Moving back to White Van governance?

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The attack on the house of journalist Chamuditha Samarawickrama, last Monday night, gave a show of crooked governance, with the stone and faeces throwers coming in a white van. Adding to this, later on the same day, those who forcibly took away the Catholic and social activist Shehan Malika Gamage to the CID, also came in a white van.

One is reminded of what President Gotabaya Rajapaksa told the heads of leading media institutions, shortly after his election, at the Presidential Secretariat, that during his term in office there would be no attacks on any media organsation or media person. It was an important move away from what the media people and organisations suffered when he was Secretary to the Ministry of Defence, which was the showpiece of the White Van governance.

On hearing of the attack on journalist Chamuditha’s residence, my first memories went back to Richard de Zoysa.  I’m glad that Chamuditha did not face such a tragedy. But moving on from President Premadasa’s dealing with the media, the later Rajapaksa power did show a determined display of violence and misuse of the law in dealing with journalists and media institutions.

Moving on from Lasantha Wickrematunga to Keith Noyahr and so many others, killed, missing, and heavily injured, was the show of Rajapaksa power at the time of the war with LTTE separatist terrorism and thereafter.

Chamuditha Samarawickrama is a reputed journalist, a key player on Hiru TV, with an Internet play of his own. I am not a strong supporter of his journalist thinking nor that of his home TV station. Yet, he has every right to have his own views, thoughts and strategies on politics, governance and social life. That right has to be wholly defended and criticized and even attacked, only by and through the media. That is the very core of the democracy this country accepted from the days of independence, and against many forces that sought to do away with or curtail our democratic values – especially from the Ranasinghe Premadasa and JR Jayewardene years, and the subsequent Rajapaksa dynasty. It is both worrying and agonizing that the Police, with its reportedly huge search force, has not yet found out the attackers on Chamuditha’s house. They can also begin looking at persons or organizations that Chamuditha has been strongly critical of in recent months, from beauticians to manicurists and hair stylists, to key names in the Police he has been strongly critical of on TV.

The son of the Police Minister, who is an ASP and doctor in the Police hospital Narahenpita, posted a strange comment on his Facebook page, on hearing of the attack on Chamuditha’s home. It said in Sinhala that “the stones and faeces used had been lowered”.  It certainly was taken down very fast. But how far can we keep guessing that throwing faeces is bringing it down?  I would rather call it ‘shitty’ thinking. But should Chamuditha not worry about such thinking on the part of the Police?

The attack on the Chamuditha’s home, and the forcible arrest of social activist Shehan Malika Gamage,s were a show of White Van activism on the rise.  It is certainly not very far from the Anuradhapura rally of the SLPP, where the Rajapaksa brothers displayed their power by doing away with all anti-Covid health guidelines, and President Gotabaya said how the prevailing power would be used in the next three years.

This is the Pohottuva Play with many more such, so-called election seeking rallies to take place, more empty promises to be chanted and shouted, and the people kept in confusion and commotion with many more white van stuff on the political agenda.

This White Van exercise is not likely to be only a show of political strength of the Rajapaksa Family. The attack on the home of a senior journalist has taken place when the UNHCR is about to begin its next round of hearings, and Sri Lanka is well on the agenda. Whatever questions our Foreign Minister Peiris may have about the UN system’s priorities, the White Van grime and sludge will certainly have its own echoes in Geneva.

Will this show of stone and faecal attack, making its links with past White Van strategies of the former Secretary of Defence, affect our hopes to keep the GSP Plus help for our exports?

Media Minister Dallas Alahapperuma, has given a good warning that the government will be held responsible for this attack of a journalist until the Police find out the attackers,

Keep thinking, with the hope that no other journalists and social activists are targeted by the White Vans brought stones and other faecal strikes, by the ‘shitty’ people in power.

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Disclaimer: Moving back to White Van governance? - Views expressed by writers in this section are their own and do not necessarily reflect point-of-view

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