22 August, 2019

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Media-Ethics And Reality Control

By Tisaranee Gunasekara

“Only a free and unrestrained press can effectively expose deception in government” – (US Supreme Court on Pentagon Papers)

If the Rajapaksas succeed in turning their ‘media ethics proposal’ into law,Sri Lanka will have her very own Minitrue (Ministry of Truth). And the role of Lankan media will be redefined, from ‘watchdogs of democracy’ to ‘lapdogs of the Rajapaksas’.

In the consequent Orwellian reality, it will be permissible for Mervyn Silva to tie a public official to a tree and Rohitha Rajapaksa to hammer a referee, both in full public view. But it will be impermissible for the media to report/comment on these (and other innumerable crimes and transgressions by power-wielders and their kith and kin) because that would “offend against expectations of the public, morality of the country or tend to lower the standards of public taste and morality[i].

It will be permissible for Chinato build a power-plant using systems unsuitable to Lankan conditions and outdated technology. But it will be impermissible for the media report/comment on it, because that would be “criticism affecting foreign relations[ii].

It will be permissible for Sinhala-Buddhist fanatics to attack churches and mosques[iii].  But it will be impermissible for the media to report/comment on such crimes because that would be making “derogatory remarks on religious groups or communities or promoting communal or religious discord which may affect religious and communal harmony”.

It will be permissible for Gotabhaya Rajapaksa to fume and froth in public, against perceived traitors and enemies. But it will be impermissible for the media to call his outbursts ‘temper tantrums’ because that would be “obscene, defamatory, deliberate falsehood and suggestive innuendos and half-truths or wilful omissions”.

It will be permissible for the Rajapaksas to conduct a savage, unjust and illegal impeachment-offensive against the Chief Justice. But it will be impermissible for the media to report/comment on it because that would be “information which could mislead the public”.

It will be permissible for the military to engage in land-grabbing in the North and the East; or for the Ranaviru Seva Authority to submit a fraudulent audit report[iv]. But it will be impermissible for the media to report/comment on it because that would “encourage or incite violence or contains anything against maintenance of law and order or which may promote anti-national attitudes”.

It will be permissible for the Rajapaksa Supreme Court to give punishment transfers to honest judges, en masse, or promote bribe-takers[v] but impermissible for the media to report/comment on it because that would be “contempt of court”.

It will be permissible for the President to lie about devolution, his CJ to lie about Prageeth Ekneligoda and his brothers to lie about everything from development to national security. But it will be impermissible for the media to call them mendacious because that would be against “the integrity of the Executive, Judiciary and Legislative”.

It will be permissible for the JHU and the BBS to incite anti-minority hatred but impermissible for the media to accuse them of hate-mongering because that would be “criticising, maligning or slandering any individual or groups of persons such as ethnic, linguistic or religious or such segments of the public”.

It will be permissible for Duminda Silva, his doctors and his lawyers to lie about his medical condition but impermissible for the media to question/expose those lies because that would be publicising “details of a person’s family life, financial information, race, caste, religion, sexual orientation, physical or mental illness or disability and one’s home or family and individuals in hospitals unless it has a direct relevance to the public interest”.

It will be permissible to hail Mahinda Rajapaksa as the ‘Sun’, the ‘Moon’ and the ‘Universal Lord of the Three-Sinhala Lands’ but impermissible for the media to defend a minority-religion because it would be encouraging “superstitions or blind belief”.

It will be permissible for power-wielders and their kith and kin to resort to murder and torture, rape and white-vanning but impermissible for the media to report/criticise those atrocities because it would be promoting “atrocity, drug abuse, brutality, sadism, sexual salacity and obscenity”.

It will be permissible for the regime to impose economic burdens on the poor but impermissible for the media to report/comment on the consequent effects on their living conditions because that would be “denigrating the poor”.

The media will be free to hail the Rajapaksas and to ignore the stench of crime and corruption emanating from the ‘Miracle of Asia’. They will be free to rise to the heights to sycophancy or to plunge to the depths of apathy.

But they will not be free to ask who doctored the cabinet report on the kidney-failure plague[vi], to report that Sri Lanka has extremely high levels of cadmium (a toxic heavy metal) in rice[vii], to wonder when the President will impose some ethics on his law-breaking acolytes[viii] or to question why state enterprises which were making profits (Rs.32 billion) in 2005 made looses amounting to Rs.107 billion in 2012[ix].

The new Media Ethics will redefine all such reportage/commentary as unethical and illegal.

In the consequent drab grey media-scape, Orwellian ‘Reality Control’ will reign.

“All of us always approve what the Führer does”, proclaimed Hermann Göring[x]. A version of this will become the new operational principal of Lankan media – it will resound with hosannas for the Rulers and their acolytes, invectives for regime-opponents and silence about everything else.

Everyday, in everyway everything is getting better: that will be the message of every media outlet, public and private.

Dying Democracies

The category ‘emerging democracy’ is a familiar one. But there is another type of country, one which is experiencing an antithetical form of transition, from a democracy to a non-democracy, a country which can be deemed a retreating/submerging/dying democracy. Sri Lanka belongs in this category. Sometimes these transitions can be halted before they become structurally entrenched; sadly Sri Lanka reached and breached this point with the 18th Amendment. Once the Independent Commissions were turned into presidential appendages, presidential powers were enhanced and term-limits removed, the narrow and rugged path to familial autocracy became a super-highway.

The next task is to create an unthinking, unresisting, apathetic populace; this necessitates a submissive media.

According to a new study by the MichiganUniversity, “countries with higher levels of press freedom enjoyed better environmental quality and higher levels of human development, both of which also contribute to life satisfaction (due) to the watchdog function of the press, which helps expose corruption of all levels in a community”[xi].

The nuclear spill-over from Japan’s Fukushima plant is reportedly creating mutant-butterflies. The Fukushima disaster could have been minimised if the operating (private) company did not subvert safety measures due to greed. But in open societies such criminal deeds become known; they cause mass outrage, compelling authorities to implement correctives. In closed societies state (and favoured private actors) can minimise information-leaks and repress any expressions of outrage, thereby rendering the adoption of corrective-measures unnecessary.

Without a free and critical media, the citizenry cannot be per-warned or informed about disasters. People will be free to live and make merry on the slopes of Vesuvius, ignorant of the gathering fire beneath their unconscious feet.


[i] The draft Media Ethics proposal – Daily Mirror – 5.6.2013

[ii] The Sunday Times – 29.1.2012

[iii] The latest such incident is the attack on a church in Angulana. http://colombogazette.com/2013/06/08/no-arrests-over-church-attack/

[iv] http://www.srilankamirror.lk/news/7984-ranaviru-seva-authority-submits-a-defective-audit-report

[v] http://www.ceylontoday.lk/16-34041-news-detail-mohan-peiris-denies-allegations.html

[vi] http://www.lakbimanews.lk/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=6080:report-of-the-committee-of-pros-on-kidney-disease-altered-&catid=39:latest-news&Itemid=65

[vii] http://www.sundaytimes.lk/130609/news/toxic-heavy-metal-in-rice-lanka-second-in-12-country-list-47997.html

[viii] http://www.sundaytimes.lk/130609/news/upfas-lg-politicos-on-a-lawless-spree-and-counting-47971.html

[ix] Island – 3.6.2013

[x] Quoted in “The German Dictatorship” – Karl Dietrich Bracher

[xi] Tree Hugger – 6.8.2012

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Latest comments

  • 0
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    …North Korea here we come! :)

    • 0
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      What is FIRST needed is a Code of Ethics for the corrupt and criminal Rajpassas brothers, sons, relatives and cronies, as well as, the uncouth mega Cabinet of clowns and the corrupt politicians of the Diya-wenna Parliament and in the provincial Councils – in this debacle of Asia.

      Civil society MUST draft a Code of conduct for Sri Lankan politicians, and carry out a voter education campaign so that the Sinhalaya modayas and the Muslim and Tamil modayas do no vote for criminals like Duminda and Mervin Silva and the corrupt Rajpassa family that is engaged in the biggest land grab and power grab in Sri Lanka’s history..

      • 0
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        Code of Ethics required not for the press but for the Govt. When will the people establish it.

    • 0
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      PresiDunce Bean North Korea?

      “It will be permissible for the JHU and the BBS to incite anti-minority hatred but impermissible for the media to accuse them of hate-mongering because that would be “criticising, maligning or slandering any individual or groups of persons such as ethnic, linguistic or religious or such segments of the public”.”

      The principle here is, can you call a SPADE a SPADE, even if those in power does not like it?

      Does the media have the right to call a spade, a spade?

      This is what happened with Copernicus, Galileo and Kepler. The Christian Church did not want to call a spade, a spade, because, it was not in their best interest, as what was prompted by the Church, different from the data and facts.

      We have the same ting here. The Maras are trying to suppress the truth.

      A Free press is absolutely needed for a JUST society.

      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/United_States_Constitution

      Individual rights
      The first Amendment defines American political community, based on individual integrity and voluntary association. Congress cannot interfere with an individual’s religion or speech. It cannot restrict a citizen’s communication with others to form community by worship, publishing, gathering together or petitioning the government.

      The First Amendment addresses the rights of freedom of religion (prohibiting Congress from establishing a religion and protecting the right to free exercise of religion), freedom of speech, freedom of the press, freedom of assembly, and freedom of petition.

  • 0
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    Thank you, Tisaranee, for another razor-sharp description of what lies ahead.
    And Presidunce Bean, we are not on our way to being another North Korea, we are already there!

    • 0
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      Hey D what is FIRST needed is a Code of Ethics for the corrupt and criminal Rajpassas brothers, sons, relatives and cronies, as well as, the uncouth mega Cabinet of clowns and the corrupt politicians of the Diya-wenna Parliament and in the provincial Councils – in this debacle of Asia.

      Civil society and you lawyer types MUST draft a Code of conduct for Sri Lankan politicians, and carry out a voter education campaign so that the Sinhalaya modayas and the Muslim and Tamil modayas do no vote for criminals like Duminda and Mervin Silva and the corrupt Rajpassa family that is engaged in the biggest land grab and power grab in Sri Lanka’s history..

    • 0
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      Asaranees another crap article

  • 0
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    A summary of Crimes Against Humanity to the International Court of Justice (ICJ)

  • 0
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    Atrocities committed will not go unpunished. The Dicks always pay a heavy prize at the end. Eg Ghaddafi

    • 0
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      At the end Hitlerpaksha, Nande Master (GOATa) and the entire Rajapassa family will pay the price!!

      • 0
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        …and Basil the Rat.
        Pay a price is fine but WHEN?

        • 0
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          Wate for me my friends me comming Back.I live Rajapakshe Lie. Karunanidhi give me support.This time have atom bomb.Kill all Buddhist prests.Everyone do as I say and we come back soon.

  • 0
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    But with all this reality,CHOGM will happen in sri lanka.
    The commonwealth totally ignores what is happening!
    We are living in a world of make-beleive!
    Are all other nations of the commonwealth deaf & blind?

  • 0
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    Leela aka Lester aka Jimsoththi aka American Mama aka Asanka would argue, how come you dont raise your voice against Dick Cheney’s Water Boating or the Guantanamo Bay.
    Totally irrelevant though, yet they only here to divert people from commenting.

  • 0
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    TG did not write an article about how Media Journalists became the willing applicants of the GOVT – ZERO INTEREST CAR LOAN. that is how journalists sell their souls, if they have one. Those applicants included very anti-govt and pro-LTTE – broadcasters of BBC too.

  • 0
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    Rajapakse is following the foots steps of Chinese Government. Here is the proof:
    -Military in civilian activities when the unemployment in the country is high.
    – Government and its stooges attacking all its opponents.
    – Military owning businesses – hotels , restaurants and factories
    – No independent body to monitor elections, police and other civilian related matters.
    – Control of the media by the Government.
    – Bribery by the Ministers and Secretaries of the ministries.
    – Attack news papers
    – Lie to the whole world.. LLRC report implementation, UN resolution implementation and other promises given to the world leaders including India
    – Ethnic Clensing
    – Manupulating the implementation or selectively implementing powers given to various bodies by the constitution.
    – Developing para military groups
    – Spending money on buildings while the masses go without food and minimal necessities.

  • 0
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    “According to a new study by the MichiganUniversity, “countries with higher levels of press freedom enjoyed better environmental quality”

    where did the term “ACID RAINS” comes from – From North America.

    USA did not sign to the KYOTO AGREEMENT ON ENVIRONMENT ?

    • 0
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      In Spain, the people are so desperate that they are robbing tourists at gas stations. In Greece, the nationalists have set up soup kitchens to feed only Greek citizens. Both of these countries have 100% press freedom, but what is the value? When you are hungry, a pen will not feed!

      • 0
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        Lester, Rajapakse cronies are robbing the country dry. Don’t look ate Greece and Spain, look at your own backyard. Your future generation will end up poor, stupid.

      • 0
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        What unemployed people do in other countries, Rajapakses are doing to their own people.

        Mega state Jackpot, Respectable, Satakaya, Tsunami and 10% Commission Kakka Thieves in action.

        • 0
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          Forget the free press. Sri Lanka is better off than Greece and Spain. In Greece and Spain, the problems are there in the open. In Sri Lanka you have to look to find.

  • 0
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    “Everyday, in everyway everything is getting better: that will be the message of every media outlet, public and private.”

    No one knew that EUROPE had bad debt until it went bankrupt. That is a hugh democracy.

    • 0
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      JimSofty

      “No one knew that EUROPE had bad debt until it went bankrupt. That is a hugh democracy.”

      The persons in the know knew it. The states and people knew it. The media knew it and reported it. Two issues, those who involved in it didn’t know how to deal with the banking crisis and the states either lied or didn’t want to rock the fragile financial banks.

      My elders tell me it is because of the reasonably free media the whole issue came to be in public domain.

      If there was no free media and democracy the states would have swept these issues under carpet.

  • 0
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    This wonderful piece of writing takes my memory back to the early 1970s (sorry for not remembering the exact date), when the Associated Newspapers (Lake House) take-over Bill was to be presented, a obituary notice appeared in the Sunday Observer announcing the death of democracy and its burial. It started with the words ‘The death is announced of D. E. M. O. CRACY (or something similar).

    • 0
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      Free media is tortured and killed by criminals at Diyavannaoya piggery.

      Now they are torturing the DEMOCRACY and will be killed soon.

      But there will be no body to cremate or burial as body be dissolved in a acid bathtub.[GOAT’s STYLE]

  • 0
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    I hope the people in Sri Lanka get behind M.A. Sumanthiran to take Sri Lanka back for all Sri Lankans and restore democracy….

  • 0
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    People like Tisaranee are waiting for Sri Lanka to fall into chaos, so that Ranil and his Western friends can take over. Whether the issue is halal or “media ethics”, they are searching hard. One bugger in Australia predicted “lights out” for Sri Lanka, a few months ago. Still the lights are there, from Mannar to Galle. Why should we take these people seriously? Look at Tisaranee’s references..”The German dictarship.” Really? Remind me when the Muslims start wearing yellow stars and Sri Lanka declares war on Maldives.

    • 0
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      *dictatorship

    • 0
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      Truth is bitter, is it not?

    • 0
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      Lester, truth hurts. Absolute truth hurts absolutely. Tisaranee is one of the best journalist I have come across – fearless.

    • 0
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      Great Job Tisaranee. Please keep on undressing the corrupt State Mafia Family Dictatorship and reveal them to the world.

      Let the Crook Monkey Jokers go to the place where they belong to, which is mattala Jungle.

    • 0
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      Lester;

      Still LICKING, may be no taste????????????????????????.

  • 0
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    by ur yardstick it will be fine for u people to attack the mahavansa mindset but not ok when others return…

    u need to look at urself in the mirror first lady

    u attack and u get attacked thats the way the world runs

    r u trying to tell us that there is media freedom in the UK and US… just see how these people are having all their calls tapped.. now what if ur favorite raja did the same here????

  • 0
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    Ms T’s Michigan Uni Study surerly couldn’t be about the US inhabitants where the minimum wage in some States is less than half of our Diasporians in Europe and Canda earn.

    Can that sort of earnings lead to high levels of Human Development and Life Satisfaction?.

    Srilankan inhabitants have increased their per capita to over USD 3000 from a miserly USD 1000 before Nanthikdal.

    Ms T’s loyal followers in the Capital are the group which benefited most from this extraordinary Economic progress.

    It is a pity that Ms T has to dig up the corpses of the Romans in Pompei and Japanese in Fukushima who are the victims of two of the worst natural disasters in Human History to score petty political points.

    • 0
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      It is absolutely astonishing this guy Sumanasekara keeps
      drinking Rajapaksha Kool-Aid day after day after day.
      Central bank figures are showing SL needs needs 103%
      of government revenue to service the debt. That means
      we have to barrow money just to service the debt. Balance
      of payment issue has already begun. This issue
      has a potential to cripple the economy. Rajapaksha
      solution for this problem is to raise foreign reservers
      by borrowing more money keeping NSB as a collateral.
      As long as we have more of Sumanasekaras, Rajapakshas
      will continue to loot the country with impunity.

      • 0
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        It is you who is drinking the Kool-Aid. USA national debt is
        $16,737,246,099,998 USD.

        • 0
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          Lester, you find fault in every country except Sri Lanka. With idiots like you, difficult to reform SL.

        • 0
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          Wow!!! now all Srilankans are going to
          be better than Amaricans economically.
          What a comparison!! No wonder we have
          Rajapakshas running our economy perhaps
          to the ground.

        • 0
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          what has USA National debt got to do with Sri Lanka march towards bankruptcy ? it means you do not have an answer!
          It will do SL good if all the frogs in the well open their eyes to what is happening … unless of course all want live under a none democratic goverment.. if so good luck! May the Tripple Gem blessing be upon all of you

          • 0
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            I have a very good answer. Please do the calculations. USA national debt is 16,737,246,099,998. USA population (2012) was 314 million. That means every person in the USA owes the rest of the world $53,303 USD. Do you know what will happen to the USA if the world suddenly demands its money back? :)

        • 0
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          Lester,

          Yes, tell this to the Governing siblings who are trying desperate to get US Citizenship while their children study and live there.

          Also tell this to Govt. parliament coolies whose children study in USA while thousands are applying for visa to go there.

          There’s a big difference between a debtor and an absolute Alibaba thief.

          • 0
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            Jayantha,

            US is so strong only because the world economy is pegged to the US dollar. That is why, when the US housing market collapsed, the whole world went into recession. US foreign policy is also tied to the strength of the dollar; look at how the US used its financial clout to put sanctions on Iran; can any other country do that? Combined with the strength of the dollar is a massive military force. The US defense budget is 10 times more than the combined defense budgets of the next 10 nations with the biggest defense budgets. This massive defense budget is designed not to protect the US from a physical enemy, but to protect US economic interests abroad. Why do you think the US has bases in Saudi Arabia? It is to protect the oil interests – Saudi Arabia is the biggest producer and exporter of oil. Invading Iraq was to steal the oil. Invading Afghanistan was to ensure the construction of a gas pipeline through that country. Why is the US trying to get rid of Assad? Because Syria is the gateway to Iran. If Iran goes, the US will be in complete control of the Middle East; Russian influence will not matter. Even Russia will be directly threatened by the US.

            But the US is missing one thing, and that is a strong manufacturing base. It is running out of native educated people, importing more and more Indians and Chinese to work on IT and engineering projects. Let us see how long this arrangement works! China is catching up very quickly.

            • 0
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              Lester,

              You say…..”But the US is missing one thing, and that is a strong manufacturing base. It is running out of native educated people, importing more and more Indians and Chinese to work on IT and engineering projects. Let us see how long this arrangement works! China is catching up very quickly.”

              Yes I agree with you, but USA can always shut China out and could start producing locally even at a higher cost and they are doing it now.

              But what I want to say is when USA is taking use of all the expatriate knowledge to help their economy…..what our Politicians did to our Great Academics, Professors,researchers,businessmen, Professionals and Intellectuals etc,etc………

              They simply distroyed them and Kicked them out of our country. Why they did that…….Because they thought the Intellectuals, Businessmen and Academics will be a threat to their Political survival in Parliament.

              Why they nationalised and took over many Private sector Businesses without opening similar businesses under Government corporations. Because they thought the more stronger they get, there will be a Political and Financial threat to the Government. Nothing else. The whole Sri Lanka is been Politicised now.

              Therefore now we face qualified academics and visioneeries in our Government to run our country who could take better Economic, political,employment and productive and Internationally friendly decisions than Govt. goons who run all these Corporations with unqualified Politically appointed Ministries have become mere White Elephants. How can a Grade 10 qualified be the chairman in Leading Sri Lankan Airline…….

              Ever since we got Independence our Crook Sinhala Buddhist Politicians only played the Racist Political, Religion and Race cards for their survival in Parliament depriving the best Intellectuals, Academics and Professionals that are the Best in the world to manage our country, while employing absolute uneducated political goons to run our country.

              This is the true state of Sri Lanka today and still continuing.

  • 0
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    MR must be acting on the advice given by the Chinese Govt when he went
    there recently. He should also pay a visit to North Korea and get some
    more advice and then become a member of the community of pariahs.

  • 0
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    AAAh Thisaranee . . . you are still alive

  • 0
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    MR and His brothers are counting their days, do not worry.

  • 0
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    Wow, Thisaranee another great expose.Sumanasekara, what village are you from ? not to determine your caste but to know people that earn around 31000/rupees a month.Per capita income is the gross domestic product divided by the population. The revenue that is generated is taken by the ruling clan and their supporters that get the contracts on a non competitive basis and most of the projects are sub standard and non contributory to the economy way ahead of the immediate needs. One hundred percent of the project are on loans that have kickbacks to the Rajapakses.These bastards are scraping the country to the roots on one thing they did do that being the winning of the war. The average income of a family of four if both parents work full time seems around 30,000/ per month.

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