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Home > Tamil National ForumSelected Writings by Sachi Sri Kantha > Being an Eelam apologist in the Lanka Guardian magazine


Selected Writings by Sachi Sri Kantha


Being an Eelam apologist in the Lanka Guardian magazine

27 June 2006


Mervyn de Silva

June 22nd had just passed by. I remembered that it marked the 7th death anniversary of Mervyn de Silva, the founder-editor of Lanka Guardian magazine. Until now, only a handful of Sinhalese had positively influenced my life and thoughts personally and Mervyn de Silva was one of them. But I never had the opportunity to meet him even once. My interactions as a correspondent presenting the Eelam Tamil point of view in unsolicited short letters were conducted solely by the post.

Mervyn de Silva�s Lanka Guardian, the fortnightly magazine of opinion, made its first appearance in May 1, 1978. My first letter to the Lanka Guardian was published in the March 1, 1981 issue, and it was related to my impressions as an eye witness at the 5th International Tamil Research Conference Seminar held in Madurai. It also initiated my twin role as an Eelam apologist in the Lanka Guardian magazine and as an unsolicited voluntary educator to Mervyn de Silva on Eelam theme. I explicitly use the word �apologist� here in the original Greek meaning of the word �apologia�, which refers to �a speech in defense�, and not to its convoluted contemporary meaning in English relating to �a statement expressing regret for some error or offense�. Until 1996, a total of 43 of my short letters passed Mervyn de Silva�s scrutiny and appeared in print. Another 20 odd letters went unpublished, among which I�ve opted to provide few excerpts below for record.

The Merit of Mervyn de Silva


Mervyn de Silva was undoubtedly a giant among the Sri Lankan journalists. Unlike other contemporaries of him, one could easily grasp from his commentaries that he also had a marked degree of empathy to the Eelam cause and respect to the leadership skills of the LTTE leader Pirabhakaran. Why? He kept one of his eyes �open�. He was a living proof to the aphorism, �In the world of the blind, the one-eyed guy is the king�. Among the conceptually blind Sinhalese journalists of Colombo, Mervyn de Silva had a functional �objective� eye, which he used to his best advantage. It was my modest intention to stimulate his other �subjective� eye also for reception to the Tamil cause.

What I liked Mervyn de Silva as a commentator-analyst was his polished command of English and his knack of linking threads from diverse sources, which testified to his voracious reading skills. He was also a master journalist in the use of metaphor, simile and syntax. In my forty-odd letters which Mervyn de Silva chose to publish in the Lanka Guardian magazine, I wrote ultra-brief eulogies to Trotskyist politician Edmund Samarakkody and scientist Cyril Ponnamperuma; commented on the Tamil history from Ravanan through Chelvanayakam, Thondaman and MGR to Pirabhakaran; quipped on the political follies of J.R.Jayewardene, Premadasa and Chandrika Kumaratunga. I also satirized the gumshoes of Indian underground diplomacy. Excluding a handful, the rest of my published letters in the Lanka Guardian were comments and rebuttals to the articles and commentaries of other Sri Lankan pundits. Whenever I found that the Tamil point of view was lacking or distorted, I made a concerted effort to correct them, in the pages of Lanka Guardian. Occasionally I crossed swords with regular contributors to this magazine like Izeth Hussain and H.L.D.Mahindapala.

The space permitted for my unsolicited letters to the �Correspondence� section did not exceed more than a page, in a slim 24-page journal. I had to present my thoughts with pungency and/or subtle sarcasm within the allocated space of 300-500 words. It wasn�t that easy. But I loved the challenge Mervyn de Silva granted to me.

Personal Letters


Apart from the letters I (as a reader) sent to the Lanka Guardian, I also expressed my views to Mervyn de Silva, in a few personal letters. In a letter dated Feb.4, 1992, on the aftermath of ex-MOSSAD agent Victor Ostrovski�s exposure of Sri Lankan purchase of arms on the aid money from international agencies, I wrote to him as follows:


�Dear Mr.Mervyn de Silva:


I read with interest your commentary entitled, �The Rise of the New Right�, in the LG of Jan.15 [1992]. In it you have stated, ��Sinhala Political Establishment could have projected a positive image to two crucially important audiences�key sources of aid (Japan)��. Do you think that Japanese are such gullible fools, who cannot comprehend what is really going on in Sri Lanka? Please do not underestimate the Japanese. Do you know what damage the exposure of Victor Ostrovski did to the Japanese aid program to Sri Lanka?�Though the Japanese authorities have rejected Ostrovsky�s allegations, they did trim 40% of the allocated aid to Sri Lanka, after the release of the book in December 1990, under a different pretext. I wonder whether the Sri Lankan government sources have released this information�.�


Subsequently, I received a registered letter from Mervyn de Silva, dated March 17, 1992. To quote the contents:

Dear Mr.Sri Kantha,


The Lanka Guardian, I regret to say, is running into financial trouble � inflation. I am asking a few friends and regular readers to help us with subscriptions. Enclosed are 5 forms. Is there any Foundation in Japan that helps little independent journals to survive? A few thousand dollars will go a long way. With best wishes.


Yours sincerely,
Mervyn de Silva�

I couldn�t provide him an encouraging message, in the reply I sent, dated March 31, 1992. To quote,

�Dear Mr.Mervyn de Silva:


Thank you for your letter of March 17, which I received here on March 28. It is not with delight that I read your message about the financial trouble faced by the Lanka Guardian. Well, I will try to provide some information which you have solicited, which may be fruitful, if luck is on your side. Herewith I�m enclosing a copy of my details of Japanese Foundations and Institutions, culled from �The World of Learning 1991�. If the activities of some of these Foundations appeal to you, please try them�Regarding the enrollment of new subscriptions, I will write to you in the next letter. With best regards.�


Then, I wrote to him another letter dated April 4, 1992, as follows:

�Dear Mr.Mervyn de Silva:


Hope you would have received my previous letter, mailed a few days ago, written in response to your letter soliciting help in enrolling new subscriptions to the Lanka Guardian. Having been a reader since its inception in 1978, I thought I should comment about the current format of the LG to you. Of course, my comments do not in any way mean to suggest that what you have achieved for the past 14 years or so with the LG is worthless. I am trying to be the �devil�s advocate�. Hope you will take it in the spirit it is made.


I have subscribed to the LG and will continue to subscribe to it, for reasons which are personal in nature. But I don�t think I can convince my friends (Japanese or non-Japanese) to subscribe to it, for the following reasons.


(1) Not very many Japanese are interested in reading much English. Only those who have some specific interests in the South Asian region may find it of some interest.


(2) By this premise, LG has to compete with other international magazines (Time, Newsweek, Economist, Asiaweek and Far Eastern Economic Review) for providing fresh perspectives. This I doubt very much that LG has attempted to do, and even if it attempts, whether it can succeed.


(3) Even for those non-Sri Lankan readers, the contents in the LG would not seem much appealing. First, you reprint so much of what already has been published in other magazines (Time, Newsweek, Economist, FEER, Asiaweek etc.). So, the originality in contents is just around 30-40% in the LG. Secondly, whatever is original (especially those related to Sri Lanka) are couched in words and sentences only Sri Lankans can comprehend. Even your commentaries and analyses are filled with (relating to names) dimunitives, first names (such as Lalith, Gamini etc.) and phrases in Sinhala language, which are incomprehensible to non-Sri Lankans. At least you should make an effort to eliminate the dimunitives and first names, if you want to attract foreign readership. Time or Newsweek or Economist do not refer to Dick (Nixon) or Maggie (Thatcher) in reporting about them.


I wish I can give you a more optimistic message. But I couldn�t. With best wishes.�

What I liked about Mervyn de Silva, was his occasional use of banter, with respect to the published letters in his magazine. Once [to pacify an irate correspondent who saw some of his/her choice sentences have been pruned], Mervyn de Silva retorted in a foot-note, �Writers write, editors edit�. A few of my letters also did receive their share of editorial foot-notes. Once, he subtly exposed my then ignorance between the difference of words, �wither� and �whither�. On another occasion, he defended his use of the Tamil word �thottam� (literally, garden), which I had criticised as having derisive connotation. To rebut his defence, I sent him a letter dated July 4, 1994, as follows:

Dear Mr.Mervyn de Silva:

I thank you for publishing quite a number of my letters in the LG. I read with interest your foot note in my recent letter on language usage, where I raised the issue on the usage of the word �thottam�. If I read your point, since Minister Thondaman loves the phrase �Thonda�s thottam�, and that other Tamil readers did not raise any objections, the objection I raised was not of much relevance. Not quite correct though.

Other Tamil readers may not be well versed in ethnic slurs, or that they may have attained a �pseudo-immunity�. For your information, herewith I�m enclosing a copy of my paper on ethnic slurs, which I presented at the Annual Sessions of the Sri Lanka Association for Advancement of Science in Dec.1979. In this paper, I analysed the ethnic slurs used by the Sinhalese, Tamils, Muslims and Burghers. Since then, I have been an active student of linguistics. Regarding Thondaman�s acceptance [of the word �thottam�], I will respond with an anecdote. When Churchill described Gandhi as a �half-naked fakir�, Gandhi was magnanimous in not responding to that racial slur. But, will you convince me that the word �fakir� was not a slur which Churchill used to put down not only Gandhi, but also the population of the Indian subcontinent whom Gandhi represented. In the same vein, I reiterate, that even if Thondaman may accept the usage, the word �thottam� was definitely used by Jaffna Tamils in particular, to put down the so-called Indian Tamils.�

On the �Rashomon Effect� and Ranjan Wijeratne killing


Mervyn de Silva was also a human with a prestige to protect; thus occasionally he chose not to publish my letters, which tried to expose his factual slips or lack of depth in interpretation. I provide one example.

Following the killing of former Foreign Minister and Deputy Defence Minister Ranjan Wijeratne (1931-1991) in March 1991, Mervyn de Silva wrote an eulogy (captioned �Death of a Soldier�) to him, under his pen name Kautilya. He had incompletely annotated his eulogy with the Rashomon story popularized by the Japanese movie director Akira Kurosawa. First, I provide excerpts of this eulogy:

Rashomon Effect:


Akira Kurosawa�s first movie �Rashomon� not only introduced the Japanese master to western audiences but invited serious critical attention to a hitherto neglected Japanese cinema. Both movie enthusiasts of my generation as well today�s cognoscenti know �Rashomon� for its brilliantly structured presentation of a dramatic event as perceived by four persons; different versions of the same reality, though only a single, shocking and gruesome incident. Each person sticks to his/her story faithfully, convinced that it is the whole truth, the only possible. Each is plausible, and quite convincing. And yet each is somehow �coloured�, unconsciously distorted by the �mind� rather than the eye that sees.


So with the assassination of poor Ranjan Wijeratne, a plain-speaking man, a planter somewhat lost in the dubious and devious ways of power politics. A party loyalist he served Sri Kotha so loyally that President JR [Jayewardene] trusted him with the most sensitive task of all � consulting party branches to find out who the UNP �machine� felt was the strongest candidate to fight Mrs.Bandaranaike. A stern disciplinarian, he brought to his ministerial office, the manners of the planter and the simple regimented life-style of a vanishing planter Raj.


That discipline was a close cousin to the military manner. That was the secret of his success as State Minister of Defence. Quite unknown to him perhaps, he was something else too. In a society torn by divisive conflict, the violent and the unseen, and by both steadfast allegiances as well as by changing loyalties, Ranjan, unknown to him, became a point of intersection between these contending forces, competitive claims diverse and fierce issues. To name a few, military solution/political settlement; old UNP/new UNP; Sinhala nationalism/Thomian liberalism; �law-and-order�/dissent, opposition; army/party etc. etc.


No wonder so many theories, from the Singapore connection to LTTE/EROS, DJV/EROS; inside-job/and any �mix� of these.� [Lanka Guardian, Colombo, March 15, 1991, pp.6-7]


Mervyn de Silva continued further to passingly mention the Indian interests and their �spin� on the Sri Lankan events as well, as follows:

�What interested me was how each individual and opinion group, often quite dispassionately, almost pre-selected as salient this or that detail which suited best his/her version. The Rashomon Effect. And this was often complemented and supported by seemingly disinterested non-Sri Lankan groups which also presented their �interpretations�, but more deliberately I felt, than subconsciously. What I would call putting a little spin on the ball.� [Lanka Guardian, Colombo, March 15, 1991, pp.6-7]

I sent a letter (captioned �Rashomon Effect�) to the Lanka Guardian, dated March 31, 1991, criticising this Kautilya commentary. Since Mervyn de Silva chose not to publish it then, I provide the complete text here, for record.


�Akira Kurosawa�s first directorial venture was not �Rashomon�, as stated by columnist Kautilya in his eulogy to Minister Ranjan Wijeratne (LG, March 15). In 1943, Kurosawa made his movie directorial debut with a film titled, �Sugata Sanshiro�, about a judo master. His first popular movie �Yoidore Tenshi�[Drunken Angel], starring Toshiro Mifune as a sick gangster, was released in 1948. �Rashomon� was released in 1950.

Rashomon did introduce Kurosawa and the Japanese cinema to the Western audiences. But giving undue credit to Kurosawa for the Rashomon theme is like asserting that Cecil B.de Mille authored the Bible. The Rashomon movie was based on two short stories �Yabu no Naka� and �Rashomon�, authored by Ryunosuke Akutagawa (1892-1927), who committed suicide at the age of 35 years. Akutagawa also adopted these two short stories from two tales of the 11th century Japanese anthology, �Konjaku Monogatari�. So much for the origin of Rashomon.

Columnist Kautilya, in reminiscing on Rashomon to impress his readers, subtly implies that Minister Ranjan Wijeratne is the samurai Takehiko (the murdered person of the movie). And with extensive citations from the Indian newspapers �Hindu� and �Dinamani�, who have their own axes to grind, Kautilya also focuses on the LTTE as the robber Tajomaru (presumed villain of the Rashomon story). One can be surprised by the fact that author Akutagawa�s portrayal of robber Tajomaru resembles the logic presented by the LTTE for their past killings.


�To me killing isn�t a matter of such great consequence as you might think�Am I the only one who kills people? You, you don�t use your swords. You kill people with your power, with your money. Sometimes you kill them on the pretext of working for their good. It�s true they don�t bleed. They are in the best of health, but all the same you�ve killed them. It�s hard to say who is a greater sinner, you or me��, confesses Tajomaru in his defence, to the High Police Commissioner. Did Kautilya notice this sequence perceptively in this movie?


I�m also simply amused that Kautilya has failed to grasp the meaning of the final sequence of the Rashomon story. The murdered samurai�s version (as told through a medium) implies that he committed suicide. Remember Akutagawa also committed suicide 12 years after Rashomon story was published. If this is so, is the analogy between Rashomon theme and the death of Ranjan Wijeratne is credible?�

Limitations of the Lanka Guardian magazine


Now that the Lanka Guardian magazine had passed into history as a �one-man show�, it is time for a more realistic evaluation of its role as an educational forum on Sri Lankan-Eelam affairs. While many of Mervyn de Silva�s admirers have provided bouquets on the performance of Lanka Guardian for two decades, someone has to present the unpleasant news as well. Afterall, Mervyn de Silva created the motto [�Other News, Another View�] for the magazine in 1978. So, let me be the critic. I present five limitations of Lanka Guardian magazine in numbered sequence.


(1) Blurred Focus


The Lanka Guardian magazine carried the image of an academic journal of commentary, a pulp fortnightly magazine and a propaganda brochure of Leftist thinking. This was akin to an athlete trying to impress simultaneously as a 100-meter sprinter, a 5,000 meter runner and a marathoner. This strategy as the �journal of all angles� hurt its market value in attracting subscriptions in any one group of the target audience.

As a subscriber-reader, the absence/omission of complete details [especially the date and place of publication] in the Lanka Guardian magazine for the �reprinted� materials from other journals and magazines was irritating for me. As a reader with academic background, I felt that this exercise was rather amateurish from Mervyn de Silva�s stature as a complete professional. But, I could understand his angle for this practice. Mervyn de Silva was primarily a journalist, who by training, would benefit much by protecting [or hiding, is the better word here.] the sources of his news from competition. Thus, providing incomplete details became the norm, even when it was hardly necessary.

A predilection for permitting (by design or laxity unbecoming of a serious editor) excessive pseudonymous contributors by Mervyn de Silva devalued the worth of Lanka Guardian magazine as a serious journal of social commentary. The select list of pseudonyms which have paraded the pages of the Lanka Guardian magazine include, Andare, Arden, Chintaka, Rapier, Samudran, Zuhail and �A Special Correspondent� (that ubiquitous spineless wimp, whose territory spans both India and Sri Lanka).

(2) Accomodating tripe and mixing tripe with half truths


Especially in the early 1990s, the Lanka Guardian magazine has published disgraceful sound bites emanating from India�s gumshoes (the notorious RAW and its siblings) or those who worked in tandem with India�s gumshoes as the wisdom of the Oracle. I couldn�t digest why Mervyn de Silva had to accommodate such tripe in the Lanka Guardian magazine, unless he had a specific compulsion to receive bits of intelligence from the corridors of the India House in Colombo. Here is an example which appeared under the name of Mervyn de Silva.

�The story that the Sri Lankan �Tigers� had Chief Minister MGR on the hit list may be somebody�s fanciful yarn. Yet it is no secret that the Tigers (and some of the TULF leaders) are much closer to Karunanidhi�s DMK than to MGR�s ADMK which has warm contacts with Mr.Thondaman.� (Lanka Guardian, June 15, 1982, p.3)

That the TULF leadership and the TELO militants of early 1980s were closer to Karunanidhi�s DMK was a truth. But, that the then Tamil Nadu Chief Minister MGR was on the �hit list� of �Tigers� was nothing but a tripe.

Mervyn de Silva was gracious enough to publish the following letter of mine, relating to a RAW-generated tripe from India, on the Rajiv Gandhi assassination case. To quote,

�I thank you for publishing in detail the �Final Report in RC9/S/91/CBI/SCB/Madras � (Rajiv Gandhi Assassination Case) Under Section 173 Criminal Penal Code (LG, Aug.15, 1992). What strikes me vividly is its selectivity and superficiality in regurgitating the political events which happened in Tamil Nadu and Sri Lanka. For instance, nothing of the following has been included in this document.
The role of Research and Analysis Wing (RAW) in training the Tamil militant groups in Tamil Nadu.
The assassination attempt on Rajiv Gandhi in Colombo, after the signing of the Indo-Sri Lankan Accord on July 1987.
The training and arming of the Tamil National Army by the Indian Peace Keeping Force.
Maldives invasion by the PLOTE mercenaries and the Indian �assistance in restoring peace.�
Even for a non-lawyer like me, it is apparent that the so-called �Final Report� resembles the field note book of a RAW agent, than a legal document.� [Lanka Guardian, Oct.1, 1992, p.5]

(3) Penchant for mischievous and erroneous highlights


Mervyn de Silva�s penchant for fandangle should not be underestimated. Though this essay is not the appropriate location to evaluate Mervyn de Silva�s writings on the Eelam militant movements (especially LTTE) which deserve an in-depth study, I provide below three examples of his mischief and diversion from facts.

�Though MGR is Mr.Thondaman�s friend, the pressure of his opponents and local sentiment forced him to identify himself with the Eelamites.� (Lanka Guardian, March 1, 1983, p.3)

�International opinion too has swung in Colombo�s favour. The [Rajiv] Gandhi assassination has been too deadly an essay in international terrorism for the international community to tolerate.� (Lanka Guardian, Aug.15, 1991, pp.3 & 6).

��Dr.Subramaniam Swamy, leader of the Samajawadi Party, and the man who told �India Abroad� paper in Washington that it was he who used his Harvard contacts (he is a visiting professor) to get David Kimche, the Director-General of the Israeli Foreign Ministry, to channel Israeli assistance to the LTTE, including expertise in landmines, as we now know from Viktor Ostrovski and Jane�s Defence Weekly� (Lanka Guardian, Oct.15, 1991, pp.2-6).

The validity and merit of each of these three assertions by Mervyn de Silva have been disproved by subsequent developments. That MGR had a conviction to support the LTTE and its Eelam goal turned out to be true. However intelligent he might have been, Mervyn de Sila was an ignoramus on MGR�s strategy. Mervyn de Silva�s spin and anti-LTTE bias was overtly evident in his Aug.15, 1991 assertion on Rajiv Gandhi assassination, when even the Indian authorities were clueless on who were the masterminds behind that crime. Even 15 years later, the real truth remains hidden. Saner thoughts should have dried up for Mervyn de Silva to swallow the yarn spun by supreme self-promoter Subramaniam Swamy in 1991 about his dubious role as a broker between Israel and LTTE!!

Also, see below the text of my very first contribution to the Lanka Guardian magazine of March 1, 1981.

(4) A podium for Marxist-Leninist-Trotskyist harangue


Another drawback of the Lanka Guardian magazine which irked me was the abuse and clogging of valued space by a few of Mervyn de Silva�s pet contributors. Especially Dayan Jayatilleka (Mervyn de Silva�s son) and Izeth Hussain suffered from cryptoracism, anti-LTTE bias and logorrhea (abnormally frequent evacuation of words on everything under the Sun). The hair-splitting harangue on the ephemera of Soviet-era Stalinism by Dayan Jayatilleka (and his alter-ego Chintaka) was nauseating to many reader-subscribers. The pompous prose Izeth Hussain belonging to Victorian era was nothing but repulsive to the tastes of Tamils in particular.

(5) Pirabhakaran Envy


Though a talented Sri Lankan journalist with no parallel among his peers, Mervyn de Silva arguably suffered from a milder form of �Pirabhakaran envy� malady. It is my contention that he couldn�t believe before his eyes the reality of watching the success of Pirabhakaran as a militant rebel, the one who created his own successful army from zilch. There was no comparable precedence in Asia in the 20th century, excluding Mao�s People Liberation Army formed in 1927. Though Mervyn de Silva had portrayed this unusual achievement of Pirabhakaran in complimentary terms on numerous occasions (Otherwise, his credentials as an objective analyst of contemporary events would suffer), he would also cryptically paint Pirabhakaran as a �one-dimensional militarist� and provide subtle spin to demonize LTTE�s deeds.


See for example, the above-cited eulogy of Mervyn to Ranjan Wijeratne. A penchant for strong discipline and military manners in a Sinhalese politician appear as positive traits in the eyes of Mervyn de Silva. But the same or even a higher degree of �strong discipline and military manners�, when demonstrated by Pirabhakaran, was pejoratively equated by Mervyn de Silva to terrorist mindset.

Dayan Jayatilleka and the Lanka Guardian magazine


It is notable that Dayan Jayatilleka (Mervyn de Silva�s son and a long-time Stalin admirer) now suffers seriously from this �Pirabhakaran envy� malady since he could turn out to be only a �failed militant� of 1980s who �was on the run� for years and could save his neck only by pleading for clemency. In my last letter to Mervyn de Silva, dated Oct.20, 1996, I wrote as follows:

�Dear Mervyn:


I noted with interest the change in the editorial mast-head of the LG, from the Sept.1, [1996] issue and hence thought of writing to you. Now that Dayan Jayatilleka has taken over the routine editorial job, I wish to express my thanks for you personally, for the �job well done� for the past 18 years in directing the path of LG. I have remained one of the loyal readers of the LG since its inception, though I do not agree with all the views which were expressed in its pages�


Now a comment on your LG [Oct.1] salutation to �J.R.[Jayewardene] at 90�. I believe that its time that you cut out the crap about massaging the bloated ego of the old man, relating to his 1951 San Francisco [Peace] Conference and his pleading on behalf of Japan. He has given you guys a rope and Sri Lankan journalists have swallowed it and been quacking like a duck ever since. In my years of living in Japan, I have never come across any comment or appreciation, made by a Japanese politician, academic and even knowledgeable folks, on the significance of J.R.�s message in a book, journal or a newspaper article. Sure he made a �great� speech, but it did not affect Japan or Japanese that much. Japanese are sincere to the thoughtful efforts made by the Americans and the Indian judge Pal, who made a dissenting judgement against the war-time leaders of Japan, at the Tokyo Trial. But, J.R.�s speech is just insignificant. It�s time that you understand this issue in proper perspective. Prof.Kingsley de Silva�s two volume hagiography on J.R. is a puff job. I wonder why LG has not published a critical review on this. With best wishes.�

I also sent a letter to Dayan Jayatilleka, dated March 26, 1998, on the issue of Tamil National Question. By then, he had become the editor of the Lanka Guardian magazine. To quote from the contents of this letter, referring to the items which had appeared under his by-line in the Feb/March 1998 issue of the magazine:

�The Tamil National Question Revisited:


I�m amused by your venomous commment on V.Prabhakaran as �South Asia�s Hitler�. In the same page, you tag the Tamils who live beyond the Sri Lankan borders as �Tamil Zionist� lobby. Can�t you grasp the irony of this illogical oxymoronic comparison? In my reading of the world history, Hitler and Zionists were opposed to each other in their goals. So, how come, Prabhakaran and those who subscribe to his goals can be tagged as opposing parties? Boy! There is no doubt that you can write polemics and you have a passion and skill for this type of verbal pyrotechnics. Sad to say, you are a pauper in logic and rationality. What a waste of your talents!

The name Hitler has become a putty in the hands of paranoid politicians and petty journalists to thrown on their opponents. George Bush [Sr.] used it effectively on Saddam Hussein, while killing innocent 200,000 Iraq citizens, to satisfy his ego. The mere fact that Prabhakaran did not gie false premises to win a nation-wide election to elevate himself as a leader shows that the comparison of him to Hitler is inappropriate. On the contrary your political mentor [President] Premadasa, or for that matter his bete noire Sirimavo Bandaranaike behaved like Hitler in killing thousands of civilians (Sinhalese and Tamils) after winning the general elections with false promises.

As far as the non-Sinhalese citizens of Sri Lanka are concerned, the Gestapo state exists in reality in the southern Sri Lanka. Recent experience of journalist Iqbal Athas highlighted in the international press (or for that matter what happened to Richard de Zoysa) are examples of Gestapo style attacks on the human rights of Sri Lankan civilians. Unknown to elites like you is the fact that, thousands of non-Sinhalese civilians suffer from this type of humiliation. I speak with first hand experience, since two years ago, my father who lives in Bambalapitiya and has passed the biblical span of three score and ten years was taken in the middle of the night by security forces and detained. I was informed later that he was released only after our kind Sinhalese neighbor went [to the police station] and strongly protested against such illegal detention.

As a reader of LG from its date of inception, I�m glad that the next issue will turn out as the 20th anniversary issue. I�m also glad to learn that your short tenure as the editor of LG is also coming to an end. I want to shoot straight. Mervyn de Silva is a great journalist and a good editor. You are a great polemicist and a bad editor. Despite your self-congratulatory gloating, I feel sad that you had turned the LG (a journal, one of its kind to bloom in Sri Lankan soil), during your short tenure, into a �Premadasa Pooja Brochure�. You killed the vibrant correspondence column, which Mervyn de Silva nurtured diligently. Instead, we poor readers have been continuously served with insipid, bloated commentaries and vituperative insults on readers intelligence from the serviles of Premadasa (you, H.L.D.Mahindapala and Tisaranee Gunasekera).

You are entitled for your views on Eelam. But if you read widely and think pragmatically, you will comprehend that the global political trend is for self-determination and separation of oppressed ethnic groups, and not toward integration with their perceived oppressors. This happens in Tibet (against Chinese domination), Chechen (against Russian domination), Kashmir (against Indian domination), Quebec (against Canadian Anglo domination), Scotland (against English domination), Palestine (against Israeli domination), Kurdistan (against Iraq-Iran-Turkey domination) and East Timor (against Indonesian domination). So you make a fool of yourself by predicting a �strong, centralized State: a unitary state�, as �the way out for the Sinhala speaking people.�
If you are a progessive thinker, I request that you publish this critical letter of your commentary on Tamil National Question, in the pages of LG. I bet, you will not.�

With this letter, my unsolicited role as an Eelam apologist in the Lanka Guardian magazine came to an end. Mervyn de Silva passed away on June 22, 1999, and with his departure curtain dropped on the Lanka Guardian magazine as well.



Observations on the Madurai Tamil Conference by Sachi Sri Kantha
[courtesy: Lanka Guardian, March 1, 1981, p.15]


I write in reply to your comment under �News Background� on �MGR and Tamil sub-plot� (LG, Feb.1, 1981). Since this comment contains so many inaccuracies, and as a Sri Lankan delegate who was an eye witness to many of the scenes which had been referred to in the comment, I am compelled to reply for the benefit of the LG readers.

Prior to commenting on the incidents which occurred in Madurai, I would like to draw the attention of the readers to a sentence which gives a serious misinterpretation of events which occurred in 1974. I categorically deny your statement that, ��In 1974 at the last Conference several persons were killed in Jaffna when Police fired on demonstrators shouting slogans against the Bandaranaike government and demanding Eelam�. Firstly the columnist had erred in equating the incident of Jan.10, 1974 with the demand of Eelam. Eelam demand had not been originated [emphasis as in original] at that time, if political records of this island have to be believed. This demand was first put forward vehemently by S.J.V.Chelvanayakam, the leader of the TULF, when he contested the KKS [i.e., Kankesanthurai] by-election, held on the 6th February 1975. Eelam demand was officially adopted for the First National Convention of the TULF held at Vaddukoddai on 14th May 1976.

Secondly, regarding the incidents of 10th Jan.1974, I would prefer to quote from the �Report of the Commission of Inquiry, on the Tragedy of January Tenth 1974�, published on 18th Feb.1974. The Commission consisted of Mr.O.L.De Kretser, Mr.V.Manicavasagar (both former Judges of the Supreme Court) and the Rt.Rev.Dr.Sabapathy Kulandran (former Bishop of Jaffna). To quote the inferences made by this Commission,

�The irresistible conclusion we come to is that the police on this night was guilty of a violent and quite an unnecessary attack on unarmed citizens. We are gravely concerned that they lacked the judgement which we expected of policemen in a civilian police force whose duties call for tactful handling even in the most difficult situation.


The evidence establishes that this was not all that took place that night. The police in their armed might roved the city, assaulting whomsoever they came across for no better reason than that the people were doing what they were entitled to do.


We are of the opinion that those who suffered physical injury and material damage, and those who lost their lives were the innocent victims of a chain of events set in motion by a completely wrong and unwise decision on the part of the police officer who made it. We can find no justification at all for the police assault on defenceless and innocent citizens.�

These inferences made by the learned Commission, do not vindicate the assertion made by the LG columnist that, �Police fired on demonstrators shouting slogans against the Bandaranaike government and demanding Eelam�. I give the choice for the LG readers to pick out which is correct.

Regarding the events at Madurai Conference, being an eye witness, I agree with the LG columnist, that �pro-TULF Tamil expatriates sought to internationalise the issue, and to a greater extent they had succeeded.� Though the exhibition stall organised by the Eelam supporters who travelled from UK and USA, was demolished on the instructions of Tamil Nadu government, the administration could not stop the activists pasting the posters depicting the �Jan.10 incidents of 1974 Conference� all over the Madurai city, again on 7th night.

As a matter of fact, large crowds converging to Madurai city, gathered around the places where these posters were pasted; the posters themselves were different in colour, content and appeal. In fact most of the commoners were blaming the MGR administration, for not allowing them to know what had really happened in the 1974 Tamil Conference.

It is strange that LG columnist had not been informed of the speeches made by our two Tamil �Generals� of J.R.Jayewardene. If Amirthalingam delivered a very restrained address at the Opening Ceremony on the 4th of January, it seemed to us, the Sri Lankan delegates, that Thondaman had played the role what Amir was expected to play. Thondaman�s address at this function was more political, exceeding the limits warranted for; and mindyou, he was pleading for the Tamil minority community. He went to the extreme of quoting General de Gaulle�s sympathy towards the French-speaking Canadians living in Quebec.

Though our Speaker of Parliament had been recognised by the LG columnist, as the Tamil-speaking Moslem MP, in my opinion, he did not perform well to bring repute for this compliment. Bakeer Marker, made a smattering speech in Tamil, mainly reading a lengthy text with awkward accent and unwarranted pauses. Many of our colleagues commented that Professor Asher from the University of Edinburgh delivered a better impromptu address in Tamil for a full fifteen minutes!



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