By Sarath De Alwis –
On the evening of 26th October, the President appointed a new Prime minister replacing the old Prime minister. The same evening the apparatchiks of the new Prime minister took control of the two state Television networks and Lake house. They lost no time in presenting the apocalyptic ambush of constitutional governance as a very ordinary happening- a mere change of the administration of the nation that will soon be ratified by a parliament where the new Prime minster commanded a clear majority.
Other non-state-owned media outfits both electronic and print have also adopted a nauseatingly playing it cool, unbiased, uninvolved form of reporting and commenting that painstakingly avoids any opinions on the constitutional niceties of the president’s precipitate perfidy that undermined the 19th Amendment that drastically, diligently and doggedly reduced the discretionary dominance of the executive presidency.
While social media reflected the deep divisions within society, the main stream media both print and electronic have admirably managed to defy the laws of gravity by its ability to peer in to the abyss of political chaos enwrapped in the oligarchic interests of their proprietors.
JVP Parliamentarian speaking in Parliament on Friday, last week quite appropriately described the country’s mass media as ‘Kalu Madhya’ – a Black Media.
In fairness we must say that it is not all black, but it is indeed largely black and that too in pitch black.
Since 26th October we have seen a curious phenomenon. The news media and the Presidential Secretariat are embedded in a cynical game of self-abuse and resultant self-serving gratification. Journalists and politicians are engrossed in mutual manipulation in furtherance of their own interests. Manufacturing myths and shameless pursuit of self-interest is the best game in town.
Sound bites and video clips create crises. They serve the excellent purpose of dramatizing false assertions of constitutional proprieties observed and integrity of intent by the principal perpetrator of the constitutional crisis- the President. When he asserts that prorogation of parliament is his presidential prerogative no one bothers to ask him for the distinct raison d’etre that required him to do so.
The Presidential secretariat and main stream media organizations have collaborated in creating a giant spider that has ensnared the gullible segments of society dependent on traditional sources of information in to a symbiotic web of lies. It helps the media that is either unable or unwilling to report the truth and it helps the presidential secretariat to escape responsibility in creating and sustaining a power vacuum with a government that is unable to deliver credible governance.
The news media and the so called government or non-government are complicit in creating a charade that serves their own interests but misleads the public.
An illustrative instance is an interesting reference to a predicted development in parliament this week appearing in the political column of the leading Sunday broadsheet published in English and the Sunday morning must read of our nations’s literati, the cognoscenti and our political buttinsky – or busy bodies.
It refers to a motion in the order paper by seven UNF parliamentarians – Wijepala Hettiarachchi, Harshana Rajakaruna, Mayantha Dissanayake, Mujibur Rahuman, Ajith Mannapperuma, (Dr.) Jayampathy Wickramaratne and Hirunika Premachandra.
Their motion calls on the President to take action in terms of article 48(2) of the constitution as amended by article 48(2) in terms of the 19th Amendment which states:
“If Parliament rejects the Statement of Government Policy or the Appropriation Bill or passes a vote of no-confidence in the Government, the Cabinet of Ministers shall stand dissolved, and the President shall, unless he has in the exercise of his powers under Article 70, dissolved Parliament, appoint a Prime Minister, Ministers of the Cabinet of Ministers, Ministers who are not members of the Cabinet of Ministers and Deputy Ministers in terms of Articles 42, 43, 44 and 45.”
However, Clause 48(2) cited by the erudite political columnist in this Sunday’s commentary was in its pristine authentic original version. The original clause 48(2) even allowed the President to take over the functions of the Prime minster if the house was dissolved ‘until the conclusion of the general election.
The mistake has since been corrected in the web version after one parliamentarian a signatory to the motion pointed to the error. But was it a genuine error? In these troubled times, suggesting such wild possibilities to an already befuddled presidential brain can be fatal.
The mischief in the printed version is done. If we presume to claim wide wisdom on constitutional intricacies, we must at least have a nodding acquaintance with the constitution and its nineteen amendments. That would be an alternative far preferable to the flippant retreat to a Homer’s Nod in the current constitutional Armageddon!
The Political columnist is well respected, learned and usually well informed of both the profound and the trivial. In this instance he is in error. The Article 48(2) he has quoted is not as amended by the 19th Amendment.
The point I wish to make is significant. A few days ago, another trial balloon was hurriedly sent up with the mischievous intent of suggesting that certain clauses of the 19th amendment were smuggled in at the committee stage. That was pure hogwash published but unrepentant.
There also appears to be some serious doubts in the astute mind of the political pundit on the TNA’s current stand on the current constitutional knock down and drag out. The idea that the TNA stands for the higher principle of a vibrant pulsating democracy seems too exotic to the practitioners of realpolitik.
To this writer who has had the privilege of listening to the speeches of late Amirthalingam, Kadiravelupilai and Sivasithamparam on issues such as the setting up of Criminal Justice Commissions by SLFP’s Felix Dias Bandaranaike or JRJ’s move to strip Mrs. Sirimavo Bandaranaike’s civic rights , the principled stand of the graceful savant R.Sampanthan is only a continuance of the great traditions of Tamil parliamentary politics since independence.
Politicians are manufacturers of their peculiar truths. But when serious journalists reproduce them as reports, they acquire their own prestige and power. Alas! There are no other words for it. They are fabrications. When public business becomes a fabricating process, the result is what we have today. It is the current culture of lies that starts early in the day when Television news anchors sum up the stories of the print media making distortion of truth a more finite science than quantum physics.