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Sunday, 15 March 2015

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[Part 2]

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.

Outspoken

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 existing Constitution.

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.

Media Freedom

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

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