Mangala Samaraweera

The Independent Television Network (ITN) is a ‘den of thieves’ and the best way to reform the institution is to operate it as a “public broadcasting service,” Finance and Mass Media Minister Mangala Samaraweera told Parliament yesterday.

The minister was making a ministerial statement in response to a question by JVP Leader Anura Dissanayake.

“I am aware of the situation of the ITN since 1994. Almost all of the ITN workers have their own private agency and they receive commissions whenever they give an advertisement, teledrama or film to the ITN. The ITN has 358 agencies registered under it. We tried to stop these irregularities,” said Samaraweera.

The minister said the unrest at the ITN was resolved through negotiation on Tuesday. He said a meeting between Media Ministry Secretary and ITN Chairman Thilaka Jayasundara and Advisor to the President and Defence Ministry Secretary Hemasiri Fernando was held and the problems were settled.

He said the workers who involved in the protest had disturbed the duties of the institution and had prevented its daily income. “The reputation of the institution was damaged. The ITN topped in television ratings in the past, but using it as a trumpet of the Government with people like Mahinda Abeysundara who used filthy language, affected its credibility. We changed that situation when we took over it four years ago,” the minister added.

The minister also pointed out that the ITN, Rupavahini and Lake House experienced smooth transition of power four years back. “We did not take revenge from any worker.

When Governments change, usually there is commotion at Lake House, but even Lake House experienced peaceful transition four years back. The fact that the workers were not subject to political revenge during our tenure was proved by the series of events unfolded in those institutions on October 26th night,” the minister remarked.

“Pro-Mahinda groups including a several MPs and thugs confronted us when we tried to enter Rupavahini premises to make a special statement,” he added.

At this point, Opposition Leader Mahinda Rajapaksa casually replied (off the microphone) that he made no appointments to those institutions on October 26. Minister Samaraweera agreeing with Rajapaksa said, “Yes, that proves my point.We had not sacked any worker from those institutions over their political allegiance.The political supporters of former President Mahinda Rajapaksa sprung back to life after October 26 and behaved like animals revealing their true nature. We will take action against them,”he said.

(Source: Daily News – By Disna Mudalige, Camelia Nathaniel and Amali Mallawaarachchi)