The Sunday Times Editorial

28th July 1996

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Massacres by LTTE and the censors

The military disaster in Mullaitivu and the dastardly attack on innocent train commuters in Dehiwela have sent Sri Lanka plunging from the peaks of Riviresa to the depths of despair again. More than 1,300 have died in the war and violence over the past week alone and tens of thousands of their family members have been left heartbroken, shattered and bereft of meaning in life.

Last Wednesday, President Kumaratunga said Sri Lanka could not win wars and maintain big welfare measures at the same time, indicating that subsidies would soon be cut with the price of bread almost doubling. If the people are being called upon to make sacrifices for the sake of the country, most of them would be prepared to if our political leaders stopped preaching and start practicing some austerity and simplicity in their own lives.

At this time of tragedy, tension and fear all over, we also appeal to the people of this country to be patient and tolerant as they have been since July 1983, whatever the provocation may be. Indeed the people have come a long way since the horror of July 1983. The majority of the people today are acting with commendable maturity and responsibility, quite aware that one of the LTTE's main aims is to provoke a backlash against innocent people. We need to be alert but not fearful because creating fear in the minds of people is known to be one of the key psychological weapons of terrorists.

When the government imposed the censorship, it emphasized that the objective was to prevent sensitive military information from going to the LTTE through the media. They said it was the press that gave the LTTE all the intelligence. But in the face of the most catastrophic military failure of all time last week at Mullaitivu while the censorship has been in force for the 3rd consecutive month - what have the advocates of censorship now got to say? Today this censorship is blatantly being used by the government to prevent information from reaching the people, not the LTTE.

The intention of the censors was clearly to prevent the people from getting information about the battle. As we said earlier, the government appears to think that the independent media are its enemies and what is not reported, does not happen.

Though our leaders should not be compared with Winston Churchill, the British war-time Prime Minister made 49 broadcasts during the war to the British audience. 11 of the 49 lasted less than 5 minutes. But they inspired his people. His best speeches like when he admitted the fall of France was made when Britain was alone to secure an improbable victory. When the tide turned the need for inspiration and speeches diminished. Good news carries its own inspiration.

War-time Sri Lanka today is the complete reverse. Victory in Riviresa 1, 2 and 3 had many fathers. Defeat at Mullaitivu was an orphan. The leaders had lost their tongues and other than a vague press briefing given by the Deputy Defense Minister, it was left to the poor Leader of the House, the Minister of Plantations to make a long awaited much belated statement on the debacle at Mullaitivu.

The LTTE will continue their military strikes against our Forces and their macabre bombings on our people. Our response to withstand this onslaught is less than whole-hearted.

Even after the Dehiwela bombing other than asking the people to be calm, there were no comforting words nor encouragement to our compatriots.

Even after the Dehiwela bombing other than asking the people to be calm, there were no comforting words nor encouragement to our compatriots.

Government seems to prefer the other option. To make the people believe that which is not reported - has not happened.

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