Non-Cabinet Minister of Mass Media Ruwan Wijewardene yesterday accused President Maithripala Sirisena of repeatedly obstructing his attempts to change the management of Sri Lanka Rupavahini Corporation (SLRC), leading to the impasse which resulted in the Corporation being brought under the Defence Ministry’s purview.
“Since I took over the Ministry of Mass Media in February this year, I tried to appoint an efficient, talented, and suitable person as Chairman of the Corporation, but the President objected to all the nominees, giving various reasons,” Wijewardene said in the letter sent to the President.
The President’s shock move came on Monday, after months of wrangling over differences over appointments to the top management of the Corporation.
Wijewardene also said that the takeover of SLRC is a blow to media freedom in the country, and has been done in a contravention of all accepted norms.
“Your actions can be construed as a move against media freedom in the country. The step has been taken arbitrarily, with no consultation with the Minister in charge of the subject,” Wijewardene said in the letter, hours after the President brought SLRC under the purview of the Defence Ministry.
“Even during the height of the war, SLRC was not placed under the Defence Ministry. The reasons that were given for the sudden move cannot be justified, as in the past four years, no interest was shown by you to use the station to achieve those objectives,” the letter said.
The Gazette notification removing SLRC from the Mass Media purview said that the Corporation would be tasked with “implementation of programs for the promotion of peace, harmony, and reconciliation among people, whilst ensuring national security through the use of audio-visual media, enhancement of the entertainment quality of the people, and creation of a higher media culture using state-of-the-art technology.”
He said that the current Chairperson of the SLRC has failed to improve the ratings of the station, while the Corporation has suffered massive financial losses running into Rs.40 million a month.
The Minster has sought to remove Inoka Satyangani, who was appointed as Chairman by the former Minister Mass Media Mangala Samaraweera to the post, and who has disregarded calls for her to step down.
The President’s office did not comment on the sudden move, and is yet to name anyone to the SLRC management.
On Monday President Sirisena brought the influential SLRC under the purview of the Ministry of Defence by an Extraordinary Gazette notification.
Along with the takeover, the SLRC was also tasked with the “Implementation of programs for the promotion of peace, harmony and reconciliation among people whilst ensuring national security through the use of audio visual media, enhancement of the entertainment quality of the people and creation of a higher media culture using state-of-the-art technology.”
The sudden takeover of SLRC by President Sirisena who is also the Minister of Defence came midst moves to appoint Kalum Palitha Maheerathne as SLRC’s new Chairman by Media Non-Cabinet Minister Ruwan Wijewardene.
Sources said the appointment of a Chairman to SLRC has led to differences between the President and the Media Minister.