An Island of Pussies and Bigots, are we?

Amnesty International circulated a “News Flash” on the 10th with a headline screaming “Sri Lanka: Suicide bombing breaches International Law.”

“Sri Lanka” to the ordinary world, is the country and the government that represents its people. The headline sounded as if the government was responsible for the attack, when we knew it was an act of terrorism conducted by the LTTE.

From the headline, to the content, Amnesty International was trying to shift the focus away from the reality, quite cleverly mis-feeding the media. As a recipient of the letter, I felt obliged to reply to the author, questioning the content and the objective behind the news release. Not surprisingly, I didn’t receive any feedback from Amnesty International – nor from the sender Jim McDonald, nor from their “Sri Lanka Expert” Yolanda Foster, or their co-ordinator at the International Press Office in London – Carina Trimingham. Knowing how promptly they usually react, I know they are not going to respond – it’s already been a week. I copied my response to everyone in the mailing list, I don’t think any of the media personnel in the Amnesty International mailing list received any verification from them either.

Instead, I got bombarded with abusive diatribe from many Tamils. One Mr Jeyatheeswaren called me a “Sinhala Chounist [sic]” among other things.

As expected, this opened up a mini-debate, but I only received two constructive opinions that defended the ground reality and the position of the Government of Sri Lanka. Tamils, who responded, defended Amnesty International, and attacked me with a vengeance.

Just like BBC that had fallen prey to LTTE propaganda, I am sure Amnesty International would continue to do their bit to blame the government and protect the terrorists, to the much delight of certain bloggers like Chitrangi and Groundviews.

But, my worry is not Amnesty International or some local blogger.

I worry about the War of the Words, at the international arena. Sri Lanka has no voice outside the country. The tiny voice there is, is also inaudible to the outside world. LTTE, on the other hand, runs many frontal organisations that collect ransom, print newsletters, distribute propaganda, and conduct mafia-style thuggery in almost every country, even where a solitary Tamil lives.

We don’t even have good speakers who could communicate the very basic, effectively – even at the diplomatic level. Look no further than the Sri Lankan Ambassador to the United Kingdom, and you will know what I mean.

LTTE propaganda machinery is still largely at work all over the world, and people like MIA are singing their tunes (pun intended). Thanks to biased news networks like BBC (remember the Appeal for Palestine? Or search Google to find out more), not only the British society at large, but even the Downing Street has been misinformed, resulting in another embarrassing affair.

Journalists thrive on controversies. If there is none, they create some.

According the the Times Online (UK), this is how they portrayed the government’s effort to provide the civilians who escaped the grip of terror with modern villages that comprise permanent housing, schools, banks, parks and vocational centres:

“Sri Lanka was accused yesterday of planning concentration camps to hold 200,000 ethnic Tamil refugees from its northeastern conflict zone for up to three years — and seeking funding for the project from Britain,” reported Jeremy Page, South Asia Correspondent.

UN, who has been pointing finger at the Government is finally pointing the finger at the right direction: the terrorists. Why, because they have 15 of their own staff and their families stuck in the grip of terror, being used as human shields. One staff member is being forced to fight in the frontlines, facing a certain death. If not for this incident, they would have still continued to play the blame-game.

This is just the tip of the iceberg. From Boston to our own bloggers, the Sinhala majority is painted as the oppressors. Tamils, are the victims. And the world thinks that the Tamils are the ONLY minority in Sri Lanka; they don’t even know that there is a sizable Muslim community (in fact, much larger than the Sri Lankan Tamils, read the CIA country profile here) living in this country in harmony with the rest. How come they don’t have the problems that “minority” Tamils seems to have?

Journalists should, and must, report facts. Not opinions. The readers are intelligent enough to digest the facts and form their own opinions, and finding out the truth on their own.

“I read three newspaper accounts of the suicide bomber and her victims and the reporters just threw in guesstimates as facts. How can one paper give a figure of casualties that is about 100 higher than another?

Journalist reporting need not give opinions - it is very powerful when it gives the facts as truthfully as the writer can do so, and lets the readers make up their minds. All such reporting when unbiased wakens the reader.

I am asking everyone I know to say to anyone to speaks to them socially with political or religious bias which puts down someone of a different affiliation, ‘How long have you been a bigot?’ because these words turn the speaker onto him/herself - and it is in such speakers unchallenged that the problems we have fester. I have done it for years and the answer is invariably, ‘I am not a bigot,’ which gives me a chance to say, ‘No one calls themselves a bigot, but what you just said marks you as one.” – read one of the feedback I received from a Sri Lankan in Colombo, regarding the above Amnesty International News Flash.

So, what are we going to do? Be bigots? Continue acting like pussies?

Are we going to let the international media that’s thousands of miles away brain-wash us in to believing what they say is the truth, and not what we see? Are we going to let them strip us of our intelligence and paint us as barbarians who kill in the name of racial bias? Are we going to let them tarnish the image of our nation, when we know that they are distorting the truth?

Or fight to defend our nation in the international theatre of information, in the global blogshpere, in every little way we can..?


  1. Excellent post!

    So the thing about these Amnesty International letters. I was having lunch with a friend at a café here on Sunday. I saw a bunch of British (I knew this from their accents) students sitting at a table, writing furiously. Stuffing letters into envelopes and sealing them. And then I noticed that a lot of them were wearing Amnesty International hoodies. The 'furious writing' was them copying letters to be sent to various people, alerting them to the various situations around the world. I'm sure they thought they were engaging in some noble activity...but I had a burning desire to walk up to them and ask them to point to Jaffna on a map. I didn't want to make a scene (and I wasn't sure they were writing about Sri Lanka) so I didn't. The letters you get are written by a bunch of 20-something middle-class suddhas while chatting over coffee and waffles on a cold and cloudy Sunday afternoon. They're hardly qualified to comment on any global crisis!

    I think the government realises that we haven't really got a mouthpiece, but they just haven't put the right people in the right places (your example is perfect).

    I don't think we should be pussies but I don't think we should resort to bigotry either. Why should we stoop to their level? All we can do is use the medium given to us by our blogs to tell it like we see it, and hope that neutral people see the light.

  2. Thank you, you were there for me. Thank you.

  3. @PseudoRandom, you are right. The only people I’ve seen who are capable of handling the international media are Dr Kohona and Prof Rajiva Wijesinha – these two are remarkable; I think Mr Ravinatha Aryasinha should also be able to bring out the truth, haven’t seen him on tv lately though.

    @ape logic, you are welcome. Just doing my job. ;)

  4. We don’t even have good speakers who could communicate the very basic, effectively – even at the diplomatic level

    how true. depressing.

  5. Speaking of Dr Kohona -


    In case you hadn't seen it already :-)

  6. I do not agree with your initial premise that ordinary people would assume "Sri Lanka" in the headline would mean the country AND the government. I assume it means the country, and does not include the government, because it does not mention the government. So, I do not think that the headline points the finger at the government as being the culprit in the situation. Since I have not read the rest of that letter, I am not sure exactly whom the writer accused, but the start of your response seems a bit inaccurate. I have never heard of a government sponsoring a suicide attack anywhere, and find it hard to believe that the writer meant that when he or she wrote the headline. A recent online Amnesty International post I read about Sri Lanka does not seem to take a side in the conflict, but notes lack of media access to the conflict area, and in the last sentence gives a quote: "In a war with no witnesses, it is the civilians who pay the price for both parties' disregard for international humanitarian law..."

  7. Anonymous, Let’s be fair and say the headline meant the location – perhaps it helps to identify the content when one looks at the “Subject” lines of the Inbox of one’s email.

    Please let me be clear – I have no problem with the ordinary people. I have a big problem with irresponsible media personnel, and organisations that feed such journalists with “misleading” information.

    I said that AI wrote a press release that was very much “subjective” than being ”objective” in its content. Also, I am talking about how wrongly the media “misinterprets” such press releases; I’m sure you and I have seen enough of “...according to the Amnesty International Sri Lanka Expert....” kind of stories. Please read the links in my post, and you will understand what I mean.

    You are saying you didn’t hear of government sponsored “suicide” attacks anywhere – Hamas, which is elected by the people, are using suicide bombers. Sadly, some people around the world, see very little difference between a politically elected militant group like Hamas and the Government of Sri Lanka. I also hope that you are aware of the “hospital and the cluster bomb” fiasco; Sri Lankan Military do not use cluster bombs.

    “In a war with no witnesses, it is the civilians who pay the price for both parties' disregard for international humanitarian law...” There are witnesses, there is the Sri Lankan media at the forefront. Even international media such as Al Jazeera were 200 meters away from the front line. Then, you must have also seen the report from Reporters without Borders 2008 where Sri Lanka is listed at the bottom, amongst the worst – largely due to “safety” reasons. It’s a catch 22; no matter what the government does, there will always be people pointing out the opposite.

    One must also understand that Sri Lankan Military is trying its best to maintain a Zero Casualty Policy, while the LTTE are shooting at civilians, including women and children who are escaping their grip. I don’t think there is any necessity to “urge” the government, they have already demonstrated to the world what a human life means to us. The military captured almost 80% of the former LTTE territory without any civilian casualty, now it is up to the LTTE to let go of the civilians. AI should put pressure on the LTTE. Their request should have been one sided. Period.

    I urge you to look at the big picture, with the interest of the nation at heart. Sri Lankans should not let some foreigners living many thousand miles away tarnish our image; we know what’s going on in Sri Lanka better than them.

  8. @PseudoRandom, thanks a lot for the link.