Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Situation report

Listening to: 'Against All Odds' by Chase & Status ft. Kano [More Than Alot]

Sorry, I know this is a bit late...but I was quite busy last week and then yesterday I got conjunctivitis so I've been trying not to spend too much time at my computer.

So quite a lot happened while I was in Sri Lanka, at least on the political stage. If I were to make a list, it would consist of the military victories at Paranthan, Kilinochchi and Elephant Pass, the Sirasa studio attack and the assassination of Lasantha Wickrematunga.

Now it should be obvious to anyone visiting this blog that I support Sri Lanka's armed forces. They are doing what millions of us are not willing to do - put country before self and meet the enemy head on...while experiencing numerous hardships in the process.

A photo I got in an email: Anyone willing to switch places with him? Didn't think so.

With this in mind, I think it goes without saying that I am extremely proud of our boys and girls, and relieved at the news that they are making progress. War is awful - anyone with a heart would agree - but necessary in this situation. We have been in a position to weaken the LTTE on many occasions, but this is the first time the government has allowed the forces to do what they are trained to do...and therefore, hopefully this will be the last time such action is required. The international community will 'ooh' and 'aah' and shake their heads, but nothing will change the fact that we have to sort this out on our own. They should probably clean out their own gardens before peering into ours.

So what after this? I think everyone knows. Development in the North and East like you've never seen before, rehabilitation for all displaced civilians and conscripted LTTE fighters, and hopefully as a result, belief that the government serves not only citizens in the South, but all citizens of our country. Can the current government deliver that? Who knows. Can the current opposition deliver that? Again, who knows. Supporters of the each party would have you believe that their party is the only party that can deliver us from our crises. But history has shown us that regardless of who's in charge, there's only one thing we can be sure of - that each successive government will be more corrupt than the last. And don't be fooled into thinking that this is something unique to Sri Lankan politicians. Corruption is a worldwide phenomenon, and we are all to blame.

And what about the attacks on media freedom in the country? Apparently Sirasa was attacked because it didn't give enough coverage to military advances, and was therefore deemed unpatriotic. And then the conspiracy theorists claim that it was a set up, orchestrated by the 'victims' themselves. Will we ever know? Probably not.

Probably more significant was the murder of Lasantha Wickrematunga, editor of the Sunday Leader. Did he deserve to be killed? Hell no. No one deserves that. Did he anger various people, one (or more) of whom had the capacity to take revenge? Yes. So why is everyone surprised? Who knows. I won't make any guesses about who dunnit, but I will say that if you play with fire, chances are you'll get burnt. I'm not condoning the violence, I'm just bemused at the number of people who are apparently shocked.

To put everything into perspective, the Leader hardly has the largest readership in Sri Lanka...but it does cater to the majority of the English-speaking upper-middle and upper classes (especially the pro-UNP ones). That is a minority in our country, but a prominent one. And maybe that's where the answer lies. At every dinner party I went to after the killing (and goodness knows there were quite a few), I was amazed at how many people gushed about what a nice man he was. The closest these people had got to being friends with him was seeing him on TV. But he was 'one of them'. And his murder was a signal that their cushy existence in the Colombo bubble was not as impenetrable as they had hoped. That is my somewhat cynical explanation for the reaction to his death. And of course the opportunistic UNP bigwigs had to turn a private funeral into a public political circus. So outside the media circles, the mourning had nothing to do with his skills as a journalist. In my experience, his competence as a diligent editor left a lot to be desired, and his publication disregarded not only the facts but also national security. Which brings me to another point. With some trepidation I quote from the BBC -
Young journalist [...] thinks that while journalists may need to consider national security - as the country is at war - that doctrine should not unduly interfere with the public's right to know the truth.
I beg to differ with this young journalist's view. I think that while the public has the right to know the truth, it should not interfere with national security. The media's desire to expose sensitive information may satisfy the public's right to information, but it puts the lives of our soldiers at risk...is that how we show our gratitude? I've talked about the perils of reckless journalism before, and my opinion hasn't changed.

So anyway, that's my account of the happenings back home. Our forces have since won at Mullattivu, and are currently clearing the jungles nearby. Where Prabhakaran is, no one knows, but hopefully we'll soon find out. And hopefully this war will soon be history.

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