|Of facing propaganda wars
Is Sri Lanka winning the war on the ground, but losing the war
over the airwaves and the print media?
This is a question we must ask ourselves, as the military
completes its annihilation of the Liberation Tigers of Tamil
Eelam (LTTE), in the face of ever mounting protests from a
growing number of international voices, the latest of which is
probably the most significant: a United Nations Security Council
statement that diplomatically censures the government in
The protests against the Lankan military thrust originated as
street demonstrations in cities as diverse as Sydney, Toronto,
Oslo and Chennai - their common denominator being large numbers
of Tamils of Sri Lankan origin resident in these regions.
From the manner in which these protests were conducted, it was
obvious that they were not spontaneous outpourings of genuine
concern; they were exercises that were cleverly coordinated by
the Tiger propaganda machine, which, though debilitated,
continues to work overtime to propagate the terrorists’ cause to
whoever is willing to listen.
If the protests were aimed at arousing international
attention at what was going on in the battlefields of the North,
the strategy seems to have worked. Soon, there was a queue of
diplomatic tourists disembarking at Katunayake, to have a word
with President Mahinda Rajapaksa, in their attempts to convince
him to call off the war. If reports we hear are to be believed,
all they got was a very frank piece of the President’s mind.
Despite the unwavering commitment to ensure that the Tigers
are crippled forever, and despite the obvious gains on the
battlefield, we seem to be coming down a notch or two on the
propaganda war front, and this is largely due to gross
misreporting and misrepresentation by the international media
and other agencies which feed on them.
To quote just one example, the self-righteous British
Broadcasting Corporation (BBC), originating from the same
country which gave us the incomparable David Miliband, quotes as
gospel truth, the statistics attributed to a ‘doctor’
purportedly working in the Tiger controlled areas, who claims
that, several hundred civilians were killed by government
shelling in a single day. For the record, the Ministry of Health
states that this doctor has not been on their payroll of late.
Surely, even the airheads at BBC should realise that such
figures, originating from someone who is a captive in Tiger held
territory, cannot be accurate. But, to the BBC and other
agencies, which quote these figures with glee, such dilemmas are
of no concern; all they want is a sensational story, and they
will run it.
If one were to take a different perspective on it, then the
BBC and other news agencies of its kind should also give equal
play to the horror stories related by Daya Master, the former
Tigers spokesman, now in government custody. But of course, such
‘fair’ coverage has never been a luxury that Sri Lanka has
enjoyed in this propaganda war.
It is not sufficient to heap blame on the international media
alone, because it is also a fact that, the Foreign Office
mandarins in Colombo have been caught flat footed, while Fleet
Street went to town, when the final phase of the war began in
earnest. The strident voice of Lakshman Kadiragamar is sorely
missed, and it is no wonder that, the LTTE went to extraordinary
lengths to eliminate him.
The latest blow to hit Sri Lanka, as a result of all the
negative publicity that has accumulated in recent weeks, was the
decision by the United Nations Security Council, to formally
discuss the Lankan situation. This itself will be worrying for
The bottom line is that, Sri Lanka is certain of winning the war
on the ground. But the big question that must now inevitably
follow is whether it is equally certain of losing the propaganda
If that is not to be the case, then the think tanks in
government must go into damage control mode, and do so as soon
Ranil ruins his political future
Recently, at a ceremony in the Southern Province, a Buddhist
monk was to publicly tell Opposition Leader Ranil Wickremesinghe
that although he was a clever leader, he was not blessed with
the attributes of a good politician - he was not corrupt, he
found it difficult to lie and he didn’t make false promises.
To this list, we dare to add one quality that Wickremesinghe
possesses in abundance: a genius for acting in the most
inappropriate manner, at the most inappropriate time.
This week, Wickremasinghe was on a European tour meeting - yes,
you guessed it - Eric Solheim, the man who ‘facilitated’ a
discussion between United Nations’ Humanitarian Affairs Chief
John Holmes and the LTTE’s ‘international coordinator’ Kumaran
Solheim, with all his public utterances with a bias towards
the LTTE, is not on the Sri Lankan public’s most adored list
right now, and Wickremesinghe could only have done himself a
favour by shunning his company at this critical juncture. By
rubbing shoulders with Solheim, Wickremesinghe is only lending
credence to claims that he is a Tiger by proxy.
And, while we do not expect the Leader of the Opposition to
wholeheartedly support the government, we do expect him to act
in a responsible manner, at a time when Sri Lanka is attracting
critical comments from around the globe, while being on the
verge of eliminating the most ruthless terrorist organisation in
To be fair by Wickremesinghe, no one doubted his bona fides,
when he entered into a ceasefire agreement with the LTTE. But
hindsight has convincingly demonstrated that, Wickremesinghe and
those who believed in his strategy were taken for a ride by
What Wickremesinghe must do now - if he values his political
future at all - is come clean, admit that, he made an error in
judgment and extend his support, not to the government, but
towards its effort to strangle the Tiger.
But then, that wouldn’t be quite Wickremesinghe’s style, would