MCNS after the BBC asked a question. Or farted. Similar response
This sounds weird. It is weird. Whenever I think Sri Lankan news has reached the pinnacle of oddity it goes one further. So, some people threw stones at a TV station for sponsoring an Akon concert. Among the many places Akon has objectified women dancing (not an issue in itself) they happened to appear for about 3 seconds near a Buddha statue. Hence, the violent response. I went to the press conference today and the Media Center For National Security (about as ominous as it sounds) is saying that it was a conflict and the TV employees were also throwing stones. From inside.
The MCNS is an odd place. It’s main spokesman is Lakshman Hulugalle. A graduate in hotel management, he’s also produced a few films. I don’t know much about him. I saw him at the Battaramulla Coffee Bean with Duminda Silva once. He’s ostensibly a spokesman thru the Ministry of Defense, but he seems to have powers beyond that. I asked a Navy officer for more info on a canal rehabilitation project and he asked me to go thru Mr. Hulugalle. Which I found odd. Things usual go thru the Navy hierarchy.
But I digress. The official response to the whole Akon fiasco seems to be that there was a conflict and they’re investigating. That a group had assembled at the Sirasa/MTV office to peacefully protest and that ‘both of the parties have attacked.’ Which is patently absurd. They said later that the MTV staff were inside, so they would have had to find and throw stones through their own windows.
This line was questioned actually quite strongly by the journalists there, but they pretty much stuck to it. I asked if we should throw rocks at the TV station to get changes made. Hulugalle basically said yes, though I don’t think he understood the question, through no particular fault of his own. My other favorite quote was ‘Government does not have to give any reasons’ and ‘law is not above anybody’ (a slip, perhaps Freudian).
This Akon thing is a fiasco, but what I find interesting is that A) we’re still having military briefings a year after the war is over and B) Hulugalle constantly conflates this government and Sri Lanka. He said the government would have no involvement in this incident because they ‘didn’t have to’, since the ‘government is very clear, they have the mandate and clear authority’. At election time. Which is fine, but the MCNS is nominally a civil and not political body.
Another oddity is the casual reference to a conspiracy against the government by Sarath Fonseka and British Channel 4 and other parties, which has apparently been going on for years. And there were no questions on that, it’s just sorta out there and expected.
But I’m meandering. The government’s line seems to be that the protesters were peaceful and their cause was just (seeing as the govt cancelled Akon’s visa the next day). In response to questions about the absurdity of MTV office staff fighting a mob of 200 and the oddity of a government capitulating to violent protest the next day, long sentence there, bit of a breath, in response to that the MCNS just blinked and didn’t even try that hard to spin. It’s out there. It fits the broader narrative. Foreign conspiracy, MTV’s got a history so… what?