ECONOMYNEXT – Sri Lanka’s cricket commentator Roshan Abeysinghe faced an avalanche of protests online after he called for Hitler-style authoritarian rule to control crime, tweeting that no one appeared to be in charge of law and order.
"Looking at the killings in Sri Lanka I sometimes wonder who is in charge," the 55-year-old cricket personality said on Twitter on Monday.
"Sri Lanka truly needs a Hitler to put these elements in their places and not the compassionate government that once we wanted."
The Hitler comment, coming hot on the heels of Asgiriya Anunanayake Vendaruwe Upali’s advice last month to former defence secretary Gotabhaya Rajapaksa to be a "Hitler" and establish military rule, ignited a backlash.
"An individual with your public standing romanticizing genocide-loving dictators would not bode well for a country that needs ‘rule-of-law’," said Tharaka @Tharaka_WBH.
Instead of defusing the situation, Abeysinghe went on the offensive casting aspersions on the level of education of his detractors: "..thought I was speaking to a mature and an educated audience. Sadly I am wrong! I am glad that the majority understood my Hitler comment, which has been taken literally. I also realise that there are few fools too, who don’t seem to understand a figure of speech. Sad!,” a non-repentent Abeysinghe tweeted, only to be swamped.
Radhya Herath demanded an explanation from Abeysinghe on what he meant by "figure of speech".
"Hi Roshan, would love an explanation on how the word ‘Hitler’ could possibly be used as a figure of speech? And if it does what does it actually manifest ?," asked Herath Radhya @RadhyaHerath.
As protests grew, Abeysinghe tried to backtrack, but stopped short of deleting the offending comment.
"May be in my earlier tweet the name Hitler would have been too harsh! I should rephrase and say a strong leader who can take the bull by the horn (sic) and stop this killing that’s happening too regularly! Law & order should prevail for people to live. That’s what I meant all along,” Abeysinghe replied.
He, however, did not delete his tweet promoting M. A. Ratna to say: “Wait a minute. Your Hitler tweet is still there. You have not taken it off. If you don’t know how to delete a tweet, ask any 12-year old.”
But, Abeysinghe insisted he will not take off the offending tweet: “I have not deleted I only did a new tweet. Please don’t compare me to you about asking 12 year old children may be you should get such help to comprehend what I have written.” It provoked another response demanding that he gets lessons on the Holocaust.
Abeysinghe’s own fans were not happy with him: "Utterly disgusting Hitler reference. ‘Too harsh’ ? And Hitler Wasn’t a competent leader he invoked racism and murdered defenceless people to hang on to power," Tweeted @nuzlyazhar.
Some asked if it was Abeysinghe’s international employers who forced him to take back the offending Hitler comment. "…was it your employer? Anyways what’s important is that you take back that Hitler statement and apologies to humanity for such an insensitive inappropriate tweet,” said Biryani.
Added Abeysinghe: "That was taken back and corrected. Sadly you guys don’t see the good or humility or a correction. You have to be evil for that."
But, a majority of Tweeps may have had the last word as Abeysinghe and his staunch loyalists tied themselves in knots trying to defend the Hitler remark. Many wondered if international broadcasters and the International Cricket Council would ever endorse him again given the Hitler stain.
Another pointed out the irony of Abeysinghe’s remarks in the context of his private business representing Keune, an international brand of cosmetics owned by a Dutch family who worked tirelessly to save Jews being persecuted by Hitler during World War II.
Twitter threads can be accessed here: https://twitter.com/RoshanCricket (Colombo/July10/2018)