By Rasika Jayakody –
Governments do idiotic acts from time to time and the Mahinda Rajapaksa regime is no exception. One of its recent idiotic acts is to block Colombo Telegraph, widely popular website among Sri Lankan readers, not only in Sri Lanka, but also across the world. The reason for the blocking is obscure, but not beyond comprehension. The think tank of the government might have assumed that some of the articles carried it Colombo Telegraph “posed a threat to national security and the territorial integrity of Sri Lanka”.
Blocking a website, in this day and age, is a foolish act because any banned website could be accessed through proxies. Apart from the momentary joy it entails and the blatant high-handedness it displays no can reap any benefit from such a foolish decision. By doing so, the think tank of the government waggles nothing but its lack of common sense and very low IT literacy level.
Colombo Telegraph carries articles of many columnists who belong to different schools of thought. Some of them, understandably, write in favour of the LTTE propaganda, promoting falsehoods perpetuated by the LTTE. I am no Fascist and I acknowledge their freedom of expression. Having said that I also know that acknowledging their freedom of expression does not deprive me of my right to speak on behalf of what I believe in. It is on that basis that I contributed for Colombo Telegraph as a columnist over the past few months. I am confident of my argument, and because of that, I have no reason to fear those of others, under any circumstance.
I am in total agreement with the government’s approach towards terrorism, which was reflected in the fourth Eelam battle, commenced under the political leadership of President Mahinda Rajapaksa in 2006. I strongly believe that concepts such as “distinct Tamil nationality” and “Traditional homeland of Tamils” are diabolical lies that do not hold any water. Moreover, I believe that creating a “Sri Lankan Nation” while safeguarding the uniqueness and identity of each and every nationality of this country is the only way forward towards achieving national reconciliation. My recent articles that were carried in “Colombo Telegraph” as well as in ‘The Nation’ over the past few months were based on creating a “Sri Lankan identity” and breaking watertight compartments of petty communal politics.
Colombo Telegraph, despite being a “pro-LTTE website” (as assumed by the think tank of the government), allowed me to voice my opinion without any restriction. While ensuring my freedom of expression, it also carried the articles and columns written by some authors who took a pro-Eelam stance on various matters. As a right thinking citizen, I do not have a moral right to ask ‘Colombo Telegraph’ to stifle their voices or to label the online publication with a pro-LTTE tag. Unlike Tamilnet or any other machinations of Tiger propaganda, Colombo Telegraph facilitates ‘pluralism’, which constitutes the base of public interest journalism. On that pluralistic platform, what I can do is not silencing the voices of others, but utilizing my space effectively to voice my opinion and countering pro-LTTE propaganda with pro-Sri Lankan propaganda. This is what the think tank of the government is finding very difficult to understand!
Velupillai Prabhakaran was a Fascist leader simply because he did not have the mindset to tolerate ‘dissension’. His mind was not too barbaric to fathom the boundaries of civilization. His barbaric mindset was reflected in the activities of the LTTE since the late 70s. Having defeated a barbarism of highest scale, the government should not take decisions that would resemble the conduct of the LTTE, even remotely. A government that has relieved the country from the fear of terrorism should be able to recognize the framework of democracy of which pluralism is an integral part. But unfortunately, this is not visible in some of the myopic decisions taken by the present government.
The body which banned the access to Colombo Telegraph still remains a mystery. On Saturday, soon after the website was blocked in Sri Lanka, I, in my capacity as a journalist, contacted TRC Chairman Anusha Palpita over the phone to know whether he had any hand in the decision. The Chairman with little or no delay said the TRC did not take any decision with regard to Colombo Telegraph. But he was well aware of the existence of the web site. A few days later however, when contacted by another journalist, he had said he did not know whether there was a website called ‘Colombo Telegraph’. The Anusha Palpita I knew was a thorough gentleman and because of that the comments he had made with regard to ‘Colombo Telegraph’ took me by surprise. But it’s naïve to believe that such a ban can be imposed without the knowledge of the TRC and the Media Ministry. The Media Ministry has just washed its hands off saying ‘Colombo Telegraph’ is not a registered website at the ministry.
It is clear that a mistake has been made. It is also clear that the mistake should be corrected. It is now a matter of humility for the government. President Mahinda Rajapaksa is an astute politician who is very media-savvy. He should be able think beyond some of his slow-witted advisors and understand the strategic importance of a broad platform such as ‘Colombo Telegraph’. As long as the government is reluctant to take the humility path, it would continue to repeat the same mistakes, oblivious to their long-term repercussions.
*Rasika Jayakody is a Sri Lankan journalist who may be contacted at email@example.com