A NOTE: With the UNHCR sessions looming in Geneva this month and CHOGM due to take place in London in the near future I am stirred to visit this moment when a local journalist broke away from the miasma clouding the judgement of a whole ‘tribe’ of media personnel in Britain in their reportage of the Sri Lankan war and its IDP camp aftermath. As I am in UK because of a family bereavement. I have been stirred to return to this puzzle. That is, my investigations of the scenario in Sri Lanka in 2009-2010 led me to the firm conclusion that the British media had bought into the clever propaganda of the LTTE — in part from ideological reasons (in my surmise). Among those who I would place in this camp of pro-Tiger supporters (in varying degrees) THEN are Frances Harrison, Marie Colvin, Jeremy Page, Nick Paton-Walsh, Gethin Chamberlain Charles Haviland and Alan Keenan (ICG)….. and of course Channel Four writ large. In such circumstances the ‘sniper commentators” who took a different stance (e.g.Simon Jenkins, Christopher Hitchens, Liddle) are worth a glance … or more. Any such exploration should also attend to some of the readings I am placing at the end of this article. Michael Roberts
Rod Liddle, “That’s the president of Sri Lanka, PM, not one of your fags,” in The Times, 17 November 2013,
I have to say, I thoroughly approve of the manner in which our prime minister has decided to deal with foreigners, especially jumped–up foreigners who by rights should really still be part of our dominion and thus be doing as they’re bloody well told. David Cameron struck precisely the right note with a man called Mahinda Rajapaksa, who is somehow running a place that I think we’d all prefer to call Ceylon. Normally when one is a guest in someone else’s country, it is incumbent upon the visitor to be polite, even deferential.
But the prime minister is aware that this does not apply to Sri Lanka, as it is now apparently called. Indeed, there is a case for saying that it does not apply to almost any of the countries qualified to host the Commonwealth heads of government meeting. I cannot imagine, for example, how one could possibly be polite upon arriving in, say, one of those islands where they worship the Duke of Edinburgh as a living deity.
It might be possible to smile pleasantly for a while, but in the end one has to let them know who is boss. This will almost certainly mean telling them how to run their country, at some point, perhaps after some hideous local dinner of sheep spleen and plantain.
So it is to David Cameron’s immense credit that he struck the right tone when addressing this Ceylonese johnny. It is the tone of a member of the Eton upper sixth addressing some errant fag who has failed to buff his shoes to the correct level of shine, through either incompetence or laziness.
It should be peremptory, it should carry within it the vapour of contempt, it should be — to the recipient — chidingly insulting and remind the foreigner that we once owned his ghastly satrapy and things were a damned sight better when we did, frankly.
Our prime minister could not have been more wonderfully patrician. I was transported straight back to about 1952 — and, do you know, I like to think President Rajapaksa was similarly moved backwards in time. “We are not a colony!” he bleated after the PM had issued his statement, condemning Sri Lanka for its human rights abuses and announcing that he was going to be the first politician for a very long while to visit Jaffna, in the north of this previously troubled archipelago, to “see for himself”.
Ah, off you go, Dave. The reason that you can go to Jaffna at all is that this Rajapaksa-wallah, over the course of three years, eliminated the terrorist threat of the Tamil Tigers. The country is now at peace, not merely economically stable but with a rate of economic growth that would inflame the loins of George Osborne. I dare say Rajapaksa has been a ruthless authoritarian, that not everything he has accomplished would earn the approval of the European Court of Human Rights.
But for 26 years the murderous, maniacal Tamil Tigers waged war in Sri Lanka — assassinations, suicide attacks, using children as hostages, planting bombs. And they were able to do so thanks to the money that flooded in largely from the UK — via the Tamil diaspora in, mostly, London.
For decades we turned a blind eye to the relentless fundraising for these terrorists — and the Tamil Tigers were themselves only proscribed as a terrorist organisation (rather than lauded as freedom fighters) in 2001, a year, incidentally, when we all opened our eyes to terrorism. So maybe after ticking off this gentleman for the way he runs his country, a short apology from Cameron might not go amiss.
Tammita-Delgoda, S. 2014a “Reading Between the Lines in April 2009: Tammita-Delgoda takes apart Marie Colvin’s jaundiced propaganda article in British newspaper,” 26 September 2014, http://thuppahis.com/2014/09/26/rading-between-the-lines-in-april-2009-tammita-delgoda-takes-apart-marie-colvins-jaundiced-propanda-article-in-british-newspaper [orig.pubn 2009]/
Tammita-Delgoda, S. 2014b “Crossing the Lines: Tamils Escapees from the Last Redoubt meet the Army,” 21 September 2014, https://thuppahis.com/wp-admin/post.php?post=13751&action=edit&message=6&postpost=v2 [orig, 2009].
Michael Roberts 2014 “Truth Journalism? Marie Ccolvin hoist on her Own Petard,” 5 November 2014, http://thuppahis.com/2014/11/05/triuth-journalism-marie-colvin-hoist-on-her-own-petard/
Seneviratne, Sudharshan 2010 “Educating Jeremy Page,” 21 April 2010, http://www.island.lk/2010/04/21/features1.html
Ministry of Defence, SL 2001 “Marie Colvin’s Encounter with the Sri Lankan Army,”4 November 2014, http://thuppahis.com/2014/11/04/marie-colvins-encounter-with-the-sri-lankan-army-16th-april-2001/#more-14399.
Roberts, Michael 2014 “Generating Calamity, 2008-2014: An Overview of Tamil Nationalist Operations and Their Marvels,” 10 April 2014, http://groundviews.org/2014/04/10/generating-calamity-2008-2014-an-overview-of-tamil-nationalist-operations-and-their-marvels/
Roberts, Michael 2011a “People of Righteousness march on Sri Lanka,” The Island, 22 June 2011 and http://thuppahis.com/2011/06/27/people-of-righteousness-target-sri-lanka/
Roberts, Michael 2011e “Amnesty International reveals its Flawed Tunnel-Vision in Sri Lanka in 2009,” 10 Aug. 2011, http://thuppahis.com/2011/08/10/amnesty-international-reveals-its-flawed-tunnel-vision-on-sri-lanka-in-2009/
Roberts, Michael 2012a “Inspirations: Hero Figures and Hitler in Young Pirapāharan’s Thinking,” Colombo Telegraph, 12 February 2012, http://thuppahi. wordpress.com/2012/11/26/velupillai-pirapaharan-veera-maranam/… rep. in TPS: Essays, 2014: 69-89.
Roberts, Michael 2013c “BBC-Blind: Misreading the Tamil Tiger Strategy of International Blackmail, 2008-13,” http://thuppahis.com/2013/12/08/bbc-blind-misreading-the-tamil-tiger-strategy-of-international-blackmail-2008-13/#more-11221
FOR a criticism of David Cameron’s antics in Sri Lanka during the CHOGM visit, SEE the Introduction within Tamil Person and State: Pictorial (Colombo, Vijitha Yapa Publications, 2014) = ISBN 978-955-665-231-4 …. 293 pages incl. of 164 pp of images…… www.vijithayapa.com OR www.srilankanbooks.com
And FOR a description of the manner in which David Miliband’s arrogant “gunboat diplomacy” in late April 2009 was stymied effectively by President Mahinda Rajapaksa at a meeting at Chandrikawewa, see Roberts: “David Miliband’s Imperious Intervention in Lanka left in Tatters,” 5 July 2016, https://thuppahis.com/2016/07/05/david-milibands-imperious-intervention-in-lanka-left-in-tatters/