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Has Aljazeera become a tool of the West – Sri Lanka the latest victim

Al Jazeera is no stranger to controversy. It has been accused of siding with the western lobby in toppling the Libyan leader, it has been criticized over unfair coverage in Syria, links to US forced Al Jazeera’s English director to resign in 2011, while another reporter was accused of links to Al Qaeda, in 2012 its own correspondents resigned objecting over Al Jazeera paying $50,000 to smuggle phones & satellite equipment to Syria’s ‘rebels’. Iraq too accused Al Jazeera of sectarian bias in 2013 & the same year Egypt arrested some Al Jazeera reporters too while even India banned Al Jazeera for 5 telecasts over repeatedly relaying disputed maps of India. Therefore, in its reporting of Sri Lanka, the question of bias by Al Jazeera is nothing new or unexpected. On 31st October 2018 Al Jazeera invites 3 Sri Lankans to answer their question Is Sri Lanka on the path to dictatorship?”. When viewers are presented 3 controversial characters viewers are unlikely to derive at a proper assessment of the situation. Let us therefore take the sentiments expressed by these viewers & facilitated by Al Jazeera so that post-interview the readers can conclude how mainstream media manipulates people’s opinion.

The Inside Story presented by Al Jazeera’s Imran Khan who says ‘the political crisis in Sri Lanka is spiraling out of control’ – on what basis is he coming to such a conclusion? and what are the examples to justify this statement? Nothing. Just blabber something & air it on prime time & it takes its own course. He goes on to say ‘Parliament has been warned of a bloodbath’ – again who is giving these ‘warnings’ we are into the 12th day after the change-over & no such bloodbath has occurred. However, there has been 1 death and that death is as a result of one of the former Prime Minister’s Minister ordering his security to shoot resulting in the death inside the Ceylon Petroleum Compound.

What is the ‘democracy’ Al Jazeera may term for a Prime Minister who is removed & replaced & the new appointment is also gazette but the sacked PM refuses to leave the official residence & has been staying put for the past 12 days and not only that Temple Trees the official residence of the Prime Minister has been turned into a UNP family fun house. Oh but no one will say anything against such.

Al Jazeera selects 3 controversial panelists Jehan Perera of the Church funded National Peace Council, Alan Keenan of the regime change expert International Crisis Group & Dilantha Withanage of the Bodu Bala Senawa – Jehan Perera does not represent the majority opinion or even the minority opinion. But he does represent the opinion of the NGOs & the Church which funds him. He is one of the best speakers & writers who have a prepared dictionary of ‘democratic’ words & phrases which get circulated. We can predict his sentences before he even says it!

Jehan Perera says the sacking of Ranil & appointment of Mahinda ‘goes against democratic norms’ reasoning that it took place ‘without prior’ warning. Oh yes, President tells Prime Minister ‘I’am going to sack you’ and the Prime Minister will say ‘OK, please go ahead’ – and this is the same PM who is refusing to evacuate Temple Trees even after his official sacking! JehanP also speaks of ‘prior processes’ Al Jazeera may like to ask him where was the prior process when Ranil was appointed PM in 2015 without removing the sitting PM and when Ranil had only 46  MPs – was this democratic?. In the removal of Ranil as PM in 2018 there was a gazette notification sacking him & a gazette notification appointing Mahinda Rajapakse as PM. Al Jazeera readers please take note.

Jehan Perera also finds fault with the President ‘proroguing Parliament’ according to Jehan Perera ‘people are talking about it at home & on the streets’ but he makes no mention of the crackers that were lit or the statement made by Gangarama Thero who said everyone slept peacefully that night including himself. Jehan Perera admits that there has been tensions between Maithripala & Wickremasinghe but both were not racists” or ‘hard nationalists’ but he says that the President has gone ‘outside the democratic process’ accusing him of shutting down the Parliament which according to him sets a bad ‘precedent for the transfer of power’. He goes on to say this is the first time a prime minister has been unseated – which is factually incorrect as Chandrika Bandaranaike by sacking 3 MPs in Ranil’s government virtually nullified Ranil’s term as PM in 2003. This Jehan Perera who bemoans Ranil has a parliamentary majority in 2018 did not make the same cry against ‘democratic process’ being violated when Ranil did not have any parliamentary majority when he was made PM in 2015 (UNP had just 46MPs) Basically Jehan Perera is accusing he present government of taking a ‘shortcut’ and creating a ‘dangerous’ situation for Sri Lanka. A lot of people who had been misusing, abusing & manipulating the system enjoying free state perks & privileges are the one’s who are actually worried because the change is affecting a lifestyle they are unlikely to loose. The vomiting of democratic slogans is just a cover to hide their personal anxieties that can’t be said publicly.

The question posed to Dilantha Withanage of the Bodu Bala Sena was whether the 26th October 2018 sacking of PM Ranil expected or was it a complete surprise. He says that the BBS leader predicted that such an eventuality would happen in 2015 explaining that both ousted PM & President were culturally, politicially & socially poles apart. Dilantha also goes on to say that the other panelists are speaking of democracy only when their people are in trouble which reiterates the anxiety factor. He says that the issue is such that people are fed up with the entire system.

Disagreeing with Dilanthe’s position on reconciliation Jehan Perera mentioned that entire north east voted against Rajapakse he faulted Rajapakse for not removing military, not giving land, not giving compensation and that everyone was excited into ‘shell call – country going to be divided, LTTE is going to return’ but when arms are emerging, when LTTE cadres are returning don’t the people have a right to be worried & demand the state take precautions?

He boasts about the achievements of the Ranil administration – He speaks of office of reparation to compensate war victims. He says 80% of lands has returned to Tamils. Military is mostly in barracks. He boasts that the Ranil government has done all of that. But he doesn’t answer the question that the tax payers ask – why should they fund compensation for LTTE when LTTE should be held accountable for the victims of LTTE first.

Dilantha also pointed out that unlike in other countries where people come to the streets if a situation similar to Sri Lanka occurred, that did not happen in Sri Lanka. An interesting point he brought out is that the UNP leadership had to ask UNP supporters to attend the rally & it was nothing that the people had organized. He also pointed out that hardly 10,000 attended though the expectation was 100,000. Jehan Perea jumped in to defend this by claiming that the psyche of the people in Sri Lanka is likely to be different to other countries.

Dilantha also added that Ranil’s government had failed in its reconciliation efforts. He stressed that when there is no reconciliation between the Prime Minister & President of Sri Lanka while ministers of Ranil’s government are fighting amongst each other. Reconciliation he said was just subject to songs & slogans. What is also interesting is that while the former accusation was against ‘Rajapakse family’ the change resulted in ‘Wickremasinghe clan’ & accused them of trying to ‘run the government without looking into the people’s voice’. He goes on to point out that in 2002 MPs were bought over for Rs.20m but now that price tag for cross overs is Rs.300m. People are worried about agriculture, education, health – Ranil Wickremasinghe’s govrnment was not worried about these, he said.

People aren’t supporting Ranil’s government because of systematic structural failure’ was his final conclusion.

Alan Keenan who is no stranger to controversy in Sri Lanka & everyone is requested to first read Malinda Seneviratne’s article A Lullaby For Alan Keenan” www.colombotelegraph.com which clearly exposes who Alan Keenan is.

Keenan agrees that a ‘dangerous precedent’ has been set. He also takes the same route of blabbering words that make no sense ‘civil war with the Tamil tigers’ excuse us but can you ask him to please explain this statement! This constitutional expert says that the present action is ‘not allowed by the constitution’ can he first explain what that violation is with clauses! He says that the proroguing of parliament was to give enough time for Mahinda Rajapakse to ‘cajole, buy, influence, to promise perks’ who are currently aligned to PM” Wickremasinghe to join Rajapakse’s side. He goes on an harangue about ‘democratic norms’ and we have to wonder what type of democratic norms are taking place bombing Yemen & leaving children in hunger & starvation. Keenan goes on to say how a government goes is important’, he uses the interview to build an environment of fear by freely using empty rhetoric ‘history of Rajapakse rule was brutal for Tamils and Muslims’ and his response to Dilantha’s statement that no one came out to protest against Ranil’s sacking is that ‘people are not on the streets, because they are afraid of the Rajapkase’s’ and he claims that fear is says is because people were picked up on the streets and disappeared and never to return” wonder where he was in the 1980s and 1990s when this was exactly what the UNP government & the JVP were doing and unlike the nameless ‘thousands’ that Keenan claims to be missing under Rajapakse, there are names to every person that went missing never to return under UNP-JVP terror period. Al Jazeera readers please note this & please also search & read on the terror period of the 1980s & 1990s under UNP-JVP first.

When the opportunity to speak was returned to Dilantha he stressed that countries were now trying to manipulate the situation, he stressed that there was international support to defeat Mahinda Rajapakse in 2015 and he made a very good statement that the plan was only to defeat Rajapakse & had no future plan or program to develop the country. He corrects the notion of both Jehan & Keenan to say that it was during Ranil’s leadership that clashes between minorities escalated and before he could elaborate on the Kandy incident fabricated by the UNP the presenter cut short his speech.

JehanP exposing his ignorance claims that there is a big competition for international presence in Sri Lanka & that Sri Lanka has to be mindful of India’s security concerns & that China’s unlimited loans have created white elephants including an airport in the middle of a bird sanctuary totally displaying his ignorance that the Port-Airport & Industrial zone was to function together & uplift the development of the country. According to JehanP Ranil had no choice but to sell Hambantota port to China because of these loans. And there are people to believe this stuff without questioning what about the excessive loans that Ranil’s government has taken since coming to power & how much the sale has actually reduced the loan component.

Al Jazeera is not the only media channel trying to manipulate sentiments of international viewers against Sri Lanka & towards the person they will should rule Sri Lanka. When a country is sovereign & independent it is the people who decide what they want – not foreign governments & certainly not foreign media or NGOs funded by foreign governments.

Anyone without a basic background of the panelists & what they have been up to over the years, will actually accept the sentiments they are expressing. Today’s media is trying to drill perceptions into people without presenting them with both sides & allow people to decide who they think is right or wrong & what actions should be taken in the best interest of the country & the citizens not to fulfil agendas of the international players or the locals working for them.

Shenali D Waduge

www.aljazeera.com

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