By Kalinga Seneviratne
There is no doubt now that people fleeing so-called repressive regimes to seek asylum and greener pas¬tures in western democracies is good business for a consortium of people including people smugglers, human rights activist groups and lawyers, aided and abetted by gullible western journalists and media or¬ganisations who see the “Third World” as a chain of lib¬eration struggles against dictatorial regimes.
The current boat people drama in Indonesia involving Sri Lankan Tamil asylum seekers is yet the latest episode in this global industry.
For over a quarter of a century, ever since Sinhalese goon squads aligned with certain elements within the then Sri Lankan government attacked Tamil homes and killed scores of Tamils in retaliation for the killing of 13 soldiers by the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) in July 1983, Sri Lankan Tamils have found a receptive ear in the West for their refugee claims.
They have cleverly cultivated western media sources to provide them the propaganda outlet crucial to convinc¬ing the western governments to accept their claims of repression and discrimination. In parallel they have also established close links with western human rights NGOs such as Amnesty International and many aid agencies and churches, especially the Catholic church.
These alliances have been a formidable foe to the Sri Lankan government’s attempts to fight one of the most ruthless terrorist groups the world had seen, the LTTE. Yet the Sri Lankan armed forces were able to crush the military might of the LTTE in May this year, killing its entire leadership.
This was a heavy blow to tens of thousands of Sri Lank¬an Tamil expatriates who have helped to bankroll the LTTE’s war machine, while at the same time creating a formidable propaganda network across western capitals to tar the image of Sri Lanka and deprive the island na¬tion of much-needed aid and investments from the West to develop its economy.
Though Sri Lanka has won the military battle they have not won the global propaganda battle against the LTTE. Recent attempts by some western countries to force the UN Human Rights Commission to mount a war crimes in-vestigation against Sri Lanka for the conduct of the final stages of battle against LTTE earlier this year, and cur¬rent attempts within the EU to withdraw trade conces¬sions from Sri Lanka—which could cripple its garments industry in particular which employs tens of thousands of women from rural areas—are two such issues, where the LTTE propaganda machine is playing a leading role.
For Sri Lankan Tamils to get easier access to the green¬er pastures of the West, especially a country like Austra¬lia, they have to keep the flame of human rights violations burning. Thus they have made a mountain out of a mole hill by exaggerated claims about the IDP (Internationally Displaced Persons) camps in the north where an estimat¬ed 250,000 Tamils are being held. While painting these as era type concentration camps, where people are held at gunpoint, yet, some seem to be able to get out, take a flight out of Colombo to Jakarta, and get on to a wooden boat operated by a convicted people smuggler, to try and sneak into Australian waters to claim refugee status.
Ever gullible western media is more than willing to give their spokespersons an international audience to spread their propaganda against the Sri Lankan government to the world, without trying to find out how someone speak¬ing such fluent English has been living all this time in the jungles of Wanni (where the LTTE operated from).
By restricting access to the camps for the media the government has played into the hands of the LTTE pro¬paganda machine. But, the western media, especially the BBC, must take a large portion of the blame for this policy because they have been so hostile to the Sri Lankan gov¬ernment, that Colombo has decided that it is no use al¬locating resources to escorting such journalists to these camps, when they come with hostile intentions, perhaps brainwashed by LTTE propaganda, and will file an un¬balanced story anyway.
The writer is a Sri Lankan-born journalist, broadcaster, television documentary maker, and media analyst based in Singapore.
Courtesy Tempo Magazine – Nov. 2009