Reply to Channel4 by Prof Rajiva Wijesinha on War Crimes Allegations - 11Dec2010
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Uploaded on Dec 19, 2010
Spin-a-war: how international media spin feeds a civil war in Sri Lanka
Liberation Tigers of Tamil-Elam in Sri-Lanka are about to be wiped out by the state army. The end of the long-fought civil war is in sight. But victory may not come so easily as international media joins the game.
It's April 2009 and the government armed forces of Sri Lanka are about to finish off the Liberation Tigers of Tamil-Elam (LTTE). The end of one more long-fought civil war is in sight. But the victory may not come so easily to the Sinhalese-dominated government of the paradise island: the international community, answering to street protests in support of the Tamils all over Europe, America, Australia and New Zealand, may decide to do something about the rapid advance of the Sri Lankan Army. International media have already loudly pronounced the key word: genocide.
How it all came into being
The conflict started in earnest in the mid-1970s, and the Tamil Tigers in their present form appeared on the scene in 1976: a small group of determined warriors centered around their leadership and clearly choosing terrorist means for achieving their ends: an independent Tamil state on the island of Sri Lanka where Tamils are an ethnic minority while political, administrative and military power is dominated by the majority Sinhalese, with other minorities like the 'Burgers' -- Roman Catholic descendants of the locally-married Portuguese colonial officers and traders, and the Sri Lankan Moslems, traditionally loyal to the government.
The Tigers grew in numbers every year since the start of their war, and their terrorism targets evolved too: from hitting local police stations.....by the 1980s the Tigers graduated to killing cabinet ministers, well-known authors and journalists. In 1983 they had accumulated enough military power to build a regular army and engage the government in a full-blown civil war.
In 1991 they killed a Prime Minster of a neighboring great power: Rajiv Ghandi. By then they had already cleared a huge chunk of Sri Lankan territory for themselves, having pushed out the Moslem population of several Northern provinces (non-combatant ethnic Tamils used to live there in peace with their Moslem neighbors). That was a clear case of ethnic cleansing but in 1992 when it happened the notion was not as popular with the media as it is now.
Since 1983 till this day there have been quite a few tiny jewels of peace woven into the fabric of war, but every truce between the Lions (Sinhalese, from Sinha -- Lion in some South Asian languages) and the Tigers was broken sooner or later and war resumed. In times of peace, beautiful songs described the sufferings of the both peoples, such as the one depicting a Lioness crying for her dead cub beside a Tigress crying for hers. The song said the Lion tears and the Tiger tears are the same. In times of war the two sides thrashed each other with rhetoric and propaganda as fiercely as with bullets and shells.
Media spin around the Sri Lankan civil war
International-level media spin has been a companion of this war from the very start. At first it was 'locally' international: spun between Sri Lanka and India. Later it spilled out into the larger world.
For the Sri Lankan government the propaganda war has always been an uphill battle. If the Tamil Tigers only needed to win over the support of the Tamils at home, in Southern India and further abroad (there are Tamils all over the world but the Sinhalese do not emigrate in such numbers), for their government opponents it was and is a war for the hearts and minds of the world. That means that the Tigers have a like-minded audience which only reacts negatively to one thing: when the Tigers raise the share that the ethnic Tamils everywhere have to donate to the cause.
The Sri Lankan government has all the support from the Sinhalese, Burger and Moslem population it can handle. But it has to explain its doings to people who live in the West, who think differently, whose minds often work in a totally different way, ruled by different rules. Take the recent mighty demonstrations in support of the Tigers that happened in Canada (30, 000 participants), the UK (over 10,000 altogether, 203 arrested), France (up to 20,000 in Paris), Australia, New Zealand! Who are demonstrating there? Caucasians? Some. Tamils? Thousands.
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