By Shyamon Jayasinghe –
“…when an established media outlet like the Divaina newspaper seeks to make hay over the privacy of another and create a juicy story of it regardless of the pain inflicted on the victim of its media misbehaviour it all becomes a tragic moment in our civilsation.”
You and I have our personal lives, aside from our public appearances. Most of us would like to be protected and secure over our private opinions, preferences and doings. So long as what we say and do doesn’t raise issues with regard to public safety or public interest we are generally free-at least in democracies- to hold onto our behavioural options. That is part of civilisation. Even for an esteemed and very popular artiste like Victor Ratnayake this observation is valid. One cannot help private gossip tongues wagging over others’ private doings. On the other hand, when an established media outlet like the Divaina newspaper seeks to make hay over the privacy of another and create a juicy story of it regardless of the pain inflicted on the victim of its media misbehaviour it all becomes a tragic moment in our civilisation.
This isn’t Divaina’s first such adventure. I remember the story it generated about the so-called fertility violation of a Kurunegala Muslim doctor. Of course Divaina had the blessings of Athureliye Rathana who went to town on the fake news. But that is Athureliye and that is Divaina.
The subject I want to take up here in the public interest is the Divaina report (31/01/21) of an interview by Manoj Abeydeera with Daya Wijesekera, an alleged longstanding pal and confiderate of Victor Ratnayake. It is claimed that Daya had been witness to the second marriage of Victor to a young woman called Hashini.
That marriage also raised considerable slander and controversy for the simple reason that the woman had been half the artiste’s age. I thought it was mostly jealousy, then. What is anybody’s business if Victor tied the knot in the way he did? We all have good reasons for the choices we make but we don’t have an obligation to defend them in public. This is a basic tenet in civilised lives. Western Artists and movie stars are also involved in heaps of episodes like these but we rarely observe the media deriding them. We smile and put the magazine away.
This time, the episode has been over Buddhist Victor Ratnayake’s conviction that God had saved him from sure death over a serious illness in his throat and brain.Victor had been apparently hospitalised for many months and doctors had given up on him.
It is natural for parties facing such near-death situations to clutch onto any straw that claims to be able to cure them. Why did thousands of Sri Lankans including ministers run behind the syrup man called Dhammika? Why do Presidents and Prime Ministers run to that Kovil in South India? I know of many Buddhists who go to churches and divine men to find solutions they believe cannot be sorted out in natural terms?
What’s weird, then, when Victor Ratnayake had been persuaded to seek the help of a Born Again minister? If Hashini had actively promoted that?
I am not sure whether this was all a resurgence of the initial Hashini hate referred to above. Now Hashini is the devil, according to Abeydeera’s interview with Daya. She is the one behind all this conversion! When Victor says “I believe that God cured me,” Daya Wijesekera isn’t one bit surprised about Hashini having “ruined,” the life of Victor. “Victor has cut himself with his own sword,” says a poet. The poet needs such imagery.
So goes the narrative in the interview. Hashini was an “unsuitable choice” and beloved Victor is doomed. The latter is soon to restart singing-this time with the voice of the divine!
More positive charges are being made in this Divaina interview: Hashini has got Victor to remove the Buddhist icons that decorated his home and replace them with Christian stuff.
My question is hasn’t an individual a right to change his religious or other beliefs and persuasions? Why should Daya and Abeydeera worry about that? Like all beliefs, those pertaining to religion do play in an overall competitive world of ideas, and individuals are free to operate in such a changing world changing one belief for another. The Buddha himself, never a proselytiser, encouraged his followers to test others’ views. In the Kalam Sutta the Buddha initiated the world’s first charter of scientific reasoning and intellectual freedom. On the other hand, Daya Wijesekera is worried about the future of Buddhism in Sri Lanka after persons like Victor Ratnayake have got converted to Born Again.
My own views on religion have been well publicised and I am a confirmed atheist. I repudiate the idea of a divine being and divine intervention. Even Victor Ratnayake’s cure can be medically explained without crossing the border to Born Again.
The Divaina interview is disgusting slander to say the least. Manoj did not do one basic thing and that is to check on Daya’s claims with Victor and Hashini. One never knows, there would have been surprises. Did Manoj avoid that path deliberately? Or through ignorance? If deliberately, Manoj is a slanderer paid by his master. If through ignorance, Manoj should give up as a writer or journalist.