While Sinhala print and electronic media, with the rare exception of the Sinhala weekly Ravaya, showing either indifference or the endorsement of the twenty year rigorous imprisonment sentence given to journalist J. S. Tissainayagam for two articles he has written and purely based on his ‘confession’, some of the Sinhala bloggers have taken a hundred and eighty degree approach by expressing their solidarity and in some cases censure.
Beyond Frame, arguably the most popular Sinhala blogger, in his own way expresses the anguish – in verse. “Tissa, why didn’t you swim downstream (like everyone else)?” asks Beyond Frame. “Why you swam upstream? Then why you had to be a Tissainayagam, not a Tissanayake?” The two are slightly different Tamils and Sinhala versions of the same name.
W3Lanka, the first Sinhala blogger to discuss the issue, obviously taking a certain amount of risk gets an interesting comment. “In 1989, Tissainayagam translated some documents on the human rights violations of then regime for (now President) Mahinda Rajapakse, a key human rights activist of the day, to be taken to Geneva. He was a hero then, but now a villain. Is this because then he was fighting for rights of the Sinhalese and now for Tamil rights?” Asks the commentator Pathum.
Two more popular Sinhala bloggers ‘Taboo Subjects’ and ‘Makabass’ innovatively use published Sinhala verses and songs in place of their comments. Taboo Subjects use a verse by poet Dayasena Gunasinghe, while Makabaas gets the best use of Nanda Malini’s popular ‘Nidahas Bailava’ – with its catchy line “This is the great country with the freedom to write, speak and reprimand” as his title. Their reluctance to comment further is understandable as not everyone is certain about the legal implications.
Ramachandra, a keen political analyst blogger goes a step ahead by questioning if Tissainayagam were to be imprisoned for twenty years what should be the punishment for Gunadasa Amarasekera, who had made worse racist remarks about the Tamils, for not voting for Rajapakse regime. Ramachandra asks why Amarasekera were not punished for equating Tamils to cows in an article to a racist Sinhala weekly.
Meanwhile some pro-Rajapakse and pro-Sinhala extremist bloggers have posted approving the judgment.