President only partly there

President Maithripala Sirisena’s observation that a negative picture is being painted of the government by certain media have drawn a host of comments, most of them siding with the media, claiming that the government, in fact, had failed to show results vis a vis its promises made during the elections while also holding that, on the development front too, the Yahapalanaya government is found wanting.

The President, during an event in Ratnapura, claimed that if one were to observe the content in certain media one would come to the conclusion that no development was taking place in the country and that things were at a standstill. He opined that little or no material of a positive nature was been reported or aired and that this was clearly a ruse to shore up the ratings of these news channels.

Here, the President is only partially correct. While it is true that certain TV channels adopt various ruses to draw in the maximum viewers to its channels, given the cut-throat competition between media organisations, it is also true that some of these channels are specifically in existence to plug the line of the political opponents of the government, in this instance the Rajapaksas and the Joint Opposition. At least one TV channel has even given up the pretense of being impartial and blatantly, to use a popular term, now in vogue, ‘goes shopping’ kade yanawa for the Rajapaksas and the JO. It’s news coverage is heavily weighted towards highlighting the points of view of the JO and their more vociferous spokesmen and the views of government ministers or the development programmes are aired in casual terms, apparently in an attempt to maintain at least a semblance of balance.

There is also a morning programme aired by this channel devoted to newspaper headlines and the day’s top stories therein where the anchor gives out his own views and interpretations of the news items he reads out that shows the government in poor light while giving a leg up to the Joint Opposition spokesmen. This individual also takes it upon himself to readout the editorials in selected vernacular newspapers that are well known for their support to the Rajapaksas, the content of which are rabidly anti-government while leaving out other newspapers from the equation. This channel is now busy airing misleading news about the proposed new constitution, giving much prominence to the views expressed by sections of the Maha Sangha who are opposed to the whole exercise, with particular reference, by innuendo, to alleged harm that may visit the status accorded to Buddhism. This, while repeated guaranties have been given to the Maha Sangha by both the President and Prime Minister vis a vis the preeminent position accorded to Buddhism in the present constitution.

There is also another TV channel which is pathologically obsessed with Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe and is airing daily doses of news and opinions that are uncomplimentary of the Premier. The same channel, though, goes to great lengths to place another prominent UNPer on a pedestal by highlighting his public relations programmes and events on prime time news. It is this state of affairs, no doubt, that has drawn the attention of the President and has made him react the way he did.

Be that as it may, certain government politicians too are scoring own goals, giving these TV channels opportunities to tarnish the image of the government. The personal battles between certain ministers are being gleefully seized by these channels to portray disunity within the Yahapalanaya regime. The President should strive to put his own house in order and censure those ministers who are offering the Opposition ammunition with which to target the government. He should prevail upon them to fall in line in terms of collective Cabinet responsibility.

GMOA opening another flank

The GMOA appears to be spoiling for a fight again, this time over the appointment of the new President of the Sri Lanka Medical Council in the offing following the end of the tenure of Prof. Carlo Fonseka. GMOA spokesmen have threatened to strike if Prof. Fonseka is not retained in the post. We have been arguing in these spaces ad nausm and would like to reiterate the point. The GMOA should not involve itself in affairs that are beyond its remit. Appointments to government vacancies are a matter for the administration and the doctors have no business to interfere in such appointments. Prof. Carlo Fonseka, who, no doubt, is an iconic figure in the country’s academia is an octogenarian and though his mental faculties without question are still very much intact he certainly will not be in a sound physical state to steer the affairs of the SLMC, particularly at this juncture, when the SLMC is embroiled in many issues. Prof. Fonseka himself has suggested as much, speaking to the media opposite the Supreme Court complex the other day. It is hoped that the GMOA will not add an another issue to the ongoing SAITM imbroglio and steer clear of matters that does not concern it. 


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