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Government Gazette

An open letter to Dr Ferruccio de Bortoli


Dr. Ferruccio De Bortoli Director ‘Corriere della Sera’ Milan

Fax: 02.29009705

Dear Dr. De Bortoli,


This refers to the article which appeared in your esteemed newspaper, on May 30, 2009, titled: ‘Sri Lanka: twenty thousand civilians massacred in order to defeat the Tamil Tigers’, by your correspondent Cecilia Zecchinelli.

It behoves me to note that your paper, being the largest newspaper distributed in Italy, was dependent upon an article appearing in the London ‘Times’, and did not emanate from any respected news agency such as Reuters. Your correspondent refers to certain passages which are not even found in the original version of the article published by the London ‘Times’.

I specially take exception to the line: ‘the rectangles are all tombs, the ones of the Tigers neat and disciplined just as their army was; the untidy ones are those of the ordinary people’.

There is an innuendo in this phrase, I believe written by your correspondent, which attributes orderliness to the army of the Tamil Tigers.

As you know, the Tigers are a terrorist organisation proscribed by the EU, including Italy.

It has been accused of keeping thousands of civilians as human shields and firing heavy artillery from its positions. They are also accused of shooting any Tamil who tried to escape from the no-fire-zone into the Government controlled areas.

This is not propaganda coming from our Government or media, these are the allegations brought against the Tamil Tigers by the Human Rights Watch and by other so called independent organisations. The Tigers, who killed civilians trying to move into a safe area, cutting off their limbs if they attempted to do so, are, in your own terminology, a ‘disciplined army’.

If one examines the photos and videos displayed by the London ‘Times’, one could perceive the cemeteries containing the tombs of the Tigers. There is no indication to state whether these tombs had been made a few days prior to their death, or much earlier to the final battle. The Tamil Tigers had their land demarcated for their war cemetery, which could be seen in the areas controlled by them.

Even a foreign expert analysing these images will not be able to come to the conclusion that these were the graves of the Tamil Tigers who died during the 30-year war and that the other sand mounds are those of the ordinary people: only an omniscient person or someone with super x-ray vision could see whether the earth mounds are those of the corpses of civilians or of the Tamil Tigers.

The LTTE, which began as a small ragtag band, later developed into a terror machine, invincible in the eyes of the Western powers, due to the propaganda unleashed by them. They were considered as the truth by certain sections of the Western media, which swallowed their claims hook, line and sinker.

It is regrettable, that an esteemed newpaper of the calibre of ‘Il Corriere della Sera’ could publish such a prevaricated news item as it if were the truth. The ‘Times’ said that 20,000 civilians died in the last days of the battle, attributing this figure to unconfirmed reports obtained by UN officials.

Ban Ki Moon, Secretary General was, as your correspondent commented, ‘not very welcome’ in Sri Lanka. This is a figment of your imagination: Mr. Moon was invited by Sri Lanka President Mahinda Rajapaksa, to visit the country. Mr. Moon had for several reasons postponed his visit, but later visited the IDP camps in a helicopter provided by the Government of Sri Lanka.

He categorically stated that he could not accept the statements attributed to some UN officials and that published in the ‘Times’, which said that 20,000 civilians were killed. This position has been substantiated by John Holmes, UN Humanitarian Chief.

This clearly demonstrates the misinformation carried out by certain newspapers which had been grieved, not so much by the deaths of civilians, but by the fact that the resolution commending Sri Lanka for eliminating terrorism, adopted by the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva, rejected the resolution that was to be tabled by the EU to inquire into the allegations of war crimes.

Otherwise, there could be no reason why a prestigious newspaper like the London ‘Times’ and various Italian newspapers should publish stories that were not verified by any source, and categorically denied by the UN Secretary General himself.

In the article, your correspondent states that the Manik Farm in Vavuniya has become ‘the largest open air prison in the world’.

This is another invention of those NGOs who have, for three decades, made inroads in Sri Lanka and destabilised its security, by helping the terrorist and by publishing deliberate prevaricated lies emanating from the LTTE propaganda machine, to give the impression that the Tigers are not terrorists but liberators.

Having visited these camps and spoken to the IDPs independently, Ban Ki Moon, the UN Secretary General, John Holmes, UN Humanitarian Chief, David Miliband and Bernard Kouchner, the British and French Foreign Ministers, never commented or disapproved the conditions they were in.

They were rather concerned about the lack of basic facilities in the IDP camps, due to the enormity of problems which the Government had to tackle during the influx of the Tamil refugees from the clutches of the LTTE terrorists.

The allegations of the kidnapping of children and the disappearances, and that the ‘schools of Vavuniya had been transformed into little Guantanamos’, carried and expanded by your newspaper, should be treated in the same manner as the allegations in the ‘Times’, as baseless, unfounded and designed to tarnish the image of Sri Lanka.

For your information, the Caritas, the Catholic social service entity of the Vatican, is working with the Government of Sri Lanka and has free access to all of these camps. On the basis of the reports of the Caritas, the Catholic Bishops decided to donate ? 1 million for the welfare of the IDPs.

It is our belief that what is necessary is to urgently help the IDPs and to obtain the support of the entire Italian public, in the manner in which it supported Sri Lanla during the tsunami and to start contributing to the welfare of the IDPs, rather than spreading baseless, ill-founded allegations like the ones found in your newspaper.

Thanking you,

Yours sincerely, Hemantha Warnakulasuriya Ambassador


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