The Call of Conscience

Today’s Sunday Leader Editorial is very moving.  It’s one of the best pieces of writings we have seen in a while in Sri Lanka. Below is a choice excerpt,  though reading the whole thing is highly recommended.

The free media serve as a mirror in which the public can see itself sans mascara and styling gel. From us you learn the state of your nation, and especially its management by the people you elected to give your children a better future. Sometimes the image you see in that mirror is not a pleasant one. But while you may grumble in the privacy of your armchair, the journalists who hold the mirror up to you do so publicly and at great risk to themselves. That is our calling, and we do not shirk it.

Every newspaper has its angle, and we do not hide the fact that we have ours. Our commitment is to see Sri Lanka as a transparent, secular, liberal democracy. Think about those words, for they each has profound meaning. Transparent because government must be openly accountable to the people and never abuse their trust. Secular because in a multi-ethnic and multi-cultural society such as ours, secularism offers the only common ground by which we might all be united. Liberal because we recognise that all human beings are created different, and we need to accept others for what they are and not what we would like them to be. And democratic… well, if you need me to explain why that is important, you’d best stop buying this paper.

The Sunday Leader has never sought safety by unquestioningly articulating the majority view. Let’s face it, that is the way to sell newspapers. On the contrary, as our opinion pieces over the years amply demonstrate, we often voice ideas that many people find distasteful. For example, we have consistently espoused the view that while separatist terrorism must be eradicated, it is more important to address the root causes of terrorism, and urged government to view Sri Lanka’s ethnic strife in the context of history and not through the telescope of terrorism. We have also agitated against state terrorism in the so-called war against terror, and made no secret of our horror that Sri Lanka is the only country in the world routinely to bomb its own citizens. For these views we have been labelled traitors, and if this be treachery, we wear that label proudly.

[..]our distaste for the war [shouls not] be interpreted to mean that we support the Tigers. The LTTE are among the most ruthless and bloodthirsty organisations ever to have infested the planet. There is no gainsaying that it must be eradicated. But to do so by violating the rights of Tamil citizens, bombing and shooting them mercilessly, is not only wrong but shames the Sinhalese, whose claim to be custodians of the dhamma is forever called into question by this savagery, much of which is unknown to the public because of censorship.

What is more, a military occupation of the country’s north and east will require the Tamil people of those regions to live eternally as second-class citizens, deprived of all self respect. Do not imagine that you can placate them by showering “development” and “reconstruction” on them in the post-war era. The wounds of war will scar them forever, and you will also have an even more bitter and hateful Diaspora to contend with. A problem amenable to a political solution will thus become a festering wound that will yield strife for all eternity. If I seem angry and frustrated, it is only because most of my countrymen – and all of the government – cannot see this writing so plainly on the wall.

The editorial is written as if it was written by Lasantha Wickramatunga, the late editor of the Leader, who was murdered last week. It’s not immediately clear who wrote the article.

Again, the entire piece is well worth a read.


Update (18/01/2009) : The Leader claims, the editorial was penned by Lasantha 10 days before he was killed.


9 responses to “The Call of Conscience

  1. No, guys, I did not write the editorial, and have no idea who did — but when I read it online and then again in print last morning, it deeply resonated with my own thinking.

    I did, in fact, do two related things:

    1. Within hours of Lasantha’s death, I suggested to one of Lasantha’s able deputies to print Pastor Niemoeller as part of the response.

    2. I also left a comment on Dinidu’s blog asking Lankan poets to respond to this unfolding tragedy, with their own verses. So far, Malinda Seneviratne and Vivimarie Vander Pooten have, both at Groundviews. See my comment left last afternoon at:

  2. Pingback: Global Voices Online » Sri Lanka: Questions Surrounding Slain Journalist’s Death Persist

  3. Pingback: Global Voices auf Deutsch » Sri Lanka: Ein getöteter Journalist und viele offene Fragen

  4. Pingback: Readers Edition » Sri Lanka: Ein getöteter Journalist und viele offene Fragen

  5. This is a really touchy ‘last words’ if I may say so. But the question which lingers in my mind is, if LW really wrote this. If he did, if the situation in SL has got that bad that he can’t reach out for help. That, even if he did reach out, that it is inconsequential.

  6. malinda seneviratne

    rajpal abeynayake claims that lasantha did not write that ‘editorial’. see his column:

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