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The above observation, which Minister Dilan Perera made at the 25th anniversary celebrations of the Liberal Party, was exemplified recently following an interview I did in Delhi with IANS, the agency that one associates with distinguished journalist Narayan Swamy. This time it was a younger man who interviewed me, for a very long time, though what was ultimately sent out was a relatively short piece, reproduced below.

I found out about it from the BBC, and thought it basically fair when I read it, except for a couple of misrepresentations. I inquired about the main one from the journalist, as follows – ‘The BBC rang about your piece, which had appeared in the Daily Mirror in Colombo.  Generally fair, but I was wondering about the headline – Don’t seek exclusive rights to Sri Lanka, India told – – which was not at all what I said (my point was that India and China never had, and the concept of exclusivity is a Western notion based on oppositions, whereas India was ok with our connections with Pakistan etc over the years, and the same goes for China). I wondered then if the headline was a Mirror idea, since the article itself did not give the idea of the headline. The only other point to make is that the micro-credit idea is mine, and I don’t think government will approach India in this regard, given all the other projects that are in train.’

Dr Dass responded immediately as follows – ‘It was wonderful interacting with you ysty. The headline was given by a very senior colleague who liked your interview. As far as the story goes, it is really nice of you to consider it to be generally fair.’

I did not think the point needed to be labored, except that I thought an opportunity had been missed, given the very different point raised by the BBC – ‘Thanks – though I fear (do tell your colleague) that the headline was misleading. Entertainingly, the BBC Sinhala Service rang about it, but wondered why I did not worry about India, given that the JVP thought India was hegemonic.  I do not blame the JVP which has to try to gain votes by whatever policy pronouncements come to hand, but can you imagine the BBC employing people still stuck in that mindset? In that regard I would have liked some reference to my point that exclusivity was a Western desire, as exemplified in Cold War days, might have got the BBC to think in a way more suited to the current context!’

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Rajiva Wijesinha

March 2012
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