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Asylum-Seeking Good Business PDF Print E-mail
By Kalinga Seneviratne
United Nations for Political Affairs who visited the IDP camps in the north commented that he was “impressed by the work done by the army, the demining teams, the UN staff and the civil society” and that the team also wit¬nessed the rehabilitation work that was underway.

He also stated that in Jaffna, they were able to feel that the people were looking forward to getting more opportunities and that there was a feeling that a “whole era was waiting for them”. Local media reported that he had told President Mahinda Rajapaksa later, “You have a better story than is getting out today.”

But, the dilemma for the Sri Lankan government is what western media organisation they could trust to give out this story with objectivity.

The Sri Lankan government has repeatedly empha¬sized that the IDPs cannot be let loose that easy because of sophisticated landmines LTTE has planted all over the area and these are gradually been cleared up with inter¬national assistance. In addition, the government fears that thousands of LTTE cadres have escaped to the camps at the end of the war and they need to be weaned out before the camps are emptied. Currently through long interro¬gations, law enforcement authorities have identified over 30,000 such suspects, whom they want to keep in deten¬tion for rehabilitation.

The western media which criticise the IDP camps in Sri Lanka seem to forget Guantanamo Bay in Cuba and scores of such camps the West operates around the world to hold suspected Al Qaeda or Taleban terrorists. Also the same media that accuse Sri Lanka of war crimes gleefully report on Pentagon statements without questioning, that says that Taleban militants have been killed by bombs dropped by US unmanned aircraft over Pakistan, as if no civilians live in those areas.

Meanwhile the LTTE propaganda machine, is supposed to have a war-chest of some US$300 million of the left¬over money raised to buy arms. This is a lot of money to stage international stunts and produce sophisticated au¬dio-visual material to hoodwink the international me¬dia to keep burning the flame of human rights violations against Tamils. Recently Britain’s Channel 4 fell into the trap when they aired a video of Sri Lankan soldiers sup¬posedly shooting dead a Tamil prisoner. The video was given to them from an unknown group called Journalists for Democracy in Sri Lanka. Later it was proved to be a hoax. Sri Lanka’s Sunday Observer found their website with a Berlin address and no material produced prior to August 1 this year. Channel 4 has since apologized to the Sri Lankan government.

What the LTTE propagandists fail to tell the world is that over 60 percent of the Tamils in Sri Lanka live among the Sinhalese peacefully, and they have done so for the past 25 years. Tamil leaders of the eastern province—who are former LTTE leaders—are now ruling the province in alliance with the government, and the one of them is a trusted cabinet minister.

When would the western media begin to listen to Tamil leaders within the country who are trying to work with the government to rehabilitate a war-devastated land and its economy, than listening to a small vocal minority of Tamils, who probably have no intention of returning to Sri Lanka, and who have a mistaken hatred towards a land they have left behind.

Recently, Sri Lanka’s foreign investment bureau chief went to London and met with some of these vocal Tamil expatriate groups to try and raise money to rehabilitate Jaffna—which they claim as their cultural capital—there were hardly any takers. He came back and told the Sri Lankan media that Tamils there wanted to destroy the country and not rebuild it.

If the western media let go their prejudice against lead¬ers in developing countries who are not pro-western, and report objectively, leaders like the Australian Prime Min¬ister Kevin Rudd, will have less headaches to deal with.

The writer is a Sri Lankan-born journalist,  broadcaster, television documentary maker, and media analyst based in Singapore.

Courtesy Tempo Magazine – Nov. 2009

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