Firing on all cylinders in Parliament speech PM lashes out at the media; accuses mainstream newspapers of spreading racism
Says media cannot applaud Embilipitiya court and condemn Homagama court
Charges journalists claiming police harassment now never spoke out against scribe killings and disappearances before
Asks media to decide where they want to stand
Says some journalists in collaboration with the Rajapaksa’s to overthrow the UNFGG
By Ashwin Hemmathagama, Our Parliament Correspondent
Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe yesterday lambasted the media, accusing mainstream newspapers of turning a blind eye to racism and conducting a witch-hunt against the Police Department.
Issuing a scathing statement in Parliament, the Prime Minister charged that the media was hailing the Embilipitiya courts while condemning the Homagama courts, for their actions.
“We don’t want a media who would applaud the Embilipitiya court and undermine the Homagama courts. How many editorials are there preventing racial hatred? Have you ever written an editorial about Homagama courts? Those who supported Mahinda have no right to talk about Buddhism,” the Prime Minister charged.
Naming several Sinhala language newspapers, the Premier said that not a single one of them had written an editorial about the unruly behavior outside the Homagama Magistrate’s Court, when Bodu Bala Sena General Secretary Galagoda Aththe Gnanasara was arrested and remanded by the court.
Prime Minister Wickremesinghe in his outraged statement demanded of the press gallery in Parliament: “What are you all doing with regard to racism? I am telling all newspapers. I am asking the electronic media? What do you all have to say about the incident at the Homagama court? Write an editorial if possible on the Homagama incident.
The Premier said that as Buddhists, he and his party too had a right to speak of Buddhism. “It is we who follow the teaching of the Buddha to the letter not the journalists. We always said Buddham Saranam Gacchami, Dhammam Saranam Gacchami and Sangham Saranam Gacchami. Those who said Mahinda Saranam Gacchami have no right to talk of Buddhism,” he charged.
The Prime Minister also accused several media organisations of being in cahoots with the former regime to create issues and seek to overthrow the present Government.
Some journalists were trying to claim they were facing harassment now, but had enjoyed perks and harassed their colleagues during the Rajapaksa era, Wickremesinghe recalled.
Channelling all his rage from years in the opposition, when the mainstream media deserted the UNP, the Prime Minister asked: “Where were these journalists when Ekneligoda was abducted? Where were they when Lasantha Wickrematunge was killed?”
Taking a swipe at the Editors Guild of Sri Lanka, the Prime Minister asked what the senior members of the media community had done when the Uthayan newspaper was being attacked.
“For the sake of the country, it is also necessary to clean up the media,” Wickremesinghe charged.
While accepting that there were problems within the police department, the Prime Minister claimed the media was targeting the police unfairly. “Issues come up due to shortfalls of the police. Embilipitiya and Kotadeniyawa are the most recent examples. We don’t want to cover the police but want to establish the rule of law,” he explained. Constantly reiterating that he was not trying to defend the police over the death in Embilipitiya, Wickremesinghe accused the media of launching a witch-hunt against the police.
Wickremesinghe noted the media, the judiciary and the police – all three key institutions to upholding the rule of law – had been systematically undermined and destroyed during the Rajapaksa regime.
“What was it we could expect from the Police when the intelligence operatives took Galagoda Aththe Gnanasara into Sirikotha? When people were brought there to attack me?” he charged.
The Premier said there was no point blaming the police for those mistakes, since the police personnel themselves realised the gravity of their actions. “That is why the majority of the police force joined us to reject the previous regime on 8 January 2015,” he added.
The Prime Minister explained that it was not possible to establish a new judicial system or a new police department.
“One could be Sinhala or Tamil, but has to keep in the mind that we all have to come together and clean those institutions. We have to rebuild the police and judiciary. We should not forget that family members of our MPs and one of our female MPs too were taken into police custody,” he recalled.
The Premier who demanded that the entire contents of his fiery speech in Parliament be recorded and published, called on the media to decide for itself where it wanted to stand.
“There are two groups of journalists. There is a group that fought for media freedom. We all fought together. If those who used to hunt journalists try now to pose as clean media professionals, we have the information to expose them,” he said.
The Premier said it was necessary to remedy the shortcomings and errors in the police and judiciary. “I call upon the journalists too to join with us, but first they should get their hands cleaned. There are journalists who always fought for their rights. They are strength to us,” he said.