Regulating the Media

| by Victor Cherubim    
( November 28, 2012, London. Sri Lanka Guardian) The talk of the town now is the freedom of the judiciary in Sri Lanka. As we kind of repeat our mistakes over and over again, in the name of correcting conflicts of interest and trying to protect the power of the State, we in a paradoxical way, diminish the supremacy of the people.

There is a growing lobby that feels the Executive is overstepping its boundaries. Simultaneously another equally vociferous body wants to put down the power of women in high office. A third force is pitting women against women in a subtle Machiavellian way.

We appoint Chief Justices, and then we impeach them. This is the third time in three decades against three Chief Justices that impeachment proceedings have been brought by three different governments of Sri Lanka. Misbehaviour, improper conduct, unexplained and non declared assets have all featured previously in the Parliamentary impeachment motions.

Dr. Tharindra Ranasingha writes: “As long as you toe the line of the executive you will be showered with perks and privileges. The rules, procedures and ethics that are applicable to the common people, will not apply to you. It was very clear that President Rajapaksa was showering the Chief Justice’s husband with high level political appointments, first to ensure that his wife at the helm of the Supreme Court will “not make things difficult” for him. This is the general approach taken by the President in dealing with his potential adversaries.”
Retired Chief Justice Sarath Siva further states: “Mahinda Rajapaksa designs and creates conflict. This is his governance style. Nobody can counter his shrewdness.” Sarath Silva is now urging the present incumbent to back down, even though he warned that it was probably too late.
The hidden agendas
There is a growing lobby that feels the Executive is overstepping its boundaries. Simultaneously another equally vociferous body wants to put down the power of women in high office. A third force is pitting women against women in a subtle Machiavellian way.
We notice Pavithra, Arundika, Sudharshani, Shantha and Lasantha; all MP’s putting their names and signing the petition, among the 117 MPs calling for the impeachment of the first woman Chief Justice in the world. One wonders whether they are, as reported, forced to sign a blank paper, which is highly unlikely, or are they privy to the impending appointment of the first woman Chief Justice of Britain, Lady Justice Carol Hallett.
A farfetched analogy
Be that as it may, what all this boils down to is the freedom of the press to express ourselves freely. Some observers state a conspiracy may be in the offing.  In Britain or in Sri Lanka, state regulation of the media may be contemplated. In Britain the long awaited Leveson Inquiry Report on the Press, is due for publication on, 28 November 2012.
A consoling fact is that in advance of this publication, Tory Environment Secretary, Owen Patterson has warned that any state regulation would be a “horrible, slippery slope.” His comments came as more than 40 Tory MP’s prepared to publish a letter calling for a tougher system of self regulation instead of any kind of statutory underpinning by law on press freedom.
“Of course some dreadful things have happened, some really shocking things have happened, as far as I can see they were nearly all illegal and due process should have taken place and there should have been prosecutions for what were then illegal acts and remain today illegal acts. But,
I am emphatically against any government involvement in controlling the press in any way at all,” so said this Cabinet Minister.
A difficult decision
David Cameron commissioned Leveson and is now under intense pressure over how to handle its findings. Likewise in Sri Lanka, President Mahinda Rajapaksa too will find himself under intense pressure over the findings of the Committee investigating the impeachment of the Chief Justice.
The UPFA and the Opposition parties are also divided. But many observers feel that Sri Lanka will go the similar easy way of impeachment of the Chief Justice, as in the Philippines, some years ago.
One thing we have in Sri Lanka, irrespective of all our faults is respect for women. Though the number of MP’s, women in Parliament is less than a dozen, the vote bank is appreciable. President Mahinda Rajapaksa may have been slighted in his role as Executive President of Sri Lanka; as a so called shrewd politician, he may well consider his decision in terms of his next election. 
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Author: Sri Lanka Guardian

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