it. However, if it is in our books, it should be followed. This is the respect for the law we demand.

        Dr.RN

        • 2
          0

          I never heard your comments on the PAFFRELL link that clearly state that Ranil’s regime is like MR when it comes to bribing the voters and VIOLATING election laws. This from a man who claims to be clean and upright?

          http://www.island.lk/index.php?page_cat=article-details&page=article-details&code_title=127777

          Also now it appears the repressive press council is being re-established which was initially disbanded under euphoria of Jan victory !

          When the going gets tough for the ruling regime (CBK/MR/RW) they try to control the message as its being done now.
          Your comments?

          https://cpj.org/2015/07/sri-lanka-moves-to-re-establish-restrictive-media-.php

        • 2
          0

          Believe me I see your point of view. The rule of law is paramount and we cannot have a selective application thereof. A striking example is the indictment of people for corrupt practices done in the past (such indictment being commendable); but a Nelsonian Eye towards present corruption. On this score I am totally with you.

          In relation to the report, my grievance is that the government is using legislation to subvert the release of information which should be in the public domain. And this is contrary to its commitment to engendering a right to information. Granted, Mr. Gunasekara may have misrepresented it; but this government is muzzling the media at a time when the public has a right to know about the contents of the report.

  • 6
    1

    The RTI bill was also discarded by the UNP. Goes to show how free they are about our rights.Only frigging talk.

  • 4
    1

    May be the donations from Mahendrans are more important than relationships.

    The dosh , Keselwatta Kid in the South and Harin in the middle are handing out to the Buddhist monks in A 4 envelops with 50 G in each, has to go on for another full month and a bit.

    On a lighter note, Ranil is going to appoint a new Panel with 5 members this time.

    Ranil’s earlier 3 Member panel cost the Tax Payers 3,5 Million …Right.

    Wonder how much the Tax Payers have to cough up this time ?.

    Will it be the same diagnosis?.. I mean the clean bill of health at double the cost.

    Or is it a Bad one?.

    Interesting , it will keep the Elite guessing until 17 August..Right..

  • 7
    3

    Ranil and UNP are doomed!!

  • 3
    1

    Media freedom one thing and we all welcome it, but it doesn’t mean some responsible person at his will disseminating some false or unproven information through some reports purporting to be a committee’s report. We knew our parliamentarians lack social responsibility and it is a clear example of what just that.

    The matter referred altogether is a different issue and to be dealt with appropriately but the process leading to releasing this report is done with a clear intent, and is breach of law. The intent seems to include insinuating some racial hatred given the governor is a tamil, taking political advantage as a draft report can accommodate any thing including adding words that would make the accused looks guilty of etc.

    This sorts of tactics, fooling the voters should stop. By the way, do not we know some finalized reports haven’t been still released, for example the All Party’s report some ages ago. Democratic Counry that SL is.

  • 3
    2

    If Ranil had learnt to respectfully listen to his uncle Ranjit Wijewardene he should be a very successful and popular political leader today!

  • 3
    1

    Law is law. no one can not by pass it. Media ins. are part of our society. They can’t write what they want. If Ranil or anyone acts against any of the media co. within the limites of law, I don’t think any issue in that.

  • 0
    1

    RE: Media Freedom.

    The Government of President Sirisena promised and allowed for Media freedom when the took reign.

    What becomes responsibility of the Government when it finds that the Media is biased and working towards an agenda of making mega profits – legally or otherwise?

    In Sri Lanka, judging by the fact that the media has been compromised by FEAR and / or FAVOUR by the previous regime – CURTAILING media freedom would be better than finding a cure for the atrocities that can be brought about by the half truth and full lies, presented by the media.

    Ultimately, journalists who want to publish material that’s clearly offensive or inflammatory to some will have to accept the inherent risks in this new environment.

    The position in international law can be summarised as follows: Although the right to freedom of expression does not require an absolute ban on prior censorship, this should be a highly exceptional measure, taken only when a publication threatens grave harm, such as loss of life or serious harm to health, safety or the environment. An article deemed defamatory, blasphemous, obscene or overly critical of the government would rarely if ever meet this threshold. Moreover, a system whereby media content must be officially cleared before it can be released would be unacceptable; its harm to freedom of expression would plainly far outweigh the benefit to its goals.

    YET, it will be noticed by the open minded that the different publications do not practice journalism – as presenters of NEWS – but force feed their readers into a particular line of thinking. Reading the different editorials of the various different publications, on a regular basis would make it easy to identify the goals of the particular publication.

    Considering that Elections are round the corner – Propaganda for one OR the other would cause grievous harm if half truths and full lies are expressed by the media – and would tantamount to not observing the legalities with respect to the elections.

    Under these circumstance PREVENTION would be preferable to a CURE – at this point of time.

    So it would help if “MEDIA FREEDOM” is controlled until after the Elections.

  • 1
    2

    It is imperative for the media in Sri Lanka to understand that no country allows absolute media freedom. Freedom entails concomitant responsibility.
    If journalists voluntarily adhere to the principles of right speech, right action and right livelihood, no govern can dare to take any action oo rbe press,

    • 2
      0

      @Village Green Guy

      What you say makes sense and there are plenty of news outlets that serve as examples but who decides what is “right speech” etc. ? It seems the PM has decided that HE is the final arbiter of “Rightness” and therein lies the problem.

  • 0
    0

    If Ranil is wise enough not to lose votes, he should be prepared with
    a formidable answer to the bond scam and let it out in his 1st election
    propaganda meetings as target one of the opposition is Bond scam. If he
    does not prove that the opposition is wrong, he is bound to lose a million votes on a scam, where there is no truth in it. Doubt people
    buying Ltte stories from the opposition ,this time like last time but
    might buy the bond scam story if not cleared in time.

  • 2
    0

    Ranil’s attempts to white-wash himself and CB governor Mahendran over the Treasury bond issue scandal reminds one of that proverbial cat trying to hide its chit after defecating on a rock!

  • 4
    0

    There is only one thing Ranil Wickremesinghe knows.
    When he is uncomfortable with the media, he bullies
    them.

    Beneath that polythene thin veneer of love for
    democracy and media freedom, he is a dictator. I
    dare say he is worse than Mahinda Rajapaksa. The
    only difference – he has never been voted to power.

    Just imagine. This time he has come to be Prime
    Minister through the backdoor. That is after working
    a deal with Maithripala for bartering the UNP votes to
    him.

    What Ranil wants is not democracy or freedom He is
    hungry for power and wants to get it by any means.

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