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Thursday, 20 June 2013

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TWEET, TWEET - IF YOU LIKE THIS

President's Secretary Lalith Weeratunge created history in this part of the world probably yesterday, when he participated in a more than two hour marathon answering people's questions on Twitter, using the President's Twitter account PresRajapaksa@twitter.com.

The questions were not censored; they couldn't be. First that knocks the bottom off any argument that there is no self-effacement among those in the governing hierarchy. Some questions that came his way were rather blunt - they dealt with 'deals' the President's Secretary is supposed to have made, but Mr. Weeratunge answered equally bluntly saying he had nothing to do with that particular state enterprise queried about, except in a honorary directorial capacity.

The main issue however was that the give and take was of a no-holds-barred dynamic and interactive nature, as it has to be on Twitter -- being online, spontaneous, and therefore obviously not monitored and manipulated.

That was probably the idea to go on Twitter. Social media is evolving, and some of the questions came in Sinhalese. This is the medium of the future -- if not the present. At least social media will probably be among the predominant conduits of information -- and forums for news, views and analysis -- in the future in this country, if it already isn't.

However this was the President's Secretary tweeting, and therefore when he was asked about the 13th Amendment and answered that devolution of power (please see our front page story) should be at the village level, he must have conveyed the thinking of the President.

Mr. Weeratunge had no qualms in tweeting that the Provincial Councils are a white elephant and that this is not a secret, and that 22 years of experience shows it. One thing is that there is no equivocation or hide and seek here, and that is the signature style of this Presidency.

Mr. Weeratunge said it as it is. He also took time to fill in on the details -- and said that the work of the LLRC is over, which is why the LLRC website is no longer in existence! Certainly what Mr. Weeratunge tweeted will add to the value of the discourse on devolution, the 13th Amendment, and the Northern Provincial Council election.

This wisdom is from the horse's mouth! It is clear that there is no great partiality that the ruling administration has for the 13th Amendment and the power devolution that it entails, and that is positive, as that position seems to be in consonance with the evolving consensus on the subject.

Take the general newspaper and broadcast media discourse. Hardly anyone is of the view that the Provincial Councils are useful and the system's fans and promoters themselves infer this when they say that the PCs are of 'symbolic value', which is of course another way of saying that they do not serve either man or beast.

It is also to Mr. Weeratunge's credit that he parried the tough questions; he did not avoid the ones about the budget airlines etc., His answers can be quoted and re-quoted, as this is not the ephemeral TV medium and his jottings will be on the record.

That Twitter is being put to good use in this way is to impart a good message - social media in Sri Lanka is for productive purposes and it serves to engage people with the leadership, whereas in some other countries social media catalyzed anarchy, discord, and nothing else.

It is hoped that there will be many more such interactions and that Twitter will become one of the official media conduits of government --- if it already isn't. The very nature of Twitter ensures that the interaction is a short, sharp exercise, and it is therefore ideally suited to those on the move, and those who are too engaged to sit down to formally interact with the Executive branch. This was well done -- particularly when the government's worst detractors are tweetering, we mean teetering on the brink?

Point of view

Buddhists, victims of HATE SPEECH and Media manipulation

They say you cannot fool the people all of the time and the recent announcement by a Minister who thinks he is doing a favour to those he closely associates with is like a blessing in disguise for the real victims of hate speech and the likelihood that it is going to boomerang on the very authors of the proposed hate speech legislation is something they have not yet taken into consideration.

Full Story

RIGHT OF REPLY:

SRI LANKA IN GENEVA: THE DEVOLUTION/ ACCOUNTABILITY TRADE-OFF

My friend HLD Mahindapala is writing a book length diatribe on my latest book, Long War, Cold Peace (Vijitha Yapa, 2013). I have chosen not to respond as entering his discourse as contained and represented in his extended review, would be the intellectual equivalent of entering a Taliban held area of remote Afghanistan.

Full Story

 

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