Media attacked by “Kalu Aliyas” and their NGO mahouts
This is a critical year for all politicians. With three-tier elections (Provincial, Parliamentary and Presidential) coming round the corner they all need to polish their image to win votes. Ranil Wickremesinghe, in particular, needs to give a spit, polish and shine to his image, which has been badly battered by the Bond scandal. But not all the laundries in Sri Lanka, from Point Pedro to Dondra, can clean the smelly political dirt dripping from his clothes. At least, not within the short time available for the elections. So he is trying the next best tactic: go on the offensive against the media to neutralise — or, if possible, negate — its impact on the electorate. He is now doing a Donald Trump. Instead of calling it “Fake Media” he has labelled it as “Kalu Madya” (“Black Media”).
How white is he to label the media “black”? Even at this moment there is a case against him in the Supreme Court for profiting from shares he owns of a state-owned company: Lake House. So, on the one-hand, he is quite pleased to pocket the profits derived from a section of the state media which he considers “white” because it hands him dividends to fatten his bank account in addition to giving his image a boost, if that is possible. And, on the other, condemn a section of the media as “Black” when it exposes him as the God Father of a white-collar mob that robbed the people’s money deposited in state funds and banks.
Many moons ago, he told me in an interview I had with him when he was a minister in President Premadasa’s Cabinet, that his first youthful political act was to join his fellow-students at Law College protesting against the take-over of Lake House by the Marxists in Mrs. Sirimavo Bandaranaike’s government. It was then run by his father, Esmond Wickremesinghe. Though he mentioned that incident to portray himself as a great defender of the media he did not quite specify that he was also defending the shares he was going to inherit through his father, Esmond Wickremesinghe, who was the most powerful media moghul of the time with manipulative powers and money to make and break governments.
Politicians bashing media is predictable. Lake House was the perennial target of the Left and Centre when it was in the hands of Wickremesinghe. In their eyes it was the “Black Media”. It was seen as last citadel of the capitalist class by the Left. The nationalist saw it as the anti-Sinhala-Buddhist front run predominantly by the Christians. The Buddhist Commission Report painted it as the fortress of the anti-Buddhist forces. Besides, it was consistently allied with the UNP, especially with the pro-West anti-national forces. In the post-1956 era Lake House and the Centre-Left governments were always at logger-heads.
This is not uncommon in all democracies. As the name suggests, it is also common for non-governmental organisations (NGOs) to distance itself from the governments wielding power. NGOs do cooperate with the government of the day in implementing development and social service programs operated jointly by both parties. But they take extra care not to be seen as an instrument of government’s politics which erodes their neutrality and credibility. The fundamental thrust of NGO politics is not to align itself with the government. It’s avowed mission is to keep the government on its toes. NGOs invariably join hands with the opposition.
What is surprising now is the pro-government role of the non-governmental organisations. They have ceased to be non-governmental. They have openly become governmental. They have even come forward to legitimise the “Kalu” Ranil’s new move to demonise the media. Following the lead given by “Kalu” Ranil the “Kalu” NGO-karayas have decided to take the media head-on. The media which were quite used to getting lambasted by the politicos were caught off guard when the niqab-masked NGO-karayas (like jeans-clad women from the Middle East) demonstrated in front of media institutions protesting against what they called “abuse of media” by the media.
NGO protests against the media have a rather curious and contradictory history. The pro-West NGOs began first by launching campaigns against the anti-West Premadasa. He was the first President to send home the British High Commissioner, David Gladstone, who was caught red-handed interfering in domestic elections. It was a time when the West and the Indians were out to get President Premadasa who was defending the territorial integrity and independence with all his might. He was also fighting two wars against two fascist forces: JVP in the South and Tamil Tiger terrorists in the North.
In the absence of a people-based political front to challenge the Premadasa-government the foreign vested interests picked the most pliable and venal segment of the nation to mount campaigns against him. They picked the willing media mendicants to manipulate and destabilise domestic politics. Overnight a “Free media Movement” sprouted led by journalists who hardly had any money to buy a quick shot of arrack in the nearest hole-in-the-wall bars. Overnight they launched anti-Premadasa newspapers and went round holding public rallies, each of which would have cost at least Rs. 25,000.00 minimum at the time. From where did these penniless journalists get the money?
Overnight Lucian Rajakarunanayake, the front-man of the “Free Media Movement” and Victor Ivan who launched his anti-Premadasa Ravaya, with the blessing of Western and Indian embassies, were seen parading as the new stars in the Western diplomatic cocktail circuits. How did these Grub-Street hacks and incompetent bomb-makers of a fascist terrorist gang become the darlings of the Western and Indian embassies overnight? Radhika Coomaraswamy , the then head of ICES (Incestuous Cabal of Eelamist Sycophants) too used to host them and hold seminars to give them respectability.
So it is not surprising to find the latest political front of NGOs manifesting itself as masked protestors staging demonstrations targeting selected media institutions that expose “Kalu” Ranil. NGOs have a strong affinity with “Kalu” Ranil because they feel that he is their baby. The latest is the usual suspects from the Social Scientists’ Association (SSA). Though the SSA has, in a footnote, distanced itself from the piece written in The Island, (The Media: A state within a state – Jan, 29, 2019) by its two researchers – Shashik Dhanushka and Praveen Tilakaratne – it is fair to conclude that a public condemnation of the media could not have been released by two apparatchiks of SSA without a nudge-and-a-wink from the presiding papas and mamas at the top, which include, according to their website, ex-Prof. Jayadeva Uyangoda, ex-Prof. Kumari Jayawardena and the know-all Dr. Carlo Fonseka.
Even if they did not have a hand in it they should be writhing in shame – if they have any shame left at all — at the pathetic intellectual level reflected in the article by their researchers. To begin with, one wonders why these parenting pundits who preside over the operations of the SSA ever bothered to recruit these two green-horned aliens who have managed, at best, to exhibit only their cerebral underdevelopment. They sound like primitive invertebrates that could be found, if at all, somewhere in a sterile planet on the edge of our solar system which has yet to evolve and catch up with the advanced Sri Lankan media.
There is a notable difference in the oblique and underhand intervention of SSA in its politically slanted attack on the media. As stated earlier, the NGOs in democracies normally play an anti-state role, rising invariably in defence of the media under attack by the state. The agents of SSA, however, have come out defending the state they favour: the most corrupt regime ever of “Kalu” Ranil. The Sri Lankan media, irrespective of the ups and downs have fought their way through debilitating wars, coups, fascist uprisings, threats by states, media moghuls, etc.
The media domain also has a fair balance of private and public sector ownership, both in the electronic and print media. It has produced brilliant journalists who had won international fame and also its share of mediocrities, some of whom are no better than chief clerks occupying editorial chairs. There is much hope in the new generation of journalists who are jousting skilfully with politicians and spin masters in academia, NGOs etc. They are no longer coming back to the news desks with sun shine stories handed out by bureaucrats and political panjandrums of the state.
The headlines and the commentariat are focusing on the distortions and the devaluation of politics that have dragged the nation down to the cesspit. With nothing left of his Yahapalanaya, launched jointly with NGOs, “Kalu” Ranil seriously believes that he has saved democracy and the nation. All what he has done so far is to pervert the best of Westminster principles, making a mockery of parliamentary democracy. As a lobby correspondent of the Old Parliament, where political giants stood for the highest of Westminster principles, I can vouch for the fact that Parliament has never descended to such low depths as under the regime of “Kalu” Ranil. His image so far has not risen above that of Ali (pun intended) Baba leading his gang of thieves to rob the banks of the nation. In his usual delusionary fashion “Kalu” Ranil seriously believes that he has saved democracy by leading a brigade of “Meetota-mullahs” (translation: sewage-makers) to the lowest depths of degradation in post-independent history.
His attacking the media and the NGOs following his example is another glaring example of the desperate roles played by NGOs and “Kalu” Ranil” to prop up each for survival. Their symbiotic relationship is driving the nation to disastrous ends. Take also the case of “Paki” Saravanamuttu, the highly paid high priest of human rights. He rushed into courts to save “Kalu” Ranil’s premiership. Of course, his phraseology had a devious tilt. He said that asking “Kalu” Ranil to face elections would deny him his citizenship! Having said that, he now reclines and relaxes smugly in his NGO arm chair, quite content with his blind belief that “Kalu” Ranil has not denied his citizenship rights by refusing to hold Provincial Council elections. So according to this political pundit citizenship rights are denied when you hold elections. Nor are they denied when you don’t hold elections! This is a clear indication of “Paki” getting high, in between sips of his aperitif, on Ranil’s serappu soup.
The NGOs are supposed to act as the moral guardians of the nation, challenging the governments when they step out of line. But Sri Lankan NGOs are backing the “Kalu” Ranil to the hilt whatever line he takes. They are working on all fronts – from Courts to streets — to white-wash “Kalu” Ranil. NGO hirelings are even fronting up in niqab-masked outfits to demand that the media should toe the line of “Kalu” Ranil’s government.
The English historian Thomas Macaulay wrote in 1828: “The gallery in which the reporters sit has become a fourth estate of the realm.” The NGOs in Sri Lanka have been struggling to become the fifth estate claiming to be stake-holders in the affairs of the state. They never had a better time than under “Kalu” Ranil’s regime. “Kalu” Ranil is beholden to them for legitimising his regime in the eyes of the West. NGOs are beholden to “Kalu” Ranil for making themstake-holders in his corrupt regime.
They are birds of a feather who flock together. Both have so much in common. Both march to the tune of their Western masters. Both are anti-national. Both are out to punish the liberators of Jaffna and its people from the fascist regime of Prabhakaran. Both have no mass base to win an outright majority in Parliament. Both manipulate the system to grab power through the backdoor to rule without the full consent of the people. Both thrive on foreign-funded sources. Both theorise and moralise without ever advancing to save the nation on their bogus panaceas. For instance, which particular theory of NGO-pundits, concocted with Erik Solheim and Anton Balasingham, ever helped to end the longest running war in Asia? Didn’r our humble lads and lasses win the unwinnable war under the leadership of another “ga-may kol-lek” from Medamulana in the South?
“Kalu” Ranil, of course, has earned a reputation in a new field. Beating all others he has mastered the art of robbing banks in daylight with impunity. Now he has taken the UNP to the next level: he has transformed (Hey Presto!) the Green Aliya into a “Kalu” Aliya.
On-na Babo Kalu Aliyo rata kanawo
Alin keli-yea dupp-pathun-ta, nay-the sudo ?
H. L. D. Mahindapala