Today’s LIRNEasia’s post informs us as follows: “Free media Movement – Sri Lanka Press Release 30 January 2007 – Internet facilities and 8,000 telephones cut off in Jaffna Peninsula. The Free Media Movement (FMM) is deeply disturbed to learn that basic communications facilities to the Jaffna Peninsula have been blocked from 28th January 2007. Internet facilities and around 8,000 landline telephones of Sri Lanka Telecom (SLT) are dysfunctional to date”. This, in turn, had Sittingnut respond with an appropriate comment questioning the veracity of the claim.

Which got us to thinking about Leon. Remember him from ‘Java’s Secret Agent Man’ in our ‘Secret Agent’ trilogy some weeks earlier on kottu? Well, it occurred to us of the possibility that this may be some of that ‘Spam & Jam Co. Ltd., Dealers in Spread for Bread’ organization’s handiwork.

The Free Media Movement also informs us in its blog via kottu that it “…is deeply disturbed to learn that basic communications facilities to the Jaffna Peninsula have been blocked from 28th January 2007. Internet facilities and around 8,000 landline telephones of Sri Lanka Telecom (SLT) are dysfunctional to date. SLT, jointly owned by the Sri Lankan Government and Nippon Telegraph & Telephone Corporation (NTT) of Japan, is the sole Internet provider in Jaffna Peninsula with a population of around 600,000 according to official statistics”. The FMM were also told that “..there is no official decision by the Telecommunication Regulatory Authority to block communications in this manner in the Peninsula”. Apparently many citizens as well as journalists confirm this and the SLT Jaffna office has told FMM that “…for security reasons SLT link to Jaffna has been disconnected from Anuradhapura, a north central city”.

Thinking of the possibility of Leon’s involvement we wondered if any ‘spamming’ (which Leon referred to as ‘disinformation’) had preceded this and made a mental note to do some research on the matter, although there is every likelihood of the ‘spam’ following the ‘jam’ and not following the sequence on Leon’s visiting card. The ‘jamming’ aspect seems to be pretty much ‘in your face’ and isn’t something new, as a couple of weeks ago the same thing occurred in some of the areas we visited in the Amparai district – soon after the capture of a LTTE camp in the area. The obvious reason for this is to ‘inhibit communications’ (as Leon put it) between interested parties and this is reasonably logical for a state at war – an “all is fair in love and war” kinda thing. However, the FMM’s take on this appears to be that the rights of the individual should not be compromised – and rightly so. Be that as it may, the questions remain – is anything permissible in order for the state to combat the ‘enemy’? How far are you willing to give up your ‘rights’ for the defeat of the LTTE? And for how long? Will the ‘hawks’ give up their ‘rights’ indefinitely – not just in times such as the present, but also in the ‘national interest’ during times that other circumstances, not necessarily involving the LTTE, prevail? And would there be other circumstances that would receive the nod from the FMM and other ‘Liberal’ folk for the state to deny the people their ‘rights’? Or is this like the irresistible force and the immovable object?

Perhaps it may not be possible for us to even imagine, leave alone understand, the plight of those in Jaffna who, with all the impossible difficulties imposed on them for the past twenty years and more, find these compounded by the denial of communicating with whoever they want when they choose to. How would we react? Not that it would make any difference to those affected, given the prevailing conditions. It probably boils down to a question of values in the end – to answer the question of should or should we not question the ‘right’ of the state to impose a denial on the ‘rights’ of the individual?

How would you feel?

In the meantime Leon, no doubt, is spamming and jamming his way to receiving more bread to spread – and not the other way around.

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