|Indian Media's fishing expedition|
Media’s fishing expedition in Sri Lankan troubled waters
Norwegian-facilitated peace process in Sri Lanka has suddenly got into a
stalled mode for the last few weeks, with the announcement by the
Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) that they are suspending their
participation in peace talks. They
have reasoned out that they are compelled to do this in order to give
more time for the Sri Lankan government (SLG) to fulfil the commitments
it has made so far. The LTTE also have announced that they are not going to
participate in the donor conference to be held in Japan in June.
has obviously created a panic situation among the parties behind the
conference, namely Japan, SLG, USA, EU and Norway.
Reaction from the USA came through its ambassador in Colombo in
the form of a press release critical of the LTTE's decision.
Japan and Norway have sent their high level diplomats, Yasushi
Akashi, special envoy to Sri Lanka and Jan Peterson, the Foreign
Minister, respectively to Sri Lanka.
They have met both the SLG and the LTTE in order to pave the way
to bring the LTTE back to the negotiating table and to persuade the LTTE
to attend the reconstruction conference in Japan.
Sri Lanka has been busy briefing India on the developments and
soliciting advice. Admirably, the Indian government has avoided complicating the
situation by making unnecessary comments like that of the USA
ambassador. Instead, the
Indian Government has expressed all the support for the advancement of
the peace process.
all these parties interested in a solution to the ethnic crisis in Sri
Lanka were busy trying to revive the stalled peace process, the
Brahmin-controlled media in India like "The Hindu",
"Frontline" and "Hindustan Times" were
working overtime trying to fish in this troubled waters.
Their reporting on this unfortunate situation has been full of
deliberate misinterpretations, assumptions, speculations, and reflecting
their own expectations and wishful thinking.
Their main aim of this kind of reporting was to portray the LTTE
as an organisation that will not stay in the peace process for too long.
Some of them, making use of the situation even went to the extent
of trying to persuading people like Yasushi Akashi to change their
perception of the situation to one similar to their own.
V. S. Sambandan and N. Ram of
"The Hindu" and "Frontline" and
P. K. Balachnadran of the "Hindustan Times" are the key
people who were involved in this type of mischievous journalism. These Brahmin Tamils and the media institutions they serve
cannot tolerate any other Tamils as a group becoming a politically
dominant entity. They also
seem to consider it as their duty to use these media to see that their
own community does not deviate from their own way of thinking.
They always have been playing a dual role. In addition to functioning as journalists, disguising as
journalists, they also serve the interests of the Indian policy makers.
of "The Hindu" is a classical example and a seasoned
expert in this kind of manoeuvring.
During the days when the late Prime Minister Indira Gandhi's
administration was arming and nurturing the Eelam Tamil militant groups
in South India, Ram used to project himself as an admirer of the leaders
of these groups, including Velupillai Prabakran, the leader of the
Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eeelam (LTTE).
He has written extensively admiring them then. He also befriended the then President of Sri Lanka, late Mr.
J. R. Jayawardana and almost served in the capacity of an adviser to
him, during the pre-Indo-Sri Lankan accord period.
After the LTTE rebelled against this accord and exposed the
hidden agenda behind this, Ram turned the tide against LTTE and he is
still continuing. Before I
go into the details of Ram's latest misadventure, I will first show what
the other two have tried lately.
an article published in the April 26-May 9, 2003 (Volume 20, issue 9)
issue of the "Frontline" V.S. Sambandan has made a
statement as follows: "Even as the Sri Lankan peace
process enters a crucial phase, the LTTE continues to be treated with
suspicion by the international community, especially the United States
and India". Sambandan
has made this statement just after the US Assistant Secretary of State,
Mr. Armitage, made the following statement about the LTTE in Washington
during a meeting attended by representatives of the nations and
organisations keen on helping Sri Lanka financially:
way the current negotiations are going, the United States can see a
future for the LTTE as a legitimate political organisation, but it is
still up to the LTTE to change this situation".
When the US administration had this view and the Indian
government has not commented on or questioned about the sincerity of the
LTTE, Sambandan expecting his readers to believe him sounds
underestimating the intelligence of his readers.
in the same article has claimed the following:
"The LTTE now find its claim to being the “sole representative” of
Sri Lankan Tamils being seriously challenged by two major international
players – India and the United States”.
“What has hurt the tigers the most is the fact that their
exclusion from the Washington meeting directly challenges their claim as
the sole representatives of the island’s Tamils – a claim not
accepted by other Tamil political parties”.
What Sambandan has tried to hide here is that the Indian
government has never challenged this LTTE’s claim because India very
well knows that an overwhelming majority of the island’s Tamils has
clearly endorsed this in the last parliamentary elections.
Balachandran also have tried to make a bogus claim that this
LTTE’s claim is not accepted by other Tamil political parties.
What Sambandan has tried to hide here is to spell out the names
of those parties. All the
Tamil political parties represented in Parliament have united together
under one banner, Tamil National Alliance (TNA) and declared publicly
the LTTE as the sole representatives of the island’s Tamils.
The only party that has challenged this claim is the Eelam People
Democratic Party (EPDP). The island’s Tamils know very well that this party got few
seats in the parliament through vote rigging with the help of the Sri
Lankan security forces. Therefore
the island’s Tamils do not care for this party’s opinion.
If the LTTE were excluded from the Washington meeting because
other Tamil parties do not accept the LTTE as the sole representative of
the Tamils as Sambandan claims, US should have invited the EPDP for the
Washington meeting. Instead,
the US Assistant Secretary, Richard Armitage explained publicly in his
speech, why the US could not invite the LTTE for the Washington meeting.
people very often use journalistic jargons, like
“political leaders and analysts are of the view”, to provide
some credibility to their own views.
In this article Sambandan says, “
I don’t see the Tigers staying out of Tokyo”, said a
political leader, “not
when they are so close to putting their hands into the pot of money”. What
Sambandan is trying here is to use some journalistic jargon to create a
bad image about the LTTE as an organisation that is only worried about
money. As his aim was to
demonise the LTTE in the eyes of his readers, Sambandan did not bother
to follow this with another comment, although it was contradictory to
the one above. He goes on
to say that, “However,
there is also the view that the threat should not be overlooked.
If the Tigers are serious about not participating in Tokyo, it
means imminent war”, quoting a military analyst.
He is using this statement to scare his readers that the Tigers
are going to resume fighting and to create resentment against the Tigers
among the Tamil people.
also has stated that, “The two important messages from Washington were; the Tigers continue
to be viewed by the global community as “terrorists”, and India, the
country “which can make or break peace” will have nothing to do with
the Tigers”. If
this is so, why has the global community forced the Sri Lankan
government to negotiate with these “terrorists”?
Is it not true that the stand of major members of the global
community is not to negotiate with “terrorists”?
If India has nothing to do with the Tigers, why is India publicly
announcing again and again that they fully support the peace
negotiations between the Tigers and the Sri Lankan government?
is trying to jump the gun to put his wishful thinking across to his
readers when he says, “
Its much – sought – after transition from being an organisation of
“terrorists” to that of “freedom fighters” remains as illusive
today as it was a year ago, with none of the major powers concerned –
India, the UK and the US – revising their opinion on the matter”.
Sambandan has done this out of a psychological fear
developing among his Brahmin community that the LTTE also will be soon
accepted as “freedom fighters” like the same way their own Prime
Minister late Indira Gandhi recognised the PLO as “freedom
fighters”. Therefore he
is trying to reassure his own community that this change will not
Balachandran is only a correspondent in Colombo.
Therefore he does not have too much of opportunities like
Sambandan has, to project his own views.
But he attracts the readers with sensational titles to his news
reports, filed from Colombo to fulfil the same ambitions as
a news item titled “Sri Lankan
peace envoys to make a beeline for New Delhi” that appeared in the
May 2, 2003 issue of the “Hindustan Times” Balachandran
the complications of the Sri Lankan situation in the past week, few
days, and the increasing demand for a pro-active Indian role in the
peace process, peace envoys from Sri Lanka, Norway and Japan will be
making a beeline to New Delhi to brief the Indian government on the
latest development”. Before and after each round of negotiations these
people have been visiting New Delhi and updating the Indian government
on the progress of the peace talks.
Therefore it was nothing unusual for these people to visit New
Delhi when 7th round of negotiations got stalled.
But Balachandran opted to exaggerate these visits and wanted to
make big news out of this and create excitement among his readers.
released another news item titled “LTTE
invites Sri Lankan negotiator for talks” in the May 1, 2003 “Hindustan
Times”. In this he
wrote, “The LTTE’s climbing down from
the high horse, is attributed to the tough line taken by the US and the
UK and the Sri Lankan government’s tacit threat it will go ahead with
Tokyo donor’s meeting, whether the LTTE comes or not”. If Balachandran is correct in this, why all the peace
envoys, Yasushi Akashi, Eric Solheim, Vidar Helgeson and Jan Peterson
are making a beeline to Wanni now?
Balachandran assumes that his readers have a very short memory,
but it is not the case.
of the trio I have chosen to demonstrate my point, N. Ram is more
experienced and more cunning than others and as an editor has more
resources at his disposal, too. The
same way he befriended the Late President J.R. Jayawardana before the
Indo-Sri Lankan accord was signed, he has recently approached the
Japanese special peace envoy to Sri Lanka, Yasushi Akashi and tried to
poison him with his ideas on the Sri Lankan conflict and the LTTE.
He had the option to poison either the US (Armitage) or the
Japanese official. He tried the same trick like the devil that came in the form
of a serpent to spoil Adam and Eve.
Like that serpent, he too decided to approach the one he thought
the weaker. Ram travelled
all the way to Tokyo and approached Yasushi Akashi under the disguise of
getting an interview for his “Frontline” magazine.
During the interview he has tried to impart his ideas and
opinions to Yasushi Akashi. But
Yasushi Akashi was too wise to be deceived by Ram.
The interview can be read in full at http://www.flonnet.com/fl2009/stories.20030509002404400.htm
was talking about measuring the tangible progress of the peace process. Yasushi Akashi cited the case of recruitment of underage
soldiers as an example. He
said that the LTTE have already released quite a number of children and
UNICEF is actively involved in monitoring the process and that could be
a measure. But Ram tried to
quote the Sri Lankan government sources that child conscription has
actually gone up in the last few months and gave the reasons for that as
people want to leave and they don't want to fight.
They want to go away to study and to work and so the LTTE is
finding difficult and that is why they are going after children, Ram
said. But Yasushi Akashi
refused to accept Ram's stand on this, and brought back UNICEF's new
role in this matter as the evidence for his conclusion.
As a result Ram had to change the subject of discussion.
Ram tried to tell Yasushi Akashi the limits of Japan's involvement in
Sri Lankan affairs. Ram
said that Japan's role would be "generous but principled" as
described to him by a Japanese official source.
Yasushi Akashi replied "very well said," but when he
expanded on this he also said that, "We have a stake in peace and
stability in the world today, particularly in Asia".
Then Ram persuaded Yasushi Akashi to define the limits of Japan
in its involvement. Yasushi
Akashi explained Japan's new plans to get involved even in UN Chapter
VII operations (actions with respect to Threats to the Peace, Breaches
of the Peace and Acts of Aggression) although Japan has so far
restricted its involvement to Chapter VI operations (covering pacific
settlement of disputes). Yasushi
Akashi also emphasised that their Chapter VII operations will be
restricted to cases under UN decisions or resolutions and restricted to
rear area operations - logistics. Ram
did not anticipate this from Yasushi Akashi and hence he tried to tell
Yasushi Akashi that Japan has no experience with federalism to
contribute politically to the process.
Although Yasushi Akashi accepted that Japan is not a federal
system, he did not hesitate to tell him that the Sri Lankan minister
Milinda Morogada was visiting the Governor of Mie Prefecture, which is
one of the vocal voices for greater local autonomy in Japan.
who must have felt defeated in his purpose at this stage, tried to
justify why India cannot participate in the Tokyo conference due to
legal and political reasons. Yasushi
Akashi argued that there are other governments like the US, Canada and
the UK where the LTTE is proscribed and this does not seem to prevent
them from participating in the Tokyo conference.
Yasushi Akashi also told Ram that nobody is asking the Indian
government to make a statement in support of the LTTE.
He also said that his government does not make such statements
either. Yasushi Akashi also reminded Ram how the US handled the
situation during the Oslo conference, to demonstrate that dealing with
someone and participating in a conference in which someone will be
present are not identical to each other.
Ram still tried to justify by saying that, providing assistance
through organisations or fronts associated with the LTTE may pose legal
problems in the Indian courts and India's assistance to Sri Lanka is
only bilateral. Yasushi
Akashi replied, that the Japan's assistance is also from government to
government in principle but with the consent of the Sri Lankan
government that assistance may be distributed in areas where the
government shares power with an autonomous entity.
He also said that Japan might provide assistance in such a way
that it benefits the life of people in those areas under their control.
In other words Yasushi Akashi was trying to convince Ram that if
there is a will there is a way to do it.
At this stage Ram realised that Yasushi Akashi is not like Eve or
even President Jayawardana for that matter, to be bought over so easily
and gave up his persuasion.
It is hard to believe that some Tamil journalists across the Palk Strait, for some selfish reasons, are prepared to sow the seeds of negativity about the peace process among their readers as well as the participants, and contribute to the prolongation of the sufferings of the Tamils in Sri Lanka. What these people are doing could also be considered as a kind of crime against humanity. I hope one day they will realise this and change their kind of journalism for the sake of humanity.