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Great Awards! The Independent Press Is Alive And Kicking!

Jul 31, 2010 4:30:01 PM - thesundayleader.lk

Oo-la-la! O-migosh and all that! Another opportunity to enjoy a bottle of Moet in celebration of a group of people and an event! Menika drinks to the continuing well-being of the Fourth Estate in Sri Lanka, admittedly endangered if independent and non-sycophantic, but still surviving.

She toasts its scintillating Awards Ceremony conducted with absolute finesse by the Sri Lanka Press Institute and The Sri Lanka Editors’ Guild. Menika quaffs a delightful mouthful of the special nectar of the gods to the winners of the several awards and another, gustily, for the absence of politicians at the do. No big introductions nor praise, only a mention of the chief guest — that eminent judge of international fame and pride to Sri Lanker — Judge C.G. Weeramantry. Of course he was conducted in with pomp and pageantry.

Oo-la-la again and cheers! Menika’s heart runneth over as her Moet glass does. This in celebration of this newspaper — the A1 of newspapers — The Sunday Leader. Yes, The Sunday Leader beat all other newspapers, (and there are a disproportionate number as against the population) being awarded the Prof K. Kallasapathy Award for Reporting Under Special Circumstances. Menika wished she had the glass in hand at the moment to cheer as her Editor, Frederica Jansz, moved to the stage in her designer dress of brilliant red, to receive the award. Cheers and cheers again! That award was by no means the only award this paper received.

There went Ranee Mohammed  to carry away one of the most prestigious awards — Upali Wijewardena Feature Writer of the Year  (English) and Mandana Ismail Abeywickrema receiving the Investigative Journalist of the Year Award and a Merit Award too. Merit Award in this category was won by  Raknish  Savan  Wijewardene.  Emil van der Poorten received a merit award for Columnist of the Year. Menika sits back and sighs a great sigh of relief — celebrating persons and events in two successive weeks with those creatures of the Theatre of the Absurd absent or being kept in their place. When does the menagerie of Cab Ministers tour the country again?

Surprise! Surprise! The entire country and the world may laugh at the tragi-comedienne par excellence for his theatrics opposite the building of the United Nations down Baudhaloka Mawata way but the Prez, who knee-ed to him with a glass of life saving tambili and delicately pressed it to the parched lips, places him high on his list of most favoured men. Took him in his helicopter to congratulate that true Sri Lankan, Muralitharan, in Galle. Menika had a private giggle. The farcical thespian’s white cloth may rise over his head in the wind-whipped descent from the royal helicopter but not his hair, no, not one strand of this great pretender’s hair will dare get out of place. Needless to say, that stylish growth on his mug keeps smug and tidy even in a whirlwind. Not that the said thespian will ever venture into a whirlwind since he got enough from that which he created which mercifully turned to be a real pussvedilla, though it tarred black Sri Lanker’s image in the world.

Menika wishes fervently the highest in the land would be magnanimous enough to declare: “Let the entire Galle Cricket Stadium be named the Muttiah Muralitharan Stadium. Erase my name from it.” He should do this for after all his name is emblazoned all over from Ham ban tot to various other places. If his slipper-lickers have their way, the entirety of the Wanni and Jaafna will bear his name – road signs, communal halls, sports fields, even temples. Thank goodness kovils will be safe. Someone brave will advise, we hope: Why start another island-wide communal riot or the birth of the second generation of Eelam Tigers with emblazoning your name on the lintel of a kovil. Rem’ber the letter Sri on buses in Jaafna and consequences? Will common sense defeat hubris? Your bet is as worthless as Menika’s.

So KP is the favoured one – will cooperate with the government. A Thursday headline in a sister newspaper sent Menika’s ticker a-ticking, this time with apprehension. She read the screaming headline as ‘KP sneaks out’ when in actuality it read ‘KP speaks out.’ But Menika’s heart did not stop its booming.  Escaping or cooperating with the government are both ominous and all this camaraderie and bon vivant in the face of ever more trials being piled on that man who led the armed forces to victory over the LTTE.

Many hearts beat in sympathy and many a quiet eye sheds a tear for this war hero of war heroes behind bars. Well, that is Sri Lanker of now for you! There will be redress; wrongs cannot be perpetuated for ever; the Furies will boomerang; people say. But no shadow of such in the far horizon so Menika takes another sip of her calmer, sighs a deep sigh, says she will be dead by then and remote controls another channel to hear a singing star. Gawd! Here too a raging argument between contestant and judge! Beautiful Rosy and He who is usually in the thick of the fray turn peacemakers and the show goes on.

Will Sri Lanker ever be truly peaceful? No, but we have our moments of good history like the 50th anniversary of the election of the World’s First Woman Prime Minister – Sirimavo R.D. Bandaranaike – bless her. June 24, 1960 was the date she visited the Maligawa and Kandy as PM.  Menika was patient sitting in the nursing home close by and shared the pride.  Menika raises her palms together in salutation to this great lady. She made a faux pas or two but with maturity turned out to be a statesman. Stayed a mite too long in the Premier seat, but we forgive all that when we remember her greatness, especially her saving the country from the grip of the JVP even though it meant the giving of the command: Kill.