Tamils - a Trans State Nation..

"To us all towns are one, all men our kin.
Life's good comes not from others' gift, nor ill
Man's pains and pains' relief are from within.
Thus have we seen in visions of the wise !."
Tamil Poem in Purananuru, circa 500 B.C 

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Censorship, Disinformation & Murder of Journalists

Tamil Diaspora & Sri Lanka's Disinformation
M.Sreetharan U.S.A, 1 October 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�.... A class is hegemonic not so much to the extent that it is able to impose a uniform conception of the world on the rest of society, but to the extent that it can articulate different visions of the world in such a way that their potential antagonism is neutralised..."(The Media, Framing, and the Internet - John Harrington)

While John Harrington's view that the 'internet is a tool of the ruling elites of society,  used as a means of cultural control,' merits debate by those in the Tamil diaspora, the rather empty rhetoric by the Sri Lankan representative at the UN on the abuse of internet (published in the Sri Lanka Daily News) provides some insight into the mindset of the Sri Lanka government's publicity machine

Addressing the UN Committee of Information, Sri Lanka's representative Perera accuses " terrorist groups in general, and the LTTE in particular, of continuing to abuse electronic mail and the global information superhighway - the Internet - to undermine the sovereignty and territorial integrity of nation states, including Sri Lanka."

Turning to the Sri Lanka media, he asserts that "responsible journalism has been both a vehicle for promoting change and creating new opportunities and ideas." Substantiating this assertion with instances of such journalism ..(directed to)... solving the ethnic crisis that has debilitated the country... will be a difficult task indeed...

Mr.Perera's statements point to the inability of the Sri Lankan Government to arrest the increasing tide of Tamil Nationalism in areas where Sri Lanka's conventional means of using terror to combat any opposition, cannot easily be applied. On the ground, the matter is being dealt with under a complete ban on journalists and strict censorship of material... So much for the media baloney advanced by Sri Lanka's representative.

Let us examine the following points that relate to the 'cyber terrorism' that the Sri Lanka Government would  have the world believe that the LTTE is engaged in...

1. The blossoming internet sites that promote Tamil Nationalism, that documents the abuses committed on defenceless Tamil people, and which provide credible news coverage from the North-East must be, no doubt, viewed with alarm in Sri Lanka Government circles.

However, instead of trying to throw mud on these quite methodically maintained sites, managed with high levels of professionalism and much dedication, the Sri Lanka Government and its paid minions should, perhaps, ask, why they are failing to meet the 'challenges' posed by the Tamil sites. If they refuse to see the quite obvious answers here are a few pointers:

- there is no substitute for motivation that arises from the depth of one's heart - hearts which feel the need to give expression to their feelings and to confront the historical injustices that have been perpetrated on the Tamil people. I believe that the Tamil sites are being run by one or more committed individuals with such hearts...

- none of the popular Tamil sites use racial language in reference to anything related to the Sinhala people.

Other than the 'Government' sites controlled by bureaucrats, most of the sites that promote "One-Country, Sinhala-only concept," contain racial and vitriolic language reflecting a refusal to examining differing opinions and ideas. Perhaps it is time for Sri Lanka embassies to instruct these sites (since funding flows via these esteemed locations) to adhere to more appropriate language.

2. Labelling each and every expression of nationalist Tamil sentiment as 'LTTE-sponsored' may not be the best strategy in the political arena of the West. This tactic may have had some currency in earlier days when the West was being freshly exposed to the struggle of the Tamil people, but now the labelling-trick has become a spent force. Objective observers and opinion makers are increasingly  fed up  with attempts at 'framing' and easily interpret such efforts as a sign of weakness on the part of the Sri Lanka Government.

The Sri Lanka Government is best advised to try to identify items produced by the LTTE machinery from those which are not, and not to keep blowing hot air in the United Nations and elsewhere that  all Tamil expatriates who express nationalistic feelings are manipulated or threatened by the LTTE.

The government's doomed approach of  treating Tamil activists who voluntarily support many of LTTE's goals as being under LTTE's control, may account partly to the LTTE's ever increasing popularity among the expatriates.

3. The tactic employed by Sri Lankan  agencies in advancing the concept of 'e-mail bombs' .... is perplexing. The Lankan representative says, "the LTTE has the singular notoriety of attacking key Government institutions, including overseas embassies, with e-mail bombings."

Many point out quite rightly that the Sri Lanka Government is still trying to fight with swords and daggers when the technology is 'laser-guided' sabotage techniques. The naive expectation that the word 'bomb' may evoke some sympathy is definitely far-fetched. Nowadays, even a kid can generate e-mails with a few key-strokes and can 'terrorize' Mr. Perera with the e-mail bomb he and his masters have taken pains to define.

Many Sri Lankan embassies, as a mere look at their e-mail addresses will reveal, have opted for the poor-man solution of piggybacking on the Internet Service Provider (ISP)'s domain names and thus avoiding domain name costs. Also many cheap ISPs do not provide enough 'free' storage for mail-boxes. Shortage of space and not the ferocity of the 'bombs' may well have been the source of panic in these embassies.

The main point is that Tamil expatriates, thanks to the internet, can compete in more equal terms with a State on publicity matters - documenting and disseminating information - inspite of the vast disparity in financial clout. The Sri Lanka Government has to accept and live with this fact.

The only way out is, perhaps, to do a better job than the 'adversary.' Trying   to duplicate the tactic employed on the home ground i.e. muzzling free speech by labelling everything under the sun as 'LTTE' and 'terrorism', will not fly...


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