T. J. Jayasinghe has responded to my ‘Point of
View’ published in The Island of Aug. 21, 2006, under the
title, "Terrorists, Freedom Fighters and Arafat’s friends".
The letter writer indicates that I am trying to
whitewash CNN. Even a cursory reading of my ‘Point of View’ will
reveal the intent behind my providing the CNN as an example. It
was to buttress my argument that the leader of a free country
does not interfere with the media’s function in delving into the
various aspects of a story. In any free country, it is the
media’s function to present the news and also to probe and
dissect the news. This function will be hamstrung if the leader
of a free country feels constrained to suggest to the media on
who should be interviewed, and whose views shouldn’t be
publicised in the media.
At present, for instance, the most wanted and
most reviled man in the United States is Osama bin Laden. There
is an enormous reward awaiting anyone who turns him in. This
fact didn’t deter CNN from airing a special feature programme
titled, "In the footsteps of Osama bin Laden", just a couple of
weeks ago. And this is in spite of the fact that it was
painfully close to the fifth anniversary of this despicable
deed. And to the best of my knowledge, and I follow the news
with some intensity, President Bush didn’t, metaphorically
speaking, hit the ceiling on learning of this feature on bin
Jayasinghe also states that I have failed to
accept the LTTE as a terrorist organisation. I clearly stated in
my ‘Point of View’ that "I personally don’t think there is any
difference whatsoever between the terrible tactics employed by
Prabhakaran and the late PLO chief, Yasser Arafat, such as the
use of suicide bombers, etc."
The fact is that Jayasinghe’s views abundantly
prove my point that one person’s terrorist is another person’s
freedom fighter when he states, "Yasser Arafat was considered a
freedom fighter". Yet Arafat’s PLO, like Prabhakaran’s
LTTE, used suicide bombers, in addition to other methods of
despicable terrorism. And isn’t the use of suicide bombers one
of the vilest forms of terrorism?
Furthermore, Jayasinghe shouldn’t overlook that
a couple of decades ago, it was revealed that Arafat’s PLO
provided training to LTTE cadres in PLO camps. I remember a
report on the then Israeli Prime Minister Menachim Begin angrily
querying, "What are Sri Lankans (LTTE cadres) doing in PLO
And shortly after this, Israel provided
assistance to both the LTTE and the Sri Lankan government at the
same time. This was revealed more than a decade ago by a former
Israeli intelligence officer in a book he authored.
All these facts also should suggest how complex
this problem is becoming and why a resolution should be explored
in earnest. And all these problems arose from the fact that
certain politicians wanted political power, regardless of the
consequences. The slogan, "Sinhala Only in 24 hours" was
just one aspect of a lack of sensitivity that has now snowballed
into the current monumental mess.
On the subject of terrorism, I also stated, "No
one should defend the scourge of terrorism. But we also need to
realise that terrorism can be eradicated only by courageously
dealing with the root causes of the problems that have,
unfortunately, given birth to terrorism."
Furthermore, I go on to indicate that in order
to root out the causes of terrorism in the Middle East, the
Palestinian issue has to be resolved. And, of course, this has
to include the Palestinians’ acceptance of the reality of
Israel, and Israel’s acceptance of the reality of a Palestinian
And that similarly, in Sri Lanka, the root
causes of the problems have to be dealt with in order to reach a
resolution. Also, that it was the abject lack of statesmanship
among leading Sri Lankan politicians after independence that has
resulted in the current bloody impasse.
On the failure to effectively maintain the
ceasefire agreement, my point was that President Rajapakse, new
in office, had fallen prey to certain hardliners in the military
who felt that a military solution is possible. That this was an
erroneous presumption is clear from President Rajapakse’s own
observation recently that a military solution was not possible.
Jayasinghe also urged me to read the article by
K.Godage. The subject of this article has absolutely no
relevance to the issues I dealt with in my ‘Point of View’. My
reference to Israeli Prime Minister Olmert was merely to point
out that though Olmert clearly considers the Hezbollah a bunch
of terrorists, he didn’t, to the best of my knowledge, advise or
suggest to CNN that they not interview Hezbollah cadres because
they are a bunch of terrorists.
I will fully concede that the LTTE are not
saints. But we shouldn’t overlook that the LTTE is a creation of
the southern politicians. If the southern politicians had
handled ethnic issues as statesmen would have handled these
issues, the LTTE would never have been born.
The trust that the Tamils had at the time of
independence, and as a consequence of this trust the feeling
that constitutional guarantees to ensure fair play in ethnic
matters were sufficient, proved to be a mirage, as my elders
told me. The current British High Commissioner in Sri Lanka has
conceded that the British had, unfortunately, failed to ensure
the provision of all the needed constitutional protections for
fairplay in ethnic matters.
Thus a final solution, obviously, must include
fool-proof guarantees to ensure that important legislation
cannot be overturned or passed by legislators in just the South,
but also must have the approval of a certain percentage of the
legislators in the North and the East. This is reasonable in
order to maintain the unity of the country.
The following is a good example to indicate why
trust is at a low ebb on all sides.
I recently saw on an internet site, an
interesting exchange between two Sinhala guys. The view of one
guy was that the SL government should give the Karuna faction
all the arms and ammunition they need in order to wipe out the
Wanni faction. But, hey, look, the other guy points out:
"President Premadasa gave arms and ammunition to
the LTTE to fight the Indian troops, and once the Indian troops
retreated, the LTTE used the guns given to them by the SL
government to fight the SL government. So what if the Karuna
faction then turn on the SL governemnt after they wipe out the
Wanni Tigers?" " That’s a problem, agrees the other guy. "
Thus the solution? Give the Karuna faction all
the arms needed, but as soon as the Karuna faction wipes out the
Wanni Tigers, the SL government should quickly wipe out the
SThere was no discussion on why if the SL
government can quickly wipe out the Karuna faction, it has been
unable to wipe out the Wanni faction in more than two decades.
I will desist from commenting on the sheer
brilliance of people who discuss possible military stratagems on
the World Wide Web. But this exchange and the divisive policies
since independence, indicate why the Tamils will now insist on a
fool-proof solution that will enable all communities to live in
peace and harmony.