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14th June 1998

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Mirror Magazine

Call off this bluff

As the censorship on military news stretches to its second week the Government was apparently contemplating a move to relax the censorship on the foreign media.

While we have no objection to this we imagine the rationale, from what we believe the deputy minister of defence was trying to convey to editors of national news papers this week, was that the government did not want parents of soldiers to besiege army headquarters asking what has happened to their soldier children.

By that argument the censorship should have then been imposed on the Sinhala media only. We are made to understand that it is the duty of the military to inform the next of kin of those killed- in- action rather than have families to besiege Army HQ. seeking information. That itself shows there's some logistical weakness involved.

So far the deputy minister has been making sweeping statements of media irresponsibility. The deputy minister says that the media is providing the enemy with strategic information and cited an instance of a Sinhala language newspaper depicting a map of troop movements and said that the war could have been won four months ago if not for that bloody map. The deputy minister also referred to one instance where details of military hardware being purchased by the Army were published in The Sunday Times. This was the only case he cited as an example against The Sunday Times. On checking we found that, yes indeed we published such a thing in Taraki's column, but that information was obtained from an LTTE worldwide web Internet discussion site. It was a case of not our having provided the enemy with strategic information, but the enemy providing it to us!

So let's call off this bluff of placing the blame on the media for politicians not being able to keep to their unwarranted deadlines which they have not met, and are embarrassed about. As the Editor's Guild says "the military's biggest debacle, the overrunning of the Mullaitivu garrison occurred during the period of a censorship."

Two faces of the PA

The two faces of the People's Alliance are today seen in various spheres. We see it in the intensifying political battle over the Permanent Commission set up to probe Bribery and Corruption. .First, the President commends the commissioners for the good work done in the 3 years they have functioned. Six months later she criticises the same commissioners for doing absolutely no work in the last three and a half years.

Then the Deputy Minister of Finance Dr. GL Peiris tells Parliament that the people have more money, they eat better, more of them are employed, and they are better off today than they were three and a half years ago when the PA took office.

Speaking in Parliament a few days ago while supporting, ironically a series of supplementary estimates (monies required outside the budgeted amounts), Dr.Peiris went further to claim that the economy grew by 6.4%, the per capita income has grown and that everyone's average income has grown by almost 50%.

But it is the same PA leadership that laments how much the war costs, that it cannot go on much longer, and that it needs an urgent political solution, whatever it means or whoever wants it or not. If the economy is doing so well as professed by Dr Peiris, this Government can hardly use the excuse that this war that is being waged cannot be continued any longer due to financial reasons.

We consider Dr Peiris' proud claim welcome news. We have long criticised the Government's past and present, especially the Finance ministers of the day for saying we cannot fight this war too long; and that there must be a "political solution," whatever it meant. Saying the war cannot go on was like oxygen to the LTTE. Whenever it was gasping for oxygen, it often came in such pronouncements from the mouths of our finance ministers.

Now the deputy finance minister has at least dispelled those fears. He has given a distinct blow to those who say we cannot go on with the process of militarily defeating the LTTE. We congratulate this Government on its achievements on the economy. We only hope Dr. Peiris' statistics don't lie. And we just hope this Government is equally committed to the task of ending terrorism, rather than listening to the largely pro-LTTE lobbies who claim the cost of doing that is too prohibitive for poor little Sri Lanka.

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