The Fifth Column

18th, May 1997

So informal: the SAARC spirit

"Thaaththa", Bindu Udagedara asked ,"Why are they having the next SAARC summit here?"

"Because", said Percy, Bindu's father,"Next year coincides with the fiftieth anniversary of our independence"

"But thaaththa", Bindu said, pointing to the newspaper, "this says Satellite has suggested informal talks between SAARC countries to ease tensions".

"Oh, I am sure she would like that "

"Why do you say that?"

"It would be so nice; she wouldn't have to be dressed up in an 'osariya' in the morning and in a 'saree' in the evening. She would be there, may be in a 'reddai-hettei' to add a local touch...."

"And Ramzi wouldn't have to be doing a different hairstyle for every speech."

"Yes, and I suppose we would expect to see Bala in just a sarong".

"And, because it's informal, no one would blame Satellite for being late".

"And", said Percy, "because it is informal, I hope they don't interrupt the cricket matches to tell us a fifteen minute story about SAARC in the news bulletin".

"I'm not sure about that, Thaaththa" Bindu said.

"Why do you say that?"

"Why, thaaththa, see what Dharmasiri has said about the Broadcasting Authority Bill?"

"Why, what does he have to say about it after the Supreme Court threw it out?"

"He says he will introduce it again with necessary changes".

"That is if he is the Media Minister by that time", Percy observed.

"And", Bindu said, "he also says that the Bill was originally the idea of the UNP."

"But", Percy said, "I thought we elected this government because we wanted it to be different from the UNP and avoid making the same mistakes that the UNP did".

"But thaaththa" Bindu said;"Tyronne Appu said that the Broadcasting Authority proposed by the UNP was very different and that they abandoned the idea anyway".

"I didn't know about that" Percy said, "but I'm certain about one thing."

"What is that?"

"The UNP did not need a Broadcasting Authority Bill".

"Why do you say that?"

"Because, during their time, offending media people just disappeared; there was no need to cancel their licence or sue them for defamation..."

Reluctantly, Bindu agreed.

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