Is Sri Lanka at the cross roads? Certainly not.
It doesn’t seem to be if one were to read the correct newspapers outlining government/state development activities. Majority do not have the time to read all the newspapers or click in relevant portals encompassing development. Development does not mean infrastructural projects alone. Social welfare projects and disbursements of funds for furtherance is enormous and untold, unknown. Last year, the Indian government published all its activities, investments and related parameter, enveloping their work in SL. This was done on their national day celebrations. Resorting to press releases alone is not enough but detailing out its work, challenges the minds of a nation with 94% literacy rates.
Multi-lateral and Bi-lateral aid programmes and any other if brought to the notice of people, we might find that work has been going on, except delays in pursuing justice for final indictments of culprits. Laws and its administration cannot be rushed; the delays in such cannot be related to delays in development as well. If we remember the famous Military coup in 60s: I was a schoolboy. It took five years; three good officers died in jail while two had serious impact on their marriages. People were patient, reading court proceedings in explicit detail, without comment or lament. Newspapers published what was recorded in courts. It was a time with hardly any development.
If we are at the cross roads, then we are defunct of Plan “B”. With the newly acquired media freedom, digital and the web rolling out, SL’s exit to plan B is seriously showing path finders to anarchism, where admission of the old idealogy, a matter of the past. Guidance needed to proceed for plan B not forthcoming from the national media in particular, is frightening. This has been the scenario since 1948; our independence, an achievement we acquired to rob each other until such time media was not free. With new freedom, the politician and bureaucrats now begin to be shown and known for their talents: corruption, nepotism and unqualified, remains as a genuine statement. Media points a finger at them: Have others pointed a finger at the media for the same? Or is the kettle calling the pot black? Where is plan B ?
Being unable to show a lead in politics, permits one to accept that the national media too has burnt it`s fingers? Courts and pristine sovereignty of the “Bench” and its judgements, has turned out be a debatable matter; the “Sil Redi” case is an example; “kangaroo courts”, now a fact. Such practice reflects contempt of court, was never seen or read before, does indicate lack of plan B. These procedures, nevertheless showing sentiments for degrading status of the Executive and Legislature is more open than before. If the Judiciary and legal fraternity were to remain as SL’s last resort to infinity in good governance, it cannot be seen what is taking place now as remedy, to what SL had prior to 2015.
So…, what is plan “B”? Devolution. This an an alternative which is being fought out in print, digital, to the confusement of average reader. It does not come from the media but the media itself outsourcing to others.
Devolution will only be a success if the Provinces are given the legal statutes and backing for that media; provincial media in print form, until such time digital technology, Wifi & Broadband, becomes more accessible and a reality. Devolution and the role to be played by the provincial University in guidance and knowledge via the local media will have to remain a factor which cannot be ignored. It can even promote the validity of learning relevant, and confined to provincial needs.
Devolution will come to remain an impossibility in furtherance in upliftment of the individual in participatory democracy at the district/province level, if the media at the provincial level not being a fact; not there at all. If not, we will come to remain with Plan A only / at the cross roads and national media. That is disastrous.
Although, 13A have done its basics, since 1987, in fact, local government rule existed even during SL’s own Sinhala Royalty times. However, there has not been a mechanism to sustain a coherence in efforts for interacting and disseminating ideas of people; even collectively, in addressing issues as years went by and in particular, in modern times.
Government/s of the day, its representatives spent much time in informing its efforts and work. It has been extremely time consuming. Its policies and agenda took far longer time to filter through to the people.. This only enhanced dependence of national media which only resorted to press releases, leading to a void in performance of the media, as well as government, enveloping subject matters, especially at provincial level.
“The Kandy”, as a provincial newspaper has got off to a good start. It has enormous potentials to be tapped for the betterment of beautiful Kandy. On good advice former Chief Minister of Wayamba started off the tabloid “Wayamba”. Later he had Rupavahini to provide news slots for various provinces at prime time. Much later former President Mahinda Rajapaksa wanted “Wayamba”, run from Daily News premises. Intentions were good enough but such Herculean task on remote control basis becomes cumbersome. Continuity of projects and ideas always had set backs with change of political colour in SL.
Example: Groups of women (6-10), in their early twenties, arrive in Colombo from Jaffna. They reside with families and friends. Their aim: To learn; hairdressing, beauty therapy, chiropidist podiatrist (treatment of cracked and dry skin in feet), hygiene, flower arrangements and English (verbal). Courses are for six months, expensive and basic, with modalities for furtherance. After completion, these young ladies return to Jaffna, looking modern, not fearing to speak English anymore; the long woven plat gone, a new hairstyle; they look even prettier than before; the “Mottu” in the middle of the forehead still remains. To promote their enterprise and initiatives, no media in Jaffna has bothered. Has the media tried to expose their talents and businesses back in their areas? It is here the role of the local media will come to play in accepting these new entrepreneurs as worthy citizens in their areas, where hollowed political dogma and others have failed in accepting what is new and modern. These youths aspirations, a pride of their parents !!
Example: Top end of Kurunegala district – Hettipola. A person intend selling an item to a person in the top Northen end of the Puttalam district – Wannathawilluwa – a distance of 210 km, taking almost 4 hrs. drive. He would advertise in the provincial media of “Wayamba”. Person in the Puttalam district far north, will access Hettipola person, with his mobile phone for further details, purchase or not. Access to anything and its promotions gets much easier. Small businesses thrive on such and time saving.
Example: Some months back PM Ranil Wickremesinghe had instructed Divisional Secretaries to compile a list, based on Food preparations and different Food recipes of districts. A very good idea which could have being easily exposed on a tourism point of view. What would have been the situation if the local media was prevalent?
It is a manner of advertising impact of the devolution on mass travel of locals and others. Other provinces interacting digitally, looking for the best. There are no secrets in development and enhancement of ideas through Devolution.
I never read a comment anywhere, when we know well, all provinces/districts are well endowed with different methods of cooking, with different tastes. It has been so for centuries. This is SL’s culture.
Example: A parliamentarian in the opposition too in the provinces receives an allocated Rs.5 million from the central government. If he has ideas and intend promoting such, he could do so with the help of the local newspaper. If the newspaper wants to, it could encourage him to promote; that is, if he is dormant enough not to do any. At the end of the day – people will know, who is doing what ; their choice. The province is better off than before.
Example: In Cricket, “Wayamba” schools or any other competing for the championship, leading to some of the players getting selected to play for the provincial team of Wayamba, playing inter provincial cricket, similar to County cricket, making selectors of the National team, their choice easier. Local media thrive on such events. I believe within 10 years after devolution, Sri Lanka will come to have some of the best players in international cricket. Provinces have the money for such task.
Women and political participation in Devolution:
New Local Government Election Laws with 30% women participation, in a way is to dissuade violent politics in SL? Female psyche and attitude abhors violence, corruption, even nepotism. They remain silent about it. This attitude of them in bulk, as voters, could only favour what is just the opposite.
This was a reason why former President Rajapaksa lost and his party paved the way for the present government’s victory. Last elections many women refrained from voting owing to such macabre politics; female voters who voted and in large numbers voted for the present ruling government while all the ethnic minority female vote in bulk voted for the present government. This clearly indicates and timely, that SL politics have now and will come to change course.
A 52% female majority in the Island and a 94% literacy rate, is writing on the wall for “thuggery in politics”, far better tolerance and peace in governance?. Is devolution going to enhance so, with its local media paving the way ? On the other hand, women’s closeness to the their “Faith”, is a serious concern, where the “Faith” too going hand in hand in encouraging accepted forms of worship and women’s participation in practising their Faiths. Provinces are renowned for participation of women and usually as a majority, where religious place of worship is concerned.
A female voters choice for the Actor, Artist and any other over the years becoming their choice was a clear indication what became of women in looking for such choice. It was the hidden reason of their psyche, looking for a better compromise of a plausible choice. Ceylon was equally at the cross roads with a deciding Plan B in the 60s . Millions of women rallied behind “Mrs. B”. Their choice made a crystal clear distinction between violent men and domicile women.
Although, it will take time to find women leaders through Devolution, nothing stops the local papers throwing it’s weight about in observing such leadership in the provinces. This is inevitable. Before very soon, probably, we will come to see the “face which is going to launch a million votes”? Or is it better for women to remember: Words.., stronger than a whisper !!
Although, the presence of the national media after devolution will still come to remain, but the fact is, people in their areas will be imposed an un-intended responsibility to acquire knowledge of their areas and governance, suiting their requirements through their own media. The list is long; to expose and exploit for the benefit of the area and the central government in Colombo. Politics is not the topic what the provincial reader will be inclined to read but issues governing his/hers day to day life: the law; the Faith, development; culture, sports, commerce, social welfare – the list is long and in equal requirements of any other citizen, rich or poor.
Poverty is not a crime; to remain poor is a worse crime. Devolution will provide a solution, as it is different, as it it is active and ought to remain active with partners in civility.
Guide lines: Rules and Regulations and Legal enactments
1. Provincial media: Additional TV and Radio
1.1. A private enterprise. Weekly or twice as per demand. Print language as per ethnicity and availability of funds. It should be owned and managed by Sri Lankan citizen (natural citizenship) having/had residence and voting rights in the district/province for minimum 15 years
1.2. Ownership and Editor will not share or remain as proxy, agent or partners to persons/organisations/
Note: After 35 years as Editor of a renowned daily in Denmark, the man when retired in 1993, finally admitted, that he had been working as an agent/spy for the Israeli Secret Service, “Mossad”. He was editor at start and height of the LTTE war in SL. Denmark was shocked to its heels; so was European media.
1.3. It should be devoid of any financing from outside SL in any form
1.4. Management will remain from the province having voting rights and having residence of minimum 15 years
1.5. Editor (under 50 years of age) and editorial staff will be from the district/ province (minimum 15 years) having voting rights and executing responsibilities from such establishment in the province/district
1.6. Editor, will hold such tenure of position only for two years, thereby, creating job rotation, providing equal opportunities for others in editorial
1.7. New recruitments will be within for internal staff and from province.
1.8 .Publishing statements of accounts at yearly intervals
1.9. The newspaper will be financially independent and politically neutral
2. Funding and Miscellaneous:
2.1. It should allocate funds for the travel of reporters ( minimum 2 ) on study tours to foreign countries having regional/provincial newspapers
2.2. Statutes & Amendments related to schedules being effective from commencement of date of enterprise and of publication of journal on such date
2.3. If needed, the enterprise could call for equity/share holders participation or introduce joint venture(JV) forms with any in province.
2.4. In areas vulnerable to poverty and administrative links, the role of the Ministry of Cultural Affairs/Government acting as independent providers, financial or otherwise, for the media start up and performances linking with private entrepreneurs (JV), with journal upholding political neutrality