On My Watch
When Fleeing Tigers fly again
It would be folly to ignore the LTTE’s most recent aerial attack on
the military camp at Thallady in Mannar and the Kelanitissa Power
Station in Colombo.
This is the reality of an ongoing battle against a calculating,
devious and desperate terrorist organisation, which would do everything
within its means to weaken the Sri Lankan State, and also draw the
attention of the world to what it would like to show is its continuing
ability to fight for its separatist aims against the legitimate
Government of Sri Lanka, and to retain its armed grip on the helpless
Tamil people of the North.
Far from making anyone put on blinkers about this attack, its
meaning, impact and outcome, the defence authorities would no doubt be
drawing the necessary lessons from it; especially the need for greater
preparedness against this ruthless enemy, as well as looking at any
weaknesses there may be in the strategies and materiel that are in place
to come to terms with his threat.
The reality is that even the limited success of these sporadic air
strikes by the LTTE has not shaken the mood of the people in their
support of the Government’s ongoing operations against the LTTE in the
North, and more importantly has in no way weakened the morale and
determination of the armed forces to defeat and disarm LTTE terrorists,
and make Sri Lanka together with at least the parts of South Asia that
are closest to us, areas where democracy and freedom can flourish in the
not too distant future.
Victorious Security Forces in the North Picture by Rukmal Gamage
Despite the airborne antics of the “Flying Tigers” the reality of the
battle where it matters in the North, especially in the Wanni, is one of
“Fleeing Tigers”, taking fight with their feet from the advancing forces
of the Sri Lankan military and they push ahead to secure more terrain
that was once held by the LTTE,, and consolidate their position for the
further thrust to take the grip of the LTTE off the Tamil people of the
North, who they falsely claim to represent.
This was proved with the news of the Sri Lanka Army regaining
Jeyapuram and Nachchikuda earlier this week. The LTTE is reported to
have abandoned the strategically located Jeyapuram, 6 km north-east of
Nachchikuda after Security Forces targeted LTTE fortifications in an
area of about 4 sq. km.
The Armed Forces have fought their way towards the main Sea Tiger
base of Nachchikuda on the north-western coast, having overrun its
defences. It will be recalled that the LTTE lost its other strategic
Vidataltivu Sea Tiger base in July this year.
The Basil Mission
All the hype about the imminent threat from India that was being
built up by sections of the Opposition and some sections of the media,
both print and electronic, and the activity that was taking place in
Tamil Nadu with the politics of desperation seeking to manipulate New
Delhi to veer away from its opposition to the LTTE, to serve the
interests of Prabhakaran’s proxies and self-seekers in Tamil Nadu
politics, did not have the required result.
Indeed there was a somewhat strong statement made by the Indian Prime
Minister Dr. Manmohan Singh, who had his own share of worries from a
troublesome coalition ally in Tamil Nadu Chief Minister Karunanidhi &
Co, and there was an interesting, diplomatic and reasoned phone call
from President Mahinda Rajapaksa to the Indian Premier, which were the
highlights of last week’s politics. But the tub-thumping in Tamil Nadu,
and the hopes of Indian intervention entertained by the LTTE as well as
those in the South who would like to see this Government fall, came to
naught as the week ended.
The agent of this change was Basil Rajapaksa, MP and Senior Advisor
to the President, who is showing himself to be a person of commensurate
skill in political strategy, as well as, international diplomacy.
The quiet politician who is spearheading the development of the East,
building bridges to the Tamil and Muslim people there, answered the
call, of the President to go as his Special Envoy to India, to soothe
what seemed to be ruffles feathers from some strong gusts of opportunist
racist winds blowing from Tamil Nadu, and help keep Sri Lanka- India
relations on an even keel.
Within a single day’s diplomacy, Basil Rajapaksa had succeeded in
convincing India of Sri Lanka’s best intentions towards the Tamils in
the North of this country, the commitment to the disarming of the
terrorists of the LTTE, and the continuing of best relations between
India and Sri Lanka.
All this came with India and Sri Lanka jointly reiterating their
determination to defeat the terrorism of the LTTE, cooperate in
humanitarian relief to the Tamil people temporarily affected by the
ongoing military operations against the LTTE, and coming to what no one
can seriously fault as a bad agreement or understanding on the issue of
Indian fishermen who come into Sri Lankan waters.
No bailing out
At the height of the protests that were being orchestrated by
Karunanidhi and the DMK in Tamil Nadu the previous week, one of the few
voices of sanity on the Sri Lankan situation came from Malini
Parathasarthy, Executive Editor of The Hindu, whose Op-Ed piece was a
masterly analysis of developments both in Sri Lanka and India, with the
reminder to the Indian Government that it cannot change its well
considered policy against the terrorism of the LTTE, because of
rabble-rousing politicians in TN.
The strong and principled position taken by The Hindu in this dispute
which was being blown out of proportion to embarrass New Delhi more than
Colombo, saw its offices being attacked by pro-DMK +LTTE mobs. It was
not surprising that the Hindu of last Wednesday (29) had an editorial
that commented on the agreements reached between the two countries
following the Basil Round of diplomacy, with the reminder that Tamil
Nadu should not bail out the LTTE it its current hour of crisis. “The
efforts in Tamil Nadu should be directed towards easing the humanitarian
crisis in Sri Lanka and not bailing out the LTTE”, The Hindu emphasised.
Here is the text of that timely editorial, titled “Ending the
In seeking to address the humanitarian crisis in Sri Lanka without in
any way easing the situation on the ground for the beleaguered terrorist
organisation, the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam, Tamil Nadu Chief
Minister M. Karunanidhi and External Affairs Minister Pranab Mukherjee
found a practical way out of the political crisis arising from the
decision of the Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam MPs to resign their membership
With the two countries reaching an agreement on ensuring the
protection of Indian fishermen entering Sri Lankan waters, and Sri Lanka
promising to guard against civilian casualties in the war against the
LTTE, Karunanidhi quite rightly shifted the focus from the issue of
forcing a ceasefire in the war between the Sri Lankan armed forces and
the LTTE to extending humanitarian aid to the Tamil civilian population
affected by the conflict.
That humanitarian aid was the right and proper response was quite
clear to all except the most chauvinistic of the LTTE’s supporters in
Tamil Nadu. Indeed, the politics of some of the Tamil chauvinist fringe
groups was directed towards collapsing the Tamil question in Sri Lanka
into a pro-LTTE campaign, diverting the widespread sympathy in the State
for the Sri Lankan Tamil population caught in the ethnic conflict to the
cause of the terrorist organisation, which in itself has only minimal
Some of the political parties such as the Marumalarchi Dravida
Munnetra Kazhagam, the Pattali Makkal Katchi, and the Communist Party of
India have allowed the mainstreaming of the fringe agenda of equating
the difficulties posed by the current Sri Lankan military offensive for
the LTTE with the sufferings of the civilians.
In any case, the Sri Lankan Government’s proposal to create a
“humanitarian corridor” to enable civilians trapped in the conflict
zones to leave should address some of the concerns voiced by political
parties in Tamil Nadu.
Sri Lankan President Mahinda Rajapaksa has, in his interview with N.
Ram published in The Hindu today, reiterated his commitment to avoiding
harm to civilians and to ending their suffering in a short time.
He has welcomed the offer of relief material from India and
particularly from Tamil Nadu, and said his Government will facilitate
delivery and cooperate with the Government of India in addressing the
With Karunanidhi leading the mobilisation of resources in the cause
of the civilian Tamil population, the efforts in Tamil Nadu should be
directed towards easing the humanitarian crisis and not bailing out the
LTTE. After all, as Mukherjee pointed out, India could not have restored
a ceasefire that it had neither put in place nor broken.”
The Four Ds
It is now seen that when it came to a matter of face saving, the
Basil Diplomacy certainly helped Sri Lanka and Indian External Affairs
Minister Pranab Mukherjee to make it possible for Karunanidhi to show
that all he was ever interested in was humanitarian aid for the Tamils,
and had no interest in the activities and aims of the LTTE.
This puts Prabhakaran and the LTTE on a limb in the face of the
relentless forward march of the Sri Lankan Armed Forces.
The same issue of The Hindu carried an important interview that its
Editor, N. Ram, had with President Rajapaksa shortly after the Joint
Press Release was issued by Sri Lanka and India.
The Sri Lankan President reiterated his position that he did not
believe in nor stand for a military solution to the issue faced by the
Tamil people, and that the current military operations are strictly to
defeat and disarm terrorism.
I am absolutely clear that there is, and can be, no military solution
to political questions. I have always maintained this. A military
solution is for the terrorists; a political solution is for the people
living in this country”, he said.
In an interesting revelation of both political thinking and strategy,
President Rajapaksa gave what one can see as the 4-D formula, in his
evolving Chinthana on the current situation in the country and the
search for a solution.
He told the Editor of The Hindu that his approach to a political
solution rests on four ‘D’s - Demilitarisation, Democratisation,
Development, and Devolution. He also said he would now set up a
committee to benchmark the devolution process in the Eastern Province.
As The Hindu reported it exclusively, President Rajapaksa said: “Let
me reiterate that my Government is firmly committed to a negotiated
political solution - based on devolution of power and ensuring the
democratic, political, including linguistic, rights of all our Tamil
brethren within an undivided Sri Lanka,” “As President of Sri Lanka,” he
explained in this tranquil setting (at Temple Trees), the official
residence of former Prime Ministers, “I am absolutely clear that there
is, and can be, no military solution to political questions. I have
always maintained this. A military solution is for the terrorists; a
political solution is for the people living in this country.”
“Noting the tardiness of the All Party Representative Committee (APRC)
in coming up with its final proposals, he asserted: “I myself will take
charge of the political process and see it through politically.”
He emphasised that “our military operations are directed exclusively
at the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam” - a terrorists and secessionist
organisation banned or designated as terrorist in more than 30
countries, including India - he renewed his call to the LTTE even at
this late stage to “lay down its arms, surrender, and enter the
democratic political process.”
Still on India, one is increasingly concerned at the direction that
Indian politics is taking when one sees the developments in Mumbai, the
financial capital of India, where a deadly campaign is under way to
attack anyone from outside the State of Maharashtra (where Mumbai is
located) who works there or even seeks qualification or employment
The recent killing of a rail passenger in this frenzy of ‘alien’
hatred, spanned by the Shiv Sena and the Nav Nirman Sena, the Raj
Thackery political outfit, is frightening to anyone who values India’s
secular traditions in modern democracy and the tradition of tolerance
from which it draws strength.
The mobs in Mumbai are now targeting North Indians, mainly from Uttar
Pradesh and Bihar, regarding them as “aliens” who have no business to be
or work in Mumbai, little realising that most of Mumbai’s slum quarters
are populated by these people doing the essential low paid jobs that
helps keep Mumbai ticking, even when the Sensex Index is down, thanks
the credit crunch in the USA.
To make matters worse when there is the emergence of the “Saffron
bomb” with reliable information that Hindu extremists are also involved
in terrorist explosions, which the Indian establishment, the media and
most of society believed was the activity of Islamic Jihadists only.
Organisations such as the Shiv Sena and politicians such as Bal
Thackeray, with undertones of support from the BJP, and those who are
engaging in increased terror in Assam, as well as anti-Christian terror
in Orissa, are doing their own thing to tear apart the fabric of the
secularism of the Indian State; which is frightening to those who expect
India to give the lead in this part of the world to the aims and
objectives of a tolerant democracy. In the various centres of violent
conflict that are emerging in India today, one can see the rise of the
“Bhumiputhra” or the “Maha Puthra” of Maharashtra mentality, with its
highly insular and intolerant attitudes that do not match the scientific
advance or the rising economic strength of India.
The Mass Media Foundation (MMF) had its third awards ceremony at the
BMICH last Tuesday (28). It was well attended, and the honours largely
went to well deserving persons from the media. Interestingly the MMF
maintains it is not an organisation of Media Persons, but of ordinary
citizens who have a keen interest in ensuring that the Media lives up to
its social responsibility in carrying out its functions.
One cannot find fault with this aim, especially in the light of the
list of near forgotten giants of the local media who were recognised for
their contributions, as well as the number of excellent and rising
journalists who were also chosen for accolades.
However, there seems to be some people who are hurt or see themselves
as either being left out of the kudos that others received, angered
about some others who did receive awards and recognition, with
considerable caviling going on about it especially by e-mail. There are
several such unwanted missives that I have received (and so have
Most have a common theme. It is the poor knowledge of English, among
those involved in the MMF. One such e-mail of despicable frivolity
titled: “Sakvithi Awards for Media”, (the implication is not in doubt)
which was forwarded to me as private mail by another recipient.
I was present at that awards ceremony, and glad to see among those
who were honoured persons such as Dr. Gamini Hatthtotuwa, Dr. Sucharitha
Gamalath, Dharmasena Pathiraja, Tilekeratne Kuruvita Bandara, and
Palitha Perera among the giants from the not so distant past and such
examples of performing excellence as Sundara Nihathamana de Mel - as a
Columnist and Editor, and Buddhika Weerasinghe in News Photography.
There were many useful categories for awards such as Feature and
Supplement Editing, Magazine Editing and Advertising in the media too,
which award went to JWT for its campaign for World Press Freedom Day.
The Editor of The Hindu of India was present to collect what the MMF
adjudged was the award for Asia’s best journalist, and he had beaten
Kundar Dixit of Nepal and Mohan Samaranayake from Sri Lanka.
With such a wealth of talent, experience and commitment to the cause
of media being honoured, it can only be some mental aberration, if not
contemptible jealousy that makes those who are engaged in this e-mail
barrage against MMF raise questions about the rights of those who do not
belong to the media to choose who is best in the media.
No doubt it is very good to be judged by one’s peers in any
profession. But this does not mean that one is any less good if genuine
talent and excellent performance is also judged as such by those who can
look at things from outside.
But the infantile nature of these mailers is exposed when the most
they can say for calling these awards a hoax, is that the organizers do
not know their English, as if that is any criterion in choosing the best
in anything, but awards for English writing.
The gravamen of their charge is that “The Media Foundation, a pretty
absurd outfit seems to be encroaching into the arena of media, to set
standards that they themselves are not aware of.” Obviously for those of
cavil mail fraternity, media is the arena that is the preserve of those
within it, and no others can set standards for it. Gone is the social
responsibility of the media, as seen by others.
As for the poor English of the organisers there is misspellings
galore in the mails I have received with “out fit” as two words and so
too “news papers”. The mailer adds: “They seem to be doling out awards
to English newspapers not knowing their own English murders not only the
Queen, but her mother as well.”
Apart from the quality of English, pray, why drag the Queen Mother
too, to display one’s own fragile knowledge of the Queen’s language,
even if you believe it is your forte?