Referring to a conflict that involves two sides, with a poor cross section of interviewees that provided only one side to the conflict, how could the viewing audience form an opinion from stilted facts? There are two sides to any conflict that can balance the truth. Sri Lanka has consistently been misrepresented regardless.
Showing the world that Sri Lanka was both intolerant and oppressive to its minorities, Anthony Bourdain with little knowledge, undermines a country that has been repeatedly invaded and is in a rare position to have crushed the most brutal terrorist war (not a civil war) because not all Tamils were involved, was poorly advised or guided. He should stick with his food fantasies and refrain from misrepresenting the history of, and the truth about the conflict in Sri Lanka. His second visit after 10 years was because in the first visit, the North was not safe for anyone and all the people lived in fear of LTTE bombings and indiscriminate killing that affected life throughout the island. This response may be long, but it is intended to also to set some facts straight to avoid a misinterpretation through statements made in the program that one side was a victim and the other was an oppressor.
The majority in the capital Colombo is not the Sinhalese who are the majority in the country. It is proven that 60% of the minority Tamils live outside the north which has become a self-proclaimed homeland referred to in the program implying a division where one minority is at liberty to live throughout the country while other groups are not accepted in the North. This is the reality before and after the conflict. There is no declared homeland for Tamils alone and that is not Sri Lanka. The capital of Colombo is 40% Tamil according to the census data. Colombo, the capital is in the deep-seated South. The place that has the prosperity that attracts all ethnic groups where most Tamil citizens who live in the South do not wish to be separated and isolated in a Tamil homeland. The ethnic proportion in the country is 70% Sinhalese and 12% or less Tamil minority, Muslim and other ethnic minorities making up the balance. According to the propaganda machine, implying the north as a Tamil homeland is preconceived and fans flames of divisiveness according to this program.
The argument of repression does not hold water. If those who were portrayed as such are living among the mislabeled oppressor, they have access to all opportunities but continue to be looking for excuses claiming oppression although Sri Lanka has not deprived Tamils or any minorities of any privileges available to everyone. This includes free university education, state funded schools, the use of the Tamil language as a working language, healthcare, freedom to live anywhere in the country. Employment in high positions of Government, seats in Parliament, professions that are all permeated by Tamil members at a proportion far higher than the ethnic ratios of the country. How can so many survive if it was a civil war? Bourdain should name things as they should be – it was a terrorist war in no uncertain terms even as declared by the US Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI). Terrorism needed an excuse as a protector and killer of its own people at the same time as all terror groups. https://www.google.com/search?q=FBI+refernce+to+Tamil+Tigers&rlz=1C1CHBF_enUS756US757&oq=FBI+refernce+to+Tamil+Tigers&aqs=chrome..69i57.6734j0j8&sourceid=chrome&ie=UTF-8
Human Rights of Tamil People were violated by the LTTE –
The narrative of the Bourdain program appears to be pre-conceived and stilted with half-truths and inaccurate facts. Before Anthony Bourdain goes against every grain of editorial policy of the program and CNN, the program should have represented a balanced view or no view at all. It also taints all Tamils as participants of the belief of oppression. They may not be heard but not all are in that category as they flourish and have proven to be extremely successful in the south. While there are Tamil people enjoying high positions throughout the country, majority Sinhalese people are portrayed as barbarians dominating the minorities. It describes all Sinhalese as Buddhists disregarding the Christian Sinhalese and Tamils, and completely ignores the suffering and massacre of the Muslim populations living in their ancestral parts in the East of the country. In addressing the post war Sri Lanka speaking to Tamil representatives alone is not balanced journalism. Referring to Sinhalese Buddhists oppressing Tamil Hindus is a complete fabrication preconceived for this production.
If parts unknown were covered, why was the plight of the Muslims in the Eastern part of the country not covered? They were slaughtered by the LTTE that deliberately gunned down worshippers in mosques, Buddhist temples, and border villages. These areas were conveniently avoided. Also eliminated were rival groups of Tamil youth from the east who were considered inferior to the LTTE. Most of the victims were the poor, powerless and low caste who had nowhere to go and remained under the brutal authority of the LTTE. They gave up their children who were forcibly taken as child soldiers.
Rehabilitation of child soldiers and return to families at Government expense –
In post war Sri Lanka, families no longer need to be concerned about abduction and conscription of their children as young as 10 years. If there was respect for Human Rights, the most important human right is to keep their children and not have to send them as fodder for a senseless war that they didn’t understand. Brainwashing with hate, and being trained to kill was the saddest plight of the poor Tamil people who had nowhere to turn. In the end they became human shields and even today, the military that has been reported to have saved lives of fleeing Tamil civilians, some shot at by the LTTE have become a point of debate regardless of whose bullets killed civilians. This is another debate that will never be fairly aired by any international media channels.
In reporting on the conflict in Sri Lanka, the positive aspects of the country are taken out of the picture, harping on the negative and twisted truth to propagate opinions not deserved by the country or the people who fought for peace as the only nation that crushed terrorism.
Pre-Independence Sri Lanka Under the British – Divide and rule by repressing the majority –
Before accusations of repression and discrimination are bandied around to describe the Sinhalese majority, the history of Sri Lanka must be understood. The truth is that pre-independence, the Tamil minority were the privileged group while the Sinhalese majority was deprived of good education and employment opportunities to keep them repressed and their potential diminished. The Divide and Rule” British strategy kept the majority (then at 72% of the population) suppressed while the Tamil minority community (then at 15% ) of the population in the 1930s were the privileged prior to independence in 1948. The British occupied Sri Lanka from 1815 to 1948 until independence. Tamil minority had better schools and better employment opportunities while the majority were second class.
Even in pre-Independence negotiations, leaders from the majority community worked hard for Independence due to the relationship of the late D.S. Senanayake, the first Prime Minister of the then Ceylon and Lord Mountbatten. With drafting the constitution in 1944 in preparation for the 1948 independence, communalist minded Tamil leaders like G. G. Ponnambalam who was a very successful lawyer in the country, demanded 50% representation for 15% of the minority population and was rejected by the British at the time. Since then the equal representation for an unequal demographic proportion was an agitation that remained as a demand whether reasonable or unreasonable.
Post-Independence majority entitlement diluted favorable status to minority –
The majority population of Sinhalese became more educated after independence in 1948 and their potential was unlocked when they began to expand their presence with the removal of the repression that was exerted under British rule. However, at no time was there any deprivation of opportunities for minorities as the majority emerged. The privileged position of the Tamil minority began to be diluted and that was received not as proportionate to the demographics but as an allegation of discrimination. Dilution of opportunities is not the same as discrimination when it involved sharing with the majority population of their country.
References such as, Years of mistreatment and oppression lead to the formation of the LTTE and their campaign to seek and independent state” declared in the program does not hold water because 60% of the Tamil population lived and thrived in the South of the country enjoying all privileges of education and employment, free healthcare, freedom to own businesses, own property and freedom that all citizens shared. There were no ethnic barriers. At no time did employment applications or other state documents make it mandatory to declare ethnicity or religion. The flourishing south and the capital was generating revenue for the country and financing the north which contributed very little to the financial revenue of the country.
The dependency of the north on support from the south continued even at the height of the war to maintain schools, hospitals, salaries of all government operations. There was no reference to the migration of Tamil people toward the south or overseas to get away. Likelihood of conscription of their children by the LTTE played a part to some extent in mass migration to safeguard their children from being conscripted. Some claimed asylum and refugee status presenting Sri Lanka as the so-called land of Genocide that they continued to visit and later obtain dual citizenship and own property in any part of the country. The war placed no restrictions on their return to the island regardless of the reasons for leaving.
Anthony Bourdain referred to the children hoping they won’t take to arms again but not about the suffering they endured and the freedom they now enjoy going back to school with government help from the south for rehabilitation and return to their families.
Claim of Buddhist domination over Hindus has no foundation – To refer to the majority community being Sinhalese Buddhists as the oppressor, and Hindu Tamils the oppressed is completely inaccurate. The degree to which the peace will be frail will lie entirely in the hands of a current Ethnic based TNA, the political opposition in the Parliament that is constantly fanning racial hatred insinuating a return to violence. The battle for peace was fought mainly by 90% of the lives lost from the majority, but it brought peace enjoyed by all minorities included. The leader of the Tamil Nationalists in the Parliament is constantly threatening and demanding but he had his free education, attended law school and enjoyed employment as a Supreme Court Justice in this so-called environment of discrimination.
Caste Based discrimination in the North – The root of the conflict in the North began with caste based discrimination among Tamils dividing their social status based entirely on caste. Hindu temples had different entrances for the low caste Tamils. Even today in 2017, moderate Tamils admit to the caste based discrimination in the North. The war ended in 2009. The terrorist leader first eliminated influential high cast Tamils in the main stream as moderate Tamils.
Assassination of all moderate Tamil leaders and Politicians by the LTTE – The LTTE didn’t need any excuse to assassinate any prominent moderate Tamil leader who was in mainstream politics.
Before 1983, the terror group started with the murder of their own leaders, an early casualty was the Tamil mayor of Jaffna (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Alfred_Duraiappah )who was a part of main stream politics and considered a traitor by the LTTE. The same fate befell many more after him. Starting with the killing of the Jaffna mayor, other Tamil moderates, a Sri Lankan President, Prime Minister of India and a host of other valuable political and military leaders of all ethnic groups that included a much-loved Tamil Foreign Minister who could have been the Barak Obama of Sri Lanka, were eliminated in addition to all other Tamils from rival political groups in the East. The LTTE killed their way to self-proclamation of being the saviors of the Tamil people.
Who fought for peace? Who rebuilt Jaffna at the speed with which it was brought back by rebuilding in 3 years was not shown as a part of post peace changes. The rail line was damaged by the LTTE and rebuilt by the Government of the south that financed everything for the north regardless of the negligent and nonexistent contribution to infra structure. The war was financed by the avenues of dubious financing from overseas but none of it was spent on any infra structure rebuilding or facilities for the Tamil people. All the contributions went into war machinery deceiving the poor and voiceless Tamil people who were taken care of by the government.
Data that proves the Myth of Discrimination prior to the terrorist war – The south of the country was a safer place for minorities. The sacrifice of life by all ethnic groups 90% of whom were from the Sinhalese majority have never been acknowledged as a part of the gratitude for peace for all people regardless of ethnicity. Tamils enjoyed privileges and had no issue with the majority community as they had 12% of the population that enjoyed 22% of the free education slots in Medical schools, 24% of the slots in free Engineering schools and over 17% of liberal arts education that was never withdrawn from them due to race. Prior to 1983 when the terror movement figures in scientifically compiled population census data proved the minorities had an unemployment rate far lower than the majority. This is a study that meets international standards of data collection proving Sri Lanka does not subscribe to discrimination. (Source: An ACSLU Report – The Myth of Discrimination Against Tamils in Sri Lanka By ACSLU Dated February 1996 – A Refutation of Claims used to Justify Racist Terror in Sri Lanka – Australian Centre for Sri Lankan Unity P. O. Box 536, Toowong QLD 4066, Australia http://www.infolanka.com/org/srilanka/issues/acslu.html
Omission of a reference to the Eastern Province and Ethnic Cleansing by the LTTE – Anthony Bourdain failed to address the suffering of the Muslim people and the violence against the Sinhalese and Muslims who equally populated the eastern part of Sri Lanka. The LTTE drove them out due to their aim to annex the north and east as a home land for a homogeneous ethnic group while retaining the freedom to live anywhere in the country for the same 12% of one minority.
Changing the balance of ethnic distribution through violence was an undertone in the program and being CNN from the USA that is vehemently against terrorism and responsible for extensive reporting, failed to portray the terrorism in its true form as it applied to Sri Lanka. Instead the emphasis was more on discrimination and oppression with a passing reference to the peace implying that it is frail.
Sri Lanka will only heal the scars of war if the minorities acknowledge that in proportion to the ethnic composition, we must stop crying foul and become the beacon we are because even during a terrible war, the majority accepted, protected, tolerated, sacrificed and pushed for peace regardless.
The majority is entitled to their proportion of privileges and at the same time the reality is that minorities are not deprived of anything based on race or religion. The divide is a political perception while within the country the melting pot continues to live enjoying their hard-earned peace.
Underlying subterfuge continues with a push to continue strife from those who are far removed from the ordinary people who have welcomed the peace. There is a problem with the southern Tamil population subscribing to a separate land because some have never lived there nor have a desire to live in the north. Those in Sri Lanka speak privately about their fears if there is a push from the overseas separatist diaspora.
A program aired by CNN and Anthony Bourdin can plant seeds of resentment that plays right into the hands of miscreants who misrepresent the peace with never ending demands. Anthony Bourdain should not have attempted to portray post war Sri Lanka by talking to only one side of the conflict. Journalism without balance is not appreciated by the viewing audience who know their facts. CNN exhibited a level of ignorance that is refuted in history, census data and personal experience. To report on post war Sri Lanka, one must look at the war and get the other side too. There is no shortcut to the truth.
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Listen to how Anthony Bourdain talks about the conflict that they knew little about in a conversation with Anderson Cooper. He refers to a tragic history and conversations with Tamil people.