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Deflating puffed-up egos

President Mahinda Rajapakse has done well to order an immediate inquiry into the incident in Kandy when a senior officer of the Presidential Security Division had allegedly obstructed journalists who had turned up at the Sri Dalada Maligawa to cover his visit to this highest Buddhist palladium in the New Year.

The President earns our commendation not merely because we ourselves are journalists but because this incident brings to light the cardinal need for the healthy relationship which should exist between the Government and the media and those officious personages dressed in belief authority who would seek to breach this bond.

This is not the first time that President Rajapakse has expressed his dissatisfaction at the conduct of some officers whose conduct has served to distance him from the people and cause inconvenience to the public. A few weeks ago he expressed similar sentiments over the inconvenience caused to motorists when they were caught in traffic snarls when the Police halted vehicular traffic on account of the President going to the BMICH for some official function.

There is no dispute over the fact that the President should be guarded and that the highest priority should be given to his security in a situation where he has become the prime target of the LTTE. The tragic killing of former Foreign Minister Lakshman Kadirgamar should illustrate the folly of letting down one's guard.

Mr. Kadirgamar out of the best and most decent of human instincts did not allow his security personnel to mount any surveillance of his neighbours but the point is that if one is earmarked for assassination there can be no reason whatsoever to cease to be vigilant.

But there is surely a great gulf between ensuring the President's security and conduct which will only serve to alienate him from the people and cause displeasure among them. President Rajapakse being a man of the people is particularly sensitive to such situations.

While he himself must be more cautious about mingling with the people in a manner which can lead to a breach of security there can be no justification for cutting him away from the media or the public in situations where there is no threat to his security. The incident at the Dalada Maligawa was clearly such an incident when accredited provincial correspondents of Kandy had been treated shabbily and we hope the message goes down loud and clear to all ranks of the PSD.

It is sad but true that most officials who surround a Head of State think it to be their primary duty to shield him from everybody who does not belong to their own charmed circle.

This is a symptom of a tin-pot official mentality which can find no place in the outfit of any Head of State attuned to the needs and aspirations of the people.

Perhaps such conduct would be appropriate to the entourage of a vain potentate who would like to preen himself everyday before his looking glass and demand 'Mirror Mirror on the wall, who is the fairest of them all?' to get the inevitable reply, 'You of course'. 'But history has demonstrated that such potentates surrounded as they have been by sycophants, courtiers and court jesters have not had a long span.

President Rajapakse's response to the Kandy incident also illustrates that he is alert to what appeared in the media and is ready to respond to constructive reporting and comment. It has been our experience for quite some time that while ruling party politicians have been hostile to the media the media itself has adopted a needlessly adversarial attitude towards the Government and those even remotely connected to it.

Just as such politicians should cease to impute bad motives to those who engage in constructive criticism of them the media too should not think that they have a licence to kill with their pens, typewriters or computers.

If such a healthy balance could be struck between politicians and the media and if those who surround powerful politicians do not conduct themselves in a manner which does not serve to distance them from the people, the President's action in this regard would have borne fruit.

For it is the people after all who vote politicians in and out of office.



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