01 March 2020

Eran Wickramaratne would do well to reflect on John Chapter 8: 3-7

Eran Wickramaratne has ranted and raved about professionals and witch-hunts. He talks of allegations but his entire speech in Parliament on the subject is made of allegations. He condemns innuendo but that seems to be one of his key tools.  

The UNP MP begins by waxing eloquent about the Yahapalana regime protecting and cheering on professionals and professionalism quite as though that regime was on another planet. Cherry-picking allows you to do that. He would have us believe that there was no nepotism, not political patronage and no vindictiveness on the part of the Yahapalana regime. It’s as if he has forgotten the FCID, set up to harass and punish anyone and everyone associated with the previous regime. It is as though he has forgotten how the President his party helped into power appointed his brother to a key position and how the Prime Minister downwards handed out appointments to friends and family.

His entire argument is based on one official in the CID who had been appointed to that position by the Mahinda Rajapaksa government being allowed to remain. Then he extrapolates, absolutely blind to all removals and appointments done by the Yahapalanists clearly marked by the factor of political loyalty. He forgets that all transfers have to have the approval of the Police Commission. He forgets that the standing Police Commission was appointed when the Yahapalana regime was in power. He forgets how the Yahapalanists appointed a Prime Minister who had a minority parliamentary strength at the time and how this was done without removing the incumbent Prime Minister. He forgets how the Yahapalanists all but dragged out a sitting Chief Justice. He is one to talk of whims and fancies!!!! 

Now the innuendo of the Attorney General’s Department regarding the Swiss Embassy ‘abduction’ case is certainly disturbing. He is correct here. Three names have been mentioned. Krishantha Coorawy, Shani Abeysekera and Dharisha Bastian. Eran’s agitation is that way too much is being made over telephone calls. I agree. The Attorney General will have to come up with better evidence than ‘she called him soon after she called her and then he called that other person.’ For calls to indicate any hanky panky we need to know more about ‘when’ and ‘what’. Maybe such information is in the hands of the prosecutors but if so they are being cagey about it. In any event, singling out phone calls is certainly thin and in my book obnoxious. 

Eran, however, seems to have forgotten how the FCID grilled people over less. There’s more. He has not at any point in his speech talked about how the Swiss Embassy and the employee in question either deliberately lied or indulged in innuendo, casting aspersions on the new Government. He says nothing of how his party colleague Rajitha Senaratne uttered blatant lies about this ‘abduction’. Instead, Eran chooses to single out the prosecutors of this case and the investigators. Strange.  

Having laid the groundwork by leaving out a massive chunk of the story, Eran then ululates about Krishantha, Dharisha and Shani. He doesn’t mention that Shani is under a cloud, which of course does not mean he is guilty. He praises Krishantha, as I would and as I have, for his integrity. His most fervent objection has been about Dharisha. 

Yes, Dharisha is a journalist and has every right to call anyone to obtain information deemed useful for purposes of penning news reports. Indeed, as he points out, that’s a right all citizens have. Perhaps in order to raise her stature, Eran flags key elements of Dharisha’s Curriculum Vitae, including the fact that she is or was a stringer for the New York Times. In order to buttress the witch hunt claim, he throws in the fact of her diplomat husband, Gihan Indragupta, being recalled before his term in Geneva ends. 

Two things. First, we don’t know why Gihan was recalled. Secondly, would Eran dare tell us that career diplomats were given their heads, so to speak, by the ministers in charge of the foreign affairs subject during the Yahapalana administration? Were they allowed to be professionals or were they gagged? Were there no political appointments to various missions? 

If Gihan was recalled because he happened to be Dharisha’s husband, that’s wrong. We don’t know and we should not assume. That’s the crux of Eran’s thesis, after all. Allegations and innuendo are out of order, he tells us. He should not allege and throw shadows then, should he? 

Finally this man who has never once appealed to professionals to come to the aid of fellow professionals when the yahapalana regime ran roughshod over them is now begging them to do so because he alleges this government is treating professionals badly.  

Ok. He believes the Yahapalanists were saints. This means he’s been myopic for five years, then. But was he blind? Did Eran not make a strident speech in this very Parliament defending Arjuna Mahendran? Did he not at that point scream out that the man has not been found guilty? Why is he going overboard with allegation-gravy now, all of a sudden? Mahendran is yet to be found guilty but Eran has, in another recent speech, said that he’s ashamed that when he, Eran, was Head Prefect of Royal College, Mahendran was a prefect under him. Maybe he is just recovering his sight, so let’s forgive him.

However, we have to respond to his whine about professionals not standing up for fellow professionals. Professional camaraderie is not a bad thing. Friends stand by friends, even when they have done wrong. It’s not about condoning wrongdoing but understanding that a pal is not doing too good and being there as a friend. Not as an apologist. 

Dharisha Bastian is a journalist, as mentioned above. Her journalistic credentials are pretty thin. She operated in Lake House as though she was being paid by Sirikotha. Her narrative-machination with Lake House publications and the New York Times ought to be must-reads for journalism students in a course titled ‘how not to be a journalist.’ In short, it’s about planting a story (yes, not ‘news’ but politically motivated pieces full of twisted facts and yes, allegations treated as facts and innuendo). It’s about the New York Times (Surprise! Surprise!) repeating the same story a few months down the line. It’s about Lake House ‘picking up’ the New York Times story and going to town — ‘See, it’s the NYT, no less, that’s saying this, so there!’ 

That’s not journalism. I object to any individual or agency engaged in exaggeration and unfair extrapolation. I am not a fan of innuendo and allegations. For this reason, I have objected and will continue to object to Dharisha Bastian being denied the basic protection of innocence-presumption with respect to the Swiss ‘abduction’ case. On the other hand, why should I, as a journalist, come to the defense of someone who is a propagandist disguised as a journalist? I won’t say, for example, ‘She’s a journalist, so back off!’ I would say instead ‘it is wrong to tar her with the brushes of innuendo and allegation’.  Nothing more. Her profession and professionalism do not come into play because they are irrelevant for reasons elaborated on above. 

Eran is making a song and dance. He’s doing it at his convenience. He’s not consistent. He is as guilty of unfair characterization as those against whom he makes the very same charge. He’s out of order. And if journalists must defend journalists, lawyers must defend lawyers etc., etc., why didn’t Eran defend fellow politicians who his Government went after, while tossing out oodles of innuendoes and allegations? 

Eran is not just an MP. He’s a pastor. He would know about the Gospel According to John, chapter 8, verses 3–7 in the Authorized King James Version.

This article was published in the SUNDAY MORNING [February 23, 2020]