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Mangala's conniption

SLFP dissident and spokesman for UNF-JVP-TNA combine's presidential candidate Sarath Fonseka, Mangala Samaraweera has vented his spleen on this newspaper. He accuses us of having tried to ‘trivialize’ the killing of an innocent woman in Tangalle the other day by not according due prominence to the tragedy.

We believe in taking as much as we give and hence the publication of Mangala's diatribe against us in full in this newspaper yesterday. However, while defending his right to take us on, we believe that the incident at issue was adequately covered and given front-page, above-the-fold prominence. Perhaps, the reason for Mangala's bilious outburst may be that we did not make the incident out to be an attack on an election rally of his hero, Fonseka. We contacted UNP MP Sajith Premadasa in Hambantota, because it was to his meeting that the victim had been on her way when the killer struck, and his comment, too, was woven into our news item.

Mangala goes on to allege that even if a supporter of President Mahinda Rajapaksa were to be tapped, we would lead off with that incident. The only instance where we made a headline story out of an attack on one of President Rajapaksa's acolytes was when Minister Mervyn Silva met his Waterloo at Rupavahini. (We look forward to another opportunity to do so!) If Mangala could mention any other instance, we are ready to be corrected.

Politicians' urge to embrace corpses to gain some mileage when their election campaigns run out of steam is only too well known. There have been several such instances of necropolis or catacomb gimmicks in electoral politics in this country.

The UNP wept buckets for the hapless youth killed by an SLFP-led government during the JVP's first abortive terror campaign in 1971. It also marketed the tragic end of Premawathie Manamperi very effectively to score a massive victory in 1977. In the late 1980s, when the country ran red with youthful blood, as the JVP made tens of thousands of youth perish at the hands of the UNP government, the boot was on the other foot. The SLFP capitalised on the ubiquitous spread of cadavers on roads and in water ways.

Mangala co-founded the Mothers' Front, with which the faction ridden SLFP made a great deal of political capital to make a comeback. Chandrika Kumaratunga used Suriya Kanda or the Mountain of Death, which hid within its entrails the corpses of a group of schoolchildren who had been tortured and killed by some rogue elements of the army and vigilantes at the behest of the Premadasa government during the JVP's second reign of terror, as a launching pad to national politics. When Chandrika, Mangala et al dug out the Suriya Kanda mass grave, The Island was one of the few mainstream newspapers that had the intestinal fortitude to brave threats, visit the scene and report from there.

So much for politicians and their love for corpses!

Now, let this question be posed to Mangala. He was part of President Kumaratunga's cabal as Media Minister when editor of the Satana tabloid Rohana Kumara was killed and editor of The Sunday Leader attacked. How did the Lake House papers and the government-controlled electronic media cover those incidents? Did the government papers at least cover them let alone give them lead story status?

Mangala asks us whether the life of a UNPer is less valuable than another's. Death of any man or any woman for that matter diminishes us beyond measure. But, what moral right does Mangala have to raise that question? When President (and UNP leader) Ranasinghe Premadasa was blown to smithereens by the LTTE in 1993, prominent SLFPers celebrated his assassination by eating kiribath and playing raban in public. Did Mangala condemn that dastardly act? Besides, Mangala was part of a team that led the Kumaratunga government's Wayamba PC polls campaign, during which government goons stripped female UNP supporters naked and paraded them on roads. Did the Lake House newspapers under him at that time carry those incidents prominently? So much for Mangala's love for UNP supporters!

We have reason to believe that Mangala is disporting himself in ranting and raving and bilious vivisection against us because we are not supportive of his latest political project. Our nonco-operation is mainly due to our aversion to flimflam, shenanigans, chicanery and scheming aimed at deceiving the public. In 1994, Mangala was instrumental in thrusting Chandrika on us as President; he then joined forces with her kitchen cabinet to sideline Mahinda; in 2005, he threw in his lot with Mahinda much to the consternation of Chandrika and later he left the Rajapaksa government in a huff cursing Mahinda to join forces with UNP leader Ranil Wickremesinghe, whom he had vilified right throughout and even taken to the Bribery Commission on corruption charges. Today, Mangala is trying to market former Army Chief Sarath Fonseka as a messiah, though a few moons ago he did not consider the latter even fit to lead the Salvation Army. What would Mangala say about Fonseka tomorrow? Your guess is as good as ours!

Finally, this newspaper has been with the voiceless public on their arduous journey through tyrannical regimes and a protracted terrorist war. Unprincipled hoity-toity politicians may yap, woof, growl, howl, snarl and snap but we will continue our campaign to prevent Sri Lanka from ending up like Hitler's Germany, Bokassa's Central Africa, Papa Doc's Haiti, Idi Amin's Uganda, Stalin's Russia and Pinochet's Chile.

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