4 December, 2020

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What Next, A Ban On Laughter?

By Malinda Seneviratne – 

Malinda Seneviratne

Malinda Seneviratne

President Mahinda Rajapaksa knows how to smile.  Everyone knows this, even those who erroneously think that his biggest strength is his affable nature and the ease with which can interact with people from all walks of life. He can make a joke and he can take a joke. As is the case of all leaders he has had his share of lampooning. Indeed, in the age of the internet, he’s had it worse than his predecessors.  He has smiled through it all.

It is certainly a person of character who can take a hit and still stand tall.  The stronger among us are endowed with both humility and a sense of humor.  Most importantly they can laugh at themselves and laugh with others even when the joke is less tasteful and perhaps unfair. They know that political satire is an inevitable in political life and are not fazed by it.

Now it is true that not everyone is blessed with a sense of humor that helps overcome adversity and rise above poison pens and such.  Still, that’s hardly an argument for outlawing humor including political satire.  It is an inevitable and important part of a vibrant democracy.

Take it out and it would be like Mahinda Rajapaksa without a smile.  It would not make a difference if he had never smiled, but a smile-less president would not only look different, it would be ‘news’ and indicative of many things political.

ayomaWe make these observations in light of something which is both laughable and also too serious to make jokes about.

On April 7 (Monday), the Lakbima newspaper published a photo caption on Page 8 of Ayoma Rajapaksa, the wife of the Secretary of the Defence Ministry at an event organized by the Seva Vanitha of the Civil Defence Force. She was there as the chief guest.  The photo shows her buying something from a stall and the caption read ‘Hora Salli Nemeine…’ (‘Not counterfeit notes, right?’ or ‘These are not counterfeit notes’).  The line makes sense only because of a recent discovery of a large cache of counterfeit currency indicating the existence of a sophisticated racket.

It is clearly a witty line and would have elicited a laugh.  It alerted the public, thereby, to the issue.  All in all decent enough journalism, one would think. Few would conclude that it insinuated that either the lady or her husband was implicated in passing around counterfeit currency.  The simple truth is that the line would not work if it were, for example, a housewife offering a 100 rupee note to a mallun vendor at the pola. President Rajapaksa, one feels, would have laughed it off.

Lakbima, for whatever reason, carried an apology on its front page the following day.  The sub editor who put the headline ‘irresponsibly’ was thereafter interdicted.  Now we can conclude that the line had escaped the editor’s eye.  If that’s the case and if the editor found it objectionable the apology can be called appropriate and the interdiction understandable. What happened thereafter, however, leads us to believe that someone outside that newspaper appears to have been hurt.

Saman Wagarachchi, the Editor, was still summoned and questioned about the photo caption by the CID for several hours. According to Wagarachchi, the investigators had said they were questioning him due to the mentioning of forged notes. However, they refused to disclose who had made the complaint.  Police Spokesperson SSP Ajith Rohana, likewise, refused to divulge the identity of the complainant.

This is ridiculous. If this run-of-the-mill line of lightheartedness is objectionable then cartoons would be out of order, satirical columns would have to be stopped. Collette, Wijesoma, Yoonus and other greats would have been out of jobs if the powers that be at the time they drew had dispositions as tender as that of the offended in this case.  We wouldn’t have been thrilled and educated by columns such as ‘King Barnett’, ‘Manige Theeruwa’, ‘Kasuruge Kolama’ etc.  ‘The Nation’ would have to drop its ‘lighter’ columns ‘View from Ritigala’, ‘Yakonet’ and ‘Meanwhile in a parallel universe’.  Editors would have to ensure that the end product is humor-free.

That’s so not Sri Lanka, by the way.  We are a nation that is resilient and our resilience comes in part by our general ability to laugh things off and laugh at ourselves.  More seriously, though, this move by authorities to rap knuckles has to be roundly condemned on account of infringing upon media freedom.

Saman Wagarachchi is a senior professional and is held in high esteem in the industry.  The line in question is at worst mischievous but any journalist and indeed most readers would call it ‘harmless’ if questioned on the matter. Readers would laugh and forget about it. Now they will find it hard to dismiss.  They will go ‘Aha!’ and ask themselves questions that are colored with suspicion.  That’s what over-zealous reaction does.

Best for all concerned to drop it.  This is Aluth Avurudda, the preeminent moment of national embrace.  It is for smile and laughter.  Let’s keep it that way.

*Malinda Seneviratne is the Chief Editor of ‘The Nation’ and his articles can be found at www.malindawords.blogspot.com

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Latest comments

  • 6
    2

    Hi guys! Joker strikes again!!

    • 0
      0

      After the ban on laughter, get ready for Tax on air. Thank God for the
      Mahinda Chintana and 20 million suckers. The end is nigh.

      Burgher Boy

  • 7
    1

    Malinda, getting scared that you might slip up and end up on the 4th floor?

  • 3
    3

    A ban on crying for Tamils..

    Tamils in the North and East are banned from grieving and crying for their missing loved ones.

    old mothers, widows, teenage girls attending puperty, old men with one foot in the grave…none of them cant grieve or cry for their missing loved ones.

  • 1
    2

    What is happening? I don’t understand this big fuss. Are they claiming the LTTE rumps are writing on the new paper too?

    Real Goons. Go on! The cliff is right at the turn.

  • 2
    1

    Creeping fascism!

  • 3
    1

    ” President Mahinda Rajapaksa knows how to smile. Everyone knows this, even those who erroneously think that his biggest strength is his affable nature and the ease with which can interact with people from all walks of life. …”

    WOW… no doubt, this guy is made of boot-licking genes. He is not gutsy enough to say how dump Gotabhaya and his cronies are!

    “Lakbima, for whatever reason, carried an apology on its front page the following day”….? Whatever reason????

  • 1
    1

    “This is Aluth Avurudda, the preeminent moment of national embrace. It is for smile and laughter. Let’s keep it that way”.

    I look at Malinda’s picture with envy! what a charming smile he has. All that effort of his is wasted on being a stooge!

    Yes Boot licking is an acquired art for some of us . For others it is by second nature. If one is quite good as an appeaser then one should keep it that way.

    • 1
      1

      ken robert

      He looks like Tamil film baddy and would do well in Kollywood (Chennai).

  • 1
    0

    Malinda watch out the white van might come for you for your comments here!

  • 2
    0

    “Take it out and it would be like Mahinda Rajapaksa without a smile.”

    Don’t BS us mate.If you joke about mahinda’s better half then you are going to see his fist,not smile. Lasantha wrote something about his wife and mahinda called and threatened him and said anything about him okay but not his wife.Premedasa too i think killed some photographer for showing hema’s skirt lifted up during netball.I think in srilankan culture the wives look upto their husbands to protect them and this is their way of testing their spouse’s sense of duty.Gota would have had no choice when the missus complained and has to show her he is taking action,otherwise he can forget about his dinner and who would want to come home everyday to a glum angry face taking no notice of you at all and treating you like the wallpaper on the wall.

    In western countries some guys have been bashed or stabbed in the late night trains because women have asked their BF’s to do it to test their love for them.Must be something to do with our primate instinct.After all we may have evolved a bit more civilised,but the animal qualities are always there lurking below the surface and will spring out at appropriate moments unable to control.Take the case of animals urinating to mark their territory and compare it with Gnanasera Thero going into every nook and cranny of wilpattu to checking for muslims.

    • 1
      0

      Hey Shankar boy
      Nice to see you back. I am glad you understand men very well. Yes, they want to protect their wives to get what they really want…

    • 0
      0

      Good comment shankar…

  • 2
    0

    If the cap fits, put it on – the saying goes.

    Clearly, here the Corrupt and criminal Gotabaya Rajapaksa has acknowledged criminality… the regime spins lies and circulates fake coin..

    Malinda S, you are a disingenuous clown to wax so on Mahinda Jarapassa’s SMILE! When I see his mug on posters which is far too often I wish I had rotten eggs and tomatoes to fling!

  • 1
    0

    This guy MS has copied Thisaranee Gunasekeres’ article on the same subject.
    MS is a Plagiarist and this article is awful compared the TG’s on the same subject!

  • 2
    0

    Aha, young Malli pops his head over the wall and makes an appropriate comment about the need to permit media freedom. Sha, how righteous and upstanding of him!!

    What’s happened buddy? Your free laptop broke down and was not replaced with another freebie?

    Or are you suggesting that the powerful person behind this ridiculously puerile interrogation of the Editor and the firing of the sub-Editor is over-stepping his boundaries? Is Gota getting under the Aadambarakara Thaaththa’s skin (or worse)?

    Or more to the point is this a foretelling of a battle royal looming within the siblings ahead of the UNHRC led inquiry?

  • 1
    0

    Is Saman a good friend of Malinda that Malinda decided to defend Saman instead of Rajapakses ?

    Blood is thicker than the laptop? -:)

  • 1
    0

    Why so coy on speculating on who is behind this? Intrepid journalist indeed. also note the traditional and now obligatory’ mahinda is good- it is the others’ line. Why is mahinda, the man with such a fantastic sense of humor- not being questioned for permitting this to happen? What about the banning of pussvedilla? come on man, at least try to make your arguments tighter.

  • 2
    0

    Sri lanka’s governance is done and controlled by self appointed Idiots a Psychopaths,
    SO how they know about that laughter is the best medicine in the society.???????.
    have any body seen Jarapassa Clan, Smiling or laughing from their heart’s feelings.
    But full of Hatred and revenge!!!!!.

  • 0
    0

    The crackdown on the media that was supposed to protect “national interests” has now come back to bite the so called “nationalists”. Our friend Dayan was recently on a Sri Lankan news talk show and spent an entire hour that was supposed to be about SL’s political problems, discussing the results of the provincial council elections! Not a single word was uttered on the most defining issue the state has faced since independence: the UN led international investigation. Clearly, a memo has gone out to the heads of media institutions including news channels that discussing Geneva is off limits. The irony is that this type of censorship actually helps the cause of a peaceful transition of the NE from the SLA to a UN led protection mechanism. If discussion on Geneva is off limits, then surely, when the UN peacekeepers arrive, that will be off limits as well. Even when the Eelam flag is raised over a free nation in the NE, neither Dayan nor Malinda will be able to go on TV and share their views on the subject. They will be forced to discuss the southern provincial council elections!

  • 0
    0

    I still don’t think the readers and the commenters
    Got the message from the author.
    Think how many charitable organisations and helping people
    Added in SL banned terrorist group.

    Sorry I am going backward on authors point of
    View that’s my way of thinking

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