I fail to understand, why the new deputy media minister, Mervyn Silva, is called a thug. Or someone who would be a jester in the courts of powerful politicians but for his violent streak. Or someone with a history of violence against the media.
At an interaction with foreign journalists, Silva came across as a man with much, maybe unrequited, love for journalists and a bottomless sense of history: Silva said he was like the Buddha, Jesus, Gandhi, Lincoln, Lenin, Marx, Engel and Jinnah in his pursuit of justice.
A diminutive man, he welcomed us to his home in the traditional Lankan way, with a betel leaf, and made us sit around a table overflowing with sandwiches, rolls, cakes and tea.
But what was most palatable was his unabashed affection for the media. “I will even cook for media people,’’ Silva said in Sinhalese; a follow-up surely to his first gregarious statement as media minister: “I will sleep separately from my wife at night to take calls from reporters.”
But you have attacked the media, I said. “Its what the newspapers write,” he said. What about the attacks carried out on television stations? “
People in the media, he said, are teachers. “But teachers should behave.”
About reporters fleeing the country, Silva said that “many got themselves thrashed to get another country’s visa.”
As we left, his words were still ringing. “…a new media culture is needed… one that suits Sri Lanka.’’
“In what country do you appoint an arsonist to put out fires?” Reporters without Borders asked. I have no clue but cynics would say in Mervyn Silva’s Sri Lanka, of course.