The Sunday Times Editorial

13th October 1996

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CRM hits out

The Civil Rights Movement was in the forefront of the social justice groups which exposed and spoke out strongly against acts of violence that were committed, instigated or condoned by the government during the last regime. Now the CRM has said it is appalled and horrified by the reappearance of political violence, not by terrorist groups but by leaders or supporters of the major parties including the ruling People's Alliance. At least some people are consistent. Because many view issues in this country depending on which party tie they wear and whether they are in opposition or in government.

In recent months, government leaders and their propagandists have dubbed anyone who challenged PA policies as elements that are anti-national or pro-UNP. They still suffer from the delusion that the government is the nation. Independent media which rallied behind the PA's call for openness, transparency, democratic freedoms and decency during the 1994 election campaign are now being condemned or harassed as anti-national or pro-UNP because they have challenged the string of broken promises of the PA.

Will the government now say that the CRM also is pro-UNP or still worse anti-national? Whatever that may be, the CRM has also expressed dismay over statements made by none other than President Chandrika Bandaranaike Kumaratunga at a Veyangoda seminar recently where she is alleged to have condoned acts of violence by PA supporters in and around Negombo.Sri Lanka's political history has regrettably proved again and again that persons who enjoy or think they enjoy political patronage often feel they can break the law with impunity. This dangerous mindset has to be eliminated from our political life and that responsibility lies largely with the ruling party, especially the President, the CRM has pointed out.

Thus it is regrettable that the President should have said what she said in her Veyangoda speech, as reported in the Lankadipa of September 17. As that report has not been officially clarified or corrected, we presume the President meant what she said and said what she meant when she spoke of understanding the reaction of party supporters who attacked their opponents.

Prompt and effective measures are necessary to restore and protect the right of free political expression in an atmosphere of non-violence. All political parties, especially the ruling PA need to urgently renew their commitment to non-violence. As part of this it would be prudent for the President to clarify or withdraw the unfortunate statements she made in Veyangoda last month.

Back to senses

As suddenly as it was imposed six months ago, the media censorship on war related news was lifted last Tuesday.Minister Anuruddha Ratwatte told Parliament the government's military objectives in the North had been achieved and there was now no need for a censorship. But skeptics feel the sudden lifting of the censorship, apparently without reference even to the Cabinet, was timed for next month's Sri Lanka aid consortium meeting.The censorship was meant to prevent sensitive military news reaching the enemy LTTE. The draconian legislation we always maintained was merely a cover up for military and political slips rather than what it was supposedly meant for. After all, the military's biggest debacle at Mullaitivu occurred during the imposition of the censorship. Thank God the media could not be blamed for that as well.When the free media challenges the government, they are not being anti-national or pro-UNP but speaking in the interests of our people. If the government could accept that, the atmosphere would be right to rebuild a relationship of trust and cooperation rather than confrontation with the independent media for the general well-being and betterment of this country.

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