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Closure of BBC Sinhala service –lack of proficiency in Sinhala in the Sandesaya highlighted
(Lanka-e-News, 06.Oct.2010, 4.20PM) The British Foreign Ministry Secretary William Hague had confirmed that the BBC World service is facing cut backs on its expenditure although he dispelled fears that this would mean threats to broadcasts to countries like Burma. Hague revealed this at the Foreign affairs Committee meeting held in the British Parliament on 3rd September.

As the operation sin Burma is not much costly, his chances of recommending a closure of the service there is unlikely. In any case, it will be for the World service Executives to decide how they could make up for the cut backs imposed by the spending review.

Despite this assurance of Hague, our own Foreign Minister had not been able to confirm Sandesaya, the BBC Sinhala service will not be closed.

The BBC chairman, Sir Michael Lyons, had admitted the corporation is engaged in "robust" discussions with the government about a reduction in the World Service's £272m annual Foreign Office direct grant. He warned that it would lead to the closure of services to some countries. Lyons also appealed to the government to spend more rather than less on the World Service, saying it was a "cost-effective" way of seeking to influence global opinion

The foreign secretary, William Hague confirmed that the BBC world Service is facing cut backs as part of the government's spending review but tried to allay concerns that this could threaten broadcasts to countries such as Burma. The spending review would "undoubtedly affect the World Service" but added that no decisions had yet been taken. The World Service Burma operation did not cost very much to run, he said, and the chances he would recommend its closure were "correspondingly small".

However, it will be up to World Service executives to decide how to achieve the cuts imposed by the spending review.

"Here am I as someone who in opposition has appeared on platforms with Burmese human rights activists, launched books with Burmese human rights activists and been on the World Service talking about Burma and the importance of communicating into it. Hence, the chances that I'm then going to sit in my office and say, 'let's close the World Service into Burma' are correspondingly small."

Hague said he attached "huge importance" to the World Service and wanted it to maintain a "global reach". It was a "fundamentally important part of Britain's presence in the world".

Amidst the grave allegations of human rights violations in SL, the British foreign Minister has impliedly given a confirmation that the Sinhala service will not be discontinued. Yet, because of lack of enthusiasm and commitment of those responsible to ensure the continuance of the Sinhala service, nothing has been guaranteed, with our own Foreign Minister plagued by doubts and not clear in his own mind about its future.

One Sandesaya listener in Sri lanka, speaking to Lanka e news said, the Sri Lanka broadcasting Corporation (SLBC), an organ of the present murderous Govt. which entered into an agreement originally with the BBC had done nothing to save the country’s image pertaining to human rights violations or to counter the HR violations campaign against the SL Govt. via the Sandesaya. All what it has been doing is bragging and engaging in empty boasts while riding the high horse.

According to reports, a sum of 360,000/- sterling pounds is being paid as salaries alone annually to the seven permanent employees in the BBC Sandesaya service. Discussions are in progress between the BBC administrative Authority and the Sinhala service to curtail the staff to two members and to run only the website of the Sandesaya.

An auxiliary staff member of the Sandesaya, it is learnt is moving heaven and earth these days fawning on the ‘Lokkas’ and disgracefully stooping to the lowest possible level to increase the number of staff to three.

When Lanka e news questioned from a Sandesaya auxiliary staff member Saroj Pathirana as to why when the other websites of the BBC world service are running their services in their mother tongues, our Sandesaya Sinhala service is being conducted in English, he replied, none of the staff in the Sandesaya can type in Sinhala.
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