| by Karu Jayasuriya

Speech made by Karu Jayasuriya MP in Parliament on the occasion of the debate on the Budget at the Committee Stage on the expenditure of the Ministry of Mass Media, on 11th December 2013

( December 12, 2013, Colombo, Sri Lanka Guardian) Personally, I and the United National Party which I represent strongly believe as a policy the importance of freedom of media and we would dedicate our lives for it, even in the future.

We have faced tear gas, baton charges and threats of goons for media freedom and the journalists, media personnel have sacrificed their lives to protect the rights of the media. We always appeared for them. We were subjected to many threats for this reason. I join the debate as a person who holds a positive outlook towards the freedom of media and the rights of the media personnel.

It is vital to draw the attention to the rights as well as the responsibilities of the media, when we speak of the freedom of the media. Media should be impartial and balanced. Media is for the people. It is the duty of the media to appear for the true problems encountered by the people. Unfortunately, some media in this country, instead of fulfilling this duty are engaged in attacking in a demeaning manner, individuals who are having opposite views, destroying their credibility and honour. Under the circumstances the real issued such as threats to democracy, good governance, decline of rule of law, cost of living etc., are being neglected. The media should expose the mistakes of the government and the opposition. At present, some newspapers instead of exposing these mistakes, sling mud at individuals earmarked by them. This is a very deplorable situation.

The “Mawbima” paper which commenced its publication recently for the second time is engaged in a shameless media exercise which is completely different from the stand it took prior to it being ‘sealed’. “Ceylon Today”, the sister paper of the “Mawbima” follows on similar lines. Thanks to the “Mawbima” paper, I saw some headlines recently which I have not seen in any country. For the first time in the history known to me, this paper carried a headline in large letters, “Lightning strikes a politician’s meeting”. Looking at it from whatever angle, it is totally against the media ethics. Having seen this headline “kr#@G ßSímt @hn ghû”. Many persons from the government and opposition spoke to me. They all asked me “Did you fight for this kind of media freedom?” We must protect our younger generation not only from Casinos but from these malicious media exercises.

The news item “kr#@G ßSímt @hn ghû” was published with a picture of lightning. I was not struck by lightning. The Venerable Anu Nayake and Sangha Nayake Theros expressed their regrets about mean media behavior. There were heavy rains and lightning in the Gamapha area on this day. We had a very successful meeting on this day despite the inclement weather.

Presently this paper instead of providing true news to the people is engaged in spreading hatred. We accept that a newspaper has the right to work according to its political agenda. It is wrong to distort facts and maliciously avenge those who hold dissenting views.

From their behavior “Mawbima” has proved that it is a paper which has short friendships. There was a time there were no two other people like Mr. Sarath Fonseka and Mr. Mangala Samaraweera for those at “Mawbima”. Today they are being hounded and attacked. They adopt a policy where a close friend becomes an ardent enemy in a trice. Higher officials and the ownership of the paper have a desire to keep politicians as prisoners through the paper. Those who oppose it are being hounded and attacked by distorting facts. By this behavior the media as a whole is being ridiculed. Media organizations have a social responsibility in distributing the paper when something is written about an individual. Newspaper is not similar to a malicious personal letter sent to a person. It should not be a bag full of lies. Every media organization should use their paper with a clear social responsibility.

There was a time “Mawbima” praised us highly. To some of the writers of the papers there was no other character other than me. I respectfully request from these gentlemen to read once again what they wrote praising us. When you write contradictory things the readers will laugh at you. I table some of those reports.

Venerable Buddhist priests and other religious dignitaries ask very often why I keep quiet when this paper attacks me in this manner. Being a Buddhist it does not permit me to develop any hatred towards them.

Although this paper makes an attempt to destroy the United National Party and attack us maliciously, we appeared for them unconditionally, when the paper was sealed, when they were attacked, when the house of the owner of the paper was destroyed, when they were remanded. We raised our voice for them. We, who were brought up in a civilized society and grew up in such a cultural background, behave and act in this manner. They have written that Karu Jayasuriya will sacrifice even his parents to obtain a position. It is a very lowly act to insult my beloved parents. I respected the late Principal Alles. He was a distinguished person. I remember when the owner of “Mawbima” was remanded Mr. Alles with tearful eyes met me on several occasions.

We start our day thinking how to serve this country; how to help the people, but it is obvious that those who are attached to this paper wake up in the morning with the thought of how to defame and ridicule a person who is beyond their control.

I was admitted to hospital recently for a few days to get treatment for ‘Dengu’. When a person is sick we wish that person speedy recovery irrespective of race, cast, creed or political affiliations. When I was admitted to hospital “Mawbima” reported that I was hospitalized deceitfully. I tabled the relevant medical reports. They are being flagrant to write in this manner indicating the malice they bear towards me. They must learn the art of journalism from Mr. Upali Wijewardene and Mr. Ranjith Wijayawardene. Those who occupy the higher positions in “Mawbima” stepped into media from the institutions of those above giants whose names I mentioned. It seems that they have not learnt the finer points of journalism from them.

I wish to table the article which appeared in “Mawbima” on 8th November. “Dinana Paula Saha Paradina Paula”. “Mawbima” editor was aiming at the Wijayawardene family. It is the Wijayawardene family that did a great service to journalism in the history of Sri Lanka. “Mawbima” editor, Mr. Thushara Guneratne worked in the Lankadeepa belonging to the Wijaya Publications, owned by Mr. Ranjith Wijaywardena.

The day he leaves Mr. Tiran Alles, we do not know if Mr. Gunaratne says that family is also a “Paradina Paula”. It is a big mistake to expect gratitude from a person who is not grateful to his employer. I wish to table the”Mawbima” paper of Saturday 4th November 2013. A writer by the name of Sadun Jeewantha has written an article “UNPer maragena otunu paladinna ena kumara”. He was aiming at Mr. Ruwan Wijayawardena MP. Mr. Sandun Jeewantha began his journalistic career at Lankadeepa which is owned by the Wijayawardena family. This same writer is the person who ridiculed my parents.

Everybody can understand some of the pictures published in this paper are not suitable to be published in any paper. What is the pleasure that they get by publishing cheap distorted pictures? At times they distort my picture as that of a devil. They try to involve Buddhist Priests in articles referring to me and try to create dissension among the priests. When I say these things I know that they will attack me further. They will bring in false accusations and sling mud at me. I am aware that after my speech today there would be paper articles criticizing my action to support the government to defeat terrorism. I am prepared for this. I am in the possession of articles where these gentlemen have written a few months before praising my decision to support the government to defeat terrorism. Therefore I request the readers to read what they write intelligently and arrive at a decision.

Last week we worshipped Sri Maha Bodhi and other Buddhist shrines at Anuradhapura. We also met religious dignatories of Hindu, Catholic and Muslim religions. We had a very successful public rally. However, “Mawbima” had falsely and maliciously reported this event. I table the “Mawbima” report and another impartial report which appeared in another newspaper on the same event. It is difficult to comprehend how far journalistic ethics had deteriorated.

We are open to criticism. We like it. We happily accept with an open mind just criticism about us. In a civilized society just criticism should prevail. However we do not expect the media institutions only to praise us. There are a few journalists who have the courage to report the truth without subjecting themselves to any pressure. I take this opportunity to pay my respect to those few journalists who light up this prestigious profession, which is considered as the fourth estate of a country. We stand up for them in the future too.

Honourable Speaker, the importance of improving the professional quality of the media is evident from the above incidents. Therefore it is the duty of the government to provide the necessary funds to media schools and other responsible institutions for the improvement of the quality of journalism, if not this professional will deteriorate further.

Honourable Speaker, I act according to my conscience. When a request was made by the Buddhist priests and the Working Committee of the UNP to bring about unity within the party as expected by the large majority of the UNP, I cannot ignore this request and allow the party to deteriorate. I do not want to wait until the party splits further over mundane issues. I did my duty to put an end to the war. Now is the time I have to help the party to march towards victory, uniting all fractions. It is my duty to support it. I will fulfill that obligation.

I joined the UNP by invitation. I accepted the Chairmanship and the Deputy Leadership by invitation. I contested the Municipal and Provincial Council Elections by invitation. I accepted the Chairmanship of the Leadership Council by invitation. I touched on malicious journalism not because I am afraid. We cannot allow to destroy the leaders of the party and the politicians who have a future. We cannot give in to media terrorism. We cannot allow to destroy the UNP and to break it to groups. They are attempting to destroy my Sinhala Buddhist Image. I will disclose the powers behind and those who are supportive of it. Their aim is clear.’

When I contested the Mayorship in 1997 I was subjected to heavy character assassination. At that time the judiciary meted out justice. I observe the five precepts. I meditate daily. These days I practice Metha meditation. I sympathize and extend my goodwill to them although there are threats to destroy me politically.

There is information that there is a threat to my life. I am not afraid to die for truth and justice.

I wish to remind these gentlemen that those who live in glass houses should not throw stones at other. Nature will one day punish these injustices. This truth is called retribution.

Honourable Speaker, whatever the threats, before I die I will do my duty to the country and to the party. I dedicate myself to fully establishing a government of the UNP and a rosperous and democratic Sri Lanka where justice prevails.