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Ploy behind website registration too transparent – Karu

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(Srilankamirror) – Deputy Leader of the UNP Karu Jayasuriya says the ploy behind the Media Ministry move to register websites – to censor news not favourable to the government – is too transparent.  This is why both the United States and the European Union too have voiced serious concern, Mr. Jayasuriya says in a statement.

“Several have been blocked thus denying access to internet users in Sri Lanka. In an era where the information super highway has transcended national barriers, internet users are still able to access these websites through proxy servers. Thus, most sites have recorded more hits after the Government’s call to register. This shows that the Media Ministry is engaged in a pyrrhic exercise governed by sheer ignorance and utter idiocy,” says the statement.

 Full text of the statement:

 The might of numbers in Parliament steamrolled the plight of the private sector albeit the nation this week.

 Notwithstanding widespread protests, the government has placed in the statute books the draconian Revival of Underperforming Enterprises and Underutilized Act. That 37 business enterprises, including profit making ventures which gave employment and revived rural economies are now Government property is a fait accompli.

 The indecent hurry, in which the draft legislation was rushed through, under the guise of “national interest,” without public discourse, has laid bare the dangers that portend. Any foreign investor with a modicum of intelligence will re-think of investment in Sri Lanka for fear of their ventures being arbitrarily appropriated. That too is without any prior determination of how they function and at the whim and fancy of the rulers.

 The catalogue of state ventures which are continuing to incur losses amounting to billions of rupees is too long and too well known. The ultimate burden of sustaining all these is through public funds. This is why the people are being called upon to pay more for their fuel, an act that has heaped greater burdens with living costs soaring. They will soon be told to pay more for many other basic needs including electricity, bus and rail fares. Public suffering will exacerbate. For the first time since this Government was voted to power, there was a strong message for the rulers. Though a handful, some of their constituent partners refrained from voting for the pernicious piece of legislation. They are obviously conscious about the harmful effects it would cause and were courageous whilst many of their colleagues, we have reason to believe, could not do so out of fear.

 The passage of the “arbitrary expropriation” law cannot be viewed in isolation from the multitude of disturbing events enveloping the country. Under the reign of this Government, journalists have been killed, maimed, abducted, threatened and intimidated. The perpetrators have not been brought to book despite public assurances to do so and uphold media freedom, an essential element in a democracy. Fear has forced some journalists into the graveyard of silence. It has also forced a number of them to seek the safety of foreign countries. It is no secret that most are resorting to self-censorship. In this ever increasing climate of fear leading to caution, websites reporting on Sri Lanka in greater detail became even more popular with internet users.

 This week, the Media Ministry has ruled that those websites should register with them. Several have been blocked thus denying access to internet users in Sri Lanka. In an era where the information super highway has transcended national barriers, internet users are still able to access these websites through proxy servers. Thus, most sites have recorded more hits after the Government’s call to register. This shows that the Media Ministry is engaged in a pyrrhic exercise governed by sheer ignorance and utter idiocy. However, the ploy behind the move, to censor news not favourable to the Government, is too transparent. This is why both the United States and the European Union too have voiced serious concern.

 A national daily reported last month that the Military Intelligence Corps of the Army has been increased to six battalions. On the basis of this, at least over 6000 Army personnel have been deployed for intelligence gathering. This is more than two years after the military defeat of the LTTE, which was the largest threat factor. Even more disturbing, this is in addition to the State Intelligence Service (SIS), the state intelligence arm functioning under the Police Department. Both members of the opposition as well as those in the government have come under the watchful eyes of intelligence cadres. Political activists, journalists, university students, trade unionists, lawyers and a wide variety of other civil society leaders are among those under close watch. The law and order situation is continuing to deteriorate. As recent incidents have revealed, the enraged public are attacking lawbreakers or law enforcers reflecting their lack of confidence in justice and fair play being meted out. There is one set of laws for drug barons backing the Government and another for those not with them. Bribery and corruption have reached unprecedented levels spawning millionaires by the day.

 More and more military camps are coming up countrywide. This week there were public protests in the East over allegations that camps are being set up on private land. The country has witnessed increased military intrusion in previously civilian dominated areas. Military expenditure in the upcoming budget has been increased phenomenally and more recruitment is under way.

 The question before all Sri Lankans today is where their beloved motherland is headed. Has the beginning of the end for a fledgling democracy in Sri Lanka commenced? If so, isn’t there are need for a vibrant opposition with honest objectives, which can strive to ensure checks and balances? Isn’t this what the public are expecting from them? We will be failing in the trust placed in us by the public if the dangers are not highlighted by the opposition. The time has come for the people to take note of the Unbridled Powers of a Family Alliance. That UPFA has become the biggest danger to democracy in Sri Lanka.
SLM

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