29 September, 2021

Blog

Shall We Decide?

By Tony Perera

This is being written in two veins. One to point out the massive corporate hypocrisy of our media landscape. Secondly and most importantly to at least maintain the adversarial façade of our political landscape.

Rajandram Rajamahendran is not a nice man. His achievements in cricket are mainly due to his privileged position in society and not due to his leadership talent. His media empire though seemingly brave in their reporting only really does so for the subsequent benefit of political clout. Given the massive failings in our society in any real democracy, the coverage should be far worse.

As Sri Lankan politics have nothing to do with policy Rajamahendran’s death will open new dynamics in our highly interpersonal networks of political clout. As with new people, there can be new beginnings, the Capital Maharaja media empire can and probably will broker some form of peace with the UNP and SLPP.

Rift with Ranil

At the last General election, Kili Raja Mahendran of the Maharaja Organization requested two slots in the National list of MPs at the general elections to which I did not agree. Therefore, his Sirasa media has turned hostile to me and my party, and have started a campaign to attack us – Opposition leader Ranil Wickremesinghe

Though not acknowledged Ranil has an admirable track record of standing against media conglomerates. In backroom dealings, he seems to have made few friends and many enemies. Notable among his enemies are the likes of Hiru, Ceylon Today, Derana, and Sirasa.

In all these feuds there are great moral underpinnings. It was his government that jailed the brother of the Hiru group owner whose release according to sentiments expressed online is considered a miscarriage of justice. It is not for newspaper owners to play an active role in the suppression of voter rights. With Derana though the relationship has turned somewhat more convivial lately the UNP under Ranil has stood firm on a pluralistic Sri Lanka. Derana is highly intertwined with the Rajapaksa family and it is under Wickremesinghe’s government that considerable corruption scandals came to public attention.

Actual bravery

All major media institutions in Sri Lanka operate on an advertising model. There are large groups of people that have already made up their minds on who to vote for. These people are served by media platforms that reconfirm their biases and help them decide on which brand of soap, piping, and or flavoured beverage they should consume.

Partisan viewpoints, therefore, are good for business. On top of this, it is highly likely that under a Premadasa government there will be considerable benefits to the privately held Capital Maharaja organization.

Why not have a proportionate celebration of journalists who have been killed by the government? A man so thickly a part of the establishment that national leaders have to issue statements on their deaths in a country as corrupt as Sri Lanka is probably not a good human being.

Attacks and coverage of non-entities

As most statements are public the general populace can make up their own minds on who is a sickening sycophant to a media organization. However, amongst yesterday’s coverage, it was interesting to note that the Sinhala Ravaya came out in praise of the late Rajamahendran. This is an institution that short of the coverage given by the corporate media does not have any traction in other platforms. Their social media reach and any other metric of public engagement are poor.

Individuals with some knowledge of how the Central Bank has arranged the payments system would also see that the Sirasa based attack on Muhunthan Canagey was highly misleading. Pricing of payments products in Sri Lanka as set by the National Payments Commission are very much against the digitization of the payments ecosystem. Competition in the payments space through ICTA would have been beneficial to all of us.

With apologies to Canagey, it is odd to see why people of such little interest to the general public are given such prominent coverage by Sirasa.

Conclusion

The UNP was probably under duress in issuing yesterday’s statement. Aligning with Capital Maharaja organization regardless of their new political alignment is not in the public interest. Recent polling still shows that Premadasa can not win a general or presidential election. However, many will defend this action as favourable coverage is a necessity for political survival.

To solve this, following an electoral victory, the UNP can then look to vest one of the state media broadcasting channels (either ITN or Rupavahini) with the leader of the opposition. Given the way newspapers work, the deputy editor at the state paper can be appointed by the leader of the opposition. Laws can also be enacted forcing independent media outlets to have balanced coverage. At the end of the day, it is us the general public who should decide on who gets elected.

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Latest comments

  • 18
    6

    One sided story. I do not no much about Mahendran. Mostly what I read or heard are critical of him. But one thing is for sure . Given the choice between Mahendran and Ranil I consider Mahendran trustworthy, more credible and a man with a mission. Ranil is a pimp/fixer a purposeless and worthless man. If Mahendran was in Ranil,s place definitely he would have done better and vice versa if Ranil was in charge of Maharajas it would have been history by now. From all I heard from people up to now are very positive ( including staff, cricketers, politicians). So what this writer says cant be all true. Taking into consideration Mahendran too was a victim of 84 pogrom and yet managed to rebuilt the organization. Whereas Ranil single handedly destroyed the GOP.

    • 20
      13

      Chiv,
      Most of what you know about Ranil is what was fed to you by Killi Mahendran’s media, I suspect. It would be more correct to say that Mahendran single-handedly destroyed the UNP and landed us in this mess.

      • 12
        2

        It is, in our society, bad to speak ill of the dead, particularly the recently dead, but as CT seems to have set the ball rolling, I must add my two cents’ worth. Killy M , from what I hear from those who associated with him, was a sociable man in private, but in public a single-minded schemer pushing his own agenda. His pursuit of political influence was pretty obvious, having planted pliable individuals in practically every party, JVP included. These people are the ones Sirasa gets voice cuts from, and are given farore air-time than they deserve. He was relentlessly vindictive, and was quite ready to use his media to character assassinate defenceless individuals like Muhunthan Canagey who got in his way. Muhunthan was planning to get Google to provide free internet via balloons. Mahendran, without any grounds, believed that this would interfere with his group’s UHF channel allocations. If this plan had not been ridiculed and shot down ( without revealing the real reason), thousands of schoolchildren wouldn’t be climbing mountains in search of a signal today.

        • 9
          3

          Mahendran was quite ready to change his views to suit the political climate or financial incentives. I remember how Sirasa went to town against Port City before the 2014 elections and reversed tack after it, even collecting bricks to build some monument inside! There were the notoriously one-sided commentaries disguised as “news” that eventually split the government. There is reasonable suspicion that this was driven by a personal vendetta against Mahendran the CB governor, who was a relative.
          In the final analysis, not a nice man at all. Is that why, perhaps, Sirasa devoted less time to his funeral than the Siyatha channel?

          • 4
            1

            OC
            You have restored balance to the content of the main article.
            RR as much as he could be hard on people whom he perceives as ‘enemies’ could be generously rewarding to those who are loyal.
            I know of a few personal beneficiaries.
            The media time that he spent on destroying Ranil W is no match to that for promoting Sajith P, who owes considerably to RR for the following he has in the country.
            He built up Milinda Moragoda, and spent much news time and personal canvassing to protect him from a financial scandal.

            • 5
              0

              S.J,
              It’s true that Killi never forgot those who helped him, such as Premadasa senior. He was good to his employees too. But he would use all his resources to destroy those that got in his way. As for the Sirasa media, it must be said that unlike the hysterically nationalist Hiru, Swarnavahini, etc they never promoted astrology or fake history.

              • 0
                0

                OC
                Fully agree

          • 1
            3

            Two days ago my Belgian neighbour asked me what sort of person Kili Maharaja was; I truthfully answered that I didn’t know. Jacques said that all he had heard indicated a good man who had inherited wealth. I had, indeed, heard the sort of thing that old codger, SJ, and Ajay have already said here.
            .
            I told the truth, but it is also true that it is not nice to say nasty things soon after his death; he obviously left behind relatives who are still grieving for him.
            .
            However, given the desperate straits the country is in, I don’t think that we should allow all this to be swept under the carpet. oc, in particular, is one of the most astute commenters.
            .
            The mess that the country is in is still being discussed below this article:
            .
            https://www.colombotelegraph.com/index.php/a-letter-to-the-us-senate-a-common-reply-to-the-many-responses/
            .
            I have made some points there, but they are far more tellingly made by oc. One problem that we have is that few of us can see as clearly as oc. SJ is intelligent but can be nasty on occasion. See how he tried to blackmail me there.

            • 4
              3

              “See how he tried to blackmail me there.”
              Blackmail who for what and how?
              No, thanks.
              I have already had enough to laugh about

            • 5
              1

              One needs to have a skeleton in the cupboard to be blackmailed about.
              Seriously, is there one?

      • 4
        1

        OC, thanks for the Mukunthan piece which I was unaware. As I admit, I did not know much about Mahendran other than hearsay and media. I was always sceptical and questioned Mahendran’s media flooding ,which I found was more irritating than informative. (during my brief visits to Lanka , whereas my mom is a big time follower of their news and does not follow any other). But I still have a hard time believing Mahendran alone is responsible in destroying the political career of one of the most senior, seasoned politician RW. Also I did not hear Mahendran being politically that influential years ago, as now. Mahendran is no Murdoch. Just curious which party was he supporting UNP , SLFP or both ?? If UNP he was not that influential during 80,s because he almost lost his fortune in 84 pogrom. My statement above was more about RW than Mahendran. Feel free to correct me.

        • 3
          1

          Chiv,
          “Just curious which party was he supporting UNP , SLFP or both ??”
          I believe his modus operandi was to infiltrate all political parties with his stooges. Some were quite openly his employees, like Sri Ranga , Susil Kindelpitiya, and Sarath Kongahage. He was only interested in his own grip over power. Fair enough, but the means were unfair. I suppose he was a nice man to know, but not one to get on the wrong side of.

          • 3
            0

            Chiv,
            He wouldn’t have been able to destroy the Rajapaksas as he did Ranil, because Ranil wasn’t capable of bombing the Maharajas out of business. The only politician he supported to the hilt was Sajith, out of gratitude to his father.

    • 4
      2

      Chiv

      Rajamahendran was an astute businessman. I remember back in the late 70s, he had politicians of all colours in his pocket but his biggest beneficiary was Premadasa snr. Many in the payroll of Maharajas were idle, employed because of their celebrity status as sportsman, political influence or usefulness in business. As all extremely successful businessmen, he was smart to operate on the borders of legality but he also had a compassionate streak, helping poor people who caught his eye & those loyal to him. Perhaps, he became a media tycoon when he realised the advantage it has on business in the current political climate. No doubt, if Premadasa jnr came to power, Rajamahendran would be the puppet master, the most powerful man in SL.

      I bear no ill will against Rajamahendran, in fact, I respect him over the current oligarchs. Its just a way of being successful in business in SL.

      • 1
        0

        Thanks Raj did not notice your comment , helps with some of my inquiries made to OC.

  • 5
    1

    His achievements in cricket are mainly due to his privileged position in society and not due to his leadership talent

    He was a man of vision showing leadership lalent to others not to himself.

    IF ONE MAN SAYS HE SAYS NICE MAN OR NOT NICE MAN MUST ALL BELEIVE.

    HE HAS CREATED MANY JOB OPPERTUNITY
    His achievements in cricket are mainly due to his privileged position in society and not due to his leadership talent

    Although you can never be perfect, there are many things you can do to become a better man. Instead of being a victim to your environment, take responsibility for your circumstances and look for opportunities to create the kind of life you desire

  • 6
    1

    Part 1
    .
    I completely agree with the writer’s and old codger’s assessment of R. Rajamahendran (AKA Kili Maharaja). He was a ruthless corporate shark, a vindictive manipulator, and the deadliest political godfather modern Sri Lanka has known. Kili amassed his wealth and power by taking full advantage of the IT revolution in Sri Lanka and the introduction of TV that coincided with his business career. But as is well known, his conduct and methods were neither entirely professional nor ethical. He resorted to whatever means that was necessary – brutal business tactics, backroom politics, and the abuse of his media empire without any concern for even the basic journalistic norms. He created media whores like Kingsly Rathnayake, and con men like Sri Ranga – these are just two examples of cases too numerous to mention. What is most unpardonable is Kili using his corporate and media power to undermine democracy in the country. He interfered with the political process that should be determined by the people, by planting his accomplices in key policy/decision making positions in government and parliament – or the other way around.

  • 5
    1

    Part 2
    .
    I don’t want to say more because I may end up saying something bad about a person just died, which is not right. But please read the following after an appropriate grace period.

    https://www.colombotelegraph.com/index.php/kili-maharajas-illegal-grab-of-state-land-worth-half-a-billion-rupees/

    thuppahis.com/2019/08/31/the-kili-rasputin-manipulating-sirisenas-presidency/

    • 3
      0

      Dear Ajay,
      .
      I respect your scruples, but what you have said in Part One must probably be studied so that we don’t allow such things to continue in this country – and in this world, which guys like me must soon leave.
      .
      The Michael Roberts blog: It won’t open with the link that you have given. It will, with this:
      .
      https://thuppahis.com/2019/08/31/the-kili-rasputin-manipulating-sirisenas-presidency/

  • 2
    0

    Part 3
    .
    I don’t think the link to the 2nd article came right. Let’s try again:
    .
    https://thuppahis.com/2019/08/31/the-kili-rasputin-manipulating-sirisenas-presidency/

  • 10
    2

    OC ,what we know about Ranil is what Maharaja media has fed us ?

    You mean Ranil has not lost any elections, UNP won many seats in 2019 or Ranil is actually a popular and a successful leader ? ! !

    Tony Perera ,you say Ranil stood against media institutions and therefore they are against him !

    It seems the whole country , except you , Jayasinghe of Australia and in a half -hearted way Old Codger are against Ranil.

    Perhaps the media is only reflecting what the whole country is saying.

    May be they only know James Bond and not sovereign bonds. Ranil has convinced the three of you he must be the next President !

    Tony says Maharaja was no leader but used his privileged birth and position to go places.

    What do you say about Ranil ?

    • 4
      4

      D.S,
      “OC ,what we know about Ranil is what Maharaja media has fed us ?
      You mean Ranil has not lost any elections, UNP won many seats in 2019 or Ranil is actually a popular and a successful leader ? ! !”
      Cart before the horse? OK,
      1 Why did Ranil become unpopular? Wasn’t it the relentless daily harping on the alleged “bond scam”? Why was there no harping on the losses at Sri Lankan, which were several times more than any losses attributed to the bond scam.
      2. If , in your opinion, we should vote for politicians who can win elections, then we should all vote for the Rajapaksas.
      3. The Rajapaksas, Buddhist monks and Sirasa between them made Ranil out to be a corrupt Western-oriented traitor selling off the country. Are we better off now?
      4. If anyone is to blame, it is the gullible voters. Many of them regret it now, but they are quite capable of repeating the exercise.

  • 1
    2

    Please check the link below about the controversial businessman Muhunthan Canagey
    https://asianmirror.lk/news/item/6913-controversial-dealer-muhunthan-canagey-appointed-as-icta-chief

    • 2
      1

      Diyanil,
      Isn’t this the same website that last week blamed Tamil police officers for not preventing Black July?

  • 2
    1

    The article and the comments were well articulated and informative.

    I do not know much about Rajandram Rajamahendran. However I watch Sirasa and Sakthi occasionally and form my own opinion based such observations..

    I was rather surprised to read the comments made by some regular columnists especially with Marxist leanings.

    Marxist have invariably mastered dialectical materialism and antagonistic class struggles and make very insightful observations.

    Raja Mahendran is a businessman and a media mogul and therefore a typical capitalist and his behavior as seen from the article and the comments is not unusual for a capitalist whether local or international..

  • 1
    2

    Media controls or Politics controls media is the real problem. Unfortunately, Media and Politics are controlled by Rich. Our Politicians are Rich. Some are rich from Birth and some became rich after coming to Politics. The following link gives you a list 10 richest people in Sri Lanka
    http://asianworldnews.co.uk/globalnews/top-10-richest-people-in-sri-lanka/
    Mahinda Rajapaksa 1.8Billion$
    Arjuna Ranatungha 68 million$
    Maithiripala Sirisena 14 million$
    Arumugam Thondaman 1.9 million$
    Vinayagamoorthy Muraleetharan (Karuna) 1.7 billion$

    Ranil’s Net worth 860000 $.

  • 5
    2

    OC, do you think Ajith’s opinion is factual ?You are together ?

    OC are you saying that unpopular chaps, chaps who cannot win the popular vote, should rule !

    • 3
      1

      D.S,
      Are you then happy with the popular vote-winners who are ruling us now?

    • 0
      0

      DS
      Opinion and fact are often things far apart.
      Our news media dish out the former in the name of the latter.
      *
      Regardless of A’s opinion, the data seems confined to political figures.
      I am sure that there are businessmen here who can buy the wealth of all ten put together several times over.
      *
      The link below lists 20 people that excludes all 10 named by A’s link.
      https://www.toptwenty.live/2020/09/top-20-richest-people-in-sri-lanka.html

      • 0
        0

        S.J
        Perhaps that list should be renamed the “doubtful list of richest politicians in Sri Lanka”.

  • 0
    0

    Author TP, Regardless of hypocrisy of media and façade of politics, and in spite of all the political actions of the leaders mentioned above, our major issue is how to get out of the debt trap we got into while many leaders were crazy on building their personal kingdoms with the robbed national wealth. The real tragedy is that they plan to continue robbing. Otherwise there is more than enough wealth within our own country to pay off debt if the gem business and other business groups set up offers from their excess, but are fearful of being stripped bare and robbed totally while trying to help. For this reason we need leaders of honesty and integrity in this area where they let go of this irresponsible and weird money mania, which will destroy their very generations they are trying to make rich without working for it and who will squander to zero.

  • 0
    0

    Sinhala Man.
    ………..It is not nice to say nasty things soon after his death……..

    Sensitive and Sensible people would no doubt, like you, follow that famous dictum
    De mortius nil nisi bonum [ of the dead say nothing but the good]

    Prof: J.L.C. Rodrigo onetime Prof: of Western Classics had a Pseudonym Autolycus from Greek Mythology.

  • 0
    0

    Has anyone bothered to find out the meteoric rise of the Maharajah Organization? I wonder! Maharajahs became strong during Premadasa rule. It is said the force behind the success is none other than Paskaralingam. Whom I believe allocated a number of State Properties to Maharajahs including the property where the Head Office is. The last of the properties handed to a subsidiary of Maharajahs was the Echelon Square property which they tried to collar, securing with Barbed wire, but was prevented by Gota. Maharajahs also acted as the Proxy for the Tamil diaspora at the height of the conflict.

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