news: Balasingham and the beauty contest
The Tigers know how
to ask for the moon and get it. From the throes of their suspended
state (on the peace talks that is) the Tigers are making horrendous
noises about the sad loss of Milinda Moragoda. Says Anton Balasingham
that Milinda Moragoda is very important to the peace process, and
that his threat to quit the talks over some misunderstanding of
statements he made about America might mean disaster for the negotiations!
This and the
Tiger's statement that the 'talks have been suspended because it
will offer the government an opportunity to take stock of the situation'
signifies the epitome of Tiger's politeness. Balasingham could easily
apply for a Miss Manners contest and win hands down and skirt smoothed
The trick about
the Tigers this time around is that there is a gloss in their statements
that indicates, particularly to the watching world, watching from
world capitals in particular in Europe, that there are oodles of
sincerity that is left in them.
When Mark Tully
(Sir Mark Tully, oops) was here a couple of months ago on a Commonwealth
related media event, he said the press is becoming altogether too
cynical and disruptive, in the attempt to break good stories and
expose what is corrupt. My answer was that 'journalists are not
in a beauty contest' and Mark Tully proceeded to quote me as a "Sri
Lankan' who had said this to him, when he made his keynote address
the next day at a conference. Says Mark Tully that 'journalists
are not in an ugliness contest either.'
in the South now appear to be treating the subject of the suspension
of talks by the Tigers with great beauty and with little ugliness
as possible. For the most part they have not shredded the Doctor
apart., (that's Balasingham, and if he doesn't have a doctorate
that's nothing because even Citizen Perera of the peace NGO pretends
he has a Doctorate) and they have put themselves, well, in a state
of suspension, about he LTTE's suspension of talks.
Most of the
embarrassment and ugliness for the Tigers that has come in the aftermath
of the pullout form the talks, has not in fact come from journalists
at all. It is the University Teachers on Human Rights who have drawn
first blood, and they in their latest report say that businessmen
in Jaffna are transferring their assets to Colombo fearing that
the army will pull out of the peninsula. The University Teachers
go on to state unequivocally that the Sri Lankan government has
failed to protect the citizens of Jaffna from LTTE extortion LTTE
abduction, and other LTTE actions.
Now, can that
be interpreted to say that journalists in Colombo and in the 'South'
in general are giving Balasingham and the Tigers the benefit of
the doubt, while Tamils themselves are saying it as it is -- and
asking that the government call the LTTE's bluff? In which case,
Sri Lankan journalists -- Mark Tully please rest assured -- seem
to be very much in a beauty contest.
Nalin de Silva
-- not a journalist -- calls the Rupavahini the non national television
in his latest comment, which of course proceeds to mince Balasingham
and the rest of the LTTE pack to shreds. But, articles of his sort
are clearly in the exception.
In many ways
the South is not playing into the hands of the LTTE, by giving Balasingham
the ammunition he needs to say that the Sinhalese are a bunch of
incurable chauvinists. To that extent, Balasingham is being polite,
the Sinhala polity by and large is being polite, and it seems the
whole conflict has rather got gentrified.
The interesting if not important question is whether this 'gentrification'
is just the gloss and lipstick of the moment, or whether it signifies
a certain real ' maturity' that is being displayed by both sides
to the conflict.
Does it mean
that the boat-busting, talk-wrecking days of the Tigers are over
- - and that the clumsy era of Sri Lankan government public relations
is at a definite end? Does it also mean that Sri Lankan journalists
are just about in the middle of a beauty contest, wielding their
pens graciously, making an effort in the process of not offending
that genteel anna with a terrible past, Balasingham?
If there is
some 'maturity' that's developing in the 'process' (not the 'peace
process' but the general process of relation between the LTTE and
the government) it may be due to the fact that there is a motivation
for the players to take things cautiously, and not allow 'irritations'
to develop into explosions. But that's the charitable way of looking
It may also
be that both actors do not want to offend the 'process.'' They do
not want to offend the great benefactors, who are looking at them
with a sideward parental eye, from those places such as Norway,
London, Geneva, Copenhagen, what have you? Grown up kids don't want
to get into squabbles in front of their parents.
Ah, the psychology
of it all! One gentleman versed in matters close to Freud more than
Derrida, told me the other day that people see a psychological mother/father
combination in Chadrika and Ranil. I thought forbid the thought,
(seeing two kids as parents?) -- but no, he says, really, the national
psyche sees a patriarchal and matriarchal symbol in Ranil and Chandrika
So who am I
to argue with the experts, maybe that's how Balasingham and Wickremesinghe
sees those parental figures who keep an eye on their charges from
as far afield as Ottawa and Oslo? When they are around, is it that
there is a studied gentility, and even ballsy Balasingham can no
longer say boo?