The "Appalling" chorus against Sri Lanka

I'm posting an article written by Lucien Rajakarunanayake, in it's entirety. The piece expresses a Sri Lankan view of the recent press coverage on Sri Lanka.

I thought some of you outside Sri Lanka may want to know the views of people actually on the island.

The "Appalling" chorus against Sri Lanka
By: Lucien Rajakarunanayake

The latest to use the word was the unnamed BBC correspondent who was quoted on the 11.30pm BBC News on Tuesday night. "Appalling". That was how the BBC Correspondent described the conditions at the relief village for the IDPs in the Vanni.

Just one damning word is all that was needed. There was no effort to explain why it was appalling, or when this was said.

For the BBC, as for many other western news organizations today, just the word was enough. It is somewhat like the word becoming flesh as it is said in the Bible. The word is the truth, and it suited the BBC news presenter who was reporting on the Special Session on Sri Lanka at the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva earlier that same evening.

A glimpse of the Sri Lankan Minister speaking at the Special Session, a few frames of people undergoing hardship at an IDP centre and the BBC correspondent's mighty proclamation " It is appalling". End of story. The point is made.

The message is conveyed that Sri Lanka deserves to get a battering from the "International Community" in Geneva for the "appalling" condition at the IDP centres.

Cut. Move to the next item on the news - so many killed in Pakistan, thousands upon thousands of refugees on the move there, which is described as biblical in proportions, but there is nothing appalling about that.

There never can be, because the reporter BBC or whatever other channel, and the presenter knows the great trek has been caused at the behest of the Americans, who are urging Islamabad to be as tough as ever with the Taliban.

Mormon polygamy will be looked at with Nelsonian blindness by US law enforcers, but Sharia Law is certainly bad for Pakistan and Afghanistan. Why are we not appalled?


A Pakistani boy stands near tents at a refugee camp in Mardan, in northwest Pakistan, Wednesday, May 13. Greg Baker / AP

It's not as funny as it initially seems, when one sees how the international media has allowed itself to be manipulated to present a picture of a country that suits the political agendas of the ruling groups in some western countries, and the interests of the pro-LTTE Tamil citizens of who can today make up a considerable vote bank in some electorates or districts in those countries.

The truth or the background to current developments is not of importance anymore. It is the power of gripping words and the images that can send a negative message that matter. And most of the media people who report on Sri Lanka have come with considerable baggage of that stuff in their mental rucksacks.

I guess you recall the words of the popular baila which goes "And she's got kerosene oil in her brain".

Well it is something like that, but this is no piece of fun. Most of the journalists who go up to report on the IDPs carry plenty of barbed wire in their brains, and precious little of anything else, such as intelligence, or powers of observation, and objectivity, that one usually associates a good journalist with.

Either because the bedside stories their mothers or grandmothers read to them had much to do with it, or their readings on conflict have been confined to the days of the Second World War or more recently the tragedies in Srebrenica in the Bosnian War, they have an instant mental link between barbed wire and concentration camps.

The IDPs in Sri Lanka are held in concentration camps surrounded by barbed wire - this is the refrain of the international media today. It is a chorus that is fully in sync with the chanting of the pro-LTTE expatriate Tamils, who are now well rooted citizens of western countries, and have no regrets about what the LTTE has been doing to their own kind for nearly three decades.
Let's try to ignore the fact that these media guys do not know that concentration camps did not have their beginning here, but in the British controlled South Africa, during the Boer War. That they were later were perfected by the western Christian, anti-Semitic regime of Hitler in Nazi Germany and in the other parts of Europe the Nazi troops ran over; by its Eastern Axis Partner Japan, especially in Malaya, and was later used to terrible effect in the more recent Bosnian War.
They just don't know that the vast, majority of people who own property in Sri Lanka use barbed wire for boundary fencing. This is not to prevent the owners or residents on such property from escaping, but to keep unwanted outsiders from entering.

Those who write about barbed wire surrounded concentration camps show pictures of these places, where the strands are thin and so far between that it cannot prevent anyone from easily creeping through. Hardly the stuff of concentration camps; but they are the tellers. The world is supposed to believe them

But the piece of barbed wire writing that deserves a cake was what appeared in the Guardian UK, usually a good and respected newspaper of the mainstream. The Guardian writer said the Sri Lankan government put barbed wire round the IDP camps to prevent journalists getting there and learning the truth about how the IDPs where treated by the LTTE before they escaped and came to the relief centres, or camps, if you like to all it that. Don't you think that deserves a special prize for journalism of an overly fertile imagination?

Can you give one reason why the government would try to prevent journalist learning of the atrocities of the LTTE? And, who is the journalist worth one's salt who can be put off the trail of a story just by a few strands of barbed wire around the location? But the Guardian has also joined the ranks of Sri Lanka bashers today, so it is most unlikely to prevent such unimaginable flights of fancy in print and on the web.

There are two other words also buzzing around the diplomatic and media circuits that are training their guns on Sri Lanka in the new battle the country is facing. It is "Uninhibited" and "Unimpeded".

That is what we are supposed to extend to foreign aid workers, including the UN types who leak unverified and unverifiable information to the bloodthirsty media about the conditions in the IDP relief centres. Leading the trumpeter making this call for unhindered and unimpeded access is Ban Ki-moon. No less than the General Secretary of the United Nations.

What these new warriors of peace, who could only issue statements that both sides exercise restraint during the entire struggle with the LTTE seem to have forgotten is that Sri Lanka is a sovereign state, and that we bloody well have the right to lay down our own terms on who enters any place in the country, and especially to deal with our own citizens.

Those who are just now overcoming all the tragedy and trauma of being held hostage by the LTTE, when all these patrons of unhindered and unimpeded access could do was warn of an impending bloodbath, which to their terrible discomfiture did not materialize.

I'd like to ask Ban Ki-moon when he asked the United States of America to allow "unhindered and unimpeded access to any relief workers" to that genuine concentration camp, complete with barbed and razor wire and much more in Guantanamo? Is it because this ugly blot on the American name is located on Cuban soil, leased out to the US, or is it that any or all of those alleged terrorist inmates at Gitmo have less rights to equal treatment under Human Rights than the Tamil civilians who have been so brutally treated by the LTTE.

"Unhindered and unimpeded" my foot. That should be the real response. Just for a start let's introduce rules that anyone, aid workers included, who wish to serve in the IDP centres should be certified as being free of HIV/AIDS, of any suspicion of Swine Flu or whatever technical term that is now called now to help the US Pork Industry, should have no suspicions of being paedophiles, and that gay and lesbian couples, whether married or in civil union will not be allowed there.

There are a few more restrictions one can think of. I suggest the Swine Flu impediment be extended to anyone from any US state or Mexican region that has had even one suspected case of the illness. We can then be sure that Hillary Rodham Clinton will not be coming this way.

Just watch how everyone from the BBC to the TimesOnline, Human Rights Watch and Ban Ki-moon himself, will be shouting out that this is all so....yes bloody appalling.

But Ban Ki-moon is also an appalling type. Addressing a Media Briefing in Kandy last Saturday he picks his words very carefully to say that what he saw when flying over the terrain of war in the North was sobering. He then says that what he saw at the IDP centre he visited was saddening. How true, indeed; and then he goes on to say the government was doing a very good job in looking after the IDPs, but lacked enough resources. ....But you can't keep one of these appalling guys down.

He next speaks to a CNN reporter, on camera to be sure, and opens his heart out to say that all of what he saw was....yes, appalling. Maybe he was afraid of the appalling time he would have from the pro-LTTE American & Canadian Tamil mobs that would have a violent protest at his sobering and saddening comments about Sri Lanka. That is being charitable. But what an appalling guy this Secretary General must be.

Would he have said it better if he had spoken Korean? I wonder.

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