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Arundhati Roy helping LTTE continue holding civilians - SL Embassy

(April 01, New Delhi,Sri Lanka Guardian ) "It is indeed unfortunate that Ms. Roy has chosen to make comments which are likely to encourage the LTTE into believing that its propaganda is successful and that it should therefore remain even more obdurate, in holding onto the civilians", states the Sri Lankan High Commission in New Dilli responding to the article by Arundhati Roy in the "Times of India" 30 March 2009 alleging that the current development in Sri Lanka constitutes an "openly racist war."

The response adds that" Today, around 54% of Sri Lanka’s Tamil community live in areas other than the North and the East and in locations, where the majority happens to be of Sinhalese ethnicity. This intermingling of the communities symbolizes the pluralism inherent in Sri Lankan society".

It states that:"Strangely, Ms Roy is silent on the atrocities perpetrated by the LTTE. On the other hand, her highly imaginative allegations against the Government range from claims of genocide to economic blockades and the stifling of media freedom etc. She overlooks that Sri Lanka has a long record of democratic governance with sufficient scope and freedom for the media to operate freely".

Here is the text of the response by the First Secretary, Sri Lankan High Commission, New Dilli to the Times of India.


Sir,

The article on Sri Lanka by Ms. Arundhati Roy called in the 30th March issue of “The Times of India” consists of absolutely unwarranted claims, such as that the current developments in the country constitute, an “openly racist war”.

Sri Lanka is proud of being a multi-cultural and multi-ethnic society. As happened to many other nations, a long period of colonial rule which ended in 1948 led to certain issues arising among the communities constituting the newly independent nation of Sri Lanka. These issues were subsequently and progressively addressed. For example, the Sinhala language spoken by the majority and the Tamil language of the minority have had for the last two decades equal status, with each one of them designated as an official language of Sri Lanka. The Constitution has been amended to provide for the devolution of powers to the 9 Provinces of the island, with the legal concepts in this regard drawing largely on the provisions in India, for the sharing of responsibilities between the Centre and the States.

Today, around 54% of Sri Lanka’s Tamil community live in areas other than the North and the East and in locations, where the majority happens to be of Sinhalese ethnicity. This intermingling of the communities symbolizes the pluralism inherent in Sri Lankan society.

The LTTE by contrast has sought through the use of terror to carve out a mono ethnic State. They have consistently rejected the path of negotiation and the several attempts to evolve a political solution equitable to all communities on the island, including through the provisions for devolution.

Given this situation, the Government has been compelled to deal resolutely with the terrorism of the LTTE. The Government is confident that the eradication of terror, will create further space for the political process aimed at healing the wounds caused by the conflict. Today the LTTE is confined to a tiny pocket of land on the north-eastern coast, a little over 20 sq. kms. in extent.

However, in a desperate attempt to save itself, the LTTE continues to retain civilians as human shields. Originally the number of civilians was around 110,000, but within the last several weeks approximately 60,000 have managed to break away despite the LTTE firing on those trying to leave. The tactics of the LTTE have been strongly condemned by the international community and in a statement to the Indian Parliament on 18th February 2009, the Indian External Affairs Minister said “ the LTTE would best serve the interest of the Tamils by immediately releasing all civilians and laying down arms”. The Under Secretary General for Humanitarian Affairs of the United Nations Sir John Holmes at the end of his visit to Sri Lanka publicly called on the LTTE to “free civilians kept in the remaining combat zone against their will, and to stop forced recruitment, particularly of children” (UN-OCHA Press Release, 21 Feb. 2009).

While the LTTE has chosen to be oblivious to the pleas directed at it, the well being of the civilians who are held entrapped remains the foremost consideration of the Government of Sri Lanka and its Armed Forces. The Government has declared a “no fire zone” within the pocket held by the LTTE and has urged the civilians to move to that area. This zone is fully respected by the Sri Lanka Armed Forces.

The pocket still dominated by the LITE is being supplied with food and medicines by the Government. Facilities have been set up immediately outside this area to cater to the nutritional and healthcare needs of the civilians escaping from the grip of the LTTE. These facilities are by no means “concentration camps” as claimed by Ms. Roy. Rather, they will provide short term accommodation until the original dwelling places of the displaced civilians are rehabilitated.

Strangely, Ms Roy is silent on the atrocities perpetrated by the LTTE. On the other hand, her highly imaginative allegations against the Government range from claims of genocide to economic blockades and the stifling of media freedom etc. She overlooks that Sri Lanka has a long record of democratic governance with sufficient scope and freedom for the media to operate freely. Any interested observer can discern the quantum of criticism including of the authorities and alternate points of view that are expressed in the Sri Lanka print and electronic media, on any given day.

The Government of Sri Lanka values the humanitarian assistance it is receiving from the international community, to deal with the situation. Among the most helpful in this regard is the stationing of a medical contingent from India in the east of the island, to provide relief to the affected civilians.

It is indeed unfortunate that Ms. Roy has chosen to make comments which are likely to encourage the LTTE into believing that its propaganda is successful and that it should therefore remain even more obdurate, in holding onto the civilians. If she wishes to, Ms. Roy can still make amends, by adding her voice to those who have unambiguously demanded that the LTTE should immediately stop restraining the civilian population from leaving.
-Sri Lanka Guardian

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