ISSN: 1391 - 0531
Sunday June 08, 2008
Vol. 42 - No 54

Why we fail to speak up today

Shehan Jayawardene’s challenging letter, “To those of us who fail to speak up”, which appeared in the June 1 issue of your newspaper, prompts me to venture an opinion as to why this is so: It is not because of insensitivity or indifference to all the horrendous happenings around us; it is because of the fear psychosis that today afflicts all but the very brave.

The same issue of your paper provided answers (on page 5), where your Special Correspondent maintained that the intimidation and threats to “the journalistic fraternity” had resulted in some members of this fraternity seeking the help of Western diplomatic missions to obtain visas to go abroad.

“Others want to quit journalism and find jobs they deem are safer. Yet others have left their homes and found temporary shelter elsewhere. Since independence in 1948, never before have threats reached such dangerous proportions.” The columnist refers to the harassment and intimidation that another courageous journalist, Frederica Jansz, is currently experiencing, her very real fears for her safety and that of her family, and police unconcern.

It is not only journalists who are in danger: anyone who speaks out publicly against the abductions, disappearances and murders, or against any of the evils that are rampant in our land today, is liable to be “taught a good lesson” by the diabolical forces that hold sway.

Wasn’t that the intention behind the dastardly attack on Keith Noyahr? Professor Priyan Dias’s bold statement of facts in his letter, which appeared at the bottom of the same page as Mr. Jayawardene’s, clearly spells out our present situation.

Then there is fearless Kishali Pinto Jayawardene’s outspoken contention, in her regular column in The Sunday Times Focus on Human Rights, that “this is the worst government we have ever had in terms of protecting the right to freedom of expression and information.”

The chilling conversation that Defence Secretary Gotabhaya Rajapakse reportedly held with two senior journalists, whom he summoned to his office, is ample proof of the truth of Prof. Dias’s perception that in today’s context, right and wrong are merely synonyms for being “with them” (our leaders) and “against them” respectively.”Sadly, most of us are not of the stuff of which heroes and heroines are made, hence our shameful silence.

By Anne Abayasekara

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