15th February1998

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No, not again!

Thonda strikes gold

No, not again!

It’s like a re-enactment of contemporary history for an Independence day pageant. But it was a real life drama and not just a play — the dreaded midnight knock on the doors of the opponents of the rulers by “unidentified gunmen” and the reign of terror of not so long ago.

The Sunday Times Consultant Editor Iqbal Athas has been engaged in his legitimate role as an independent and professional journalist. In such a role he has had to be critical about certain aspects of the prosecution of the war — for example, about purchases of military hardware. This has been done in the national interest. Otherwise he too could have taken the path of least resistance and written hosannas about the war which we all know has many defects.

The Government must share some responsibility for last Thursday’s attack on Mr. Athas’ home where a gun was held to his head and guns pointed at his wife, his terrified and screaming seven-year-old daughter and his domestic staff.He had been subjected to this kind of intimidation for several months. Now it has escalated to a fever pitch. The Government, including the President, had often promised to look into this. But nothing happened.

It is in the best interest of the Government itself not to allow this trend to continue. The cycle of violence that is unleashed will eventually envelope they themselves.

Next month in Geneva, Sri Lanka goes once again before the Trial by aid donors to show how clean its human rights record is. Why the Government wants to daub itself with mud nobody knows.

The attitudes of the Media Minister Mangala Samaraweera and the Deputy Defence Minister Anuruddha Ratwatte show a disturbing disparity in Government thinking. Mr. Samaraweera has said the President had ordered an inquiry and action to be taken against anyone responsible for this incident, whatever position he may hold or influence he may wield. But Gen. Ratwatte at a news conference on Friday seemed to dismiss the incident as an occupational hazard for journalists. The different positions gave rise to questions as to who is protecting whom, why and for what. We hope the saner and wiser elements of this Government will prevail at the expense of the brazen and foolish ones. Any cover-up of the investigations would lead us to the inevitable conclusion that the hidden hands of the Government’s top brass and its politicians, had orchestrated these attacks.

Thonda strikes gold

Ceylon Workers Congress leader and Minister S. Thondaman’s contribution to Sri Lanka’s 50th independence celebrations has just been concluded. It is Mr. Thondaman’s people who were brought here by the British like cattle who have benefited, as a people, the most in the past 50 years under Sri Lankan rule.

It also shows that no Sri Lankan Government is actually independent of Mr. Thondaman.

The workers have got a daily wage hike of Rs. 16 from Rs. 85 to 101.

Obviously Mr. Thondaman wanted to prove that he is still not politically dead; and it is only he who can win for his flock what is their dues.

On the plus side of Mr. Thondaman is the fact that the plantations have been relatively quiet. Despite occasional statements in support of the LTTE, Mr. Thondaman is not for a separate state.

Had there been civil commotion in these areas, probably the state would have had to divert still more provincial resources and military man-power it can ill afford. Such a crisis in these areas would have eventually cost more than what is to be expended by way of higher wages.

What the major political parties will need to do is to take a hard look at the vacuum that would inevitably be created in the post-Thondaman years. They must be prepared to fill it and assure that it is kept away from the prying eyes of those who are destabilising Sri Lanka with a costly war in the North and East and trying to extend it to the highlands as well.

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