BBC’s Hard Talk
After having watched Minister Mahinda Samarasinghe’s superb performance during the BBC’s Hard Talk interview the other day, I am sure he had done us all Sri Lankans proud. It is to his credit that though his interviewer, one Stephen Sacker, was most of the time boorish and arrogant, the Minister never lost his cool but rather answered all the questions with aplomb.

It was very obvious, right from the very beginning of the interview, that Mr. Sacker was biased towards the LTTE and he made no effort to disguise it. His line of questioning was "one track" in that he always tried to find fault with the government on the manner it was handling the problem of the IDPs. His questioning the reason for the government not allowing foreign reporters, UN, ICRC and personnel from other human rights organizations to be present when refugees were screened, was corrected by the minister who stated that persons from these bodies were indeed present. In fact, Mr. Sacker did not even know that reporters from the BBC itself had made three visits in February to the war front.

Incidentally, I would like to ask Mr. Sacker whether any foreign journalists or personnel from the UN and ICRC were allowed entry into the Gaza Strip when it was being blown to smithereens and its people decimated? Did the Americans allow any journalist to see how inmates were being treated in the Guantanamo Bay prison? The answer, as Mr. Sacker very well knows, is ‘NO’. There cannot be one rule for the Americans and British and another for Third World, small, indefensible countries - at least not in this enlightened, 21st century.

Mr. Sacker was also lamenting the fact the he is unable to read the ‘Sunday Leader’ after the death of its editor Mr. Lasantha Wickramatunge. Here too he was corrected by the minister who informed him that this paper continues to be published. So much for Mr. Sacker’s knowledge of local affairs!

He was questioning as to why the government cannot track the killers of Mr. Lasantha Wickramatunge. That is easier said than done. Have the Americans been able to find Osama Bin Laden, in spite of the fact they are the only super power? So don’t expect miracles from us.

My humble assessment of Mr. Sacker’s performance was that, first and foremost, he had not done his homework - something his employer the BBC, should take note of. Secondly, it seemed pretty obvious that he had been given some questions by some lobbyists and he just parroted them. Next, I felt that he tried to intimidate the minister with his brusque manner of questioning, which, of course, did not work with the minister and so he became impatient at times. Finally, he did not show due respect to the minister at certain times when he addressed him, which again could be attributed to his boorishness.

So all in all, while Minister Samarasinghe came out with flying colours, Mr. Sacker on the other hand, ended looking very much like a used condom - pardon me the comparison.

Tyrone Alles

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