Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Ronald Buerk says genocide blamed on Sri Lanka by the LTTE is an expression exceedingly going too far

Ronald Buerk, BBC's former Colombo correspondent making an independent appearance in a radio debate between the Sri Lankan and pro-Tamil Tiger parties in London and answering a question whether there is any truth in the charge by pro-LTTE section about a "genocide" in Sri Lanka said it is exceedingly an "expression going too far."

Buerk said undoubtedly some civilians are getting killed in the war but the allegation about genocide is not true. But Buerk protested the inability of journalists not being able to see for them what was happening inside the warzone.

The debate between the two Sri Lankan groups was moderated by the popular broadcaster Nihal for the BBC's Asian network.

One side was represented by the President of the Sinhala Association of London Mr. Douglas Wickramaratne and the PRO-LTTE side was represented by Mr. Ramanan Sri Pathmanadan.

But during the debate Mr.Sri Pathmanadan had to accept that the child soldiers conscripted by the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) and the suicide bombing practiced by them are two indefensible acts, although officially the LTTE has never said so before.

Douglas Wickramaratne replying to charges of discrimination said what Eaton and Oxford educated Bandaranaike did was only replacing English , spoken only by six percent of the people , the elite of the Sinhalese and the Tamils , with Sinhalese as the state language which was understood and spoken by eighty percent of the population. He also introduced reasonable use of Tamil immediately after the Sinhala act. This upset, mostly the Tamil elite who had become an over privileged sector of the society due to the divide and rule policies of the British imperial government, Wickramaratne charged.

Anyway, today both Sinhlese and Tamil languages have become state languages of the country, said Wickramaratne , who also added that Sri Lanka is the only country in the world which has given such a place to the Tamil language. Sri Lanka educates all Tamil children, free of charge , in their mother tongue from the kindergarten to the university, once again being the only country in the world of doing so, he emphasized.

Mr.Ramanan Sri Padmanadan opening the debate for the LTTE said, Sri Lanka was three countries when the Portuguese invaded the Indian ocean island and it was they who put the Tamil homeland, an independent state aligned with Sinhala maritime areas. The British united the countries and gave independence in 1948 and hence all these troubles.

He first of all advocated separation as a solution and when questioned about the wisdom of it changed it to devolution. But the LTTE has not accepted any devolution offficially but separation. Mr.Pathmanadan denied any over- privileges for the Tamils under the British imperial government but said since there were more English schools in Jaffna the Tamils were able to educate themselves better and get more jobs.

Mr. Douglas Wickramaratne argued that that because of this position a kind of apartheid was practiced against the Sinhalese by the British then. He said disproportionately large numbers of higher positions were enjoyed by them. When such imbalances are balanced by the circumstances violent reactions occur now.

While admitting that child soldiering is indefensible Mr.Pathmanadan asked what could they do if a child comes and tell the LTTE that he wants to fight for the cause. Though this is an argument put forward by the LTTE, the UNESCO, has stated that the children do not have the right to give their consent to fight for the war. Even their parents, according to the United Nations , do not possess the right to give away their children for the war. The young Tamil debater was unaware of it. UN reports also say the children are abducted by the Tamil Tigers.

Even today, the Sinhalese are discriminated in their own country, despite being the majority Mr.Wickramaratne charged. Under a law introduced by the Dutch, the Sinhalese cannot buy land in Northern Province. The Sinhalese cannot educate themselves in Jaffna or Eastern Universities because the LTTE kills any Sinhalese going there to learn, he said. But Tamils, about 60 percent of them are not discriminated to live in the Sinhala majority areas and buy land he argued.

Mr. Pathmanadan, not knowing , that in the country , there is no system that discriminates against Tamil students entering universities currently said that such a discriminatory method is built in the constitution and Tamils have to obtain more marks to enter the universities. Mr.Wickramaratne flatly denied the statement.

He said 40,000 Sinhalese and 100,000 Muslims have been chased out of Jaffna by LTTE leader Mr. Prabhakaran in an unique act of ethnic cleansing .

When the moderator asked whether Mr.Pathmanadan is not troubled by those acts of violence and by Prabhakaran always standing on the way to peace and the LTTE being named as terrorist organization by so many countries Mr. Pathmanadan said he is supporting the LTTE since it is the only party that is standing for the aspirations of Tamils.

Mr. Douglas Wickramaratne said the LTTE should seek the Tamil homeland in Tamil Nadu where 70 million Tamils live. He said like Mr. Pathmanadan said there had never been separate states in Sri Lanka 's history and for more than 2000 years the country it had been run as one state and what Mr.Pathmandan had been referring to were regional administrations under one emperor, during ancient times and not different states. He also said the latest propaganda is escaping civilians have to live in concentration camps. But the fact is, said Mr. Wickramaratne that Sir John Holmes of the UN and many ambassadors of foreign countries have expressed complete satisfaction about those civilian camps. The LTTE sent suicide bombers even inside those civilian refugee camps as the terrorists were desperate they could not use those Tamils as human shields Mr.Wickramaratne argued. Hence, protection was necessary for them, he said.