The LTTE did all it could at the Oslo
development forum to regain lost credibility. At least upto a point
the organization was successful. It has been said by more than one
international commentator that the Sri Lankan government has been
the LTTE's most faithful ally in this attempt at shoring up its international
image. Britain's Claire Short for instance, made no reference to the
LTTE in her speech at the aid forum, and that was a pointed snub.
By now it is known that Richard Armitage, the US government representative
wanted an assurance from the LTTE that 'tactics of terror will be
eschewed.'' That left only the Sri Lankan government as the LTTE's
real ally, in its international legitimizing exercise.
But, was there
any quid pro quo in it for the Sri Lankan government? Well, let
us, lay aside our apprehensions for the moment, and await the outcome
of the next round of talks.
But the LTTE's
Oslo overture to the international community may have legitimized
what could be LTTE's ongoing sleight of hand. The Oslo exercise
itself leaves many questions unanswered in this regard. For example,
how are funds from Oslo to be channelled for development in the
North and the East? What's the government's assurance that none
of this money will fall into the hands of the LTTE's own (one might
say rather depleted) treasury?
It is still
unclear how the money is to be channeled for the ostensible effort
of 'unprecedented development' for the war ravaged North East? There
are no clear answers to these questions, and the government's chief
negotiator G. L. Peiris has, as yet, not helped in any way in the
effort to obtain some clarity in this area. We may in sum, have
the comic outcome of the international community legitimizing the
LTTE, and then obliquely funding them in the very activities that
the international community wants the organization to refrain from
- such as further acts of terrorism.
only conduit of information that the people have on all these issues
is the media - and even if the government does not lend any clarity
on the issues themselves, the media's job is to make sure that the
authentic situation on the ground is reported. But it appears that
the government, while not clarifying the picture, is also aggrieved
with the messenger. The media have been faulted on several occasions
both directly and obliquely for reporting the developing situation
accurately. In newspaper parlance, we define our role by the 'consequence
neutrality principle.' It is the job of the press to report the
news as it is - and it is left to the rest of the polity to make
sense of these developments.
But the press
cannot be converted into a monolith that unquestioningly follows
the agenda of government. When the US Bay of Pigs invasion failed
in the 60s, President John Kennedy asked the press 'why did you
people not warn us against this possibility?" The fact is that
the government had in fact twisted the arm of the only Editor who
had got the scoop on the impending Bay of Pigs invasion, and made
sure that he suppressed the news. When the invasion failed either
Kennedy was contrite, or he felt that the press was a convenient
scapegoat. Hence his lament: "Why didn't the press warn us
about this - why did they abdicate their responsibility?"
It is as good
an example as any of the consequence of the press abdicating its
responsibility to publish the truth. This newspaper for one is not
about to abdicate this responsibility. The ultimate endeavour of
all our present striving is to bring about a country at peace with
itself. But for that realisation the harsh realities of the ground
situation on both sides have to be faced and dealt with.
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