Ilankai Tamil Sangam

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Association of Tamils of Sri Lanka in the USA

Seminar on Defeating Terrorism – Sri Lankan Experience

Text of an Uninvited Keynote Speech

by Sachi Sri Kantha, June 4, 2011

The world is well stocked with many varieties of bomb detectors. They come in many shapes, many gadgetries and in varied price tags. But, as Ernie admonished us almost 57 years ago, many lack the skill of crap detecting. My preferred title for this speech would be, "One ‘Terrorist’, Five Tyrants, 12 Army Commanders and Many Mercenaries."

I viewed the keynote speech delivered by Presidential sibling Gotabaya Rajapaksa on May 31st, at the ‘Seminar on Defeating Terrorism – Sri Lankan Experience.’ I was not there personally. It must have been a boastful performance filled with ‘terminological inexactitude’, to borrow Churchill’s phrase. It was long! – 6,228 words. I provide my uninvited keynote speech below; relatively a short one of 600 words. To supplement my speech, I have attached three news items from the New York Times, a section ofan interview given by A. Amirthalingam and three cartoons. My text follows:

It gives me much pleasure to deliver this keynote address to all who are assembled here. Wasn ’t it Ernest Hemingway, the great American writer and war reporter, who said, “Every man should have a built-in automatic crap detector operating inside him. It also should have a manual drill and crank handle in case the machine breaks down.” to Robert Manning? [Atlantic Monthly, August 1965, pp. 101-108].

Ernie, who left us almost 50 years ago, would have anticipated the events that would unfold 55 years later [in the Northern Province in 2009] in the blessed isle of Sri Lanka. The world is well stocked with many varieties of bomb detectors. They come in many shapes, many gadgetries and in varied price tags. But, as Ernie admonished us almost 57 years ago, many lack the skill of crap detecting. My preferred title for this speech would be, "One ‘Terrorist’, Five Tyrants, 12 Army Commanders and Many Mercenaries."

I’ll introduce the plot briefly. The protagonist is Velupillai Prabhakaran. He was a strong-willed Tamil by birth. He didn’t enter the university, but he had a home-grown talent for military skills.Morgan Chua cartoon Far Eastern Economic Review 14 June 1984 Jayawardene Arafat They've even got terrorists in the cabinet!

Then we had five tyrants. All five were/are born Sinhalese. Like Prabhakaran, these five also did not enter university. Their names are respectively, Junius Richard Jayewardene, Ranasinghe Premadasa, Dingiri Banda Wijetunga, Chandrika Bandaranaike Kumaratunga and Mahendra Rajapaksa. Among these, the predecessor of current tyrant Rajapaksa was a woman.

Then we had 12 Army Commanders, starting from 1976. All these 12 also were born Sinhalese. They also did not enter university. Here are their names: D.S. Attygalle, J.E.D. Perera, Tissa I. Weerathunga, G.D.G.N. Seneviratne, Hamilton Wanasinghe, L.D. Cecil E. Waidyaratne, Gerry H. De Silva, Rohan De S. Daluwatte, C.S. Weerasooriya, Lionel P. Balagalle, Shanta H.S. Kottegoda and Sarath Fonseka. Make a note that all the tyrants and army commanders were older than Prabhakaran!R K Luxman cartoon April 12 1984 Sri Lanka Jayawardene Tamils India

It took 12 Army Commanders and many mercenaries (from India, Pakistan, UK, Israel, Ukraine and other un-named countries) and almost a quarter century to vanguish Prabhakaran’s army.

As you have come all the way to Colombo, you should enjoy the hospitality and scenaries of this beautiful island. If it is possible, why not ask your sponsors to visit the North and Eastern regions of the island, to talk with the Tamils living there. You should travel without any hangers-on of the officialdom. You don’t have to worry about the language. You can find someone there who can describe in English to you, about their sufferings at the hands of Sri Lankan armed personnel.

Expecting impartial facts and data from the Sri Lankan military about their victory over the LTTE, is like looking for a virgin in a whorehouse. As Hemingway advised us, you should wear a crap detector. To assist your crap detector, I provide below some items that have appeared in the international media since 1984. Three of the  news reports and commentaries describing the army brutality appeared in the New York Times. Then, we have an interview given by A. Amirthalingam, to the Workers Vanguard (New York), 30 years ago. In this interview, he described what the army guys had done to Jaffna in 1961 and in June 1981. In a lighter vein, I also add three cartoons, among two (by R.K. Luxman and Morgan Chua) that capture the dilemma faced by Tamils in the island. The third cartoon below by Wijesoma (a Sinhalese cartoonist, who was obsessively biased against the LTTE) also pokes fun at the political tyrants who rotated on the throne. The inside caption shows two Tigers singing ‘Singalaya modaya, bomba kanda yodaya’ [literal translation: the Sinhalese man is a fool, a giant to eat bombs]. Thank you for your attention.

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Wijesoma cartoon The Island July 27 2001 Tigers politicians fighting

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In Sri Lanka City, a Tale of Army Terror Unfolds New York Times May 2 1984 William K Stevens Jaffna

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Sri Lanka Army Said to Set Town Ablaze New York Times August 14 1984 AP Mannar

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A Centuries-Old Struggle Keeps Sri Lanka on Edge New York Times February 17 1985 Steven R. Weisman

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Amirthalingam interview to Workers Vanguard (New York) July 17 1981