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Thursday, 3 May 2012

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Cherishing our democratic heritage

Limitations notwithstanding, our democratic heritage is alive and well. This is something worth pondering on in the immediate aftermath of May Day and our hearty and rapturous celebration of the dignity of human labour. The thought is equally relevant today, World Press Freedom Day. Not all sections of our polity are appreciative of the fact that Press Freedom too is very much alive and vibrant in this country today, although among some it is proving a highly contentious issue.

It could be argued that things could be better on the Press Freedom and Freedom of Expression fronts in this country but it is plain to see that there are no official curbs or snaffles on the right of the citizen to express himself or herself on the issues of the day. It is also pertinent to take cognizance of the fact that the newspaper industry is thriving in this country. Whatever the detractors of the state may try to make out, there is an increasing number of newspapers and journals, for instance, in Sri Lanka. The challenge before the public is to utilize the Freedom of Expression rationally. It should be abundantly clear to all that the proverbial 'Freedom of the Wild Ass' serves absolutely no purpose.

We are led to these thoughts on ruminating on some points President Mahinda Rajapaksa made in the course of his May Day address on Tuesday. He said that Sri Lanka, which is one of the oldest democracies in South Asia, reverentially abides by the norms and values of the democratic system. Come what may, the right of the people to change governments through the ballot is continuously cherished in this country, the President pointed out.

It is a pity that these truths are not reflected upon in some quarters. It is of relevance that our democratic freedoms are increasingly cherished and treasured, North, South, East and West, particularly in consideration of the fact that this country was at the risk of perhaps losing them forever during those 30 long years when the Tigers were running wild and making short work of both life and limb of innocent people, besides destroying the assets of this country in a mind-numbing fury. What should be focused on clearly is the point that the democratic system would not be ours to cherish today if the initiative was not taken by the administration headed by President Mahinda Rajapaksa to do away with Tiger terror once and for all.

As the President himself commented, these are truths the Opposition too needs to closely reflect upon. If the UNP was in a position to hold its May Day rally in Jaffna, it is because the terror threat is no more. It would have been hard to see the UNP holding a gathering of any sort, leave alone a May Day rally, in the North, if the Tigers were still up and about and ravenously going about their business of killing and maiming.

It is not irrelevant to also ponder on the fact that in UNP times, in the mid seventies and in the eighties, no development projects were possible in the North. District Ministers were appointed for Jaffna, but this official could never visit the district in question to even oversee a semblance of development activity because the LTTE would have none of it. In stark contrast to those times, the North is today the centre of development work because the Tigers have been brought to heel and the region rendered habitable once again.

So, there is much the average citizen needs to be thankful for. Our glass is half full and not half empty and all this has been made possible because the democratic system in its essentials has survived in this country. Of course, much needs to be done to further democratic development but it should be clear that ours is not a story of absolute gloom and doom.

But we need to put our hands together as a country and collectivity to further the cause of prosperity and progress. There are no 'trade-offs' between democracy and development. If we are having a degree of development in this country today, it is because democracy has been kept alive and the people provided the treasured option of using peaceful means of changing governments. Democratic freedoms have enabled us to choose between political parties and personalities offering different paths to progress. When one path visibly fails, we have the freedom of choosing another. Thus has our democratic heritage stood us in good stead. We need to protect it against enemies, both internal and external.

Today is World Press Freedom Day:

Importance of Development Journalism

As a tool for social justice, development journalism can be very valuable. By speaking for those who cannot, a development journalist can inform the rest of the country about important national issues confronted by the nation. Looking at the strengths and weaknesses of the country may also help identify ways in which the nation can be helped. Thus, this style of journalism is a tool for empowerment of the ordinary people to improve their own lives,

Full Story

Socio-economic scene:

Migrant worker issues


While the international day of workers was celebrated almost everywhere on May1st, Sri Lankan migrant workers (mostly domestic workers) in Lebanon joined migrant workers from Ethiopia, the Philippines, Nepal, Sudan and many other countries in a May Day parade held in Beirut last Sunday – since they only get Sunday off.

Full Story

World Press Freedom Day - its genesis

UNESCO marks World Press Freedom Day by conferring the UNESCO/Guillermo Cano World Press Freedom Prize on a deserving individual, organization or institution that has made an outstanding contribution to the defence and/or promotion of press freedom anywhere in the world, especially when this has been achieved in the face of danger,

Full Story

In Focus:

Some voices to heed

 “I categorically refuse to use the word ‘driver’ to qualify the designation of the man sitting in the driver's seat. To call him a driver would surely imply that he knew the appropriate (even minimum) legal requirements of the Highway Code, and possessed the practical skills required to carry the public on the road”.

Full Story

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