The President of Sri Lanka Mahinda Rajapaksa told a mouthful in Los Angeles last month when he addressed a packed auditorium of Sri Lanka expatriates: “Sri Lanka has lost the war on global public diplomacy to LTTE terrorists.”
we have been constantly reminding its readers, among whom are diplomats and professionals of many nations in the Third World and the West, first stating with facts the distortions of the LTTE regarding the Sri Lanka situation, how the international community was almost got succumbed to such misrepresentations of the Tamil Tigers to unreasonably twist the hand of Sri Lanka, and how Sri Lanka’s overseas diplomatic corps, especially those representing the Tiger-targeted Western nations, failed to reverse the situation in favor of Sri Lanka when the latter was fighting a ruthless terrorist organization to safeguard the territorial integrity and sovereignty of the country.
The Sri Lanka Embassy in Washington is now taking a lead to reverse the trend in global public diplomacy that has been in favor of the Tamil Tigers all these years.
Here is a piece of effective public diplomacy undertaken by the Sri Lanka Embassy in Washington to the delight of especially the Sri Lankan expatriates living in Western nations who have witnessed the decades of distortions of the Tamil Tigers.
A recent program on Sri Lanka in ‘Unreported World’ by Britain’s Channel 4, which focused on the current situation in the conflict areas, interviewed Sri Lanka Army Commander, Lt. Gen. Sarath Fonseka, as part of the program, on November 9, 2007.
The following is an excerpt from the interview:
Presenter: Commander, in areas in the east, which are fully liberated now by the army, how is it not possible to stop whoever these mysterious unidentified gun men?
Commander: If you are trying to say Karuna’s people are doing it, then, it is a problem between the LTTE and the paramilitary groups. It is not a normal area, people getting killed and some people go missing – it will happen as far as the LTTE and its operations are continued.
However, pro-LTTE parties like TamilNet and Tamil Nation, to name a few web sites, gave a malicious twist to the Army Commander’s words, with flammable headlines like ‘Sri Lanka’s Undeclared War on Eelam Tamils’ and also in Disappearances and killings will continue”
The TamilNet report, says: “Asked about human rights abuses in the newly captured Eastern province, the commander replied: “This area is not a normal area. So people getting killed and some people going missing will happen as far as the anti-terrorist operations are continuing.”
The twist in language usage has lent the meaning to sound as if the Army Commander was admitting to government forces being responsible for extrajudicial killings and disappearances, when the original interview left no doubt as to what the Commander meant as he laid the blame for the atrocities fairly and squarely at the door of the Tigers.
The Sri Lanka Embassy in Washington DC was inundated with inquiries from concerned individuals, who had taken exception to the distorted version of the interview.
Responding to queries, Ambassador Bernard Goonetilleke explained that the entirety of Sri Lanka’s separatist propaganda is a cunningly woven web of deceit and fraud that spans many decades of creating and building nonexistent grievances on situations that never existed and incidents that never happened. As the Ambassador said, the latest twist in this sinister strategy is the attempt to tarnish internationally, the image of the Sri Lanka government, by maligning the Army Commander, Lieutenant General Sarath Fonseka. Pro-LTTE web sites gave wide publicity to their version of what the Army Commander said, as it would strengthen their accusations of impunity against Sri Lankan armed forces.
The Ambassador further said that the YouTube presentation, ‘Short History of Sri Lanka – Tamils Against State Terrorism,’ is another cleverly fabricated piece of disinformation made probably with the Heroes’ Day in view. On November 27th of each year, in Sri Lanka and overseas, the Tigers commemorate Heroes’ Day and remember Tiger cadres, who have died for the LTTE cause. This bogus documentary is designed to hook members of the international community, who are not familiar with Sri Lanka’s conflict, and particularly, the younger generations of Tamil Diaspora whose knowledge of Sri Lanka’s history will be scant at best. The program starts thus, “When the British took over the island in 1796, there were two distinct kingdoms, one Sinhalese, and the other, Tamil. In 1948 British granted independence to the island, handing power to the Sinhalese majority.” – http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TkJOR-cJ3GI.
These words are accompanied by a nonexistent flag of a Tamil kingdom with a Tiger in motion. As the Ambassador pointed out, that is the height of Tiger duplicity, and asked, “How many would research into history to ascertain whether there was an independent Tamil kingdom in 1796?” The last petty king of Jaffna Sangili Kumaran, who reigned under the Portuguese was taken to Goa and hanged by the Portuguese in 1618 A.D. The Tamil United Liberation Front (TULF) staked its claim for a separate state with the Vadukkodai Resolution only in 1976, and not in 1948, as the documentary would have the viewer believe.
The Ambassador explained that those who have followed the fortunes of Sri Lanka are aware, that successive Sri Lankan governments have been trying to negotiate peace with the LTTE since 1985, and that the Tigers have always come to the negotiating table to buy time to regroup and build up their fighting capability. Successive Sri Lanka governments engaged in peace talks with the Tigers in 1985, 1987, 1989/90, 1994, 2002 and 2006. In April 2003, the Tigers abandoned negotiations that saw six rounds of talks facilitated by countries such as Thailand, Norway, Germany and Japan.
In June 2006, having gone to Oslo together with the government delegation, the Tigers refused to participate in negotiations on spurious grounds that that the Government’s representatives were not on par with the seniority of the leader of their delegation. In October 2006, the Tigers walked out mid way during negotiations. Further, on every past negotiating attempt, the Tigers never allowed discussion of substantive issues that sought to settle the conflict. With reality being such, the YouTube documentary audaciously comments, “The liberation movement with its preference for peaceful settlement has participated in several rounds of talks with the government from 1985 onward…. The government continues to employ its traditional methods of intransigence and foot dragging.” It is the Tigers that walked away from the negotiating table at every turn.
The YouTube presentation focuses on ‘Standardization’ of marks for university admission as if it was discrimination against the Tamils. However, as the Ambassador explains, that was positive discrimination practiced even in neighboring countries in fields such as education and employment, favoring underprivileged students from rural areas, whether they were Sinhala students from Sinhalese majority Monaragala in the south, Tamil students from predominantly Tamil Vavuniya in the north or Muslim students from predominantly Muslim Kaththankudy in the east. Standardization or a statistical weighting system was designed to help disadvantaged students from rural districts irrespective of their race, and it was never designed to discriminate against Tamils. Thus, rural Tamil students along with others, benefited from standardization, which is not what the Tigers would have you believe. On the other hand, it was the urban students, who had access to better educational facilities, who were discriminated through standardization, among whom were Sinhala students from locations such as Colombo, Kandy, Galle etc.
This is the same devious strategy that Tiger activists use in trying to whitewash their heinous deeds when exposed, such as the bombing of the Sencholai Tiger training camp in Mullaitivu in the Northern Province, in August 2006, by the Sri Lanka Air Force.
Immediately following the bombing, the Tiger propaganda machinery swung into action, claiming that the ‘Sencholai Children’s Home’ established in 1998 was an “institution housing a girls’ home caring for children rendered orphans by war.” Subsequently, Tigers claimed the victims were schoolgirls attending a two-day training workshop on first aid. Thereafter, they claimed that the girls were attending a 10-day residential training course designed to provide leadership training. It was later established that following the relocation of the Sencholai Children’s Home to Kilinochchi in January 2006, this facility was used by the Tigers, since April/May 2006, to train people’s militia. Three girls who survived the bombing, subsequently confessed to authorities that they were school girls, who had been coerced into military training as resident students at the LTTE run Sencholai Institution.
In deeper analysis, the very foundation of the LTTE demand for “Tamil Eelam” is nothing but fictitious, for there was never, at any time in Sri Lanka’s history, “a traditional Tamil homeland” as has been widely claimed by the LTTE. As Gamini Iriyagolla says in Tamil Claims to Land: Fact and Fiction, “(it is) an audacious falsification of ancient and modern Sri Lanka history.”
The Vaddukkodai Resolution of 1976 of the Tamil United Liberation Front (TULF) tries to establish a Tamil homeland (or Eelam) in the Northern Province and the Eastern Province, based on a paragraph from a single piece of writing, the Cleghorn Minute of 1799. The British colonial government instructed Hugh Cleghorn, the first Colonial Secretary, to provide a report on the “Administration of Justice and Revenue in the Dutch Settlements.” Following a brief stay in then Ceylon, Cleghorn wrote a memorandum on the Dutch system of administration of justice in the maritime regions, which the British had just conquered. The Dutch maritime settlements referred to, was a thin strip of coastline in the South West which had a Sinhala majority and a thin strip of coastline in the east, where Tamils and Muslims lived. The TULF deliberately distorted this information to extend the Dutch-held coastal strip occupied mostly by Tamil speaking people to the whole of the present day Northern and Eastern Provinces. It did not matter to them that the British demarcated these two provinces in 1833 in terms of the Colebrook-Cameron Reforms, and later, in 1899, demarcated the borders of the 9 provinces, which exist to date, solely for administrative purposes and not on ethnic considerations.
This is how Tamil political groups came to selectively choose the following from the Cleghorn Minute to buttress their claims: “Two different nations from a very ancient period, have divided between them the possessions of the island: First the Cinhalese (Singhalese) inhabiting the interior of the country in its southern and western parts from the river Wallowe to that of Chilaw, and secondly the Malabars (Tamils), who possess the northern and eastern districts. These two nations differ in their religions, language and manners.”
It was no surprise that the TULF and the LTTE conveniently ignored the fact that even the then Governor of Ceylon, Fredrick North, expressed reservations on the accuracy of Cleghorn’s statement. In the same Minute, Cleghorn also erroneously stated that the Sinhalese derived their origin from Siam (present day Thailand).
This statement was very adroitly left out by Tamil political groups as it would have cast doubts on the veracity of the Tamil homeland statement. Merely six years after Cleghorn wrote his Minute, Captain Robert Percival, in his book ‘An Account of the Island of Ceylon’ (1805) said, “The inhabitants of Jaffna consist of a collection of various races. The greatest number of Malabars is of Moorish extraction and is divided into several tribes known by the names of Lubbhas, Belalas, Mopleys, Chittys and Choliars and a few Brahmins; they are distinguished by wearing little round caps on their close shaven heads. There is also a race of Malabars found here somewhat differing in their appearance from those of the continent. These different tribes of foreign settlers greatly exceeded in number the native Ceylonese in the district of Jaffna (pp71-72)”
If Cleghorn’s statement is to be indisputably accepted, it was the Muslims that were in majority in Jaffna during the period of his presence there, a little over two hundred years ago, and not the Tamils. Ambassador Goonetilleke asked, “In which case, whither “the traditional homeland” of the Tamils?” He asked pertinently, “Why did a Tamil scholar like Mudliyar C. Rasanayagam in his 1926 book, ‘Ancient Jaffna,’ say, “ That Jaffna was occupied by the Sinhalese earlier than by the Tamils, is seen not only in the place names of Jaffna, but also in some of the habits and customs of the people.” (p.384)
Thus the facts of history, demography and geography have been distorted by Tamil political groups, and a masterful attempt has been made to mislead the international community on this dubious claim of the existence of a ‘historical Tamil Homeland’ in Sri Lanka.
Every year, as November 27, the day that marks the sacrifices of their fighting cadres, closes in on the Tigers, they take stock of their dead. According to LTTE sources, over the past twenty-four years, they have lost 19538 young men and women, including child soldiers by 31 August 2007.
The Tigers, who try to forcibly hoist their will on the Tamil community as “their sole representatives,” are the very source that is single mindedly decimating the Tamil race.
The Tamil community needs to dauntlessly break off the web of deceit that is being constantly spun around them and recognize the Tigers for what they are a group of ruthless terrorists, who will demand sacrifice after sacrifice from Tamil youth until their mythical “Tamil Homeland” is wrested through bloodshed and destruction. It is time for all Sri Lankans to take stock of the situation, move away from violence once and for all and find a peaceful solution to the conflict.