24 November, 2020

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Mahinda’s Good Cop, Bad Cop And Code Of Ethics For Media – Aesop’s Fables ?

By Lal Wickrematunge

Lal Wickrematunge

The government of President Mahinda Rajapaksa will continue to seek total control over all public opinion and opinion makers including absolute control over the entire spectrum of the local media, be it print, electronic or social. The oldest trick in the book of playing “good cop, bad cop” between him and  his brother, the Secretary of Defence, yet hold currency. It is to be admitted the Secretary of Defence, has support from a section of the public for his role in the war and has added a few more through his Colombo beautification programme.

Instilling fear, by the constant projection of the tri forces into civilian areas of development, there remains a major portion of  intelligent people who are apprehensive that this may lead to more later, than what is seen on the ground at present. The fear factor is real and not perceived. Many would venture as far to say that most government and opposition politicians too fear, the Secretary of Defence. His uncompromising views and attitude to all areas of politics and public life is the underlying cause. They know that the entire range of enforcement come under him and that he wouldn’t hesitate to use them if and when he decides it is deemed necessary. He(the Secretary) has said many a time that his actions are to ensure national and public security. Now, how does that affect the media?

The print media in Sri Lanka are required to follow a set of guidelines laid down by the Editor’s Guild which functions alongside the Newspaper Society (Publishers), Sri Lanka Press Institute and the Press Complaints Commission. Of course the codified laws applicable to civil defamation laws reign supreme. The Press Council Act has been deliberately left out of this discussion as the Commissioners are appointed by the government. The entire argument against a Code of Ethics rests on the core principle that the Rajapaksa government’s sincerity is in question in regard to their professed acceptance of a free press and tolerance of dissent. That together with the “fear” factor has led to apathy and self censorship amongst journalists in Sri Lanka. That is a fact that needs to be accepted. The two emotions are now firmly embedded, amongst the practicing journalists within the country.

Any journalist doggedly following his/her profession on the principle of the public’s right to information has had to pay a high price.   Does one need to elaborate why many journalists were murdered, abducted, assaulted and of course, fled the country? The record shows it. The sixty million dollar question that needs to be answered is why a government, given the total control it has over the media, needs to thrust a “Code of Ethics” during this period? Would it not be the final nail in the coffin? Where does that leave the profession? Many within the journalistic fraternity can hazard a guess that the new code is to stifle the few remnant journalists who are yet defiant.

On the 17th of July the Sri Lanka Journalist’s Trade Union held a confab on the proposed Code of Ethics for the media at the Sri Lanka Foundation Institute. Present as the Chief Guest was media Minister Keheliya Rambukwella who doubles as the Cabinet Spokesman, together with his ministerial Secretary Charitha Herath, Chandra Jayaratne, the former head of the Chamber of Commerce, Senior Lawyer JC Weliamuna, KD Lalkantha, the head of the JVP trade union, and Mandana Ismail Abeywickreme, President of the SLJTU. Invited as panelists for the Q and A session were many but TNA MP MA Sumanthiran’s short narrative summed it all up in a nutshell.

Prior to the panel discussion Senior Lawyer Weliamuna ,explained the principles of journalism in simple language. Lawyer Weliamuna said that a journalist will first check if a story is true and then verify the facts before writing. Hence a code of conduct should be from within the industry and not by way of legislation. Chandra Jayaratne raised concern with the timing and sincerity of the government in suggesting a Code of Ethics. Minister Rambukwella confirmed that the proposed Code was not to be introduced by way of legislation but was deemed necessary as a guideline for the industry. Secretary to the Information Ministry unwittingly let the cat out of the bag when he said that the media was a powerful tool. He had probably forgotten that Sri Lanka had been named as one of the most dangerous countries on Earth for journalists to practice their trade.

TNA MP MA Sumanthiran asked the audience (which were mainly journalists), whether the government respected freedom of expression within the country. He pointed out that the Jaffna based newspaper Uthayan had been attacked 37 times and weapons were used in all of such attacks. When he ventured to point out that only the military carried weapons in the North of the island, the answer to where such attacks originated was clear to the audience. Sumanthiran said that there were many articles and cartoons published for and against politicians, including that of the President of the country. He further stated that no public servant, bar one, speaks publicly on national policy and governance. He challenged any journalist to dare publishing even a cartoon depicting the Secretary of Defence, without  consequence.

The panel discussion saw Minister Rambukwella between a rock and a hard place but he was certain to carry a message to the government that a Code of Ethics if at all was best drafted from within the industry.

The state owned media has been used by successive governments for their propaganda. It has reached a new low with this government. A journalist who turned politician and now acting as head of a radio station conducts a programme each morning spewing venom and uses a delivery which borders on filthy language to target political opponents. Nary a word, has been raised against this programme nor the so called electronic journalist. The ITN is presently under fire for targeting a renowned artiste without an iota of truth. Government Parliamentarians under the cover of privilege lie through their teeth knowing that they are immune from prosecution. Ethics do not matter to these favoured individuals as long as they defend the government and vilify those opposed to it.

Be that as it may, is a Code of ethics through a parliamentary process, required at all? The answer is a resounding NO. If the government proceeds to investigate all the murders of journalists, attacks, abductions and threats made against them AND prosecute the perpetrators in a court of law with convictions AND introduces the Right to Information Bill, a Code of Ethics may be discussed as proposed by the Rajapaksa government. The sincerity of the government would be proven if they pass this litmus test. A government, which controls all arms of law enforcement, and yet cannot/will not find the murderers of journalists have NO moral right to regulate nor propose a code of anything for the media.

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Latest comments

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    Gotabhaya Rajapaksa is highly overrated.

    The war was led by Gen. Fonseka. Gotabhaya Rajapaksa contributed by ensuring that no one within the Government or the military sabotaged Fonseka’s effort. This he was able to do due to his connection to Mahinda and for that we must be grateful to him.

    However the Peter Principle operated on Gotabhaya Rajapaksa who had by then risen to the level of his incompetence.

    After the war Gotabhaya Rajapaksa assumed that he was God’s gift to mankind and began involving himself in matters he neither knew nor understood.. He had neither the knowledge nor the wisdom to appreciate the disaster he was wreaking on the country.

    You cannot blame him. He does not know better. However the actions of the intelligent few around Mahinda, who obviously know the predicable consequences of allowing Gotabhaya Rajapaksa to be a decision maker cannot be pardoned.

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      Citizen Kane:
      Your summing up,
      “You cannot blame him. He does not know better. However the actions of the intelligent few around Mahinda, who obviously know the predicable consequences of allowing Gotabhaya Rajapaksa to be a decision maker cannot be pardoned,” is dead right.
      The middle classes of Colombo don’t give a damn because their garbage is now dumped on some poor villagers and they can try to reduce their paunches by jogging along paved pathways constructed close to the city for their weight-reduction programmes. This man is reported to have paid obeisance to his computer (!) every morning before he sat down at it in the States and that says something about how primitive this man who now rules Sri Lanka is!
      These people deserve the government they get. The rest of us DO NOT!

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      What is needed badly is a Code of Ethics for POLITICIANS and POLITICAL PARTIES that are ruled by family dictatorships.

      Civil Society should draft such a Code of Ethics for Politicians and Political Parties and start an country-wide VOTER EDUCATION PROGRAM on the need to elect ETHICAL POLITICIANS and not the corrupt and greedy kind that are the norm today.

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        half the politicians today only want the glory they dont care about anyone and dont get moved by human suffering.
        it is a very rare and half these guys are dirty

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      Muzzling the press and the Right to Information is part of Gota the Goon’s strategy for building a DEEP STATE or “state within the state” with selected military and intelligence officials, administrators, high officials in the judiciary – as precursor to establishing a MILITARY DICTATORSHIP in Lanka.

      Hence Gota’s love-fest with Pakistan and other Asian and African dictators including Museveni of Uganda.

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    Lal Wickrematunge is still unable to obtain the Postmortem Report on the body of his brother Lasantha.
    Strangely,he does not persist in this query.
    Why?

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      Justice:
      I suppose if he did, you’d accuse him of digging up old bones! Why don’t you go drag your f….ing red herrings across some other website? Or do your patrons not pay you enough for that?

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        The Wickramathunga’s hold the Rajapaksa’s responsible but 13 Day bride says Lasantha was killed for being a spy.
        This case will be extremely complicated

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      because of the current government obviously

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        once the unp or jvp come into power again im sure those behind the LW murdur will be brought before the courts which hopefully by then will also be restored.
        I can predict that Frederica Jansz and ‘thirteen day bride’ and all other journalists overseas can all return home.

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    justice,Postmortem reports in mountlavenia courts.two reports.one say bullet next say sharp wepon.It is public now.longtime. army officer give evidence to judge say cid say to say Fonseka kill Lasantha .report has sent to IGP but no reply for longtime. government wont do anything. tamil garag man also arrest with army man die in prison. postmortem say open decision but police say courts natural death.Tamil garag man family frighten by police. that the way in country

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    Fonseka was a great general but the war would not have ended without Gota . no way in hell . Fonseka is in the great tradition of Generals who are sefl promoters like patton and others before him . I cringe when I read what he says .Never gives any credit to the commanders under him just talks about his own brilliance . even if this were true it is terrible PR . Gota would have made a great General too . and I love what he is doing with the peace time army . using them in an economically viable way insted of disbanding them and creating a crime problem . you can never satisfy the writes in Sri lanka . anybody can write any nonsense they want and the LTTE rump in the diaspora will ne happy .

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      Also remember that when Gota was an unknown soldier he was decorated by two UNP presidents for bravery. As Defence Secretary he soothed the rivalry between Fonseka and the Air Force commanders and the Navy. He tried to calm the jealousies that arose. He and Mahinda wisely kept India and other nations in the loop. The three of them Gota, Mahinda & Fonseka are responsible for the victory. It’s a pity that post-war things have not gone well.

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      Abhaya Premawardena:
      You are a good example of what you describe as, “you can never satisfy the writes in Sri lanka . anybody can write any nonsense they want…”

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      Lal be a good brother in law and topple this government my scholarship ends in a month

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    Sri Lankan media used the freedom of expression to narrow objectives and they work for the detriment of the country.

    Journalists those who want to destroy Sri Lanka, particularly the existing majority culture and civilization, are the ones who talk most about Press freedom.

    SUNDAY LEADER was one such news paper.

    It was very visible during the LTTE war.

    Both NGOs and Journalists made it their business.

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      Dont forget 13 day bride

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        Pasan!nobody can forget 13 Day Bride

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    It does not matter, nor is Mr. Lal Wickramatunge required to announce every effort he makes to obtain postmortem report. Given the draconian rule under which we live in, it certainly makes sense to exercise wisdom. So “justice” your comment is absurd and shameful!

    Such an accurate and well written article that truly helps us realize the menace that needs to be eliminated!

    It is true, Gotabaya’s military knowledge is outdated and standard old school stuff obtained through free courses offered by military schools that rarely pay well to retain or sustain top professors. The police lecture at the Staff Academy in Batalanda paid Rs. 500/= per lecture for the visiting officer. General Fonseka was certainly an able military officer and the best choice to finish the war, the way it was determined to be finished. Although he too may lack finesse and peacetime leadership skills it is unfair to totally sideline or demonize him the way this govt. had done. After all, the man put in all his life into the military…a worthy dedication, isn’t it?

    On the other hand, Gotabaya certainly hijacked the limelight to become the “Bauddhaya’s Hero”….sounds like the movie ‘Randenigala Sinhaya’ …back in the day…in the movie theatre..when the advertisement for this movie was shown the boys shouted “ponnaya”!

    The use of archaic “psy ops” strategy the old time military officers know..(they were not taught psychology, sociology nor organizational behaviour” in their curriculum) is so obvious in the mobilization of army intelligence and Buddhist priests to achieve sinister political motives. His Excellency the late R. Premadasa, although known to be from humble educational background never stooped so low nor earned such thumbs down. Gota exhibits all signs of a maniac, suffering from a psychosis..it is a disorder.

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    Media minister should first issue guidelines to the state media under his control. If he can transform state media into an independent and fearless media machine which reports impartially and affords equal exposure time to the govt and opposition then he can talk about guidelines for the entire industry. Now we have a state media which is nothing but a Govt Propoganda Unit and a Slander / Rumour machine.

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    I think Gota is acting true to his name -“Got-a-baya”. After the tiger attack on him, he is so scared, everything he sees looks like tigers to him. This is the reason why he being so vicious. A day will come for him to answer for all the illegal activities of him. A commission should be set up similar to the “Nuremberg Commission” to inquire into all the illegal, unlawful activities of the politicians and their secretaries.

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    First of all we should admit that we don’t have free media in Sri lanka. They are either owned by the state( MARA)or by private businessmen.This is a profit oriented struggle between these two groups.It is true that there is political rivalries among themselves.In the mean time all private media establishment follow a self sensorship in order to save their businesses.It is also true that the MARA has full control over all medias and the business of issuing permit is also in his hand.Mara controlles evrything in the country using his executive and military power.So the people are helpless.People may have strong arguments on media freedom but without action. There will be seviour repecussions if they even thought for any actions to protect media freedom.People gave free hand to Mara when he engaged in all kinds of crimes against Tamils.Now he uses all his learnings against all citizens of the country.Sri Lankas politics has become a profit oriented business now.People invest and earn multiple.

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    Gotabhaya Rajapaksa is a competent administrator but of the old school of slave drivers who are now more or less extinct. He uses overbearing personal ‘presence’, and fear of consequences to get things done. Works in the army but not in a modern civilian structure. Colonial plantation managers too used this technique but they would be ineffective now.

    The Rajapaksa brothers who are running Sri Lanka are somewhat primitive in their outlook. Running a country is not exactly like running a family company or a corporate. The country’s development is exclusively the care and upliftment of the people. This does not mean that what you need to do is provide all the goodies they desire. They have to develop as persons in their nature, as human beings, spiritually and intellectually. They need to respect limits placed on their behaviour. Respect the rule of Law. The ultimate achievement must not be an imitation of the efficiency of a colony of bees or ants. Each human is unique in himself in all respects, whether it is intellect, spirituality,ability, any and everything in fact. That is why rules have been developed by means of written constitutions, laws have been formulated to ensure discipline, and power of the rulers have been regulated.The rights and freedoms of the people are likewise enshrined in the constitution. The current conditions of corruption, indiscipline, lack of law and order reflect poorly on the Rajapaksa governance.

    The Rajapaksas do not understand these basic tenets of government due to a deficient intellect, or else choose not to know due to being corrupted by power and an insatiable appetite for more power. One needs to be extremely self aware and self disciplined to avoid the pitfalls which have ruined many dictatorial leaders and their countries.

    If the Rajapaksas are serious about governance then they must re establish the rule of law, and re establish all the independent commissions, repeal 18A and re introduce 17A, and ensure equal rights to all regardless of their race, religion, caste, political affiliation or whatever. They must reconize that Sri Lanka is multi-racial, multi-cultural and multi-religious.

    Regardless of the perceptions of good cop, bad cop or whether there is a rift between Mahinda and Gotabhaya, either one of them is not as important as the people of this country. If they cannot understand that they must resign and leave governance to people who have the interest of the country before themselves.

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    Lal, are you serious that MR with Gota and SF won the LTTE War, without the Americans and the Indians setting the stage? A clear case is the Americans protecting MR after dubiously getting him elected using VP and allowing MR to liquidate over forty thousand citizens who happen to be Tamils. Although there is enough evidence for a probe collected by Human Rights Organizations, the US will never permit a Probe, lest their involvement gets exposed. In order to cover their involvement they have brought watered down resolutions to show their Bonhomie.

    Imagine VP who helped MR to become President over RW, abandons his strong hold Kilinochchi, with enough bunkers for protection and access to buried heavy artillery, which were displayed at Deyata Kirula Exhibition, without a fight moves to a beach front, with no cover, to get massacred. Just before the massacre the Americans speculate that they tried to stop the War and save VP just to cover their involvement, but offer protection and comfort to the very individual responsible, Shavendra Silva in the UN Office itself? Why did the LTTE bury their weapons and hyped a war with MR that never was? If there was no fight for their strong hold Kilinochchi, is one serious there was a fight for the lessor known/important places? If there was a war why did the last fight not take place at Kilinochchi where VP had his own bunker and so many other bunkers as cover for the rest? No the LTTE abandoned Kilinochchi, gifting the bunkers for MR to film for publicity including that of VP’s. What a bloody JOKE that the gullible in this country have been sold to project this FRAUD MR as a war victor helped by the Americans and the Indians.

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      One day when the Tamil masses realize the truth, how VP and the LTTE cadre were deceived by the Americans, the Indians and the Rajapaksas, including their own KP, Daya Master and crowd, I am sure there will be many who will have to pay, including this Offense Secretary. Till then the whole lot will have to live in fear, not knowing which moment the call will be made.

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    Lal Wickramatunga is the only person left in Sri lanka with balls.
    No one else in Sri lanka talks about the Rajapaksas.
    The Rajapaksas critics all live overseas.
    ex;13 day bride,FJ etc

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      13 day bride co?

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    13 DAY BRIDE said she wants to forgive the Rajapaksa’s how can you forgive without having a resolution.
    You will NEVER catch Lasanthas killera because the ones who did it are the ones running the country ots Preaident Mahinda and the Defence sec

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      13 DAY BRIDE is having a big lecture in Canada in September apparently

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    why does everybody say rajapaksas have bought sunday leader
    lal w still owns 30%

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    Since JHU is getting out of sync with MR, MR is using his sibling to attract sinhala buddhist votes so that he don’t have to depend on JHU. He cannibalized JVP and made them in effective. He could not do that for JHU. As per the plan Gota created Bodu Bala Sena, Ravana Sena etc.

    On other hand MR himself try to portray as a secular leader who looks after muslims.

    A good strategy to win election.

    But one day Karama is going to haunt them. Karama have a reaction for every of your actions.

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    nobody takes 13 day brides statments seriously

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    What are Sri lankans willing to do about the government?
    think its time we all rally against them.
    They are destroying our country one day at a time.
    Lal Wickrematunge should lead a movement and try and overthrow them.

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    mr wickrematunga writes masterpieces against the government

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    What a shame the Unp, to which Lasantha dedicated his life to cant even speak up anymore let alone take on this killing machine.
    Maybe if the opposition had a backbone they be more successful in politics.It shows they don’t care about the country but only about power.

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    Every single Man,Woman and even child in SriLanka and outside SriLanka know the Rajapaksa’s killed off Lasantha Wickrematunge the truth is coming out little by little
    Obviously till Mahinda and his family are out of office there cant be an active investigation case and trial.

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    Lasanthas brother is the only one doing anything in regards to his brother what is his 13 day bride doing?nothing!
    she and all those in foreign climates only use his name for their own gain
    if you really want to do something in lasanthas name find his damn killers.

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    It will take 5 to 6 years max to fix the mess of the country

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    [Edited out]

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    Lal should ask the government at the commonwealth meetings in colombo in novemeber what their going to do about lasanthas case

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      The government said all journalists are welcome for chogm all those banned from sri lanka should take advantage of this and come back Frederica & Tissa and 13 Day Bride and Callum Mcree all should get back in without any issues.
      Channel 4 journalists should all take advantage too and use this as an opportunity to ask the hard hitting questions

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    In order for justice Gotabaya needs to be in prison and charged.
    Hes a war criminal and no where else in this world but sri lanka do people walk free for such treacherous crimes

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    In order for justice Gotabaya needs to be in prison and charged.
    Hes a war criminal and no where else but sri lanka do people walk free for such treacherous crimes

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    Sumanthiran! no one needs to draw a cartoon of Gota he is a cartoon

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    Lal W should get full ownership of the sunday leader again

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    Media freedom has been curtailed since 08 in Sri Lanka and Lasantha’s death was the biggest blow and that’s when we hit an all time low

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    I am pleased that MA Sumanthiran highlighted what is going on with the media in Sri Lanka. Someone has to fight to keep Sri Lanka from losing its democracy. Keep up the good work guys…

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