Ilankai Tamil Sangam

Association of Tamils of Sri Lanka in the USA

On ‘Tides of War’

Much of the problem with Gourevitch's article in 'The New Yorker' became clear yesterday when he hosted a discussion of Sri Lanka with Dayan Jayatilleke as his guest on [US] National Public Radio.  Jayatilleke had come off well in Gourevitch's article and Grourevitch had used the Jayatilleke-coined epithet 'Sun God' to describe Prabakaran, but the connection between the two was not made explicit in the article.  Jayatilleke, like all Western-educated Sri Lankans mouths the need for 'pluralism' in Sri Lankan society, but makes the main focus of his writing vicious criticism of the LTTE.  Although he occasionally chides the government for its chauvinism, he presents no path for Sri Lanka to move toward a society in which Tamils could live with grace and pride.  Jayatilleke, and so Gourevitch, acknowledges that Tamils were discriminated against before the war, but is blinded by the ferocity of the recent war, especially the government's portrayal of the other side's ferocity, so that he cannot move past his 'terrorism' blinders and cannot hold a balanced view.  I do not think that Gourevitch would want to enter the Rwandan genocide story through Hutu eyes or the Chechnyan conflict through Russian ones, but that is what he is doing in Sri Lanka. -- Editor


Letter to The New Yorker

by Sachi Sri Kantha

Dear Editor/Sangam website:

Herewith I provide a copy of my letter sent to the Editor of the New Yorker on August 11, 2005, relating to Philip Gourevitch’s recent ‘Letter from Sri Lanka’ in that magazine.

"The New Yorker is a great magazine.  I should know since I've been a subscriber for the past ten years.  But the 'Letter from Sri Lanka' contributed by Philip Gourevitch, which appeared in the Aug.1 issue is nothing but baloney.  I should know this as well, since I am a Sri Lankan Tamil, and I have followed the events and trends of contemporary history of Sri Lanka closely and believe I have a better grasp than Gourevitch, whose observations border on the in-credible.  A few blemishes in Gourevitch's sub-standard piece deserve highlighting.

Gourevitch ridicules the English used by elderly George, the translator of the LTTE's political wing leader S.P.Tamil Chelvan, as being "baroque stem-winder."  The condescension of Gourevitch deserves nothing but ridicule.  By Gourevitch's admission, Tamil Chelvan "does not speak English, or pretends not to (he clearly understands it)," so he obviously needs a translator.

Can Grourevitch look at the mirror and say, 'I do not speak Tamil, or I pretend not to (I clearly understand it)' with a straight face?  Here is a phony American journalist who cannot either converse in or understand the Tamil language and who expects that he be served in New Yorkerese for his hatchet job and paycheck.

The self-serving lingo of Gourevitch that 'Tiger apparatchiks are notoriously wary of the press' hides more of his lack of preparation than sheds light on why LTTE functionaries are wary of inept journalists like Gourevitch.  Gourevitch expects Maharaja-level treatment for his mediocre report.  Suppose, if I cannot speak and comprehend English, could I expect a Maharaja-level treatment from the Mayor of New York?  Can I be surly if Hizzoner is notoriously wary of non-English speaking reporters?

One Tamil politician (Douglas Devananda) who offered audience to Gourevitch has quite a lot to hide about his past as well, and his past history exposes the ignorance of Gourevitch.

Does Gourevitch know that this same Devananda was involved in a kidnapping of two newly-wed American citizens, Stanley and Mary Allen, in 1984 in Jaffna?  [see, AP newsreport: "U.S.couple kidnapped by Guerrillas in Sri Lanka", New York Times, May 12, 1984]  This happens to be Devananda's only dubious achievement as a Tamil guerrilla fighter, although he bragged about training with "the PLO, Al Fatah and George Habash" in 1978 and 1984.  Why was Gourevitch's background check on Devananda so defective?  Devananda is also an absconding felon for murder in Chennai in the mid-1980s.  That he has escaped trial and punishment speaks much about the creaky justice system prevailing in India.  Gourevitch should not glorify a criminal like Devananda.

In sum, it is my inference that Gourevitch's ‘Letter from Sri Lanka’ should have been assigned to the fiction category in the magazine. Somebody in the New Yorker's famed fact-checking department really goofed."


WNYC - National Public Radio

by Rajendra

Dayan Jayatilleke is a self-proclaimed expert on the war is Sri Lanka who has thrived by his cooked-up, imaginary - and above all - fabricated analysis of the realities that have emerged as a result of the tyranny of the Sri Lankan Armed Forces in northern Sri Lanka, analysis written just to suit the taste of the ruling Sinhala fanatics and their foreign backers. 

Jayatilleke gave in an interview to WNYC today (8/11/050) a few minutes past noon, on "The Prospect for Peace in Sri Lanka."  Jayatilake said that the LTTE was the worst of terrorist organization on earth.  He very meticulously fabricated stories about, for instance, chariots carrying the portrait of Prabaharan followed by people rolling bare-bodied on the melting asphalt roads in tropical Jaffna, and how Prabaharan was forcing the people to treat him as a 'sun god.'To Western listeners, who have seen and heard African voodoo stories, this program would have been easily digested and well received.

Jayatilleke also went on to say that Prabaharan was a terrorist far worse than all the Middle Eastern terrorists put together, and was the one who taught the Iraqis and the Palestinians terrorism.  Accusation after accusation was leveled at Prabaharan with the intent to bring about new hatred amongst listeners that Prabaharan was a despicable human being.    

Jayatilleke was quick to come up with the theory that Prabaharan was determined to carve out a separate state of Eelam, instead of being will to accept some other form of political settlement, such as the one worked out in Sudan. 

This writer called WNYC and was given the opportunity to explain the historical truth of the past independent Tamil Kingdom that existed even during the Portuguese and Dutch occupation, until the British brought together for administrative purposes both the Sinhalese and Tamil Kingdoms in 1865, which is one of the reasons why Tamils have the right to self-determination and how the Tamils have lost all rights since independence in 1948.  As time was limited, the writer made a summarized statement that terrorism has been grossly ill-defined by the media and now by Jayatilleke, and that the Tamil youth had to take up arms to fight the tyranny of the Sri Lankan army when innocent Tamils were assaulted, manhandled, raped and killed by them. The writer also emphasized that the word “terrorist” labeled on the LTTE was grossly wrong as they were god-sent, to defend the Tamils from state terror.


Posted August 12, 2005