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Failure in the propaganda front and its effects

by S. Akurugoda

(June 18, Colombo, Sri Lanka Guardian) According media reports, President Mahinda Rajapaksa has blamed his government's poor international reputation on "propaganda" by the Tamil Tigers. "We have failed in the propaganda fight," he told The Times in an interview during his visit to London for the Commonwealth meeting.

As the President quite correctly identified, though his government has taken steps to confront the terrorist outfit militarily, apparently not enough attention has been made to counteract the effects of false propaganda machinery of the LTTE.

As we remember, immediately after Mahinda Rajapaksa came to power, a conference was held in Colombo for the diplomatic service personnel, specifically to explain the dynamic role that they have to play when countering the activities of the LTTE and its front organizations responsible for spreading misinformation and raising funds. Although the Sri Lankan diplomatic services operating in some of the countries are active in this direction, others appear to be quite sluggish. Despite the efforts of handful of patriotic Sri Lankan expatriate community living in those countries, fund raising and misinformation of the LTTE continue at an unprecedented level, while our diplomatic missions are apparently doing nothing.

Sources of misinformation – few examples

Let us go though some of the very common reports appearing in certain media groups daily.

Whenever the Associate Press (AP) reporter in Colombo ending his news items on matters related to LTTE, the following statement used as a mantra (perhaps, several times a day) over the last two or three decades.

"The Tamil Tiger 'rebels' have fought since 1983 to create an independent state for the island's ethnic minority Tamils who have suffered 'marginalisation' by successive governments controlled by majority ethnic Sinhalese".

As we understood, more than 1,700 newspapers, in addition to more than 5,000 television and radio broadcasters published news items of AP. AP operates 243 news bureaus and serves 121 countries all over the world. Thus whoever who read news items of AP will see the basic problem here in Sri Lanka as discrimination or marginalisation.

British broad Casting Corporation (BBC), another media giant who made similar statements, reaches more than 200 countries and is available to more than 274 million households. It also broadcasts news - by radio or over the Internet - in some 33 languages. Thus the international media coverage in support of 'rebels' who are said to be the so-called victims of discrimination and marginalisation by majority ethnic Sinhalese is enormous.

It is also interesting to note that the media reporters based in Colombo and their news agencies operating from USA and UK do not see the Tamil Tigers as 'Terrorists' but see them as 'Rebels'', despite the fact that USA, UK, India, Canada, Malaysia, the EU and several other countries have designated the outfit as an international 'Terrorist' group.

These media institutions often give wide publicity to media releases of the NGO peace bandwagons operating from Colombo and frequently quote their so-called political analysis made in favour of the outfit and disastrous to the security forces. The most recent quote from a statement made by one Jehan Perera of the National Peace Council and appeared in one of the AP news item titled 'Bus Bombings Kill 23 People in Sri Lanka', that it was a "tit-for-tat kind of retaliation" by the Tamil Tiger Terrorists, who accuse the military of killing ethnic minority Tamils with mines and air raids, is a case in point.

Marginalisation claim

The term marginalisation is not confined to Sri Lanka and is being used exclusively all over the world since there is no country or society free of groups with feeling of some sort of marginalisation.

The feeling of marginalisation could be relatively higher, particularly in developing countries due to limited resources to share, compared to those who live in the west. The same very people with complains of 'marginalisation' in their country of birth seem to be pleased when they are economically better-off within their new country of migration, despite they are part of the various communities continue to be marginalized from society due to the development of practices, policies and programs that 'met the needs of the west and not the needs of the marginalized groups themselves'. No cry for marginalization is heard, though the individuals are exploited and marginalized within the country they have emigrated.

As a result of colonialism since the arrival Portuguese, Sinhala community lost their land, were forced into destitute areas, lost their sources of income, and were excluded from education and hence from the employment market, to a greater extent, until independence. Additionally, Sinhalese lost their culture and values through assimilation and forced religious conversion and lost their rights in society by way of favoritism towards the minorities under divide and rule policy. The situation has not changed much under the rule of elites who took over the leaderships of the two major political parties, time to time, even after decades of independence. The insurrection of Sinhala youth in 1971 and late 1980s is due to the social imbalance and poverty related issues.

On the other hand, most of the businesses and industries of all forms are still in the hands of minority communities. If there is a wide spread marginalisation by the majority Sinhala people, as claimed, it would be interesting to find out how and why their (Sinhala) population has gone down to third place within the commercial capital of the country.

Marginalisation exists within communities and races including Tamils in the form of caste system. In countries, where there are caste systems, one in every 25 people suffers from caste discrimination based on the kind of work they do and their family of origins. An estimated 179 million people experience caste discrimination in India alone. In Sri Lanka, the Tamil caste system is occupation-based as well as hereditary. Sinhalese caste system is not linked to the Hindu codification, but rather to feudal divisions of society that existed long ago.

Legitimate aspiration claim

Another phrase frequently used by the people who talk about solutions, find solutions, implement solutions and talk further on solutions and widely appearing in media is the 'legitimate aspiration' of Tamil people.

The World Association of Newspapers, an international NGO based in France defines Legitimate Aspiration in their website, as the political system which is best placed to achieve and maintain the prosperity and peace.

Thus 'the hope for a political system to achieve and maintain the prosperity and peace' is linked to all human beings and not confined to a particular community. The aspirations of ordinary people, irrespective of their ethnicity, is the fulfilment of their minimum level of basic needs such as food, clothing, water, shelter, sanitation, healthcare, and education. Failure to meet once basic needs could be attributed to poverty and underdevelopment. The above signs of poverty can even be seen in economically developed nations (the so-called champions of prosperity and peace) including USA.

Misinformation and its effects

A lie repeated under each and every news item, repeatedly for decades, via international news agencies could register as a conclusive piece of evidence in support of the LTTE terrorism in the minds of the millions of its readers /listeners/viewers throughout the world, with time. As a result, despite the victories made by the security forces with its determination to crush the terrorism and to rescue the innocent Tamil population from the grip of the mono-ethnic dictatorship and to restore democracy, the pressure has mounted to negotiate with the most ruthless terrorists in the world and place solutions to devolve power to North and East on ethnic lines, to a non-existing problem.

As far as we are aware, 54% of the Tamil population now live outside the North and East provinces without any record of incidences of communal violence since 1983, despite numerous provocations. On the other hand, the sole representative of the Tamils, as seen by the said outside elements, continues its ethnic cleansing around the uncleared areas after successfully wiping out almost all the Sinhalese and Muslims from the North and, now, by indiscriminate killing of innocents in the South. Yet, the LTTE propaganda machinery has been able to justify their atrocities with the mammoth support they receive from their agents, both in and outside the country.

The discrimination, marginalisation, 'legitimate aspiration' etc are merely slogans adopted by the divisive forces to promote separatism. Aspirations to achieve the privileges enjoyed by privileged groups over the rest of the people similar to that existed under the British rule is not acceptable under any democratic system.
- Sri Lanka Guardian

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