TAMIL EELAM STRUGGLE FOR FREEDOM
Mr. Miliband Prevaricates
Prof. Rajiva Wijesinha, Secretary General
Secretariat for Coordinating the Peace Process (SCOPP)
6 May 2009
State Controlled Sri Lanka Daily News
"Though the British have a reputation for
perfidy, there is also about them a sense of fair play, which makes them
difficult to dislike. Nowhere is this more apparent than in the BBC where,
though the Sinhala Service tends to criticize the government at any
opportunity, the English programmes are better balanced, i.e. they are harsh
about and to everyone... And so the relentless campaign against Sri Lanka
continues. A UN report appears by accident on a website, and is highlighted
in the London Times, which also tries to play the China card to reinforce
Western hostility to Sri Lanka. The BBC English Service, it should be noted,
mentions that it is difficult to verify whether the craters others fall into
gleefully, as categorical evidence against Sri Lanka, are old or new. To
make up for that, however, the World Service had a story on the evening of
the 2nd of May about a hospital being shot at, with bullets whizzing around
and hitting people."
Though the British have a reputation for
perfidy, there is also about them a sense of fair play,
which makes them difficult to dislike. Nowhere is this more
apparent than in the BBC where, though the Sinhala Service
tends to criticize the government at any opportunity, the
English programmes are better balanced, i.e. they are harsh
about and to everyone.
This was apparent in the interview conducted with Foreign
Secretary David Miliband, when he visited one of the camps
in Vavuniya. After some general questions, the interviewer,
Martha Kearney, asked Mr. M. whether pressure could be
brought on the Tamil community in exile. The response
ignored the question, and instead talked about 'peaceful
demonstrations', as though to give a licence to the
demonstrations in London that were clearly on behalf of a
Dodging questions does not work with the BBC. Ms Kearney
promptly suggested that another way for the situation to be
remedied was for the Tigers to surrender, and she asked if
Mr. M were asking for that. The response was a classic
exercise in obfuscation, returning to the demand 'that the
Tigers stop sheltering civilians, keep holding them hostage
would be a better way of putting it', after which he went
back to the political issues.
Ms Kearney was not to be sidestepped. 'Should the Tamil
tigers surrender though?' she asked, loud and clear, only to
be treated to another little foxtrot, about wanting them to
renounce violence, after which there was a lecture about how
Sri Lanka needed the international community and the
international community was, as Queen Victoria might have
put it, not amused.
Thus Mr. Miliband deftly dissociated himself from the call
of the Co-Chairs for the Tigers to surrender. It is scarcely
surprising then that so many Sri Lankans see the current
British interventions as designed specifically to save the
Tigers. Obviously Mr. Miliband did not want to admit that
the European Union spoke for all 27 member states when it
joined the Norwegians and the Japanese and the Americans in
calling on the Tigers to surrender.
Why have the British, clandestinely perhaps but now clearly,
after Ms Kearney's blunt question, broken ranks on this
issue? Though there may be other more subtle reasons, to do
with their passionate desire for international influence,
the obvious answer is the strength of the expatriate Tamil
vote. Many Labour MPs in London have benefited from the
strength of Tiger organization and, now that they have been
threatened with a change of allegiance, they are naturally
Certainly when it comes to throwing meat to Tigers they are
no match for the Liberal Democrat Simon Hughes, who even
took his clientele to meet the Conservative Mayor of London,
Boris Johnson, and tried to persuade him to call for a
Ceasefire. Fortunately Mr. J. was too wily to fall for that
one but, given the latest news, about potential defections
from Labour to the Liberal Democrats, you can see why Mr. M.
might be nervous about defections to the LibDems in the
forthcoming elections for the European Parliament.
Still, the idea of appeasing the Tigers to prevent this
distant possibility might have seemed farfetched, were it
not for a report in the Times about why the hunger strike in
London stopped. The first striker stopped, it will be
remembered, after an intervention by Simon Hughes which led
to him being taken off to New York by Des Browne to meet the
UN Secretary General. Whether that meeting took place, and
whether it had any effect, is not known, but clearly it
would have taken even greater concessions to make the second
This time what actually transpired is shrouded in mystery.
All the striker would say was that he had some news about
which he could not say anything. They had planted some seeds
but would have to wait 'for the answer and the ceasefire'.
And 'there were talks with politicians but he could not say
who'. In short, the striker felt he had had an impact.
Assuming the politicians he spoke to were not totally
cynical or dishonest, he could assume that he would achieve
something, perhaps even a ceasefire.
From the Sri Lankan point of view however the assumption
must be that, to get the striker to stop, British
politicians had been even more indulgent than before to the
Tigers. In short, the war against terror, peace for the Sri
Lankan people, matter nothing in comparison with a few
And so the relentless campaign against Sri Lanka continues. A UN
report appears by accident on a website, and is highlighted in the London Times,
which also tries to play the China card to reinforce Western hostility to Sri
Lanka. The BBC English Service, it should be noted, mentions that it is
difficult to verify whether the craters others fall into gleefully, as
categorical evidence against Sri Lanka, are old or new.
To make up for that, however, the World Service had a story on the evening of
the 2nd of May about a hospital being shot at, with bullets whizzing around and
hitting people. There seems to have been no mention of the heavy weaponry that
was brought into play the next morning, again in relation to the hospital.
Clearly someone had realized that bullets would not press the right buttons, and
so had introduced heavy shelling and multiple deaths. However, they omitted to
break the bottles in the pictures that were shown, which suggested that there
was at least some exaggeration. Perhaps the earlier World Service story was true
but, in the context of such expert media manipulation, there is no need to
assume that there has to be fire for the sending up of smoke.
But can one blame the media? They need excitement, and in the present situation,
with the Tigers limited to a tiny space, all their energy has to be expended on
propaganda. They are in a wonderful position to supply the pyrotechnics on which
the media needs.
More reprehensible surely are those politicians who are playing with lives in
giving the Tigers hope that they will survive to fight another day. Mr. Miliband
saw the thousands who had fled from the Tigers. To prevaricate without demanding
that the Tigers surrender may not be a war crime, but it will certainly lead to
much unnecessary suffering.