By Shyamon Jayasinghe, Melbourne

Mr HLD Mahindapala’s venomous attack on Murali written under the caption “Murali Bowls Sri Lanka a Doosra” was published both in the Daily Mirror and in the Asia Tribune and had been displayed in the columns of the Lankaweb, too. He had accused Murali of allegiance with the LTTE on the assumption that the latter had stated that government had not sent adequate aid to the Tamil areas. I have just read Murali’s response in the Daily Mirror (4/2) and a return by Mahindapala in his home ground, the Asia Tribune. It is a pity Lankaweb could not lay its hands on Murali’s defence.

These exchanges provide fascinating reading for anyone concerned with the ethics of the jurnalists trade. They also provide a supreme case study for employing one's critical faculties; I shall try and employ mine:

Murali is obviously perturbed by what he describes as a defamatory piece of character- assassination by Mahindapala. He says, “Mr. Mahindapala's defamatory article accused me of being politically affiliated with the LTTE and of pursuing an ethnically-biased and political-motivated agenda in the aftermath of one of the greatest natural disasters in South Asia's history. I completely and utterly reject such allegations, which are not only untrue but deeply insulting. “

On the other hand, what do we have from HLDM? He states that the statements attributed by him to Murali were entirely based on what he heard from a medical team at the Habarana Hotel, which he says he had no reason to disbelieve. In other words, the evidence that HLDM employed for making such damaging comments about Murali was hearsay evidence. He says he had “no reason to disbelieve” such evidence apparently due to the fact that they were that of a medical team. One would have no reason, perhaps, to disbelieve what a medical team states if the issue had been about a medically relevant subject. On the other hand, the so called medical team has merely said that so and so had made such an utterance. No reasonable man leans on mere hearsay evidence to believe something. Everybody except a child knows through experience that there are a thousand ways in which such evidence can go wrong. Besides, the victim here is a high profile celebrity whom Sri Lankans world over adore and who has a lot to lose if something defamatory is said about him. HLDM should have rung his own alarm bells before going public. It was therefore incumbent on HLDM to have checked with Murali himself before making damaging comments. HLDM had even gone to the length of invoking racialist emotions by saying that Murali had gone up via the Sinhalese ladder!

HLDM admits he did not try to contact Murali and attempts to bowl a doosra himself to get out of that serious lapse. He means there was no necessity to check with Murali because he believed what he heard at Habarana! If somebody you rely on tells you that your wife has teamed up with another would you rush and go for your wife? HLDM gives another reason namely that one of “Murali’s minders” at Melbourne had one day told him how Murali is in the habit of denying statements he makes when cornered. Again, this is hearsay and gossip. And it is a common failure of numerous men and women. Even if it were true of Murali is that adequate reason for HLDM to dispense with the need for checking with Mural?. Hasn’t HLDM heard of the principle of audi alteram partem, namely “hear the other side”? That is fundamental to the establishment of truth.

HLDM has no reason to dwell on Arjuna’s matter so much, except to cloud up the main issue at hand. Since HLDM denies having said that the relationships between the two cricketing personalities were strained, we will stand by it. The rest of the defence (HLDM having praised Murali on public platforms etc) is of no consequence to the issue at hand.

HLDM exposes himself to a serious charge of defamation of character. If Murali doesn’t pursue that course he would have to thank God for it!



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