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Censorship, Disinformation & Murder of Journalists

A Response to Asia Week

Rajan Thangavelu
Canada, 14 June 2000

".... in most cases the media present news and events in a manner that not only agrees with the views of the powerful, but actually supports their domination.... the maintenance of order is the key idea to be examined in the media...   in earlier times violence and the threat of physical force was used to maintain order. But today control is pursued through very different avenues; most effectively.... through cultural control, or �controlling the common sense�..."(The Media, Framing, and the Internet - John Harrington)

The Editor, Asia Week.

Dear Sir,

This refers to your editorial "It is Time To Tame the Tigers" - Asia Week - 2 June 2000. Thus far I had a some what  healthy respect for the views expressed through the editorials in Asia Week. But this editorial lacks balance and betrays total ignorance of the dialectics of the ethnic war raging in the Northeast of Sri Lanka.

Why the birth of one more state should be perceived as "terrific or terrifying" beats my imagination. Since 1945, the UNO has increased its membership from 50 to 190, that is a four-fold rise! Did Asia Week consider that "terrific and terrifying"? Take the example of Eritrea. A country of only 3 � million people, it fought a 30 years old successful guerrilla war against a more populous (60 million) and strong Ethiopia and emerged as an independent country. Has not the international community now learned to live with this "nightmarish" revolution and the new state?

Your claim that "when a peace pact was forged in the late 1980s under New Delhi�s auspices, the LTTE drove out Indian peacekeepers and wiped out rival Tamil factions" is a public exhibition of private ignorance! ... Anyone who reads this part of the editorial may mistakenly think that there was a peace pact between the LTTE and Sri Lanka, and after breaking it the LTTE drove out the Indian peacekeepers! ... Suffice it to say that the so-called peacekeepers were driven out not by the LTTE but by the then Sri Lankan government. ...

The twisted logic of the editor of Asia Week appears to be that it is alright for the Sri Lankan army to torture,   rape, and carry-out extra judicial killings of thousands of Tamils (61,000) in the Northeast in the name of "preserving the unity, integrity and sovereignty of Sri Lanka, but it is "terrorism" when one or two bombs go off in Colombo? No sane person will expect the war to be confined only to Northeast and only for the Tamils to die at the hands of the Sinhala army.

President Chandrika makes the fatuous statement that the Sinhala army will defend Jaffna to the last soldier. But has it ever occurred to the editor of Asia Week who it is that the 100% Sinhala army is defending a 100% Tamil city of Jaffna?

You make the  ludicrous claim that "unwilling to compromise on their goal of independence, the LTTE has spurned peace overtures again and again. It has wiped out opponents in Switzerland, France, Germany, Britain and Canada, as well as moderate Tamils in Sri Lanka."

Pray tell me what are these overtures? When were these overtures made? Who made them? .... Have you not heard the repeated pronouncements by President Chandrika that there will be no talks with the LTTE unless they lay down their weapons and give up their demand for Tamil Eelam? That she will crush the LTTE with the smart weapons, Kfir bombers and Dvora Fast Attack boats procured recently from Israel? That the SLA now has greater firepower with the purchases of an unspecified MBRLs from Pakistan? So are these the peace overtures your good-self is referring to in your editorial?

Let me enlighten you on the LTTE position on the subject of peace talks with the Sri Lankan government. As late as last November 1999 the LTTE leader Prabhakaran said in his Heroes Day message:

" We are keeping the doors of peace open and are sending signals of peace and goodwill to the Sinhala nation. But we are aware that Sinhala political leadership will not agree to create a peaceful environment as we suggest. We are also aware that Sinhala chauvinistic leadership will not easily abandon their longstanding policy of military violence and repression against the Tamils. Therefore we do not live in fantasy hoping to resolve our national conflict by engaging in a rational dialogue with Sinhala political leadership..."

A unilateral declaration of cease-fire last month by the LTTE was rejected outright by the Sri Lankan army even before the Sri Lankan government spurned it.

I am asking you this question: Do you seriously think that a government which is spending 1000 million US dollars ( about 20% of the budget) to persecute the war is interested in peace? A government that has placed the country on a war-footing and scouting for sophisticated arms and ammunition and military technology around the globe? When the answer is a resounding "No", only the naive will talk about non-existing "peace overtures" by the Sri Lankan government.

As for the claim that the LTTE " has wiped out opponents in Switzerland, France, Germany, Britain and Canada" I am asking you to cite one, only one, such "opponent wiped out" by the LTTE? You should accept this challenge if you have even a modicum of self-respect ... On the contrary I can tell you that SLA agents were suspected of murdering at least two LTTE cadres in France.

Again, in regard your statement that "the suicide-bomb technology has been shared with or copied by Algerians, Kurds, Punjabi Sikhs and Arabs in Israel" is no more than a flight of fantasy on your part. ..So is the innuendo "drug running, forgery, extortion, world-wide terrorist attack etc." You as a news magazine editor should understand that such statements are false, libellous and defamatory and the printing and circulation of same is malicious and designed to tarnish the image of the Tamil people.

I ask you to produce proof to substantiate your allegations. Again, who told you that Canada and Malaysia have banned the LTTE? .... Did you not read the statement by the Canadian High Commissioner in Colombo on the question of banning the LTTE organizations in Canada? Here is the full text of the news as reported by a Sri Lankan government news agency.

No proof of Tigers collecting funds in Canada � Canadian authorities claim
[06 June 2000]

The High Commissioner for Canada, Ruth Frances Archibald, yesterday, said that her government was unable to proscribe the LTTE, as they had no proof that the funds collected in Canada were for terrorist activities.

Canadian authorities need "sufficient evidence" that the funds raised by the LTTE go towards terrorist activities in the country.

"Probably none of the monies collected by the LTTE in Canada ended up in Sri Lanka, but may be going towards the purchase of arms in other countries", she said, at a national conference on the �Dimensions of the Ethnic Crisis in Sri Lanka� at the BMICH yesterday.

"We need the co-operation of other countries to look into this", she said, adding that the role of the LTTE in Canada was more towards collecting funds rather than the procurement of arms. While admitting that there are many organisations collecting funds in Canada, Archibald said that different countries deal with the situation differently. In the US they deal with such groups through proscribing such an organisation, but under our constitution it is difficult to do so", she said.

The Canadian Charter of Rights protects the freedom of association and unless one is proven guilty, there is little that the government could do to ban such groups, she said.

It is inexcusable that an editor of a prestigious news magazine should display so much of ignorance...


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