A Sri Lanka Propaganda Mouthpiece?

The TIMES (UK) published two articles on 13 February 2002, that could not have been written better by propagandists and warmongers of Sri Lanka. One was the usual propaganda about ‘LTTE Child-Soldiers’ and the other an interview with President Chandrika.

President and prisoner
by Vanya Kewley
A life in Sri Lankan politics has cost Chandrika Kumaratunga dear

The following is a Tamil response. 
Other responses are published under Readers Forum.


13 February 2002

The Times
1 Pennington Street,
London E98 1TA

Dear Sir,
Below please find a Letter to the Editor for publication.

Before that, may I say this, and this is off the record.  The two articles appearing in today’s issue of your paper (Feb.13) – “Children kidnapped to fight for Tamil army” written by a Catherine Philip and “President and prisoner” by Vanya Kewley are obviously part of a campaign (paid for, we believe) to discredit not only the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE), under cover of the fact that this organisation is banned in this country, but also, what is more important, to torpedo the peace process initiated by president Chandrika’s opposition, United National Party now returned to power.

As a working journalist for the past 45 years both in Sri Lanka and in India, and as one who held the TIMES (The “Thunderer”) in great respect, I find it distressing that such an august newspaper should now descend to the level of being used for propaganda purposes by a President discredited in her own country and called a “liar” repeatedly by a leading Sinhalese-owned English-language newspaper in Sri Lanka and edited by a Sinhalese – the Sunday Leader. In trying to polish the image of a devalued president in another country, through what one would call “cheque book journalism” don’t you realise that you are losing your own image in the eyes of intelligent, well-informed readers in your own country? Now that I have got that off my chest, I give below a Letter to the Editor for publication. I entertain great doubts whether you will have the courage and fair-mindedness to use it, but hopefully some latent good sense may induce you.

One-eyed Journalism?

The sob story that President Chandrika Kumaratunga told your correspondent and published in your issue of Feb.13 (President and prisoner, T2 Interview) is no doubt meant to bring tears to the eyes of your readers, but Sir, tears are one thing, facts are sacred.

To say that the ethnic Tamils, who constitute one-fifth of the country’s population, were brought in by the British as indentured labour is a whopper! While referring to the plantation Tamils occupying the centre of the island she deceitfully includes the native Tamils of the north and east who have been there as long as the majority Sinhalese, and oppressed by the latter since independence.

To say that, “systematic violence only came to Sri Lanka in 1978 when the LTTE launched a war of sporadic guerrilla attacks…” is another travesty of truth. Systematic violence began in the year 1958 under the rule of her father Solomon Dias Bandaranaike when hundreds of Tamils were slaughtered, sometimes burned alive. Anti-Tamil riots continued in 1977, 1981 and then came the pogrom in 1983, to which your paper gave wide coverage.

This article, along with the heavily loaded report from your correspondent in Batticaloa titled – “Children kidnapped to fight for Tamil army” in the main section of your paper of same date, shows that your paper has become a party to a campaign, not only against the long-suffering Tamils, but also against the peace process initiated by Mrs.Kumaratunga’s political opposition, after twenty years of war. To shut your eyes to one set of facts and give inordinate publicity to a contrary version is nothing but one-eyed journalism.

S. Sivanayagam


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