Leak of Ranjan’s phone recordings – some queries


Almost all our public figures have disapproved of the leak of Ranjan Ramanayake’s phone recordings. They include Ramanayake’s celluloid colleagues, fellow politicians, some members of the clergy, officials and even journalists.

It is a moot point, however, whether Ramanayake’s critics represent themselves or the public or both. Apparently they impute their own demeanour over the leaks to the nation as a whole. No doubt the JVP does not represent the entire nation. It is, however, obvious that what it says makes sense.

According to the JVP, Ramanayake "has revealed the deteriorated and corrupt nature of society, including the corrupt nature of the top hierarchy of the key sectors ... These key sectors such as politicians, officials, judiciary, religious organisations and the business sector were corrupt and spoilt... and the leaked phone recordings revealed the falsehood of these sectors."

Can any of the critics deny these allegations? Has the country been free of corruption? Have the politicians been impervious to venality? Have the governments been above cronyism or nepotism? Hasn’t the bureaucracy been prone to bribery? Didn’t JR accuse the Bandaranaikes of "family bandyism"? Didn’t President Premadasa harangue his audience: "We don’t need AR or FR so long as we have JR"? Didn’t the so-called Yahapalana rulers accuse the Rajapaksas of fraud, favouritism and extrajudicial persecutions? Didn’t the SLPP accuse Yahapalana of fraud, national betrayal, the law of the jungle, smooching with the TNA, subservience to the West …? The answer to all these questions is none other than: "Yes".

A mundane matter now: land phones and mobiles available in the country are, in most cases, equipped with a recording feature. They wouldn't be available to the public if it was illegal to equip the phones with such a feature. It is, therefore, quite normal for anybody to record a call with or without the knowledge of the other party concerned. Yes, it is a decent thing to let the other party know that the call is being recorded in the context of a private conversation between two members of the public on a matter of mutual or public interest.

This does not apply to calls between two public officials. There is a glaring difference between Ramanayake and MP Ramanayake; between Abeysekera and CID Director Abeysekera and between Ms. Ranawaka and HC Judge Ranawaka. Telephone conversations between an MP and the CID, between him and the Bench or between him and the Prime Minister, whether recorded or not, cannot be equated with one between two members of the civic society. Public officials cannot claim the same privilege as enjoyed by two ordinary citizens.

The writer is, of course, conscious of the loose talk between Ramanayake and his celluloid colleagues. The focus here is not on the impact of their indiscreet remarks in their private capacity but on the misdemeanour of public officials purportedly serving the public.

It is quite understandable that all the public officials implicated and scathed, fake innocence and nonchalance though they are stunned by the revelations. It is mystifying, however, that their brethren who have survived and emerged unscathed by the revelations are doing their best to claim the moral high ground as though they had never stooped so low.

Mani Velupillai


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