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DateLine Friday, 13 February 2009

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Countering misinformation

One of the salient points of the conflict in Sri Lanka is that many countries, organizations and individuals seem to be misinformed about the ground realities in the North.

One reason for this status quo is the LTTE’s propaganda machine which has through the years managed to paint a completely wrong picture of the Sri Lankan Government, the Security Forces and even the majority community to the outside world. Their version of events gained currency as opposed to the Lankan State’s version.

Unfortunately, some Sri Lankan missions abroad were not doing enough to counter such Tiger propaganda. The LTTE thrived in many countries in the absence of a proper counter-propaganda strategy.

It is only now that the State apparatus is fighting such misinformation and outright distortion of facts with an effective strategy.

President Mahinda Rajapaksa has on several occasions pointed out to our representatives abroad the importance of properly countering malicious propaganda by the LTTE and organizations which directly or indirectly support it. These directives seem to be having the desired effect.

Now that the operations against the LTTE are drawing to a close, the Tiger sympathizers’ propaganda mill is working overtime to paint a picture of ‘genocide against the Tamil people’.

This is how the Tigers instigated protests in Tamil Nadu aimed at stopping the military operations. These have died down after the organizers realized that India was firmly with Sri Lanka on the issue of eliminating terrorism.

Yet, the misinformation campaign continues in one form or another, with new fabrications almost everyday. First, the LTTE sympathizers have vastly inflated the number of people living in the very small area still dominated by the Tigers to show that the Lankan state is willfully targeting Tamil people.

The Government has now proven that such charges are completely baseless and it is in fact the LTTE which is holding them hostage against their will. This fact is proven by the influx of thousands of people to cleared areas in the last few weeks. If the Security Forces personnel are oppressors as the LTTE claims, they would not be so keen to cross over.

Another canard spread by the LTTE sympathizers was that the Security Forces had used cluster munitions which resulted in civilian casualties. It is a costly, relatively new technology which the Sri Lankan Security Forces do not possess.

The international community has now accepted the Government’s position that it does not possess such weaponry. Several misleading statements were also made regarding attacks on hospitals and other civilian facilities. The true picture with regard to these incidents emerged later.

It is also baffling as to why many local political parties, international organizations and human rights organizations are silent on the LTTE’s shooting and killing of innocent civilians crossing over to cleared areas.

The true nature of the LTTE was exposed just a couple of days ago when a suicide bomber targeted innocent Tamil civilians. Several so-called rights organizations did issue half-hearted statements condemning the LTTE for this crime but the tone was nowhere near the wordings used against the Government and the Forces.

Granted, the LTTE is a terrorist organization and one cannot expect them to honour human rights, but the Tigers seem to have no qualms about killing members of the very community they claim to liberate.

It is also regrettable that certain misinformed observers including UN experts have confused the two issues of the general human rights situation and the military operations to combat terrorism.

They keep on blaming the Government and the Security Forces for the plight of Vanni civilians without urging the LTTE to stop attacks against these civilians. The timing of these statements raises doubts as to whether they have been deceived by pro-Tiger propaganda.

Organizations such as the ICRC and the UN agencies which work closely with the Government in conflict areas have a great responsibility to disseminate correct information to the world.

Many would believe their opinion and it would be unfair by the Government and the Forces if incorrect information regarding their actions is disseminated. This point was recently stressed by Defence Secretary Gotabhaya Rajapaksa.

As the civilian influx continues and as the military closes in on the last remaining vestiges of Tiger domination, the misinformation campaign by pro-LTTE elements will no doubt rise to a crescendo.

The authorities must be ready for this eventuality to even more effectively counter such false propaganda and explain the correct situation to the entire world. Pre-empting the LTTE’s propaganda attacks is as important as gaining battlefield victories.
 

UN Experts on criticism and suicide bombing

The Ministry of Disaster Management and Human Rights regrets very much a recent statement of 10 UN Experts that is supposedly about the ‘suppression of criticism, impunity’, but which deals at length with the current situation in the North of the country, in which government forces are engaged in a struggle against a terrorist movement.

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Professions, TV Discussions and Evolution

The rights and the dignity that a citizen is accorded in Developed societies today would have been unimaginable to a person living in the middle ages. If a King of yore was told that laws must be made by a body elected by his vassals he probably would think that this person had taken leave of his senses.

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Countdown to final battle begins

The LTTE used to explain each and every defeat they were facing as tactical withdrawals and continued to do so until they faced their humiliating defeat in their so-called capital Kilinochchi and their strongholds Pooneryn, Elephant Pass and Mullaitivu.

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