The Grand Conspiracy
Mr. Mangala Samaraweera, we presumed had a sense of humour but these days he seems to have lost it. He was in a rather belligerent mood at a press conference he gave on Wednesday,which was televised over Rupavahini. He displayed the front page of Wednesdays The Island and asked why we had made the story with the headline: Astrological Magazine Editor admits he lied-What the Stars didnt foretell, the lead story.
If The Island could have made such a story the lead story, then we should give the same prominence to what he had announced at the conference - the alleged LTTE-UNP conspiracy against President Kumaratunga and the PA government, he demanded.
We are sorry that we could not oblige the minister. Despite his being the minister of media for quite sometime and lording over institutions such as Lake House and Rupavahini, he does not seem to have learnt an elementary principle of journalism: Dog bites man is no news, but man bites dog is news.
Editors, Mr Samaraweera knows very well, do not admit that they lie. Certainly not astrologers whose rice and curry, pol sambol and parippu - all depend on their credibility. Thus, when an editor, and an astrologer at that, admits that he had been twisting, distorting and prostituting astrology it is news - big news. Mr Wijayasiri Jayasinghe claimed to be the editor of the Ira-Handa astrological magazine over which, he said, Mr. Samaraweera has great control. It was Mr. Samaraweera and the proprietor of the magazine who had asked him to lie in favour of the Peoples Alliance, Mr. Jayasinghe claimed at his press conference.
Mr. Samaraweera claimed that Mr. Jayasinghe was not the editor of the paper but was only a paste-up boy. But does that really matter these days when people far removed from the profession of journalism walk in as journalists into state media institutions - even convicted criminals become political commentators of newspapers that once had revered journalists as commentators and editors.
Mr Samaraweeras demand that we should make his Conspiracy story the lead story could simply not be accommodated because it was stale news, over one year old! It was during the run-up to the last general election held in October last year that President Chandrika Kumaratunga charged the UNP and its leader Mr. Ranil Wickremasinghe with having a secret pact with the LTTE. That charge was denied by Mr. Wickremasinghe and after the elections, despite the PA coming back to power, this allegation was not pursued. A secret pact with this terrorist organisation that has killed so many Sri Lankans and even attempted to assassinate President Kumaratunga would have been a criminal act amounting to even treason. It should have been pursued with all the resources at the disposal of the executive president. But after the elections the entire issue was forgotten and now again the conspiracy theory has been resumed.
We certainly do not approve of secret negotiations with the LTTE. But the evidence produced by Mr. Mangala Samaraweera that UNP MP Dr. Jayalath Jayawardena had made moves to meet the LTTE, even if it is true, does not amount to a conspiracy to topple the government or assassinate President Kumaratunga. The letter, produced by Mr Samaraweera says,was sent through an intermediary, the Bishop of Mannar, to a leading terrorist calling for a meeting to develop mutual understanding and friendship cannot be constructed as a conspiracy against the government or the president. A recorded cassette tape was played by Mr. Samaraweera but it is impossible for a layman to decide on whether it is a genuine tape or not .Mr. Samaraweera along with other stalwarts had presented this alleged evidence to the Mahanayake of the Malwatte Chapter Ven. Rambukwelle Sri Vipassi.
In our opinion what Mr. Samaraweera should have done was to present the evidence to the Criminal Investigation Department, sought the advice of the Attorney General and then arrested and prosecuted Dr Jayawardene, if there was definite evidence. To an impartial observer, Mr. Samaraweeras moves appear to be an effort to generate plain propaganda against the UNP during the election campaign.
The only possible evidence for a UNP-LTTE alliance is circumstantial - the UNP and the Tamil Alliance being opposed to the PA and the Tamil Alliance declaring that they consider the LTTE to be the sole represntative of the Tamils. To assume a conspiracy on this evidence is to stretch ones imagination to the utmost.
The LTTE is certainly conspiring against PA political leaders and perhaps against politicians of other political parties as well. On the day they attempted to assassinate President Kumaratunga, it will be recalled, that a suicide bomber blew himself up before a UNP stage at Ja- ela killing Maj. Gen. Lucky Algama. The Deputy Leader of the UNP, Karu Jayasuriya, Anura Bandaranaike, Dr. Jayalath Jayawardena had left the stage a short while before the bomb blast. At this time too the PA was making the charge of an LTTE- UNP conspiracy.
This is indeed a sad turn of events. What is called for is a UNP-PA alliance to defeat Prabhakaran rather than using the terrorist to attack the UNP With only 13 days to go for the elections, it will be prudent for both parties to be vigilant about terrorist bombers rather than sling mud at each other.
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