Let me dissect this and point at the half truths that leave the reader with a notion that Sri Lanka is doomed, or that Sri Lanka is a human rights disaster. When reading Amanda Hodge's article one feels that thousands of children died, and Jame's Elder's "expulsion" has something to do with speaking out for "children who don't have a voice."
Amanda says, "The expulsion from the country of Australian-born Unicef spokesman James Elder this month, for speaking out against those abuses and child casualties in the bloody final stages of Sri Lanka's 26-year long civil war, dims it further still."
Fact: At the time when Amanda's article was published, and as I pen this down, James Elder is still in Sri Lanka, and he has not been expelled. The government is reviewing his case.
Sri Lanka is reviewing a move to expel a senior United Nations official over comments he made during the final weeks of the country's decades long ethnic war, a senior official said Monday.Fact: The decision to ask Elder to leave the island was due to the fact that his views were not backed by any research, or fact. His comments to the media during the final days of the conflict only added to the Tamil Tigers' propaganda game. Sri Lanka was rightfully annoyed that Mr. Elder was not impartial and neutral until he had his facts together. He made several comments based on hear say.
James Elder, communications chief for the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF), was ordered out of the country for allegedly being biased towards the separatist Tamil Tiger rebels.
"It was unacceptable. UN officials are meant to be impartial and the government took a very dim view of it."How much does Amanda know of Sri Lanka? Or the Tamil Tigers?
"Towards the end of the conflict, he issued statements that were not researched, not exactly based on fact, but reflective of the LTTE."
Does she know that the Tigers had a revenue base seven times the $30 million a year that supports Britain’s Conservative Party? Does she know that the Tamil Tigers had invested thousands of dollars towards lobbyist, who used baseless and loose UN statements against the Sri Lankan state, during the UN special session in Geneva? Does she know that much of what she thinks she knows, and what Elder thought he knew, was exactly the impression that the Tigers wanted them to have of the island?
The journalists who know Sri Lanka's conflict as an ethnic conflict are bound to think that the Tigers were a small rebel movement fighting for Tamil rights, and that Elder is being expelled for speaking out for the plight of Tamils. They know not about the magnitude of the LTTE and it's motives. The Tamil Tigers make the Al Qaeda look like a group of disorganised school kids.
So, it comes as no surprise that Amanda thinks, "Elder was one of very few aid workers on the ethnically riven island nation who was prepared to brave the wrath of the Sinhalese-dominated government to highlight the plight of civilians, especially children, during the war and in its aftermath."
Ethnically riven? If you know anything about Sri Lanka, you will know that discriminatory laws existed in the 50s. And Sri Lanka's war against the LTTE was not directed at Tamils, but the Tamil Tigers. Let's look back at Australian history, to the 1950s, and dwell deeply into the rights infringed on the Aboriginal communities down under. Australia is more ethnically riven today, than Sri Lanka will ever be.
Amanda is under the impression that Tamilnet.com is a relay news service that just "reflects the news of the day." As a matter of fact, Tamilnet has always been the Tiger's official website, and it has always released information pertaining to the Tigers before any other source.
That's where the novice in Amanda is exposed. Regardless, this is not a post to bash a newb journo, but to portray the ignorance that revolves around the Sri Lankan conflict among foreign correspondents who 'reflect the news of the day' from many thousand miles away.
Someone tell Amanda that the government has never said that there were no casualties. You would need to be an imbecile to think there were no casualties in a war. They have said that there were no casualties as a result of their offensive attacks, in the final days of the conflict. The reason they say this with certainty is due to the type of combat operations conducted during that period. The Sri Lankan military was only utilising 81mm artillery to take out Tiger bunker positions. Air strikes were called in only to take out the Tigers heavy guns and Battle Tanks. All this is documented and freely available to those who spend a few minutes to research.
Yet, Amanda says, "In the weeks leading to Rajapakse's May victory declaration - as the army bombarded rebel forces along with a massive civilian population it knew was being used as a human shield - most aid groups took the view it was better to temper their comments and remain in the country for the mop-up than risk expulsion."
If Amanda knew any better she would know that if the Army "bombarded" indiscriminately there won't be 280,000 survivors. Puddukuruirippu (PDK), the Safe Zone designated by the Sri Lankan Military, which the Tigers used as safe heaven to protect their combatants and leaders, was just too small for anyone to survive "bombardment".
Amanda Hodge writes, "As triumphant Sinhalese Buddhists crowded the post-war streets of Colombo and Tamil Hindus sheltered indoors."
I was a part of the street celebrations in Colombo, and I am not a Sinhalese, nor am I a Buddhist. I wrote about it here.
Surely Amanda knows of Muttiah Muralitharan? His family wasn't indoors.
Thanks Amanda, but no thanks. The only thing you've got right is that Kohona is headed to the UN. And that has been on the cards for some time now.
The international community continues to hold out carrots - such as the $2.5 billion IMF loan granted in July - even as the Rajapakse government bites the hand that feeds it.Elder has little or nothing to do with an IMF loan. A loan is exactly what it is Amanda, a loan. Which Sri Lanka has to pay back. A loan shark feeding you? Wow! That's a first!
IMF mission chief to Sri Lanka, Brian Aitken, told Reuters that the "balance of payments crisis sounds rather dry, but it really would have a devastating impact on the economy and on the people, particularly the most vulnerable."
Looks like Amanda cares more for her fellow countrymen Elder, than the vulnerable. There's no one more concerned about Sri Lankans, than Sri Lankans themselves. The government is held accountable during elections, and thus far the people of Sri Lanka, including the 4 million Tamils spread across the island, appear to be satisfied. Some may argue about the confinement of the displaced, but the critics sleep easy knowing that suicide bombs are now a thing of the past.
The government announced today that the displaced with friends and family willing to offer them shelter will be allowed to leave the camps.