I have been silent for a while. There were two reasons. The provincial council elections are around the corner and these days it takes most of my time. Still, that was not the only reason.
For the last few days I have been repeatedly asking from myself: Should I continue this blog? Is it worth the risk? What makes me certain that no black clad men in motorbikes waiting to show their appreciation for what I write here and Face Book?
I am sure I am not the only blogger who had that strange feeling.
Let me not exaggerate my humble efforts. Compared to what mainstream media Sirasa and Sunday Leader/Irudina could do and have actually done, my blog is nothing. I write largely in English and get 500-1,000 daily hits on average. That is still far less than what Defence.lk receives. I do not see anyone perceiving my blog as a barrier to army capturing Mullaithivu. I do not think it breaks SLFP block votes. According to what I hear, or rather I don’t hear, not even 1% of my electorate reads it (this gives me some independence!) So prima facie, me getting killed for what I write here does not even look remotely possible.
Still at the height of the events early January I, or rather my blog, received some limelight. It received more than 2,000 daily hits for a period of about one and half weeks, culminating at 5,700 hits on the day of Lasantha’s funeral. I created two groups in Face Book, for Sirasa and Lasantha and both have now memberships nearly 2,000.
To say the least, this prominence doesn’t necessarily make me comfortable. Certainly not at a time like this.
Me with party colleagues at Lasantha Wickramatunga’s funeral
Whoever attacked Sirasa or killed Lasantha Wickramatunga, did not really scare us. We still had enough guts to attend Lasantha’s funeral and openly critisise these horrendous acts. (This was the same adjective Cheevan Daniel used in his famous commentary to CNN) We wore black saatakas.
What really made most of us rethink was the attack on Upali Tennakone.
Upali Tennakone, the soft spoken Rivira Editor, was no Lasantha. Like almost all Sinhala newspaper editors of our times (with the exception of Victor Ivan) Upali was more comfortable in swimming downstream. He always gave few pages, and usually the headlines for war news. He reserved half-page for the girl friends, wives and relatives of armed force members to show their affection to dearly beloveds in North. He did nothing even vaguely irritating the Sinhala Taliban mind. All could have done was a minor mistake, someone somewhere took too seriously.
Upali Tennakone was attacked in the most brutal manner. He was nearly killed, if not for his brave wife who fought and shouted at attract the attention of passers-by. It could be the same gang. Who was behind it still remains a mystery.
Somebody thought Upali Tennakoon’s life could be spared. That much is clear. Will the same people give importance to the lives of other dissidents?
Much changed after this than did in the aftermath of Sirasa and Lasantha incidents. At least ten prominent journalists and media activists ran away for life. Lanka Dissent went off-line promising its readers it would appear the day the country is more civilized. (I am not sure when) Lanka eNews started publishing diluted stuff. Defence Watch, Corruption Watch and Development Watch stopped. Only one protest against the attack happened – attended by few those who covered their faces with masks. Chamil Jayaneththi, the one brave man to show his face was charged.
Mangala Samaraweera, a former Foreign Minister left the country, fearing for life.
Can an ordinary human being feel safer when an ex-Foreign Minister is scared?
Sadly we live in an era where the life of a human being has lost its value. It is not a surprise. Since it came to power barely three years back, Mahinda Rajapakse government has seen more than 15,000 deaths – one fifth of the total died since 1983 as a result of ethnic war in North and East. Did anyone see the value of these 15,000 lives?
Even at the moment of writing this note, nearly 200,000 civilians, men women, old and young, adults and children are trapped in Wanni, at the mercy of LTTE that prevents their crossing to government controlled areas. I am not talking about LTTE, but about the civilians – like you and me, like our children. How many in our society care for these lives?
Jathika Hela Urumaya, sadly led by few who claim to be ‘Buddhist’ monks see no value of these lives. According to JHU, they are no civilians, but families of LTTE cadre. They should be eliminated perhaps the same was the Yakshas were got rid of at Mahiyangana, 2,500 years ago, according to Mahawamsa.
See the numbers. Will those who do not see the value of 200,000 lives respect just one life?
Under normal circumstances none of us take additional security precautions. We have a feeling that law and order of the society is adequate protection. We know somebody could not just kill and disappear. We know the police will be pressurized by public for action.
These are not ordinary times. We heard the President saying Lasantha Wickramatunaga was his close friend. (Though we never saw the same remorse on his face – as we saw on the day of Anura Bandaranaike’ death. Perhaps he has learnt to restrain emotions since then. Or he was still feeling jubilant of the Kilinochchi victory) If Mangala Samaraweera were killed tomorrow I am sure he too would instantly become president’s friend. President will also remind us Mangala was his campaign manager in the Presidential election of 2005. We know at least the latter is true.
I am sure if I were to be killed tomorrow, President will still say “Ajith was my friend; I am shocked to hear his death” without batting an eye lid. No doubt, everyone likes to be a friend of the omnipotent ruler who rules the land, but it would not be that much fun posthumously.
Should I quit or remain blogging?
Should I try to be President’s friend or remain as plain Ajith P. Perera?
Should one blog even when the Sword of Damocles hanging above one’s head with a single horse hair?
The question is open to you – all my regular readers.