Openly President Gotabaya Rajapaksa supporter Chathura Alwis of Derana TV was unwittingly exposed last Tuesday (31) when several racist slurs hurled at Muslims were inadvertently aired during a break in the political talkshow – Wadapitiya.
The Wadapitiya talkshow was attended by Minister Mahindananda Aluthgamage – who too had been caught in making a racist comment just a few days back, immediate former State Minister of Tourism Promotion Affairs Arundika Fernando from the government side and former MPs Buddhika Pathirana (UNP) and Wasantha Samarasinghe (JVP) from the opposition ranks. It is not confirmed whether ExMP Pathirana was present when the racist comments were made although the presence of the other three politicos are verified beyond doubt.
Concerns arise as to why the two politicians from the United National Party (UNP) and the Janatha Vimukthi Peramuna (JVP)- two parties which have fervently portrayed themselves as antiracist, anti-extremist; failed to condemn such abhorrent, unethical and reprehensible actions of the TV anchor and Minister Aluthgamage.
“Now I should be paid for allowing this to be said,” quipped Alwis, who is known to make many racist slurs against the Muslims before, but surprisingly had been promoting as an inclusive individual in the face of the public during recent months.
To which Minister Aluthgamage mentions about statistics possibly relating to figures of Covid-19 patients and deaths arising from the Muslim community.
“19 out of 20 found (on 31st)” added Aluthgamage implying that they were Muslims. (However Sinhalese still make up majority of the 148 Covid-19 patients so far, as at 12 noon)
“Definitely we must attack…. I had a chance to attack during the morning show with that….. Otherwise this won’t do”
“Even Bimal (Of the JVP) has criticized it saying that there was no burial and it was wrong. Is it inaccurate?” he asks exMP Samarasinghe from the JVP.
“No that is fake,” replies Samarasinghe.
“If I am asked whether the Ulema Organisation (in reference to ACJU- the All Ceylon Jamiyyathul Ulama – the apex religious body of Islamic theologians in Sri Lanka) has taken a decision (on the burial / cremation issue) I will tell I don’t care whether its Ulema or Hanuma even”
“I saw Upul Shantha Sannasgala’s post,” says Alwis.
“When I went for the meeting with Director General this (cremation) issue came up. We brought the Chief JMO (Judicial Medical Office) Dr Ruwanpathirana was called in….” said former State Minister Fernando.
“He has thoroughly refused,” claimed Alwis.
“You can’t deal with Muslims,” replies Minister Aluthgamage, who in the middle of fierce anti-Muslim attacks in the run up to 2019 November Presidential Elections promised a Muslim school in the Kandy city and ensured that Muslims would be safeguarded in the event they were able to increase the Muslim percentage of votes cast for Gotabaya Rajapaksa from 10% to 20%.
“In Dharga Town, when the procession was ordered to be called off, they (Muslims) distributed alms-giving from a vehicle,” says Samarasinghe who is affiliated to the Janatha Vimukthi Peramuna (JVP) which portrays itself as an antiracist, anti-extremist Marxist party.
“WHO guidelines (on disposing of bodies) were earlier published on our web. Now it is removed. In vain we published that. Why should we publish that? We should have published our own (guidelines),” Alwis questions, affirming that the Rajapakasa regime did allow even burials in principal at the beginning.
Experts are raising questions as to whether Alwis is a medical professional to discern on the approach to be taken over Covid-19 deaths.
“You can’t dig eight feet to bury in the Negombo beach,” added exMinister Fernando.
“No those are irrelevant. Saw what (Russian President Vladimir) Putin said?” question the JVP politico, siding with Alwis and Aluthgamage.
“Now it’s over…. This time they (Muslims) will have to understand that they can’t jiggle… ”
WHO (World Health Organisation) guidelines say coronavirus victims may be either cremated or buried and is practiced that way the world over. However the first was hurriedly removed and the second guidelines allow burials only.
Earlier too Minister Aluthgamage went on Derana TV trying to prove a surreal correlation between Muslims and Corona (https://twitter.com/i/status/1245638663595102209)
Interestingly the Tuesday’s episode has not been put on Youtube like all other previous talkshows. It is learnt that the advertising revenue of Derana too like many other TV channels has been badly hit by the Covid-19 Crisis and have very few commercials to be aired at present.
Alwis was referring to Sri Lanka’s second coronavirus victim – a 64 year- old who was receiving treatment at the Negombo General Hospital, who was cremated on 30 March against the urging from the Muslim community. Racist campaigns attacks on social media against Islam heightened after the deceased was found out to be a Muslim.
Sri Lanka Muslim Congress (SLMC) Leader former MP Rauff Hakeem condemning remains of a Muslim were cremated against the teachings of the Islamic faith. The ExMinister in a post on Facebook last Tuesday said the government’s action was “unfortunate, regrettable and of course reprehensible,” making him the subject of chagrin of many pages supporting President Rajapaksa.
Earlier Dr. Anil Jayasinghe went on none other than Derana TV explaining that the Ministry of Health guidelines did allow burial beyond eight feet or cremation under the supervision of JMO, Medical Officer of Health (MOH) and Public Health Inspector (PHI) (https://twitter.com/i/status/1245579999798681600 )
However legal experts say that Alwis’ comments and action of Derana TV in vicarious capacity, tantamount to intention to incite violence against minorities in breach of International Covenant for Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) of 2007, which criminalises advocacy of “national, racial, or religious hatred that constitutes incitement to discrimination, the hostility of violence”.
Netizens enraged by the racist slurs condemned both the TV anchor and the channel.
“Shame on derana and shame on chathura, first learn the ethic of journalism. Don’t create racism.”
Arkam Ismail@ArkamIsmail “@AzzamAmeen The Real face of the uneducated Racists Media and The Uneducated Politicians. Chathura @adaderanaUseless Aluthgamage”
“Chathura and Mahindananda convo.”The WHO circular has some hidden loopholes for them (WHO allowing to bury), JMO took it away from the website as soon as they could””Why can’t we make our own circulars and upload?”What makes you all so happy on denying rights of another ?”
Oshala Herath@OshalaHerath· “Derana TV journalist, Chatura de Alwis, who handles the media on a racial basis, should be arrested under the ICCPR law. @GotabayaR@PresRajapaksa@KaruOnline@RW_UNP”
Sanjana Hattotuwa@sanjanah· “හැතිකරේ’ trending on #Facebook a proxy indicator of things very quickly going down the proverbial පල්ලම්, esp. in relation to communal relations in #srilanka. Anti-Muslim rhetoric already virulant & widespread. I know this pattern. It doesn’t lead to anything good. #lka
Just hours before the controversial talkshow Alwis posted this on his Facebook page.
“Joining in Sri Lanka’s battle against COVID-19 and aware of the negative health and economic impact it will have, Akbar Brothers has pledged Rs. 100 million through a number of relief measures to ensure that its employees and the local community are sustained and supported during this difficult time. Akbar Brothers has pledged Rs. 50 million to the COVID-19 Healthcare and Social Security Fund initiated by President Gotabaya Rajapaksa. In its continued efforts to serve the people of Sri Lanka, the company affirmed its involvement in the construction of the New Health Centre in Chilaw. Additionally an emergency response entailing food supplies, medical equipment and other replenishments has been organised for all is employees. Relief packages including dry rations have been distributed among the workers and the local community including temples, churches, mosques and those in need around the vicinity. The Board of Directors of Akbar Brothers said it was deeply grateful and proud of the unwavering cooperation of its staff and management for adhering to safety measures and hygiene protocol and that it was fully committed to its civic duty as a responsible corporate citizen of this country.”