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An unspeakable protest

It was with shock and dismay that we watched Monday's dastardly attack by an organised gang on the MTV/Sirasa head office in Colombo in broad daylight. It must be condemned unreservedly by one and all. If one believes that a media organisation is at fault, one can always take recourse to the law.

Equally shocking was the inordinate delay on the part of the police in responding to repeated calls from the beleaguered media personnel for help. In a city that teems with combat ready police and armed forces personnel at every nook and corner why on earth did the guardians of law and order take such a long time to arrive at the scene? Their unpardonable delay prompted those under attack to act in self-defence, perhaps aggravating violence. Had the police rushed there, dispersed the mob and made arrests as fast as they usually descend on Opposition protests, an ugly incident could have been forestalled.

The onus is on IGP Mahinda Balasuriya to investigate and find why his men and officers known for their high octane performance in crushing anti-government demonstrations failed to or refused to act swiftly on Monday.

The government has drawn heavy flak from the Opposition, which claims that the attack was politically motivated. Several key Opposition figures who appeared on TV in the aftermath of the incident accused the government, albeit by innuendo, of having carried out yet another attack to suppress the media. Even if a person happens to eat chocolate in a coconut oil mill, it is said, people think he is eating poonac. The protesters had come in an SLTB bus all the way from Kelaniya, the electorate of an aggressive government potentate with a history of launching attacks on TV stations. Since the government's predilection for poonac eating is monumental where its media handling is concerned, it will remain a suspect unless it clears its name by bringing the masterminds of Monday’s attack to book. President Mahinda Rajapaksa is reported to have ordered a high level probe into the incident. It is a step in the right direction but we hope that it will not draw a blank as is the case with all investigations into attacks on the media.

It is believed that the demonstrators' motive was to register their protest against the MTV/Sirasa-sponsored visit of a controversial foreign artiste, who stands accused of having desecrated a Buddha statue in one of his albums, for a show in Colombo. Several such deplorable instances of desecration of objects of Buddhist worship by foreigners have been reported during the past few years much to the consternation of Buddhist activists here. Although they have no right to take the law into their own hands in defending their religion and cannot claim their pain of mind in extenuation of resorting to the so-called direct action on Monday, the organisers of events like the musical show at issue should have taken religious and cultural sensitivities of the Sri Lankan public into consideration and conducted some research into the background of the celebrity concerned before inviting him here, however well known he may be. Any artiste who tries to be popular or derives some sadistic pleasure by ridiculing religions and much venerated symbols or objects associated with them cannot be considered mentally sound.

Similarly, we are not short of people including some media personnel on a much advertised mission to bring about national integration, ethno-religious amity and peaceful coexistence etc. Theirs is, no doubt, a noble cause which deserves our unstinted support but it behoves them to be cognisant of and sensitive to concerns of all segments of society in whatever they do, if they are not be called hypocrites.

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