An Open Letter to The Island

2 February 2000

The Editor
The Island Newspaper
Sri Lanka

Dear Sir,

Tamashas of Dushy Ranetunge
Your main story of February 1, written by your ‘champion UK reporter’ Dushy Ranetunge is very imaginative. You are helping him develop as one of the most imaginative reporters who are able to give a good ‘high’ to your anti-Tamil readership fans.

I have also seen a couple of his earlier reports during recent months in your paper. I am also aware that with the help of Sri Lankan High Commission in London a rogue report writer to a UK Sunday newspaper was persuaded to carry one of those reports in London too without verification of the facts. If a paper in London carried a report it gives tremendous credibility to that story, to your readers in Colombo, it appears.

I have lived forty years in London and I am aware that not all report writers to British papers are angels. However, due credit should be given to that efficient ‘go-between’ who managed to find one who would reproduce a report from a Sri Lankan paper without verification. A good holiday in the southern beaches, with some other opportunities thrown in, will do the trick to many British whites starved of sunshine and beaches. I wonder whether that ‘go-between’ could manage a repeat for this latest report too.

During my very young days in Ceylon I remember a friend always tried to impress others by coming up with an item of news or a story that others often considered unbelievable. When challenged his usual fallback was that he had ‘seen it in the papers’. Well, Tamashy-tunge’s ‘imaginative’ reports are readily printed by The Island and hence become ‘Truths’.

I was amongst the participants of the event ‘Peace in Sri Lanka’ held recently in London and I am also aware that he tried to ‘gate-crash’ the event at the request of Sri Lankan High Commission using a false Tamil name. All his ‘tamashas’ during that evening have been reported elsewhere. He had chosen not to report on what the British MP’s spoke that evening because they are neither favourable to the Sri Lankan government nor your readership fans.

Let’s look at his report. “British authorities are concerned over the “Peace in Sri Lanka” event…” He then goes on to say, “… “The Island” has since learnt that inquiries about the event have been made from the highest levels in Britain and concerns expressed on the use of British parliamentary facilities and lobbying by a foreign terrorist organisation facing possible proscription in the United Kingdom…”

I was not aware that The Island or our friend Tamashy-tunge had access to the highest levels in Britain. Perhaps he has a way with the gardener at No.10 or the au pair at the residence of Home Minister Mr Jack Straw. This gardener may have passed on what he overheard, when the lawn mower was switched off and the window slightly open.

Now that this juicy report had appeared in The Island there are a couple of starved Indian reporters in Colombo who will send this report to their masters in India. Then within a couple of days the anti-Tamil Sinhala websites will report on the Indian reports. This kind of reports on the reports on the reports is what that goes on in Sri Lanka and India these days. This ‘re-cycling of news reports’ helps the original report, true or false, gain more credibility because they are found in so many papers!

Tamashy-tunge’s earlier report was entitled “Tigers Recruit at British Schools”. Any innocent reader in Sri Lanka may think that they are recruiting white British children to go to Vanni. The truth of the story for the sake of any intelligent readers in Sri Lanka is this. In Britain schools are closed on Saturdays and Sundays. Many schools hire their halls at weekends to any organisation at nominal rates. The headmaster or the pupils at the school will be unaware of the events that would have taken place during any weekend.

Tamashy-tunge perhaps is under the delusion that after his report the British schools will not hire the halls to the Tamils. The Tamil problem, until recently had been an ‘internal problem’ of Sri Lanka. Recently, unable to handle it internally, Kadirgamar decided to make it into a ‘global problem’. Our friend Tamasha-tunge is also trying to do his bit in London, with the High Commission’s help.

There are about one hundred thousand Tamils in London. There are many organisations amongst the Tamils. They often hire school halls for various functions. A very great majority of Tamils in Britain are highly educated professionals and hold responsible positions in the public and private sectors. Even those Tamils who arrived recently, having been deprived of good English education and opportunities in Sri Lanka by your government’s racist policies, have become successful entrepreneurs. Tamils on the whole are known to contribute greatly to the British economy. Children of early Tamil settlers in Britain have excelled in education in most fields through the universities and have gained the respect of their British counterparts. British leadership and the ordinary folks in Britain are well aware of our abilities and hold us in high esteem. They are also aware of the real reasons why many Tamils are now in Britain.

I can tell you that Tamils in Britain are not going to be treated like your successive governments have treated us all these years.

The Island’s antics will not change opinion in Britain. This is not Colombo and the people here are not Sinhalese!

If you are a responsible publication you should try to bring about a better life for the poor Sinhala lot over there in your country. Their quality of life had gone backwards forty years over the last forty years I had been away. Tamils are now liberated. They are doing very well in so many different countries and soon will have the strength to liberate those back home and give them good life too. It is the poor Sinhala folks who are the real losers now. Newspapers like yours which continue to whip-up Sinhala fanaticism are not helping the Sinhalese. I feel really sorry for them. Please do something for them instead of carrying these reports whipping up further hatred.

Starting with Bandaranaike in 1956 the Sinhala politicians promised many things for the Sinhalese, at the expense of the Tamils, in order to win at elections and get into power. In reality, the situation for the Sinhalese never improved. We Tamils lost heavily but now we have learnt how to deal with your politicians and governments and found the way forward for us. We are now wealthy and strong. It is the poor Sinhalese who are now left with nothing.

What a great irony!

R Ganeshalingam