25th November 2001

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Tearing apart the Island of Blood

Anita Pratap's book "Island of Blood" depicts incidents in Sri Lanka in a narrow, parochial manner so as to titillate western and other foreign readers who take a vicarious pleasure in reading about murder, mayhem, rape and cruelty. If a statistician were to compile a list of best sellers, he would without doubt, come out with a list that would clearly show the attraction of readers to such tales.

Anita Pratap knows very well that the success or failure of her book depends on her adhering do this well-weathered formula. In adhering faithfully to this well scripted formula for success, she has, however, sacrificed to some extent, impartial reporting.

Sensational and emotional reporting often tends to sacrifice the truth. When she first reported the ethnic riots of 1983, she says her emotional outpouring and anguish were so great that she was crying as she was typing. She confides that the account was not the "dispassionate despatches of a professional reporter". Yet this was the report that made her famous.

This is what the Indian public wanted; this is what the international media wanted. This is what Mr. Prabhakaran wanted. As a mark of gratitude he gave more interviews to Anita than to any other journalist.

She finds Prabhakaran one of the greatest leaders of people. She, in fact, mentions a rumour that there was a romance between her and Prabhakaran and emphatically denies it. Be that as it may, she will need to have the same good relationship she had with Prabhakaran in order to interview him in the future. In fact she says that Prabhakaran is fond of her because she internationalized the 1983 ethnic riots. She marvels at Prabhakaran's reply to one of her questions and at the same time makes a matter-of-fact statement that he has killed thirty politicians as if describing what Prabhakaran had for breakfast.

While the ethnic riots were condemned by all right thinking people of this country, her book does not permit the reader to gain an insight into the trauma and travail that Sri Lankan Sinhalese underwent and are undergoing due to the ethnic war. Her report is biased and cannot be accepted as the work of a person reporting the truth. Her book has further tarnished the image of Sri Lanka.

The 1983 riots made the Sinhalese suffer in silence and in shame. The barbarity with which the crimes were committed made the majority a party to these unspeakable events. But at the same time, the Europeans have now conveniently forgotten that the Germans behaved much worse during the Holocaust and when the Jews were killed in Tsarist Russia. The manner in which human beings act during ethnic violence is similar whether it is the Sinhalese killing the Tamils or Hindus killing the Moslems or Moslems killing Hindus or for that matter the Hutus killing the Tutsis.

Ethnic cleansing whether in Kosovo, Rwanda, Nigeria, Lebanon, Afghanistan, Guatemala, El Salvador, the Basque region or Ireland is a macabre spectacle. The level of barbarity human beings could descend to irrespective of skin colour or race is unimaginable.

After the shameful events of 1983 the Sinhala nation was ostracized. But, unlike most other races they learnt their lessons quickly. One of the greatest defeats of Mr. Prabhakaran was not the loss the LTTE suffered in the battle to capture Elephant Pass, but the failure, inspite of the most gruesome killings of civilians to ignite another racial riot in the south. No amount of killing of civilians, by detonating bombs in the city or by killing Buddhist priests or civilians who were paying obeisance at the most sacred Bo Tree at Anuradhapura, could change the determination of the Sinhala people not to start a backlash. Prabhakaran made the final and most decisive assault on the ethos of the Sinhala Buddhists when he attacked the holiest of Buddhist shrines, the Temple of Tooth. The Temple was damaged and devastated by the bomb, but the Sinhala Buddhists remained quiet and equanimous. This was the greatest victory of the Sinhala Buddhist race. It is unfortunate that Anita has not been able to deal with this aspect in her book and has also completely ignored the brutality of Mr. Prabhakaran's adventures.

In the end, the IPKF's retreat and later the killing of Rajiv Gandhi compelled her to change her stance of eulogizing Prabhakaran. After Gandhi's assassination, Prabhakaran was hated even in South India. The defeat of Karunanidhi symbolized this transformation. As if to appease the masses, Anita calls him a megalomaniac.

Anita has exposed the true intent of the megalomaniac who has taken the whole western world for a grave and mischievous ride. That is that he stands for a negotiated settlement of the ethnic war.

I quote from the book, "I asked Prabhakaran the question that had been haunting me for a year and a half; why hadn't he opted for peace when it was in his grasp? After all Premadasa had virtually given Eelam to them on a platter... Prabhakaran's reply was 'We will fight and win Eelam'. That then was the crux of the matter, the reason for the fresh violence. Prabhakaran did not want anybody else's version of Eelam - he wanted his own, an Eelam that liberated militarily. 'Thousands of my boys have laid down their lives for Eelam. Their deaths cannot be in vain. They have given their lives for this cause, how can I betray them by opting for anything less than Eelam?' he asked."

This passage by Anita Pratap should be given to every single person, group or nation that espouses the cause of peace with Prabhakaran. Prabhakaran has been able to hoodwink governments, politicians and nations about his intentions for a negotiated settlement for lasting peace, while at the same moment planning his next military offensive, with his suicide bombers prowling the streets of Colombo waiting to grab a VIP.

The rebellious JVP initiated the campaign to rid of the IPKF calling it a "monkey brigade'. Mr. Ranasinghe Premadasa, an astute politician thought that he could achieve peace by appeasing the rebels in the south and north by getting rid of a foreign army.

The IPKF was sent away much to the delight of Prabhakaran. As if in sheer gratitude and in recognition of the sheer stupidity not only of R. Premadasa but also of the main opposition, the SLFP, a few weeks after the IPKF left, Prabhakaran unleashed Eelam war III.

Hundreds of police officers were sacrificed by the government. This was a grave political miscalculation by the late President.

Similarly Rajiv Gandhi was approached by the LTTE to negotiate a settlement. He was blown to pieces a few days later by the LTTE. This is an abject lesson to all those peace mongers. As long as Prabhakaran lives there cannot be peace or a peace initiative in Sri Lanka.

This is the lesson we must learn from Anita Pratap's book, 'Island of Blood'. The shortsighted, satanic belief of Mr. Prabhakaran that wars can solve conflicts, has to be rapidly thrown into the anachronistic dustbin of history where it belongs, and reports by a person like Anita Pratap with a brief to make Prabhakaran a super hero must be rejected by the world at large.

Stallions' night

The organisers of the Royal-Thomian Stallions Tent will hold a reunion and dinner for its present and past members on Thursday, November 29 at level 36 of the World Trade Centre, Colombo. All present and past Stallions are eligible to attend this event.

The Principal of Royal College and the Warden of S. Thomas' College, Mt. Lavinia will grace this event. The Stallions will make cash donations for the promotion of sports at the two Colleges at this function.

Saman and the Clan will provide the music for the evening. The tickets, priced at Rs. 500/- per head, include dinner and beverages.

Participants could also reserve their tickets for the 2002 Royal-Thomian cricket encounter on this day.

A limited number of tickets are available from the following: Y.S. de Soyza (Tel: 346333), Anil Karunaratne (Tel: 328408), Iqbal Caffoor (Tel: 438597), Sardha de Silva (Tel: 071736742), Jit Warnakulasuriya (Tel: 574083, Ext. 101) and Jehan Rajapakse (Tel: 0717 15880).

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