Good governance, panacea for all ills
Next wise man who expressed his views was a trade unionist. He wore a
red cap, a patched up red shirt. There was no blood on his face because
he looked weary and tired. I was amazed to hear how he and his family
had suffered after he was sacked from his job. But his voice was
powerful. He said, 'Sahodaraya, some decades back, of course I was a
pretty young then and there was lot of blood in my face. I was a trade
union leader. We managed to organise a powerful bank strike as well as a
picketing for the sake of our fellow workmen. That was our right. But
the then minister was a powerful person. Irony of it was that he was one
of the pioneers of the labour movement in Sri Lanka.
He quelled our strike sacking us from our jobs with one stroke of the
pen. An imposition of a pay cut from our salaries would have been fair
and not a draconian punishment. We were branded as 'July strikers' Every
successive government of different shades looked the other way about
when we aired our miseries and grievances. We, the workmen who shed our
sweat and tears day and night to run the machines for the governments
have been shabbily treated.
After all I am going through the last lap in my life. We hopefully
believe that the ushering a promising Yaha Palanaya will save our
workmen from the clutches of the corrupt politicians and give the
workers their due, a fair deal and a decent pay'. I thought his
sufferings after he was thrown out of his employment for participating
in the Bank Strike filled him with disgust and despair.
The man who I met next was not only wise, he was outspoken and
eloquent as well for he is a journalist by profession. He wore a pair of
dark glasses. He belonged to a hallowed profession he says,
'Interestingly, the freedom of speech and expression including
publication are recognised as fundamental rights by Article 14 of our
But we find these rights have been openly and blatantly violated.
Some of the leading journalists were brutally murdered and in broad
daylight. Some were made to disappear. Unfortunately the culprits are
moving around in gay abandon. When 'the politicians extol the virtues of
democracy, media freedom and move to protect them, many a pair of shoes
is worn out between saying and doing'.
He further said, 'We, the journalists hopefully wait for the long
overdue Right to Information Act. Don't worry, Yaha Palanaya will usher
in what we have craved for'. In fact what he meant was that the writer
must get his facts right and he must honestly state his real opinion
that being done both he and the news paper should be clear of any
liability. That underscores the necessity of a Right to Information Act.
When speaking of the press and electronic media freedom I recollect
what the most respected English Judge Lord Denning said in his book The
Due Process of Law which to the following effect, 'When considering the
issues of the interest of the public in matters of public concern and
the freedom of the press to make fair comment on such matters the one
interest must be balanced against the other'.
Let our journalists be mindful of this wise pronouncement, when the
Right to Information Act see the light of day.
To be continued