23 October, 2021

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Media Allegations With COPE

By Thushara D Wanniarachchi

Thushara D Wanniarachchi

Thushara D Wanniarachchi

Allegations – the one common denominator in any government setting, more so in Sri Lanka in the ‘Mahinda Chinthanaya’ and ‘Yahapalanaya’ alike. The words ‘Central Bank Bond Scam’ and ‘COPE’ will be familiar to many. Indeed, the issue itself is over a year old, with details of varying positions being presented via a not-so-independent media, and political parties hell-bent on destabilizing the system of democracy for a 5-year term running the country to the ground, or having their faces on the TV., newspapers and social media.

What seems to be missing is one, comprehensive account which the people can refer to. Although, however independent or otherwise a news report tends to be, people will only believe what fits into their own perspectives. Proof that the sky is blue and someone believes it’s green? They will find detail, however insignificant or rejected, to prove their stance. This is cognitive dissonance, and it is something which is immensely difficult to change. Hence the importance of an independent media body which reports the facts as they are, with no ulterior motives behind it, allowing people the freedom to form their own opinions, instead of conditioning them.

The conclusions reached by the 26-member COPE committee appointed to investigate the matter are now in the public domain, and JVP MP Bimal Rathnayake has been quoted as saying that, “In our report, we have recommended action against all those involved in the bond scam. We have no issue with anyone. Legal action should be taken against Central Bank officials and the Perpetual Treasuries.”

For its part, the Yahapalanaya government displayed its commitment to good governance with appointing a member of the JVP as the Chairman of COPE. Now what has since transpired has everyone scrambling to unearth the actual facts of the entire scandal – which is, that former Central Bank Governor Arjuna Mahendran was directly responsible for the controversial transaction of treasury bonds allowing a primary dealer with ties to Mahendran’s son-in-law – Arjun Aloysius and Perpetual Treasuries – to turn abnormal profits, in what is referred to as Sri Lanka’s biggest financial scandal. However, the report has been presented to the Attorney General by the Prime Minister, and the country waits with baited breath till the decision is made. But this article is not about the scandal. What it will discuss follows the events which transpired in its wake.

Fast forward to the 13th of October; Perpetual Treasuries issues a letter of demand to MTV, accusing them of erroneous and biased reporting with no factual basis. MTV then later counter-sues for a claim of 25 billion.

What must be noted is that while this is not the first time an attack or claim has been made against the “free media”, MTV is no stranger to scandal, oftentimes being accused of biased reporting, which ultimately goes on to being influential in shaping the public’s opinions.

This situation is unique, however, because what people don’t know is that for one thing, R. Raja Mahendran (more famously known as Kili Maharaja) and Arjun Mahendran are close relatives. And while he wines and dines with the elite (and corrupt) on one hand, the other hand has been rumored to partner with various political parties in order to insert his presenters and broadcasters onto an influential political stage – perhaps serving to boost Kili’s ego and make him achieve some twisted fantasy where Sri Lanka – and democracy – rests under his thumb.

Although it might seem like the Maharaja Organization has had UNP’s best interests at heart, the scandal of corrupt media continues, with Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe speaking out against the Media – in particular Sirasa and the Maharaja Organization – for their continuous efforts to insert themselves into the government agenda, and failing which, spread discord and dysentery amongst the 3 leading political parties. The proof is in the pudding, or in this case, the reporting. Turn on Sirasa or MTV, and you will find nothing but the Gammadda initiative, UNP scandals and a few fluff pieces to keep ‘media’ alive.

Why this vendetta against the Prime Minister and the Yahapalanaya regime? Probably because in the dictatorial Rajapaksa regime, Mahinda and Kili conducted a mutually beneficial agreement; particularly when Kili was persuaded by the then President, to not broadcast sensitive information which would harm the Rajapaksa regimes iron rule. Read the full article on that, here.

Unfortunately, Kili seems unstoppable, having inserted his many minions into top offices of the Government, even to the top levels of the President. And President Maithripala Sirisena, to his credit, stands firm on his traditionalist approach. However, he might be unaware of the agenda he is pushing, and the benefits it brings about; benefits, which only serve to feed into Kili’s political fantasies.

What the corrupt media should understand however is that, although they think that by controlling the top offices of Sri Lanka, they themselves can rise above the law, in the day and age of digitalization, no one is above the law, and all offenders, however much wealth and status and influence they possess, will all come crumbling down. As Pope Francis famously said, “Journalism cannot become a weapon of destruction. Neither should it nourish fear.” And in a country where over 60% of the populace gets its news from TV media, this could not be more true.

What is to be understood from all of this is anyone’s guess. However, if the government of a country is held to high standards of transparency and accountability, then should not the same, if not more, be expected from the media?

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Latest comments

  • 0
    2

    COPe report is a politcial report. If you remember, as soon as the CB bond scame story came out, Ranil Wickramsinghe appointed three UNP lawyers right a report on that issue. did lawyers know anything about Financial dealings. they may have looked only to see whereh Ranuil Wickramasinghe or UNP has broken any laws. Even after one year, every politician is making politcal statements. but, there is no escape root to the country and Country will not recover any money out of this Scandle. So, the politicians conisders the time as the best healer. they expect as the time goes people forget this and start thinking positive about this.

    There is another issue like this and it happened from the SLFP side. SLFP Secretary leased an unrepaired building for over Rs one billion. He agreed to pay lease for the unrepiared building before the renovation. Now, the minister is silent. Maithripala Sirisena never talked about it. That issue had gone under.

    As you say, Journalists are scum, do you think they need freedom to write. there are journalists ran away from the country during the previous govt, now they are in the country and they writing against the country.

  • 0
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    COPE report is not an honest document. Politicians in COPE committee were interfering a lot and the outcome was a political report which saved politicians instigated the scandle. COPE report does not name any of the politicians involved in it and the name of Ranil Wickramsinghe who gave leadership to it.

  • 1
    0

    An age old tactic………if you cannot defend the indefensible (in this case the bond scam), point the finger (and perhaps shoot) at the messenger…….

    The biases of media owners including that of the government is an issue to be discussed separately and should not be linked to the bond scam to confuse it.

    But the most hilarious part is “if the government of a country is held to high standards of transparency and accountability, then should not the same, if not more, be expected from the media?” Is he talking about Sri Lanka?

  • 2
    0

    Thushara, a disjointed article to make a simple point. I expected better after your experience in New Zealand, a country that has now come to No 1 spot in the world for ease of doing business! to say nothing of no corruption and fair treatment of all. For a population of under 5M this is not a problem.

    It appears that your role as adviser to the PM is not leading you anywhere sensible, as he is beyond seeing sense on his 4th stint as the Prime Minister.

    However to get to the main gist of your article, it is first and last about Kili, and we will just educate the reader a little more about it, and get to the other media operatives for another article, as there are special features that the public need to be apprised of for them to come to their own conclusions. They will then view Sirasa with a different pair of eyes and ears to the rest! HOPEFULLY

    You in your position have NOT been able to tell the truth, as within the UNP are people still drinking Kili’s urine, and before I get to the finer points, let it be known that Ravi K, Sujeewa S, Rosy S, Sajith P, are or have been bankrolled by Kili and so owe him favors! Similarly in the President’s Office Secretaries like Shiral Lakthilaka, Chairman of Coal Maithri Guneratne and in the PA are similar names who have all been given prominence in Kili’s Media, namely Sirasa. For the record Pres Premadasa helped him immensely in amassing his fortune to live his fantasies.

    Arjuna Mahendran being a fellow BIL of Kili is just by the by. Inter-relationships in that community stretches to Thirukumar also, and the mind boggles if we try to unravel all because today’s friends can be tomorrows foes.

    It is clear from this, and further to your implication, that Kili is a fantasist, who revels in dreaming of being the de facto President of Sri Lanka, but he has no one he can convince of this fact! We can only surmise how he dreams of this, and when Ranil was NOT able to accommodate the numbers he wanted in the National List, his ire was unleashed, and we know HOW MUCH damage he did to RW, who was nevertheless able to overcome his maligning of character to emerge victorious.

    Forget about the Fourth Estate here, it is just a mouthpiece of an ego, worse than the Beaverbrooks, Hearsts, Rothermeres, Grahams who were able to influence opinion with decency and Kili will never be remembered even by those who he helped bankroll. Mercifully there will be no one to carry on his type of vitriol when he passes on, and the Country will be the better for it.

    I don’t think we need waste journalistic space talking about this, but it would be better spent, analyzing the other media, their slants, and why, so we educate the readership to know who is behind a slant, and why, so they will be able to come to their own conclusions as to who to believe or who they should be guided by.

  • 1
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    This guy is an adviser to Ranil? God help us!

  • 0
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    I noted very unusual behavior of Sirasa recently.They were very critical in letting down people very unfairly. I feel there should be an unknown reason behind that since it was very unusual and a response we could never expect from a reputed media aimed at unduelydamaging people’s images.

    • 0
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      Sure, they have good TV programs. But Gammadda is very political. I think the format of Gammada could have been different. Why the kind of programs were not in their sender in the days of Athigaru is my puzzle.

  • 1
    0

    Thushra, what did you do in New Zealand and I would like to know your wealth of knowledge you gained in New Zealand. This is a scraps words to publish a article to white wash. Doses it mean there is no any wrong with bond issue. When a reader is reading down, he lost the top and finally he doesn’t get any thing. You effort is good and lot of words. But your effort is uselsss to convince the reader.

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