Addressing the media after a recent road opening ceremony at Galagedara, Minister Dr. Sarath Amungama expressed his views in regard to the current public discourse on the prospect of legislation on the media.
Reminding the media that he himself had once been Director of Information, the Minister said that he believed that the media is free to express its views because it largely reflects the views of the people. He said that such freedom of expression must be protected. He affirmed that the present government was elected on the pledge of safeguarding that freedom. On the other hand he said the media also has an obligation to present things impartially. That is to say, they must present the views of all parties. It is wrong to present the views of only one side.
On any issue there can be two or three opposing views. All those views must be presented to the public by the media. Then the people will consider all those views and decide for themselves. It would be wrong for the media to act contrary to such a policy, pre-judge an issue and present only one side of the picture, eliminating all other points of view. “That is my view,” declared the Minister.
The Minister further said that whatever legislation is brought up it should be for enhancing media freedom and not for reducing it.
The Minister went on to refer to the recent visit to Germany he undertook as a member of a Parliamentary delegation. He explained that they undertook this visit as members of an all party delegation on an invitation extended by the German government, to study the constitution of that country. Besides him the other members were the Speaker, Messrs. Sambanthan, Leader of the Opposition, Anura Disanayake, Hakeem and Akila Viraj Kariyawasam, representing their respective parties.
The Minister said that they examined how devolution of power works in that country. It is of course not possible to copy in one country the system operating in another, the Minister pointed out. The delegation observed that in Germany if back bench MPs wish to bring up in Parliament any national issues, there are more opportunities for that in the German Parliament than in Sri Lanka. The Minister said, “That is important for us.”
As regards constitution making in Sri Lanka the Minister said that we are still in the preliminary stage. Proposals have come up in respect six broad areas. They are not final decisions. Once those proposals have been considered a draft constitution would be prepared based on the outcome of those discussions. That draft will be presented to the Venerable Mahanayakas, the people and Parliament. Therefore there is no reason at all for getting agitated at present. “None of those frightening things that are alleged will be in the draft that is in the making,” declared the Minister.