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Going beyond the 13th Amendment: Newspaper coverage of the Sri Lankan’s President’s assurance to India

[Groundviews, Tuesday, 24 January 2012 17:31 No Comment]

f4eb3_MR01172012K_2 Our affiliate Vikalpa did a short media monitoring exercise anchored to the front page reportage of the Indian Foreign Minister’s official visit to Sri Lanka and the press conference in which the President’s commitment to going beyond the 13th Amendment was reiterated by him. The following is a translation of the report that first appeared on Vikalpa.

In addition to the translation below, which deals with the Sinhala and Tamil media, it is interesting to note the differences in reporting the Indian FM’s statement regarding the 13th Amendment between the state-run Daily News and the privately owned Daily Mirror.  The Daily News does not have a single mention of the President’s avowed commitment to go beyond the 13th Amendment anywhere on the front page. The headline quoting the Indian FM, notes that the LLRC report is a basis for reconciliation. There is a photo showing the President, with both his hands, grasping the outstretched arm of the Indian FM. We use the same photo above. A story on how the President invited the Indian FM to Thai Pongal celebrations at the President’s official residence (Temple Trees) appears beneath this photo in the Daily News. There is no mention of any statement regarding the 13th Amendment, even in passing.

The Daily Mirror also does not go with a lead story on the President’s commitment to go beyond the 13th Amendment. Yet at the bottom of the front page, it publishes a lead story on this issue, noting that

“President Mahinda Rajapaksa has assured visiting Indian External Affairs Minister S.M. Krishna that the government would deliver on its promise to implement the 13th Amendment plus, Mr. Krishna told a news conference yesterday”. (Emphasis ours)

The story on the front page goes on to note that,

“Mr. Krishna said the Sri Lankan government hoped to extend the 13th Amendment to include a comprehensive devolution of powers”.

Given the media monitoring below, all government owned print media (and also pro-government print media like the Island newspaper) the day after the Indian FM’s press conference sought to downplay the President’s avowed commitment to go beyond the 13th Amendment. In some newspapers, there was simply no reportage on this vital pronouncement at all. For the Editors of the state owned Daily News and Dinamina and the privately owned yet pro-government Island for example, the President’s commitment to go beyond the 13th Amendment is a non-issue, or perhaps more accurately, so much of an issue that they seek to erase it from the front pages of their newspapers!

Out of sight, out of mind is the government media’s mantra to deal with the 13th Amendment, and going beyond it. Could it also be this government’s real take on it?

Translation from the Vikalpa media monitoring article
A press conference was held in Colombo on 17 January 2012 at the end of an official visit by Hon. S.M. Krishna, the Indian Foreign Minister. The front page reportage of his statements on the 13th Amendment in the mainstream Sinhala and Tamil print media are examined in this brief media monitoring report.

Lakbima, Lankadeepa, Divaina – Sinhala, private media
There is only one lead story featuring the comments by the Indian FM Krishna on the Sri Lankan government’s new stance regarding the 13th Amendment. The daily Lakbima quotes the Indian FM and says in its lead story,

“The solution to the problems the Tamils face, the Sri Lankan government agrees to go beyond the 13 Amendment says the Indian Foreign Minister”

In addition to this quote, there are a number of other quotes attributed to the Indian FM flagged in this lead story.

  • It is very important that the Sri Lankan government comes up with a political solution that addresses the problems of the Tamil people.
  • President Mahinda Rajapaksa has already agreed to a political solution that goes beyond the 13th Amendment.
  • The President has expressed his commitment to going beyond the 13th Amendment at a discussion centred around the devolution of power.
  • There are a number of vital recommendations in the LLRC report, and enacting them is important for communal harmony and unity as well as reconciliation.
  • It is important that the government continues with its efforts to engage with the Tamil National Alliance.

In addition to the above, the daily Lankadeepa featured a news story on its front page regarding the Indian FM’s comments, though it was not the lead story. It noted that,

“The President has promised a political solution that goes beyond the 13th Amendment says the Indian FM.”

Note that the Lankadeepa states that the President had promised a political solution that goes beyond the 13th Amendment to the Indian FM. Yet the Lakbima reports that the President only ‘agreed’ to go beyond the 13th Amendment. Lankadeepa further notes that the President had expressed his commitment to a political solution on these lines to the Indian FM. Points that aren’t noted in the Lakbima front page lead story are featured in the Lankadeepa front page news story.

  • That the time was now ripe for a stable political settlement not unlike the leadership shown to end the war.
  • India is always keenly interested in what steps are taken towards a political settlement.
  • The Sri Lankan government on a number of occasions had said it was committed to a political solution based on the 13th Amendment.
  • That India believes talks between the Tamil National Alliance and the government can be conducted under the guidance of a Parliamentary Select Committee.

In addition to this, the Indian FM’s press conference was also reported in the daily Divaina newspaper.

“The President said he will completely enact 13 says the Indian FM.”

The report also goes to the mention that the Indian FM had noted in the press conference that a political settlement is needed to address the Tamil problem, and that the devolution of power through the 13th Amendment is appropriate in this regard. Further, the report mentions that over 90 minutes of discussion during the afternoon of the 17th was spent between the Indian FM Krishna and President Rajapaksa discussing the Tamil problem and solutions to it.

Dinamina – Pro-government newspaper

Dinamina has also devoted its lead story to the Indian FM’s press conference. Interestingly, in the lead story published on the front page itself, there is no mention at all about the Indian FM’s statement regarding the 13th Amendment. Most of the story is devoted to how the Indian FM had stressed that the LLRC’s reports recommendations are implemented. In addition, the lead story notes that Indo-Sri Lankan relations are strong, that the TNA-Government talks are a good thing, flags the Info-Sri Lanka MoU’s and that solutions for problems facing fisherman were also discussed. In addition, the front page carries a full colour, large photograph of the President and the Indian shaking hands, with the President grasping the Indian FM’s extended arm with both hands.

In fact, the paper incorrectly calls the Indian FM the Indian Foreign Secretary.

That the Indian FM mentioned one point regarding the 13th Amendment during this press conference is mentioned in a single sentence in the lead story. However, even this single reference to the 13th Amendment is published on the continuation of the front page lead story on page 4. It is published in the penultimate paragraph of the lead story. It reads,

“In addition, the Indian FM mentioned that he had met the President for successful talks and that he had expressed his idea for an amendment that went beyond the 13th Amendment.”

When placed in the context of the lead story, this sentence is rendered rather meaningless, and at best is a prevarication over what the Indian FM said. That it comes right at the end of the lead story must also not be forgotten. The Dinamina notes that the President “expressed his idea” to go beyond the 13th Amendment. Other Sinhala newspapers reported this as a commitment to go beyond the 13th Amendment, or the completely implementing the 13th Amendment.

Sudar Oli, Virakesari, Thinakkural – Tamil, private newspapers

The Sudar Oli newspaper has reported the Indian FM’s statement regarding the 13th Amendment as its lead news story on the front page. The headline notes that “Ready to go beyond the 13th Amendment: The President agrees with Minister Krishna”. The report goes on to note that the Indian FM had said,

He believes talks between the TNA and the government as well as the recommendations of a Parliamentary Select Committee would help in moving towards a political settlement.

That implementing the recommendations of the LLRC report was an important step to strengthen the government and build harmony.

Virakesari and Thinakkural go with similar lead stories on the front page. Virakesari goes with two colour photos on the front page to accompany the lead story. The continuation of the lead story on page 10 also occupies a lot of space on the page. In the Thinakkural, the lead story on the front page is entirely devoted to the Indian FM’s statement on the 13th Amendment. In addition, the lead story quotes the Indian FM as noting that it is important to implement the recommendations of the LLRC report, the problems facing fisherman, development, the housing scheme in the North and the MoUs with Sri Lanka.

Thinakkaran – Pro-government newspaper

As flagged above, all the three privately owned Tamil newspapers reported the Indian FM’s statements as “going beyond the 13th Amendment”. However, the Thinakkaran newspaper’s lead story reports that the President said he would exceed the 13th Amendment (the Tamil phrasing suggests that this is just a little beyond the 13th Amendment) for a solution. The lead story suggests that the Sri Lankan President had told the Indian FM that after discussing what is possible beyond the 13th Amendment, a solution would be arrived at.

In addition, three key points are flagged in this news story.

  • The signing of five MoU’s between India and Sri Lanka
  • That the Indian government values the LLRC’s report
  • That the Parliamentary Select Committee is a good platform for the solution of the national question

[Full Coverage]

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