Dear Amnesty, thanks for making it hard to be a moderateÂ
Parts of the SL Blogosphere reject anything ‘international’ out of pure insecurity, when I think a lot of it has merit. International generally means ‘other people’ and I think they can be judged on what they say. Sometimes, however, they just talk cock. Two examples are Amnesty International’s poor sportsmanship in the Cricket World Cup and Simon Robinson’s poorly researched article in Time magazine. For the first, Cricket is the last vestige of national unity we have. The team is composed of a Tamil Hindu (Murali), Tamil Christian (Arnold), Sinhala Christian (Vaas), a Muslim and numerous Sinhala Buddhists. These people play together, they win together, and the nation cheers them together. It is something leading us forward, and Amnesty’s comments only strengthen chauvinists here. Second, the Time article is general, but full of such simple errors that it corrupts whatever analysis it supplies.
Amnesty International is handing out cricket balls for people to sign, urging Sri Lanka to ‘play by the rules’ in terms of human rights. There are human rights abuses in Sri Lanka, the worst by Karuna and the LTTE, but I fail to see how the Cricket World Cup is the time or place. It’s the one thing we as a nation all cheer for, and where Sri Lankan johnnies will get really pumped for the players to work together and win, Tamil, Muslim or whatever. As covered on Groundviews, it makes people who defend and try to learn from the international community look like idiots. Basically, as a moderate this bullshit is making me look stupid.
Cricket is like a religion here and you are basically walking into Temple with your shoes on and acting like dickheads. This is the one place where we have peace. Please let us have at least a few hours of reconciliation.
A friend sent me a link to the Time article, which I thought was general and OK, except for a glaring error. Then I looked and found more. It is just poorly researched by Mr. Robinson. This is the email letter I sent Time:
Mr. Robinson’s article is a bit thin and has numerous errors. This is understandable for a foreign correspondent, but when trying to give a definitive view of a complex conflict, these things matter. The factual errors are compounded by a clumsy analysis which doesn’t really portray the situation (or more accurately, the perspectives) in Sri Lanka. For example,
1. ‘One Country. One People’ isn’t a Sinhala chauvinist campaign, it’s actually a reconciliation movement showing Sinhala, Tamils, and Muslims living together. There is a lot of chauvinism, but this particular movement is the exact opposite.
2. LTTE cadres don’t wear arsenic [as mentioned in the article], of which Wikipedia says the lethal dose is about 53 grams [about a 1/4 cup]. They wear cyanide.
Those are simple errors but shows that he hasn’t done the research or attempted to understand the situation in much detail, or generalities. He talks to a few sources and travels, but his analysis of one of the core problems (Sinhala chauvinism is based on a few random conversations and a falsehood:
Sri Lanka’s Tamils have some valid grievances: Sinhalese chauvinism is evident in everything from innocuous conversations with money changers to the billboards that dot Colombo stating “One Country. One People.”
So you talked to somebody in Pettah and drove around. Even looking at the billboards, however, might have let the writer know that it was a reconciliation campaign, showing all the races living together. Whether there’s Eelam or not, the majority of Tamils live in government areas, and we do have to live together. The One Country One People campaign actually shows the Sinhala Chauvinism has seen a remarkable decline and that people will no longer be quoted saying racist things. Not that the ideas and chauvinism isn’t there – I spend a lot of my time online fighting it – but things have gotten a whole lot better and the nation has matured. There are real examples of dickishness, but this is just sloppy journalism.
Finally, as an aside, I was looking up a rumor that fighting in the North used to stop during cricket matches, and I came across this extremely chilling Prabhakaran quote at eelam.com.
We also claimed responsibility when we shot Anandarajah (principal of St. John’s School in Jaffna). When the Sri Lanka government announced a reward of Rs. five lakhs for information leading to the arrest of his killers, the people of Jaffna came to know the basis of his relationship with the Sri Lanka government. They kept quiet fully understanding why we had killed him.
Anandarajah was planning to hold a cricket match with the armed forces at a time when they were killing our people, arresting young Tamil boys indiscriminately, burning Tamil property and raping Tamil women. We had to do away with him because the government was using the impending cricket match as propaganda to give the impression to the world that the Tamil civilians have very cordial relations with the Sri Lanka armed forces and that the ethnic problem is something created by a handful of militants.
So, he’s talking about cricket as a uniting force, and how they killed a principal for trying to harness it. Which is scary and wrong and bad, echhh. But that’s an aside. The main point is that I believe Sri Lanka needs the involvement of the international community, including our significant expat community. However, all inputs foreign and domestic should be criticized, and Amnesty and Time both get a rating of ‘poop sandwich’ from me.