30th November 1997

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Don’t make generalisations

Fall of Gujral

Don’t make generalisations

Modern history is loaded with in stances where ambitious poli ticians and others whose inner nature is often different from their external behaviour have loudly pontificated about the alleged irresponsibility of the free media.

Some three months ago the world heard such an outburst from the ninth Earl of Spencer. Watched by a live television audience of about two billion - the biggest in history - he used the pulpit of the hallowed Westminster Abbey to be the accuser, prosecutor and judge of the British press which he declared had killed his beloved sister Princess Diana.

Now we know the other side of the story. We know one of the reasons why he accused British journalists of being bloodhounds and called for tough laws against invasion of privacy of public figures. Now he stands accused of being a serial adulterer.

In that backdrop we wish to reflect today on possible moves by powerful elements in the government and the forces to re impose censorship on military related news.

We know that those in the Information Department are against such moves for they are aware of the futility of censorship. But one Minister pushing for this is reported to have told hoteliers recently that it is the freedom of the press that is responsible for all the terrorism in the country. Despite all the enlightenment and advancement in communication technology, these politicians still need sacrificial goats to blame for all their failures and corruption.

Air Force VIPs embarrassed by a Presidential Committee report on their inefficiency published in The Sunday Times retaliated with a mock interview, and when that failed yet another mock interview with a so-called LTTE translator. It was not a joke but an insult to the heroic Sri Lankan Forces to be told that the LTTE is fighting them after reading a translation of a newspaper column.

Now, they are looking for ways to rouse the public with this canard.

We have challenged this Government, as we have challenged previous Governments, and we do so today as well - tell us specific instances where the LTTE benefited from any classified information through the media. We are as concerned about our Armed Forces as anybody else.

So, don’t make sweeping generalisations merely to stop us from exposing the unprecedented levels to which corruption and inefficiency have risen in the prosecution of the Eelam wars.

It was accountability to the people that made us dig up and expose what the Presidential Committee had said regarding sixteen mishaps of the SLAF and military purchases amounting to billions of rupees. Similarly we also exposed serious mistakes, mismanagement and miscalculations that led to the debacles in Mullaitivu, Mandaitvu and Paranthan.

Let it be known, that the biggest single military debacle of the past 15 years - the over-running of the Mullaitivu garrison where over 1,500 soldiers lost their lives - happened during a censorship.Thats why we say it is senseless.

Fall of Gujral

Political developments in India are not only interesting but also have a direct impact on Sri Lanka. Now it seems, that the LTTE has not only killed a former prime minister of India, but has also brought down another.

The fallen premier Inder Kumar Gujral was at one time the deputy foreign minister when India was as thick as thieves with the LTTE. He later opposed the LTTE but India did little after Rajiv Gandhi’s death in fighting the LTTE, except for intelligence tip-offs such as the one that led to the destruction of Kittu’s arms ship.

It seems that India is going to have an election that nobody wants but the underlining point is the impact the LTTE continues to have in the politics of India.

They say, you sow the wind and reap the whirlwind.

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