The Snake is dead; why still keep awake looking at the Roof?


By Chakravarthy

The snake is dead. This is what the authorities have been emphasizing from May 17, 2009 and we believe so without any reservation. Road check posts are removed in many places and identity card is asked for randomly by the soldiers who are seen in few points.

The Galle Face Green is open to strolling public and one should see the local crowd of all ethnicity especially the minority Tamils and Muslims in a joyful mood, in addition to few Indian and other country tourists.

The number of outstation school children and bus load of visitors arriving from faraway places is a scene beyond one’s memory. On weekends, GFG has a Perahera like crowd even though parking space for vehicles is insufficient. All these are welcome signs. Fear on the faces of the Southerners is entirely gone while hunger has replaced it. Any way that is not my issue here.

It is a new country- free country now. But whether media freedom is regained or not is still a question. In the Tamil news media even 18 months after the war, still curbs are enforced on certain views on ethnic issues and news that are unfavourable to the government.

Tamil magazines coming from Chennai are still put into dissection. Pages that carry any write-up about the dead snake, IDP or with some harsh words on the government are torn here and there defacing the magazines. Readers, who are used to read short or long stories, lose a portion of it. Are all who read these periodicals traitors? Is this step still necessary? Should not they be ignored to lose value?

Take the case of “Makkal TV”. No doubt it has been a snake sympathizer. But it was allowed to run most of the days of war and shut down recently – may be permanently. It is to be noted here that this TV did not or, do not broadcast matters indigestible to the regime every day. Why do you worry about them any more with the dawn of peace?

A significant point about this channel is, it is not devoted to entertainment like screening movies and that sort of things. Further it is one with no or least agonizing advertisements. That way it has a reasonable amount of viewers here in disregard to its political affiliation on the ethnic issue.

Most of the days of last week, BBC’s mouth in Tamil was shut intermittently. News originated from London on the Channel 4 video and that of Heathrow to Oxford University and to Dorchester Hotel was blocked, black out or received axe with interruption of “Nadhaswaram” [a traditional Tamil musical instrument] followed by excuses like “power failure in the station” “satellite problem” etc.

Such editing, banning and stripping in Tamil language is done by nobody else but by the Tamils who are close to the government or those who want to express their hyped loyalty to the masters, and patriotism to the country like the natives did during the colonial period.Sometimes masters may not know all that is happening behind their back. Have they got anything to hide from your own countrymen? Hi, “King of Jaffna”, the snake is dead, why still keep awake looking at the roof?

Apart from this, These days the words “right of free speech” “right of expression” are very much jarring on our ears. Of course denial of such rights to a person under democratic set up is painful. Democracy itself dies there and a country’s respect will depend on how it upholds this right.

According to the ‘Daily News’ of SL, on the 3rd December, the Honourable Speaker of the SL Parliament vehemently defended the right of a member saying, “Any Member in Parliament has the right to express his opinion and the rest should have the patience to listen to him,” when the said member’s reply to an allegation was hooted down by his opponents.

As per, the Speaker also queried from the Members in the House if a Member in whatever party has no right to express his opinion what was the freedom guaranteed in Parliament’?

A day prior to that, an opposition MP and the name sake of the President said in the august assembly that “democracy would not last long if people’s freedom of right to know is denied. This is a vital aspect for people to live under democratic set up. Keeping them in the dark one cannot develop a country”. This part of his speech did not find space with the same news paper that quoted something of his in less value.

Well, how important “right of free speech” “right of expression,” to a person, “right to know” is equally important to another person and denying him/her that right is too painful.

A Sunday paper wrote; “BBC's Sinhala service Sandeshaya broke the story that the Oxford Union had cancelled President Rajapaksa's address on December 3. In Colombo, the Sri Lanka Broadcasting Corporation (SLBC), which has an agreement with the BBC Sandeshaya to broadcast simultaneously their news bulletin, was to black out the news item. This agreement followed substantial payments to the BBC. Instead, they played Music”.

It was a piece of non military news. What is the point in blocking it? If you cover it today, tomorrow it will come out. In this electronic age there is no guarantee that shutting one’s mouth alone would prevent others from hearing it.

Look at the WikiLeaks documents. To theUS administration it is the biggest damage in their entire history. Did Washington try to interfere with the media from bringing them out? No it was unethical and an impossible job in a democratic country.

BBC’s “Thamilosai”, despite of strangling her neck few times on Tuesday 30th November, let the same cat out as the last news, in one line before the censurer got ready. Otherwise the beam could have gone home dumb.

Yet a sizeable amount of masses of all sects were aware of those London incidents. It is human nature to raise curiosity when something is denied.

In politics will a government never face an awkward position that would create unfavourable news? Will they always walk in the path of roses? No. Sometimes they will have to tread on the muddy road with reptiles and other dangerous elements.

To face and win such a situation is credible not avoiding, blocking, stopping, deleting etc. In war such restrictions may be acceptable because spreading false news and, news favourable to one party and unfavourable to another is a norm and war tactics too. Therefore a government’s desire to filter or restrict news in connection to war could be accommodated even though one may not take for granted everything the authorities put out.

But when people breathe the air of freedom, do not they have the right to know what is happening around them instead of swallowing what is fed by spoon? Can a regime live on its laurels forever? Don’t you think people will get fed up with the same slogan, crowed day in and day out?

Look at the Indian government, oh what amount of bricks they still face on scandals like Raja Gate and other issues? Even the court made the Prime Minister to lose sleep.

On demanding a joint parliament commission probe on the Raja scandal, parliament session has come to a halt for the past 17 days costing an estimated financial loss of over Rs.100 crores. Every bit of news reached people without any censure or modification.

The same Sunday paper in Colombo reproduced 642 words on the Indian scandal “Raja Gate”. Good. It is the duty of the media to bring to the attention or make their own people to know matters of this nature happening in the neighborhood or elsewhere.

When personally hit, Kneeling down to Voltaire like a commander did to his Majesty in Shakespeare stories, saying “I disagree with every word you say, but shall defend unto death your right to say what you have to say…..", alone would not bring food on the table. It should be put into practice. We receive what we give only.

Finally, is it necessary to keep the country under iron curtain when the leaders are still parroting that peace has dawn under the present kingship after thirty years of conflict?. The snake is dead. Why still keep awake looking at the roof?

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