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Ban Ki-moon Should Reject the Report of the Panel on Sri Lanka and Restore Confidence in the UN

An analysis of notices published by the UN Panel of Experts (POE) calling for submissions and email correspondence this writer has had wit...

Friday, October 28, 2011

CHOGM should not become 'The Comonwelth Heds of Guvunmunt Mii Ting'

As Queen Elizabeth II opened the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting in Perth, Australia amid a heavy security clampdown Friday, Her Majesty would no doubt have been happy that the multilateral organisation is still an extension of ‘Old Blighty’ and not yet a part of the New World.

Immigrants who ventured across the Atlantic in search of green pastures are today increasingly disillusioned by the culture of greed and promiscuity that has entrapped them in a cycle of poverty.

Many have lost their homes, their savings and the health benefits that would have given them the basis to build new lives.

Many of the captains of capitalism have lost out or are behind bars for their sins. Fears of a fresh wave of economic woes haunt the world.

They have waged wars against religions and killed simply because they had the weapons and the means to do so.

They have found imaginary weapons of mass destruction and plundered the resources of the poor including the best oil fields in the world.

All this has been done in the name of democracy under the guise of giving ordinary citizens the world over, their sovereignty. The people have been encouraged to turn against their cultures, their own people and their governments and to seek wealth and power instead.

Leaders of countries have been sprung from power using assisted people’s power on the basis of responsibility to protect. However, similar people’s power in the New World is being brutally suppressed as the people seek to occupy the world and re-establish norms in governance and civil life.

They are waging a war to conquer the world and ensure that the diverse cultures and peoples that nourished the world over millennia are erased and replaced with one that is decided by them for their primary benefit.

It is true that the New World was discovered by enterprising sea-farers of old. It is also true that they killed the brown-skinned natives who could not match the muskets and cannons with their bows and arrows. And farmed cattle and a six-gun culture of might is right.

It is also true that the forefathers of the New World put an end to the slavery that oppressed and robbed human beings of their dignity and designed a form of government that sought to enshrine the value of human life.

However, today they seek to propagate a multitude of new religions that have no direct relationship to any of the established religions of the world. Many of them seek to denigrate the long established faiths of the people of the world and amass wealth from the gullibility of the poor.

In a world that lacks ethical and moral leadership based on established religious principles, multilateral institutions such as the Commonwealth could help re-focus on principled norms that would guide the affairs of nations where people could live with respect and dignity, pursuing their chosen vocations and enriching the world once again with their cultures.

The soft-spoken British Monarch who despite being on the throne for over half a century continues to be a model for the world in charm and grace, can heel her own government and discipline their allies and give leadership to the Commonwealth as an organisation that truly reflects the needs and aspirations of its member countries. Thus, a day may yet dawn, when the Commonwealth stands on its own despite the dictates of powerful entities, and little boys need no longer cry aloud about the nudity of the world’s emperors.

Her Majesty would no doubt be happy to ensure that the Queen’s English will thus not be distorted to the point where in system-wide consistency it reads, “The Comonwelth Heds of Guvunmunt Mii Ting.”

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Ban Ki-moon Should Reject the Report of the Panel on Sri Lanka and Restore Confidence in the UN

An analysis of notices published by the UN Panel of Experts (POE) calling for submissions and email correspondence this writer has had with the Panel show that the Panel has effectively denied the citizens of Sri Lanka an opportunity to be heard by the Panel.

The POE has surreptitiously given more time for detractors of the Government of Sri Lanka (GOSL) by publishing on scribd.com a notice calling for submissions which few were aware of.  Even an emailed reply to those who enquired less than two weeks before the end December 2010 deadline, did not mention the impending deadline although it had been extended for reasons best known to the POE.

They have in this manner systematically favoured the receipt of submissions against the Government of Sri Lanka (GOSL).

Compelling evidence demands that the UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon should officially reject the Report of the Panel of Experts (POE) on Sri Lanka for not adhering to accepted norms of objectivity, transparency and accountability.

Sri Lankans Denied Opportunity to Make Submissions
It was in 1952 that the UN began its work in Sri Lanka, three years before the country was formally admitted as a member state of the world body. Despite having been in the country for sixty years, the UN did not see it fit to publish in the local media, its call for submissions. An enquiry directed to the UN offices in Sri Lanka by this writer via their website asking whether the UN in Sri Lanka was involved in publishing any notices in the local media on behalf of the POE calling for submissions from Sri Lankans, remains unanswered.

According to a recent report by Nielsen Sri Lanka, internet users in Sri Lanka represent only 14 percent of the population. Despite huge advances in recent years, the use of traditional media is a must for effective mass communications in Sri Lanka.

The UN has thus effectively denied the citizens of Sri Lanka the opportunity to be heard before the Panel. Yet, the recommendations have been recycled by interested parties clothing the so-called “credible allegations” in a veneer of respectability, to the point of becoming indictments against the GOSL. These allegations are made without a shred of evidence and no recourse to the legal system of Sri Lanka.

Panel Report Fails on Accountability
The UN Panel of Experts (POE) Report on Sri Lanka should have been a clear-cut document that embodied facts with substantiating evidence based on international norms and best practices and some clear recommendations based on its terms of reference, for the UN Secretary General to act upon. Instead, it has stirred controversy and been widely condemned in Sri Lanka, by the very people whom it was intended to benefit.

That this report could have far reaching implications for Sri Lanka need hardly be said. The wider implication however, is that it could prove a precedent for all member countries of the United Nations.

That precisely is the reason that the UN Panel of Experts Report on Sri Lanka should be subject to exacting standards of accountability; and it is there that it fails.

The Panel has failed to adopt a methodology by which they could arrive at impartial conclusions and has created a serious doubt as to whether it was pursuing an agenda designed to indict Sri Lanka for ‘war crimes’.

Flaws show up in Email Response
It was on October 18, 2010 that the POE invited submissions with a deadline of December 15, 2010. However, this notice was not published on the UN website. Having found the notice posted on Scribd.com via a search on the internet, this writer sent an email on October 21, 2010 seeking further information. Since no reply was received, a reminder was sent to the POE on November 21, 2010.

On December 18, 2010 the following reply was received:

Dear Sir, Madam,

Thank you for writing to the Secretary-General's Panel of Experts. The Panel appreciates the time you have taken to your share your contribution with it.

The Panel is unable to reply to each individual given the volume of messages received.
The responses to a number of frequently asked questions are thus set out below.

Q.: Can I write in Sinhala or Tamil?
A.: Yes, though English, being the Panel's working language, is preferred. 

Q.: Is my submission confidential?
A.: Yes, your submission will be treated as confidential. Neither your name nor identifying particulars will be specified in the Panel's report.

Q.: When will the Panel make its report?
A.: The Panel anticipates submitting its report in January 2011.

Q.: Will the Panel's report be made public?
A.: The report is to the United Nations Secretary-General. He will decide whether to make the report public.

Q.: Can I speak to the Panel in person?
A.: The Panel has a limited time for its work and has therefore chosen to request contributions in the written form detailed in the notice.

Q.: Can I make multiple submissions?
A.: You are requested to raise all issues you wish to raise within the one, single submission. 

Q:  Can I send my submission in hard copy to a physical address?
A.: Yes. You may send materials to the following address within the timeframe set out in the notice:
  Secretary-General's Panel of Experts on Sri Lanka
  UN Secretariat (Library Building, L-0330 L)
  New York, NY 10017
  United States of America 

Q:  Can I submit non-written materials, such as photographs and film clips?
A.:  Yes. Please enclose such materials as attachments to your email or mail them to the above address.

Thank you again for taking this opportunity to be in contact with the Panel.

Yours sincerely,
Secretariat of the Panel of Experts

Reluctance to Mention Deadline
Significantly, the POE did not mention the new deadline in the reply. The change of deadline was reflected in an amended notice published on scribd.com which was sourced through an internet search. It is this amended notice that has since been posted on the UN website where the filename identifies it as revision 1. (Note the revised filename.)

A December 20, 2010 Inner City Press report stated:

In the run up to the initial December 15 deadline, Inner City Press asked Haq and his office about bounced e-mails and Federal Express overnight packages of evidence which the Panel refused or could not receive. Haq said that he thought an extension would be announced -- but then did not announce one.

On December 20, having received more complaints about packages refused by the Panel, Inner City Press again asked Haq about the projected extension. Staring down at note, Haq said it is extended to the end of the year. (Emphasis mine.)

Lack of Transparency
An obvious lack of transparency on the part of the UN can be observed. That this writer received a reply in December just two weeks prior to the deadline which was not mentioned in the mail, and nearly two months after the initial enquiry, suggests deliberate action on the part of the UN POE. The contents of the report suggest that the Panel was selective in its collection of submissions and wished to deny submissions from affected persons in Sri Lanka.

For a clearer understanding of the methodology employed by the Panel, the UNSG should identify the dates on which the various announcements were officially made on the UN website and the dates on which the various submissions were made to the Panel. It should be quite revealing.

The results of a flawed methodology should not be used to tarnish the reputation or cause harm to Sri Lanka as a member state of the United Nations.

Analyses of the POE Report by an Eminent Sri Lankan
Godfrey Gunatilleke, Chairman Emeritus and Senior Advisor of the Marga Institute (a leading development studies think-tank in Sri Lanka) has aptly deconstructed the UN POE Report and its criticisms into three key areas that warrant analysis.

Firstly, although the Panelists must have impeccable credentials, Gunatilleke has shown how they do not qualify. As he points out, all three of them have either personally held or belonged to organisations which held, views critical of the Government of Sri Lanka (GOSL) thus making them less likely to come to objective or impartial conclusions with regard to the GOSL. As Gunatlilleke outlines further:

“One set of responses to the report which seeks to reject it outright deals with issues concerning the appointment and status of the panel, the mandate given to the Panel and the way the Panel has interpreted it, the composition of the Panel and the capacity of the panel to arrive at fair and impartial conclusions particularly regarding the actions of the Sri Lankan Army (SLA) and the Government of Sri Lanka (G0SL).  Many of these criticisms question the bona fides of the initiative taken by the UNSG.

A second category of responses deal with more substantive issues relating to the central part of the report – the issues of accountability and the case made against the government in particular. These issues relate to the methodology the panel has adopted, its transparency, the sources it has been able to access, its account of the last stages of the war based on these sources, the framework of accountability it has adopted and the conclusions it reaches. 

A  third  category  focuses  on  the  parts  of  the  report  which  deal  directly  with  the  process  of domestic accountability and the Panel’s recommendation for improving that process.”

Panel Has Exceeded the Mandate
In para 51 of the Report the Panel states:

“While the Panel’s mandate precludes fact-finding or investigation, the Panel believed it essential to assess whether the allegations that are in the public domain are sufficiently credible to warrant further investigations. Determining the scope and nature of these allegations allows the Panel to properly frame the accountability issues, which arise from them. The Panel has determined an allegation to be credible if there is a reasonable basis to believe that the underlying act or event occurred. This standard used by the Panel  - that of a reasonable basis to believe that the underlying act or event occurred – gives rise to a responsibility under domestic and international law for the State or other actors to respond. (Emphasis mine.)

The Panel has proceeded to do exactly what it was specifically excluded from doing; fact-finding or investigation. It has also proceeded to be the prosecutor, judge and the jury at the same time, while going way beyond its mandate by freely interpreting the legal responsibilities of a member country of the United Nations and towards it (interestingly) by unnamed actors.

Critical Assessment by Sri Lanka’s Business Community
The recently released Sri Lanka Private Sector Assessment of the Panel of Experts’ Advisory Report to the UN Secretary General has also criticized the manner in which the Panel has determined allegations to be ‘credible’.

“The  POE  claims  that  it  treated  an  allegation  as  credible  only  when  the information  was  “based  on  primary  sources  that  the  Panel  deemed  relevant  and trustworthy”.  Contrary to this claim, which suggests that the allegations  were  substantiated  by  victims  and  witnesses  present  on  the  ground,  the  POE seems to have relied exclusively on uncorroborated open sources for some of its findings.”

“While it is noted that at this juncture there is no expectation to have the exact identities of the  witnesses interviewed disclosed, necessity  for confidentiality  does  not  preclude  the  POE  from  identifying  the  categories  of the witnesses so interviewed, such as victims, members of the Sri Lanka Army (SLA),  Government  officials,  members  of  the  NGOs/INGOs, journalists  etc.” (Emphasis mine.)

Contradictory Positions on Confidentiality
In comments on the Lessons Learnt and Reconciliation Commission (LLRC) the Panel Report states at para 312:

The history of previous Commissions of Inquiry in Sri Lanka shows a pattern of non-disclosure of findings and recommendations undermining public confidence in the process, dramatically reducing the practical impact of the work undertaken and possibilities for follow-up and making it impossible to assess whether the work of that commission responded to its mandate. (Emphasis mine.)

Could this be a statement about Sri Lanka’s Lessons Learnt and Reconciliation Commission by an eminent Panel of the august body? One appointed by the Secretary General himself to advise him on accountability in Sri Lanka? Or, could it be that they were thinking of themselves and substituted the LLRC in a moment of amnesia? Yes, have they forgotten what they’ve written elsewhere in their report that their own records are subject to 20-years of secrecy?

As the Sri Lanka Private Sector Assessment notes:

“Further the POE has classified “nearly all of the Panel’s substantive records as strictly confidential.” Therefore, “nearly all” of the  material  purportedly supporting the POE’s conclusions will remain confidential at least for the next twenty  years.  While  the  necessity  for  such  extensive  confidentiality  for sources providing information to support a private advisory to the UNSG can be appreciated, since the advisory has been released into the public domain by the  UNSG, “natural  justice” necessitates  the sources  or at the very least the nature/character of those sources to be revealed to the public.” (Emphasis mine.)

UN Needs to Reestablish Public Confidence in its Ability to Carry Forward the Objectives Specified in the Charter
The UN is the only body of its kind and its General Assembly is the only forum where countries discuss, debate and seek consensus as a body, on matters that affect human beings in an increasingly globalized world. Any subversion of the powers of the General Assembly by individual countries – however powerful they may be – or by any of the myriad agencies of the UN would only create chaos.

Institutions which under the guise of championing human rights seek to advance vested interests and have observer status at the UN should be periodically reviewed to ensure that the UN is not made a vehicle for the interests of a powerful few.

The flawed manner in which the Panel has sought to discharge its mandate makes it imperative that the UN Secretary General should officially reject the Report of the Panel of Experts on Sri Lanka and withdraw same from the UN’s presence in the public domain so that Sri Lankans, as indeed the world population, can restore their confidence in the United Nations as presently constituted, as a body capable of upholding the Charter. END.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Wikileaks Cable: US tried to delay IMF assistance to Sri Lanka

The United States delivered a demarche to the Government of Canada seeking to delay the IMF Standby Arrangement for Sri Lanka according to an unclassified diplomatic cable published by whistleblower website, Wikileaks.

The demarche by way of a telegram was delivered to James Haley, General Director for International Trade and Finance of the Canadian government’s Department of Finance on April 29, 2009 by the US Embassy in Ottawa according to the cable.

‘Haley had no immediate response, but stated that he would consult within Finance Canada and get back to us with a formal position,” the cable added.

Monday, May 16, 2011

Should the Media in Sri Lanka be regulated? Print Media too?

It has been my long held view that the media in Sri Lanka should be regulated. Some very interesting conversations since yesterday with @groundviews, @NalakaG and @sittingnut have made me want to contribute more fully to this debate even though I realize I'm swimming against a strong tide.

Let me very briefly outline the history of media in Sri Lanka. Print media is believed to have originated with the publication of the Government Gazette, government publication of official announcements that continues todate. Radio had its origins in 1923 and evolved as both a news and entertainment medium. TV which made its formal entry with ITN's first transmission in April 1979 made its debut with an experimental TV show compered by Vernon Corea in June 1972 trnsmitted from the Dehiwala residence of Ivor Le Mercier to the residence of J.E. Amaratunga in Colombo 5. This was followed in 1976 with the reception of Doordarshan's experimental transmissions with a satellite receiver and dish antenna built by the same duo of Radio Amateurs and a week of transmissions of the Non-Aligned Conference courtesy of Major Tudor Perera of the Sri Lanka Army.

To better understand my views, it is necessary to briefly outline my own association with the media. I was associated with the experimental TV transmissions in the seventies and chased Shan Wickremasinghe and Anil Wijewardena as they raced against the clock to get ITN going, till I managed to schedule the ad for the health food, Pollen-B. It was one of just four ads that made it on air on day one of ITN. There followed a long association with the print, radio, television and outdoor media as I made my sojourn through the advertising industry. Three years with the SLBC and two as Editor-in chief of the government's official website PRIU rounded off my direct association with the media. I believe there was no one practicing PR in Sri Lanka when I did in the late eighties and none doing media buying when I initiated it for St. Anthony's Consolidated Ltd., and SANYO with the Daily News and Dinamina during the same period.

Free Media
The definition of free media should be seen as the freedom to express your opinion with civility and not be subject to restrictions or punishment as a result. Journalism should not receive favoured treatment or be independent of the legal framework applicable to other professions or industries. If the media were to be given special privileges, it would be pertinent to question why the judiciary, health or other disciplines are not given the same freedoms.

To state the obvious, while opinion is free, facts remain sacred. The distortion or suppression of facts is a grave crime against society. While the obvious villain in this regard has always been the incumbent government, journalism as a profession has also been equally guillty. How so, you might ask. While fighting for the freedom of expression, journalists also fight through labour unions for perks and privileges such as housing and travelling. The media have also benefited from loans and scholarships granted by the government. Why then should we expect more privileges than those in other professions?

Let me state some facts. Advertising and the media are inseparable since it is advertising that sustains the media. When I joined the advertising industry in the late seventies and through to the late eighties, print, radio and television had very strong ethics to be followed. At the SLBC which was the only radio station at the time, the guidelines were in the form of a booklet and specified in great detail the do's and don'ts. Non-conformity with any one of the guidelines ensured that your ad was thrown out no matter how much influence you had. The officers who approved the advertisements were very sharp and knew the guidelines word-for-word. When Rupavahini was established in 1982, the SLBC code was modified to suit television. The standards continued to be strictly maintained.

Was it all perfect? Perhaps not. In the early eighties a photograph of a nude woman momentarily appeared on-screen on ITN. Although some fuss was made I do not recall anyone losing his job as a result. Perhaps the liberal-minded minister of state at the time who was in charge of the media would have laughed it off.

Since the early eighties media outlets proliferated with radio and TV stations allowed to operate with just a letter from the Ministry. No longer were licences issued as per the provisions in the statute. The codes that bound the SLBC, ITN and Rupavahini were gradually loosened without a proper implementation mechanism. It must be said here that new technology and new formats challenged the existing codes and made it difficult to implement some of them. One popular Sinhala radio channel had a phone-in listener exhort the female presenter to check her undergarments for the answer to a question asked on-air. Live phone-in was already proving dangerous.

Perhaps someone could say that the objections to regulation are largely with respect to the print media. That would be true. Sri Lanka's newspapers began their transformation in the sixties and seventies. One key event which had a lasting impact was the takeover by government of the then privately-owned Lake House or as it is more correctly known, the Associated Newspapers of Ceylon Limited. It is significant that political parties that vehemently opposed the takeover of Lake House did not restore it to the private sector as they promised time and again. Interestingly, the political powers that were responsible for the takeover also promised time and again to restore it to the private sector but never did.

The seventies proved to be somewhat of a golden era for print journalism in Sri Lanka. Readers of English newspapers received a treat with the advent of the Daily Mirror and the Sun and Weekend. While the Daily Mirror tackled serious issues with Big Bold Headlines, the Sun was more sensational. The Weekend ensured an expose for relaxed Sunday reading, changing with time from Broadsheet to Tabloid and looking much like a tabloid from London with a pin-up cover. Interestingly, despite being under government control, the Daily News and the Sunday Observer continued to deal with serious issues and maintained impeccable English. The Daily Mirror scored with its journalistic quality while the Sun shone on content. The government of the day was continually assailed by the new private newspapers which showed great editorial independence. It fell to the Lake House Group to defend the government. A practice that has survived regime changes and continues todate.

For or Against?
It is here that the arguments for and against the regulation of the media clash most. It is a fact that the political and social evolutions over the past fifty years have given immense power to mass media communications. Control of the media gives the power to influence large sections of the population. It is also a fact that apart from the SLBC, Sri Lanka did not have a mass communication tool in the hands of the government. This changed with the takeover of Lake House and later ITN. It also changed with the establishement of Rupavahini with its state-of-the-art facilities and islandwide coverage. No government has since wished to give over this power to the private sector and deprive itself of an essential tool to carry its messages to the masses.

No longer was it a level playing field. Most of the private media were politically aligned with the opposition while the government media heavily promoted the governing party viewpoint. However, in recent years new media outlets have been established, which though private in nature, support the government's viewpoint. Ideally, government owned media should be totally bereft of politics and deal only with key issues of national concern.

This brings up another relevant point. Should the media support the government, or not? To my mind, the media should confine itself to fact and issues. However, with the increasing population and the advances in communication that have brought with it an avalanche of news and information (media clutter), it has beocme necessary to obtain the services of analysts to sysnthesize and make the message coherent for the consumer. The result is the emergence of a plethora of analysts. (Here I am, doing an analysis for you.) Unfortunately, unbiased analyses are as rare as unbiased news stories.

As much as the western countries led the development of media and set the agenda for how it should be framed worldwide, they lead in how the ethics should be broken. While many examples could be cited I will cite one of the most recent. Several journalists covering the current conflict in Libya (including at least one NYT journalist) were found to have entered Libya illegally. Often, a journalist would justify by pointing to the importance of the news. This could very well be true but would still remain a gray area. How for instance could one explain to a child why a journalist would do something deemed illegal under normal law to bring out a story. Would it not show the child that if you do something dramatic, it would be acceptable even if it is illegal? Media rights organisations however, fight for the rights of the journalists without condemning the obvious transgressions.

That paints a frightening picture for the future. But what of the here and now? That's equally frightening. It is a widely known fact that journalism has been infiltrated and is being used as a tool of vested interests. No more are governments sovereign. They have to comply or be thrown out. Readymade 'Regime-change' operations are available that will run at the flick of a switch.

Is it the same in Sri Lanka? I hope not. One journalist who enquired why I don't work for a major foreign organisation gathering intelligence, for a monthly salary of $30,000 did make me wonder. It may have been a totally innocent question devoid of any ulterior motive. Nevertheless, it did make me wonder.

Having been out of the country during the last stages of the war, I was tearing my hair out in frustration at Sri Lanka's inability to project a true picture of the situation. The result was the dissemination of incorrect information and speculation. The country's current difficulties are a result of this lapse where many people were led to believe that the lack of openness to foreign media was to cover human rights abuses in the war theatre. Sadly, it left room for some international news agencies and outlets to carry false stories and spin the news to the detriment of Sri Lanka. Ethics were nowhere to be seen in a laissez faire environment. To me it appeared very clear that the media was one tool being used by vested interests to force issues in Sri Lanka in directions that most suited them.

There was no mention in the international media coverage of the final stages of the conflict that local journalists were embedded with the Sri Lankan security forces. Nor was there any mention that there were Indian journalists embedded with the forces. Do the ethics of journalism demand that journalists from Sri Lanka and India should be totally disbelieved?

Such a situation can continue only in an environment of a free media. One where the rules and the ethics are only those set by foreign entities. One where some journalists are expected to conform to ethics while others would do as they please. One where governments can be brow-beaten into submission by wielding the stick of a free media. It is not one where the facts are sacred and comment is free.

Way Forward?
What then is the way forward? Should media regulation be scrapped? Or, should the calls for media freedom be scrapped? Should the media be accountable for its actions and if so, to whom?

It is my belief that a regulatory system should be in place to ensure a level playing field for all media. Even more importantly, it would afford an official mechanism for the public to seek redress where they feel aggrieved by any publication or broadcast. I have been appalled to see advertisements in the newspapers where employers publish photographs, names and details of persons who have apparently left the institutions, and disclaiming any liability for their future actions. To my mind, such companies should have in the first instance advertised the appointment of such persons to the respective posts in their companies. To advertise only the departure is I believe designed to largely cast aspersions on their integrity. Newspapers should not be willing collaborators in such actions that amount to near acharacter assassination. If someone were to contest this as being advertising and not journalism, I would point out the numerous instances where names of litigants or accused are published while those of high profile persons who may have the means to seek legal redress never have their names mentioned in print.

It is also my view that proposed legislation should be discussed and debated by the people. My mind goes back to the time of the 1972 Constitution when meetings were organised in various places and the likes of Dr. Colvin R. De Silva and Dr. N.M. Perera engaged with others in public debates before the enactment. Whether it be the establishment of a Press Council or some other piece of legislation, the debate should be as much on the streets as in Parliament. Used extensively by some INGOs even in Sri Lanka, it would be identified as giving ownership to the stakeholders. The process itself is identified as stakeholder consultation. It could be argued that it is not entirely honest by the stakeholders. You would be doing what you want but making them feel that you're doing what they want.

While it is a subject by itself for another long essay, I believe that Sri Lanka should have national policies that find agreement both within the government and the opposition. Journalists can help in such a process by narrrowing down the differences in the public domain. I am reminded of the explanation of the political differences among the various parties in Norway told by a Norwegian colleague around 1990. With elections looming in the country I asked him to tell me how the people would vote. His reply was that he could not explain it to me as the differences were so minute. He illustrated by telling me that it could be a 1/4% difference in social security. The result is that all work towards the development objectives.

Journalism has a major role to play in the development of Sri Lanka. However, the role of media should not be one of confrontation with the government of the day or in fighting for rights. It should be more in sharing the skills that they have in abundance; the power of persuasive words, or the technical skills of communication. Arrogance and confrontation may well be the preferred choice of some in the international community. It may even be the choice of those who seemingly from a high pedestal, talk down to governments and demand media freedom, human rights and a host of other pious themes for which almost every day of the year seems to be devoted.

The media in Sri Lanka however, is mature enough to stand on its own and chart a new course, productive for both itself and the country.

Long-winded as it is, if you have read it all, @groundviews, @NalakaG and @sittingnut and anyone else, thank you!

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Microsoft and Skype: A marriage made in heaven?

Today's shock announcement that Microsoft has paid US$ 8.5 Billion and bought Skype has many wondering about what the outcome would be. That MS paid in cash has been reported on one news outlet as a snubbing of the banks.

Skype has been popular not only as a social video chat platform but as a communications platform for small and medium enterprises (SME). If any major changes are brought about by MS it is they who would be most affected.

Whatever the future holds for Skype users, it is clear that an era has come to an end. Microsoft would have to demonstrate that they are capable of charting a new era while retaining the confidence of the huge bank of Skype users. Any loss of confidence among Skype's customers would see newcomers cash-in on a market that for them would be like manna from heaven.

Read what ZDNet has to say: Microsoft buys Skype, so what happens next?

A New App To Deter Those Contemplating Suicide?

I was saddened to read about the man who jumped to his death from the 147th floor of the Burj Khalifa and landed on the 108th floor apparently following a dispute with his company.

Suicide is a result of depression. Could a computer application deter a person from suicide? I'd like to think its worth a try.

For those with the knowledge and resources here's the concept. A computer application that is more like a game where the person concerned would upload photographs of himself that would make a 3-D image where he could check out several possible scenarios. For instance the guy who attempts to jump off a building would see himself falling and smash to smithereens and possibly being shovelled into a bag. Should be sufficient to scare the daylights? Or would it?

Over to the Police and the psycho-specialists to try out.

As for the man who jumped out of the Burj Khalifa, May his soul rest in peace.

In Words

Loved and mentored by parents with values and discipline and a passion for good English; guided by teachers who wouldn't spare the rod to ensure excellence; copywriter; on-line journalist; editor-in-chief; and at long last, giving into the passion; Freelance Writer.

Nurtured in advertising and PR from freelance copywriter to account director and agency head; engaged throughout to humanitarian work in NGOs including the Red Cross and the UNDP; and experienced in both public and private sectors.

Looking forward to a future of writing on diverse subjects; sharing knowledge and experience; enriching the lives of others; but most of all, acquiring more knowledge and using it to make the world a better place for all.

More of my writing:
* Fuelling the Peace Process * Concepts for decentralisation of government * PEACE: Is it still an elusive dream? * Interview with the late Major General Trond Furuhovde first Head of the Sri Lanka Monitoring Mission * How polar bears are affected by global warming * Red Cross takes lead in clean water for Sri Lanka flood victims * The poorest hardest hit by Sri Lanka floods *