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NewsDevil quotes scripture; shaky Paki (etc.) call for Gota’s removal…

Devil quotes scripture; shaky Paki (etc.) call for Gota’s removal…

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Paikiasothy Saravanamuttu asking for the removal of Gotabaya Rajapaksa over the alleged verbal abuse of a newspaper editor is a Bible-study case of devil invoking scripture, insofar as Saravanamuttu who did his utmost to stymie the war effort, now seeks to remove the architect of the successful campaign against the LTTE with a trumped up case of ‘abuse and harassment’.
Saravanamuttu and his ilk agitating over this affair, including Mangala Samaraweera, and those other self-righteous busybodies in the British Economist, etc., may turn around and say that the defence secretary’s role in winning the war has nothing to do with his alleged tirade against a newspaper editor in which the editor claims Mr. Rajapaksa threatened and abused her in foul language.

But yet, there is such a thing called context and perspective, which is what’s missing in the characteristically cacophonic reactions to the issue by our fulminate-a-minute, holier-than-thou battalion.

The defence secretary has in a no holds barred interview on the opposite page of this newspaper, for the first time given his own perspective of events with regard to the entire imbroglio. In this conversation, he says pointedly that he did not abuse the editor in any malicious manner but however was rather indignant in speaking out on the incident per se. He also says that there was needless provocation on the part of the editor concerned, a wholly unnecessary dragging in of the name of an innocent third party – his niece – and then stresses the hitherto unmentioned fact that there is a court order that expressly forbade the said newspaper from contacting him and harassing him on any issue whatsoever.

This is the defence secretary’s version of events –and though his detractors may not necessarily accept what he says – they would by now realize that there is definitely another side to the story, and that their haste to condemn and call for his removal therefore, is as usual, flawed, intemperate and glaringly smacking of gross ulterior motive.

In short, the Paikiasothys, Mangalas and The Economist folks, etc., did not pause to ascertain the other side of the issue, something unconscionable particularly when they are talking about matters related to journalism, where the ethics of free expression are as important as the tenets of free speech themselves, per se.

As for the editor concerned –we empathize with the fact that she would be rattled, or rather disturbed, if as she claims a high ranking official abused her in foul language, and stated that there are people willing to kill her, in an atmosphere (now waning) in which impunity had been somewhat the norm for those who wanted to physically harm, or entirely eliminate journalists.

 But, the story acquires an entirely new colouration with the defence secretary’s own contentions inter alia, about the court order not to harass him, his charges of needless harassment of a relative whose name was dragged into the case, and his claim that the editor intended to blackmail him by stating that she is not using the story (…thereby implying that she intends to use it on a future date, ‘if’ something happens — as one can guess…)

All that can be said under the circumstances, is that the most intrepid of rights agitators, or the most conscientious of civil society activists, should not rush to judgment despite Paikiasothy’s recent sausage-sizzler of a rant.

At the very worst, the issue, in the new perceptive after the defence secretary’s own views have been aired, seems to be one of resort to intemperate speech under grave and abrupt provocation, which would not stand the test of culpability in a court of law, leave alone a court of public opinion.

What’s moot here is that things become very transparent when leaving the concerned editor aside, other less than savoury characters such as Paikiasothy take up issues so exuberantly, going to the extent of calling for the defence secretary’s removal. In the context of the facts given above, the apt response to such interventions should be ‘who the hell is Paikiasothy (name interchangeable with Mangala, Article 19, The Economist, whoever…) to ask for Gotabaya Rajapaksa’s resignation, particularly when they have not considered the larger ramifications of the issue or haven’t so much as had the courtesy to refer to the defence secretary for his own side of the story. This is rich – isn’t it – those who are blathering and fulminating at the mouth on behalf of free expression and the ethics of journalistic practice — and who speak no end of good governance and civility — not stopping to so much as to take a peep at what the other side says, irrespective of whether the other side may be right or wrong in what’s claimed against charges proffered?
Of course the Pavlovian reflex of our regular civil society artful dodgers would be to say, well the case is so open and shut – what other side? Such a reaction would be ill-informed, and perverse under any circumstances, especially under the above mentioned circumstances.

Rather, the astute and morally right reaction to the entire issue should be to say, we do not care who or what potentate or rights organizations says about the issue from their pedestals on-high, what matters is the need to get to the truth of the issue, not condemning or calling for resignations or removals in haste.
The editor no doubt has a right to make her claim if she thinks she is right. But so does the defence secretary, because every man or woman no matter how weak or powerful, is innocent until proven guilty. He is emphatic that he is not in the wrong, and has given detailed reasoning to substantiate. Many persons under the circumstances, hearing his side of the story, would cast aside the issue as a heat of the moment dispute between two persons, best forgotten in the spirit of ‘bygones be bygones’. Some others, mostly his detractors, could have a different view however.

If for sakes of argument, one does assume that this latter category of people were right, and there was some lapse on the part of Gotabaya Rajapaksa, things still get hideously transparent when the likes of Paikiasothy and his cohorts get into the act.

These are people for instance, who were so fond of the US sponsored UNHRC resolution against Sri Lanka. So let’s take exalted America as an example. Bill Clinton was caught literally — and then later figuratively — with his pants down in the Monica Lewinsky scandal, when he had a lurid affair with an intern, and more importantly, beyond doubt perjured himself in court. True, he was impeached by one house of Congress for this. But he was exonerated by Congress as a whole, went on to serve his full term, and ended his presidency as one of the most popular American presidents in decades, with an unprecedented end-term approval rating. The moral of the story? There may be vast right wing conspiracies, or vast NGO and Mangla-type conspiracies against persons who have excelled in office and achieved much, but the people have their own opinions. Gotabaya Rajapaksa is highly respected by the mass of people who are utterly grateful for his efficient prosecution of the war, and latterly, his no-nonsense efforts to get Colombo spruced up and up to scratch as a tourist destination. It is a safe bet that the majority of the people in this country will have none of this ‘remove Gota’ business, just because a bunch of crazed conspirators now want to see the back of him, having hated his face during the war because their own game of warmongering under the guise of peace was up. Even if Gotabaya transgressed on this editor’s issue now under the crosshairs – and there is a preponderance of evidence to show that he did not, as stated here – the people, as in the case of Clinton, know that they are on the side of a man who did a great deal of good for them, never mind that he may have some weaknesses and faults as all humans do. And never mind those mindless, lurid ingrates either.
LB

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