Of late President has made arrangements, on all Saturdays to meet the people in the villages, apparently to solve their burning problems. But in reality, it’s a media gathering. In fact, instead of discussing the problems of the common man, to solve their problems, President has made it a practice to make it a media show to discuss the criticisms and allegations levelled in the preceding week against the government and defend them to clear the air. Nevertheless, instead of listening to the grievances of the people, he has made it a habit to lament on the problems he is facing.
However, it appears that his lament foreshadows a gloomy and a horrible picture. Yesterday, for instance, the President has levelled criticisms and threats, specifically targeting Media organizations and media personnel saying “You can’t do that with me. For that, I know how to teach a lesson. I even know the method of teaching a lesson. I have given media freedom. I have governed the country for the last 14 months but I have never influenced any media organization”. He says that so far he has not influenced, but he indirectly conveys a message to the effect that if he wishes, he has the authority to suppress the media. No, he doesn’t have any such authority. First and foremost, President should be aware that he has no authority whatsoever to influence or frighten any media organization. We, very well know that purported lessons to be taught to the media by the President, isn’t a new subject.
On the other hand, President declares that he has given media freedom. To be precise, Media freedom, in fact, is not akin to a license to be issued by the President. At the same time, it’s also not a special privilege to be granted by President. Media freedom means the legitimate right of the media organizations and the citizens of this country to know and access information. Therefore, it’s not a freedom given by means of something like a license. History shows us that media freedom has been won after a long and bitter struggle by the progressive forces of the country and upheld thus far. The statement by the President “You can’t do that with me. For that, I know how to teach a lesson. I even know the method of teaching a lesson” is unfathomable to think. The method he tries to employ to teach media a lesson remains to be understood. I am not sure whether he uttered these things consciously or not. Yet I still fail to understand his utterances.
There were past infamous incidents of teaching bitter lessons to the media organizations and media personnel. Sirasa media organization was attacked by means two claymore mines. This attack could be a bitter lesson taught to Sirasa media organization. During the past, “Leader” News Papers printing press located in a high security zone was twice set on fire. This may be the lesson taught to them. Again, immediately after 2010 Presidential elections “Siyatha” media organization was bombarded and set on fire. This should a bitter lesson taught to “Siyatha” media organization. Late media personnel, Lasantha Wickremathunge was assassinated. This may also be a bitter lesson taught to all the media personnel in Sri Lanka. Journalist Ekneligoda had been abducted and thus far he is missing. Journalist Poddala Jayantha had been abducted, assaulted and later released on the road with half shaven head and his limbs broken. Keith Noyar had been abducted and assaulted. Later he had been abandoned with serious injuries. Upali Tennakoon was also abducted and assaulted and later abandoned on highway. These were the bitter lessons taught to our media personnel. Enews office was set on fire to teach a bitter lesson to all Web news organizations.
We are aware that all media organizations and media personnel have been taught bitter lessons. Therefore, there’s nothing new in President’s statement about teaching lessons to media organizations and media personnel. It’s therefore evident that President has now posed a direct threat to media organizations and media personnel. President must understand the fact that this is a new era. Further, during the past by going to teach bitter lessons to the media organizations and media personnel, the rulers also learnt bitter lessons. At the same time people of the country has also learnt many lessons. However, I trust that the President will not return to teach lessons again to media organizations and media personnel.
Secondly, President must know the fact that parliament is the sacred place where laws are enacted. According to many of his statements, it appears that he is biased in treating the media. Yet he shows great partiality and affection to a selected group of media engaged in touting the affairs of the government. When the issue of Cobra Karanduwa brought from Nagaloka to Kelaniya temple, reached fever pitch, President chose to keep silent for the simple reason that he had prior knowledge of the matter. This was done so as to promote his election propaganda campaign and to obtain the support of Buddhist laymen. He never spoke against the so-called infertility causing Koththu, ladies garments, drugs and the Muslim doctor’s issues, because his propaganda machine was the real architect of fabricating such fake news. Therefore, he was silent on that matter. National movement for protection of environment that usually fight ferociously for the rights and preservation of nature suddenly seems to have changed their stance. Inaction, silence and sudden change observed in their attitude, seems to be a dangerous trend. It appears that these movements fail to react and fall silent when they are satisfied and their intentions are met in current atmosphere. In reality, President should have a stable unbiased policy towards Media. Instead, it appears that he espouses double standard as far as Media organizations are concerned.
Thirdly, President, during his speech, alleged that “JVP environmental groups are resorting to false FB memes about felling of trees in Sinharajah Forest Reserve through their Face Book page”.We are aware about this “fake JVP environmental FB Group” and we observed this group spreading falsehood through FB. This FB page has been in operation for the last one week. This FB is being used to spread a misinformation on the FB discussions about environmental damage taking place in the country.This FB page is vigorously attempting to mislead and portray damage to the environment in various parts of the globe as if happening in Sri Lanka. Thereby, this FB page is trying to suppress and deny real information about the damage to the environment in Sri Lanka.We strongly feel that President has derived a misconception about us based on this fake FB page.We have nothing to do with this FB page.
Interestingly, either the President or his media unit has thus far failed to identity and distinguish between fake and real FB accounts. It should be made clear that this fake FB page “JVP environmental group” has been intentionally created to give a wrong impression, so as to make the people believe that it belongs to JVP. But the irony is this FB account disseminates false propaganda, yet favourable to the government but against JVP. It appears that President is making use of this FB account to disseminate falsehood to the people and to create a wrong impression and tarnish the good image of JVP in the minds of the common man.However, it is unimaginable to see President Gotabaya Rajapaksa’s bankruptcy of stooping down to this level of trusting a fake FB accounts to criticise others. We therefore wish to convey our regrets in this regard to the President.69 thousand voters of this country, who voted for him never expected this turn of events from the President. We could have easily expected a speech of this calibre from a MP or a Minister from the District, but not from a President.On the contrary, speech delivered by President in this political gathering, clearly shows signs of his pathetic plight and his bankruptcy.In any event, under the guise of President’s present plight and bankruptcy, we cannot permit him to attack our party. Therefore, today we hope to lodge a complaint against this FB account to the CID. We also need to find out as to who opened this FB account by the name of“JVP environmentalists”, when was this account started and the details of the credit card including name of the cardholder and the mode of payments etc for propaganda work.If CID fail to divulge these information to the general public, then we can conclude that the President is well aware of the fake FB Page, and he has come prepared to this Village meeting, specifically to sling mud on other opposing groups.If the President has knowingly quoted from the fake FB page, then we have a reasonable doubt that president is resorting to a kind of guerrilla marketing. President must take the responsibility of openly declaring that the said fake FB page belongs to JVP, without any qualms, in the presence of the villagers and media organizations.He can’t just keep away from the problem and evade the situation. Therefore, the CID should expeditiously, investigate our complaint and the outcome should be kept informed to the people of this country.In order to gain political mileage, President cannot engage in such loose talks about this fake FB account, without knowing the in and out of the reality. He cannot speak according to his whims and fancies in every nook and corner of the country. We have to put a stop to this trend. Unless we stop this nonsense, again next Saturday, President will make it a point to repeat the same thing about the fake FB page in the Village meeting to mislead the crowd.It is very important to defeat the effort taken by President to mislead the public at meetings and political gatherings.
President when addressing the villagers has a popular topic about Government officers interfering in lands of the villagers and creating problems. President tries to make an effort to impress the villagers to show that he is intervening to solve their problems. For generations, land areas, were used by the villagers, for chena cultivation, grazing cattle and collecting firewood. However, the methods used by the villagers for many centuries, had no adverse environmental effect or destruction to the lands. We are not harping about the small scale farming or raising cattle or collecting fire wood for the sustenance of the villagers. We are really worried about the large scale and given to companies and organisations resulting in deforestation and damage to environment. Massive environmental disaster is taking place due to the distribution of thousands of acres of land to big time businessmen.
Agricultural Ministry, Secretary Major General Sumeda Perera on the request of “Avantguard Agro”has agreed to release 5000 acres of land for the cultivation of corn as a pilot project. This indicates that lands are not released for the 3rd generation of poor farmer families in remote villages for cultivation or his homestead, who live under difficult conditions. When vast extents of land are cleared for agriculture, obviously the forest cover is destroyed due to jungle clearing. Naturally, when in areas like “Pollabedda” land is given to a private company like “Avant Guard Agro” environmental disaster is imminent. R G N plantations have been given 1000acres, D S W Herbal plantations have been given 100acres, Delma Chicken and Agro Private Company has been given 500 acres, Pussella meat production Private Company has been given 500 acres.Engineer Services Central Advisory Office has been given 150 acres of land from “Pollabedda. “Morogoda Agro Services” Private Limited has been given 500 acres of land. Permission has been granted to cultivate 1500 acres of Aloe Vera in tertiary jungles of Willpattu. Apart from theabove mentioned land allocations, action is underway at cabinet level to grant lands to many other private concerns.
This kind of land utilisation is definitely going to affect the traditional aspect of traditional farmers life style and eradicate local fauna and flora unique to the environment. The end result will be farmers will be deprived of their traditional practices. They will be made to depend on the private companies and will be at the mercy of the feudal lords. Village life style will be changed and they will become agricultural labourers devoid of any land rights and ownership.
It seems that permission has been granted to many Multinational companies, who have oiled the palms of big wigs to start dozering vast stretches of lands for cultivation. Permission has also been granted to put up Hotels in very important and valuable forest reserves. We have already placed on record about the unabated deforestation and the colossal damage caused to the environment as a result of indiscriminate allocation of valuable lands (with natural fauna and flora) to private companies.In the midst of these happenings, we have managed to organise a mammoth protest rally in the city of Colomboon “World water day “to agitate against these misdeeds of the government on the theme “Rally in Colombo to preserve our breath”. We cordially extend our invitation to all citizens of this country. Irrespective of your party, political and religious affiliations, we urge you all to participate and make this exercise a success. Under the leadership of comrade Samantha Vidyarathne, a series of awareness programmes had been conducted in the past on the importance and the urgency to protect our environment.
*Speech made by Anura Kumara Dissanayake on 21st March at JVP Party headquarters.