The Sunday Times Editorial

7th July 1996

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Responsible media role

Two weeks ago, 'The Sunday Times' columnist Taraki who knows the Jaffna ground situation much more than many, in the government's intelligence services, clearly warned of the LTTE's most immediate intentions to disrupt government plans for the reconstruction of the war-torn peninsula. This warning was misunderstood or misinterpreted by certain government leaders who accused us of trying to undermine development plans.

In the aftermath of Thursday's devastating LTTE suicide bomb attack on a Minister's motorcade in Jaffna, we hope that the government will again take its blinkers off to realise that the real enemy is the LTTE and not the independent media that reveals the truth however unpalatable it may be for those in high office in the short-term. We in the national media are quite aware not only of our rights but also of our responsibilities to our country in a crisis situation. We believe that most newspapers and most journalists act in the highest national interest. On the contrary when politicians speak of national interest, what they often mean is party interest if not personal interests.

While we extend our heartfelt sympathies to the families of those who died or were injured in Thursday's attack, the incident must also put us on the alert again to the danger of such terrifying attacks not only in Jaffna but anywhere in the country. We need not be fearful, for fear is a key element in the psychological warfare of terrorism. But we need to be alert and conscious of realities.

It would be useful today to directly from the warning given by our columnist Taraki, not so much with a 'we told you so' attitude but to show an apparent attitude problem among VIPs who see something sinister between the lines of everything we write. Taraki said on June 23, a fortnight ago;

"...... one has to also take into account the fact that the LTTE is hell bent on sabotaging what the government gained in the peninsula following Riviresa II and III. They, apparently, realise that reconstruction and development can immensely contribute to the pacification of the peninsula. The intelligence wing of the LTTE issued a four page pamphlet (officially in its own name - which is quite 'uncustomary') recently to civilians in those areas of Jaffna that are under the Army's control which among other things said :-

" 'development and reconstruction (by government) are aimed at blunting the desire among Tamils for (national) liberation. What is the need for development and rehabilitation after (your) rights, freedom and self-respect have been lost? The people have to be careful about development plans.'

Then again, and before issuing this pamphlet in the peninsula, the LTTE's political wing called all the donor country agencies, foreign NGOs and the UNHCR for a meeting at Kilinochchi. The gathering was addressed by Karikalan, Thamilchelvam and George. The Tigers said that they would not guarantee the safety of any foreign aid and reconstruction work in the peninsula. It was clearly implied that even the safety of foreign persons could also not be ensured. The general tenor of the LTTE's lecture on future development work in the peninsula seems to have caused serious concern. No one seems to doubt that the Tiger can be very nasty when it wants to."

The government at the highest levels took this commentary amiss. It felt 'The Sunday Times' was being anti-government or anti-development. No Sir, No Madam. We were only warning you about the dangers of the ground realities in Jaffna. We were only giving you first hand information that all your high-flown and big talk intelligence experts could not have given.

While we support, and support fully, the government's plans to rehabilitate and rebuild Jaffna we must caution the authorities that it would be unwise to underrate the LTTE. Suicide attacks such as the one on Thursday, land mine explosions and sniper attacks will continue to be unleashed by the LTTE. Defeated in conventional terms, the LTTE will hit back through guerrilla tactics. Equally this must not deter the government and the right thinking people of Sri Lanka. They must proceed with determination and dynamism to defeat evil for good to triumph, but ever mindful of dangers lurking from the real enemies.

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