Where Media Practices hobble Human Rights

This measure of post-war ignorance has been due to complicity in the strategy pursued by the LTTE, assisted by Tamil diaspora voices

The dominant Western powers and their UN organs have the world at their feet when they address the Eelam Wars in Sri Lanka. The media engines commanded by their arms have enormous reach, while the Sri Lankan media outlets are little backwaters of limited reach. Moreover, some of the leading newspapers in Colombo enter the propaganda warfare with both feet hobbled: they adhere to the standard rule that news features should not include bibliographies.

Take note. In the rigorous realm of academia, my first step in assessing a work is to study its BIBLIOGRAPHY. In fields of study where I have expertise that survey immediately displays flaws. Yet, in the hidebound news-media world that form of background appraisal is not on display for discerning readers.

The burgeoning debate on Eelam War IV has been moulded by allegations on the deaths among so-called “Tamil civilians” – in a situation where some Tiger personnel were in civvies in a crowded populace. Moreover, the UN and HR voices have displayed gross ignorance in ignoring one of the basic lessons in modern warfare: namely that the number of soldiers wounded-in-action (WIA) always outnumber those killed-in-action (KIA) – generally by about 4-to-1, but often more. This failure reveals ivory-tower ignorance.

This measure of post-war ignorance has been due to complicity in the strategy pursued by the LTTE, assisted by Tamil diaspora voices. Despite the censure of “terrorism,” powerful arms within the West led by Norway, supported the Tamil cause and believed that the LTTE could not be defeated.

However, clever strategies enabled the Sri Lankan forces to get the edge on the LTTE by early 2008. At this stage the LTTE, aided by Bishop Rayappu, persuaded the populace in the western half of the Vannito move eastwards with lock, stock and goods – a process sustained till early 2009 when they were locked into an ever-declining pocket of land. Concurrently, the Tigers ratcheted up their propaganda picture of “an impending humanitarian catastrophe.” The strategic logic was simple:  as the LTTE political commissar Pulidevan informed some friends in Europe — “just as in Kosovo if enough civilians died … the world would be forced to step in.”

US ambassador Robert Blake was the point-man in Western pressure on the Sri Lankan leaders; but the UN marshalled by Ban Ki-Moon sent Holmes, Samuel and Nambiar to Colombo at different times in early 2009 to exert pressure on the government. The intent was clear: to save the LTTE leaders under the pretext of averting a “humanitarian catastrophe.” That ulterior motive was displayed by a secret meeting with LTTE diaspora leaders in Kuala Lumpur in February 2009 and the advent of a recce team from the US Pacific Command to the island that same month. Its urgency was then displayed in the forceful entry of two European Foreign Ministers into the island in late April 2009 with the intent of forcing Prime Minister Rajapaksa’s hand.

The failure of these efforts should not conceal the intent. The West and its UN handmaidens were intent on keeping the LTTE and its cause of Eelam alive.

The degree to which the UN Secretariat was committed to the US/Norwegian programme was seen when Ban-ki-Moon flew to Sri Lanka when the war ended and organised a helicopter flight over the battle terrain. His reports and pictures were among the first in the process of Western reprisal directed  at Sri Lanka’s heart.

The subsequent UN and UNHRC investigations have been directed by vengeance. An Office Investigating Sri Lanka headed by Sandra Beidas was established in Geneva for this purpose. In seeking memoranda from the public, the OISL decreed that photographs and maps could not be submitted. Two vital aides in inquiry were thereby excluded. The media world continues to deepen this type of failure by omitting bibliographies – documentation vital to investigation.

 However, it is the domination of primeval politics at the peak that stands out vividly. “We will get you,” said Eileen Donahue to SL ambassador Kunanayakam in Geneva in September 2011. Internal machinations within the Rajapakse administration then shackled Kunanayakam’s efforts still further.

 Thus, vicious big-power policies have been on display throughout the politics of Eelam War IV and the aftermath in the 2010s. The punishment of Sri Lanka was consolidated by the USA’s promotion of Sirisena’s career from 2012 and its participation in a brokering process that brought Wickremasinghe and Sirisena together to challenge the Rajapaksa regime government in 2014/15 and effect a democratic change of government in early 2015. 

 If you think a little article in little Lanka Courier will alter the state of the game, well, think again…. and smile ruefully… sadly

by Michael Roberts

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