September 2, 2009

The sentencing of J.S. Tissainayagam

George Bernard Shaw once said, “Assassination is the extreme form of censorship.” (Remember Lasantha?). One is also reminded of words of the 19th century poet Heinrich Heine who said, “Whenever books are burnt, men also, in the end are burnt.”

The Dictatorship of Sri Lanka today is only the latest in a long line of Dictatorships worldwide who have tried to snuff out unpalatable ideas and comments by abducting, intimidating, beating and killing its journalists. J.S.Tissainayagam is one of the many such journalists who has been given a prison sentence of 20 years.

The first recorded victim of censorship was Socrates who, in 399 BC was forced to drink poison for ‘denying the gods and introducing new divinities.’ In China, in 213 BC, Emperor Shih Huang-Ti had all writing not pertaining to agriculture or medicine burnt. His target: Confucius’ thoughts. Present day China is no better.

During the last century, it was the communists who most systematically censored books and hounded their authors. Writers in every communist country from East Germany to Vietnam were forced into concentration camps. Boris Pasternak, Joseph Brodsky, Milan Kundera, Czeslaw Milosz and Alexander Solzhenitsyn were just a few. Hitler’s Germany burnt the books of Jewish authors and liberals, exterminating thousands in their notorious gas chambers and forcing others to flee. In Mahinda’s Sri Lanka, over 14 journalist’s, the majority of them tamils have been killed in the past 3 years. Many more journalist’s have been abducted, beaten and intimidated to keep them from writing the truth.
Sometime back the Government blocked access to the Tamilnet, but what the Government does not understand is that with the advance of technology, censorship has become obsolete. The truth is only a click away. All you need to do to read the Tamilnet is to go to a proxy site.
In today’s day and age it is no longer possible to stop the message or the truth getting out by killing or imprisoning the messenger.

If this sorry state of affaires continues, this country will be known the world over as, “The Autocratic, Dictatorial Banana Republic of Sri Lanka!”