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The Fifth Column

22nd August 1999

All's fair in politics

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"Thaaththa" Bindu Udagedera asked, "what is all this fuss about a letter?"

"What letter are you talking about?" Bindu's father Percy wanted to know.

"Why thaaththa, somebody is supposed to have read Ranil's letters…"

"Ah, yes" Percy remembered, " Batty is supposed to have read a letter received by Ranil in his computer…"

"Where did this happen?"

"He has done that at the Cabinet meeting…"

"But thaaththa, that's wrong isn't it? Surely, even Ranil must have some privacy…"

"Well" said Percy, "there is more than one mistake there…"

"Why do you say that?"

"Of course, Batty should never have done that but then we forget about the other side…"

"What's that?"

"How do we know all about this?"

"Because", Bindu replied "it was all over the newspapers…"

"Then", Percy asked, "how were the events at the Cabinet meeting published in the newspapers? Isn't that also supposed to be a private meeting?"

"Of course it is" Bindu agreed.

"Then", Percy argued, "if leaking Ranil's letter is wrong, then leaking what happened at Cabinet meetings must also be wrong…"

"No, thaaththa," Bindu argued, "I think there is a difference"

"And what's that?"

"The only way we can know about a Cabinet meeting is if some minister himself leaks the story to the press…"

"Then, what about the letter?" Percy wanted to know.

"And the only way we can know about a letter in Ranil's computer is if someone taps it…"

"I'll agree with that" Percy conceded.

"But thaaththa", Bindu asked, "isn't it bad to tap other people's telephones and computers…"

"Of course it is. Just imagine what would happen if someone were to publish all the letters received by Satellite…"

"Then, it must be illegal too…" Bindu said.

"Indeed it is, especially tapping the phones and computers of your political opponents. America's Richard Nixon had to resign because of it in the famous Watergate scandal…"

"Then maybe the local person responsible for this should also resign…"

"That's the height of optimism, Bindu" Percy cautioned.

"But who would that be, thaaththa?"

"Our always controversial Mangala, I would say, because he is the minister of posts and telecommunications…"

"No thaaththa" Bindu protested, "you shouldn't always lay the blame on poor Mangala. After all, it was Batty who obtained the letter and read it at the Cabinet meeting…"

"Ah", said Percy, "you shouldn't take much notice of what Batty does…"

"And why is that, thaaththa?" Bindu asked.

"Because" said Percy "he only tries to live up to his name…"

Rajpal Abeynayake's Column

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