Lasantha Died for What? Who Should Reveal Corruption and Abuse?
Jan 12, 2008

We should all deplore the killing of the editor of the Sunday Leader, Mr. Lasantha Wickrematunge, another young life lost in the midst of war in Sri Lanka. In last three decades of the LTTE activities, the government and LTTE all have spent billions of dollars to buy arms from other countries to kill and get killed by fellow Sri Lankans. The corruption and misuse of power are a global phenomenon not just confined to poor countries or particular religion, region or race. Countries like Sri Lanka lack a proper process of investigation, accountability and transparency in government dealings. If such a process is implemented it is not difficult to bring convincingly enough charges against individuals in front of the public and demand culprits be prosecuted, convicted and punished by the law.

In the most part, journalism is a profession that disseminates the news and information of events resulted from actions of others. They are simply reflections of events through virtual conduits created by the marvel of technology without which journalism is limited to a metamorphic rock and a scribe made of harder material and that’s why journalists are called scribes. But, today with the advent of sophisticated technology which is metaphysical to a journalist without any engineering or scientific background, a person writing or presenting someone else’s story is deceptively trying to be greater than the story itself. Without developments in the areas of technology, producing industries and agriculture we are still limited to living in caves and running in the jungle. Everything else is supporting services financed by those key producing industries to make the transition smooth and orderly. We are living in a world that does not appreciate these basic necessities and who really bring them to us anymore. On the other hand, the history has shown that nobody is indispensable and nobody is infallible.

Journalism has very little value to the development of a country other than information as well as misinformation they bring in a timely manner thanks to technology. Most of the stories brought by the media reporters are not witnessed by their own eyes and hence become secondhand information based on others’ accounts. The news and analysis presented from a far away place based on stories of others become even third-hand information. Too much of it can create havoc as well as entertainment to some. We have seen how the misinformation of a few people such as the prevarication of Saddam Hussein’s yellow cake material from Niger lead to Iraq war and the complicated predicament Americans as a nation got into. These were utterly baseless fabrications with false documents to convince somebody outside as real. Even after 4 years, some Sri Lankan reporters still write the train disaster that happened in Peraliya with incorrect information such as with the names of neighboring villages and the name of the train which had no name though as Queen of Oceans. I have lived in the US over 20 years, I enjoy (literally) reading and comparing what has been written on different online sites by reporters in Sri Lanka.

Add to the mix, instead of being a part of legitimate scrutinizers of government dealings, accountability and transparency what the opposition party in Sri Lanka doing is even more pathetic. Recent Mr. Ravi Karunanayaka’s Alimankada-Pamankada and Killinochchi-Madawachchi comparison were mere stupidity and they were not something uttered by even a peasant in a village. A recent statement made by Mr. Mangala Samaraweera about an unofficial 'force of executioners' formed by defence secretary and it was being led by a person whose name starts with the letter 'Z'. These were serious allegations instead of shouting these accusations at rallies they warrant serious actions to combat misuse of power by the government. Similar inutile words are being uttered by opposition leader regularly. These are the people really should demand and act according to the very legislature that have been passed at the parliament to stop government mishandling of public funds and abuse of power instead of dragging through the mud like nescient of governance. These kinds of talks and actions invite only ridicule and frustration among the public for having to vote for such irresponsible and opportunistic dumbbells.

When it comes to providing serious information on corruption and other malpractices by the government to a journalist in a country like Sri Lanka one must think what the motive is. If a person in a government establishment provides the information on an on going corruption or scandal, I tend to wonder why this person is giving this information to a reporter. It cannot be on moral grounds in that case he/she should leave the job instead of being part of it or give the information to someone higher up. It has to be either due to not getting a piece of the pie or motivated by political reasons. Both these reasons cannot be considered as morally acceptable and no one knows how accurate the information brought forth by these so called reliable sources. We remember, in the case of leading to Iraq war, the truth of alleged Iraqi yellow cake story was revealed only after a former ambassador traveled to Niger and inquired the facts from them. It has been pointed out that Sunday Leader publishes multiple articles of investigative reporting every week routinely and primarily by one writer. In such a hasty, it is hard to believe there is enough time to do a sanity check other than simply relying on the source. Therefore, to be more convincing to the public and to put the cuffs and manacles on perpetrators, there should be presentable evidence from the other end of these dealings. This is where most Sri Lanka reporters are handicapped and getting into trouble by the political party in power no matter whether it is this party or the other.

Sri Lanka is in a crucial state of a war which has plagued this country over three decades. The negotiations and a political solution instead of war to the Sri Lankan problem have been much talked about by some locals and many foreigners. There is no doubt, like many other Sri Lankans, I love all communities living in peace as one nation without anybody acting as a traitor to the country. But the outcome of such negotiations will be different based on strength of the parties, timing and whom the parties negotiate with. This is where we miss the point or blindfolded when talking againt the current war in Sri Lanka. If we want a unitary Sri Lanka then the government has to go for negotiations with strength over an armed separatist movement. For that we should have patience until the war is over and meantime the news media should be prepared to talk how to bring about post war peace and harmony. Also, it is the time to highlight the need for stringent requirements and processes to act upon by the opposition to have transparency and accountability instead of stirring the pot and just create noise. For an individual, it is ludicrous to fight with a government without a larger and direct people support which can only be possible by a fruitful local NGO organization or meaningful and responsible parties in the opposition. We need more people like Lasantha Wickrematunge who had courage, not just as individuals but with a larger people force behind them who can bring change and bring results.

Mahi Jayas, PhD