Bashing Sri Lanka relentlessly using fabrications, THE AGE and SYDNEY MORNING HERALD refused to carry the following article by HLD Mahindapala
Posted on February 18th, 2010


Two leading newspapers of Australia, The Sydney Morning Herald (SMH) and the Melbourne Age published identical editorials urging Australia to spearhead a campaign to ban Sri Lanka from the Commonwealth. Thefollowing response was sent by H. L. D. Mahindapala to both but predictably they did not carry it. We reproduce the correspondence and the article suppressed by both newspapers that never fail to speakstridently about media freedom. *

Dear Editor, The Age / Sydney Morning Herald.

The following is a response to your editorial of 12/2/2010 on Sri Lanka. I am hoping that you would use it as a feature due its length. Skeptics told me that this will never be published but I believe THEAGE / SMH subscribe to the “fair-go” principle.

Thanking you
Yours sincerely
H. L. D. Mahindapala

Editor, The Observer and Sunday Observer (1990 -1994)
President, Sri Lanka Working Journalists’ Association (1991 -1993)
Secretary General, South Asia Media Association (1993 -1994)
Free lance commentator on ABC, SBS and other foreign media,


Aussie media blacks out the other side of Sri Lankan story

Sri Lanka has a good story to tell the world. Unfortunately, negative reporting and headlines have presented Sri Lanka as a nation permanently indulging in its second best sport next to cricket*:* massacring, torturing, starving and dehumanizing its citizens. Your editorial (12/2/2010) arguing that Sri Lanka has abandoned its democratic roots and is sliding towards authoritarianism adds to the doom and gloom dominating the headlines. The other point of view is a */sine qua non/* for the readers to get a balanced view of the Sri Lankan situation. In fact, it’s long overdue. Besides, it’s only fair by the war-weary Sri Lankans and Australians who are concerned about peace, stability and freedom from terrorism in the Indian Ocean Rim.

In its 62 years of independence Sri Lanka has spent 42 years in fighting mostly man-made disasters. It has survived the devastating uprisings from the lumpen Marxist terrorists of the JVP in the south in the 70s and 80s. It has also survived a right-wing coup led by ex-officers of the army and navy. The most serious threat to its democratic base was launched by the political class of the Tamil north which declared war on May 14, 1976 in their egregious Vadukoddai Resolution against the Sinhalese of the south. It has also survived economic tsunamis and overbearing threats from the west and, of course, the oceanic tsunami of 2005 from the east.

It’s a miracle that the growing democratic institutions of Sri Lanka did not crumble under these overwhelming pressures like some other developing countries. No one claims that Sri Lanka, which is smaller than Tasmania, is a five-star democracy. But with all its infirmities the democratic base remains intact having weathered the heavy political, economic and geo-political storms that lashed its shores.

Sri Lanka is now preparing for the parliamentary election which is due on April 8 as the term of its existing life expires in April. Quite surprisingly, your editorial implies that it is anti-democratic to have “dismissed the parliament two months ahead of schedule”. This suggests that the Sri Lankan government had violated some sacred democratic norm honoured to the letter of the law by other parliamentary democracies.

With the common global experience of parliaments being dissolved on the whims and fancies of the political masters of the day it is unfair to attribute a sinister motive to the dissolution of the Sri Lankan parliament just two months before its term expires. Besides, political analysts believe that two months is not going to make much of a difference to the popular electoral juggernaut of the government that has been rolling over the bodies of the defeated opposition in a series of elections at all levels “”…” from presidential to provincial.

You also state: “Mr Fonseka is accused of ”military offences” and though he is no longer a military officer, he faces a court martial.” Facts are different. Under the Army Act of Sri Lankan a military officer can be charged for committing “military offences” up until six months of his leaving the forces. If the government is doing what is legal how can it threaten the democratic base of Sri Lanka? Is this a sign of authoritarianism? The due process of the law applies and Mr. Fonseka has the right to appeal as far the Supreme Court. How does this violate principles of justice?

Consider also the mounting evidence to substantiate Mr Fonseka’s involvement in the death of the newspaper editor Lasantha Wickrematunge, an Australian permanent resident. A member of Mr. Fonseka’s private army, within the Army, has been taken into custody in this connection.

This can’t be a sign of Sri Lanka sliding away from democracy, eh? Last but not the least is the new figure touted by Gordon Weiss, the UN representative in Sri Lanka, who now claims that 40,000 civilians died in the last stage of the war declared by the Tamils of the north. As you point out correctly this contradicts the UN figure of 7,000, presumablybased on figures provided by the UN office headed by Mr. Weiss.

The London/ Times/ quoted a figure of 20,000 based purely on aerial photographs. The escalation of casualty figures in itself is interesting. The initial UN figure of 7,000 is supposed to be ground view. The figure of 20,000 came from an aerial view which showed no casualties on ground below. Since Mr. Weiss’s figure is higher than that of the aerial view of */The Times/* he could not have got his figure from the same height of an aerial photograph. So from which part of the stratosphere did Mr. Weiss pluck his new figure of 40,000? The rather suspicious role of Mr. Weiss playing Dr Jekyll and My Hyde leads to question the credibility of UN officials playing political games of their own. This suspicion is confirmed by the fact that the UN has distanced itself from Mr. Weiss’s new figure.

Trying to estimate the casualties based on aerial photographs are as futile as scrutinizing the archival photos of the fire bombing of Dresden or Hiroshima to calculate the number of casualties buried in the rubble. As you may be aware, there are huge moral questions hanging unanswered as to whether Dresden and Hiroshima were necessary to end the war. Both Germany and Japan were on their knees when Dresden and Hiroshima were reduced to cinders. The victors’ justice delivered at Nuremberg did not pass sentences on the war crimes and the crimes against humanity committed by the Allies. Incidentally, it must be recalled that “Bomber’ Harris was knighted by the Queen for flattening Dresden with over 300,000 killed in the raids. Later, as an afterthought, the Queen visited Dresden to make amends but the Germans who consider Dresden as their holocaust booed her.

As to my fellow-Australian Mr. Weiss he seems to have grown wiser overnight, after he left Sri Lanka, and it is hoped that he will provide the authorities, including the Sri Lankan government, with the credible evidence (if he has any) to jump to his bloated figure of 40,000. This kind of jumping to conclusions is a common malaise among editorial writers of the West who are clueless about the ground realities in Afro-Asia. The editorials of the */The Age / SMH/* are typical examples of leader writers pontificating on the piffle produced by foreign-funded NGO hacks like Jehan Perera who earns his crust by denigrating Lanka. It is rather disappointing to see */The Age and SMH/* relying on the punditry of these hired hacks singing for their supper to write their editorials. This leads them to extreme and comic conclusions. The decision of these two papers to put editorial pressure on Australia to suspend Sri Lanka from the Commonwealth, as if Sri Lanka is another Fiji, reveals the depth of their ignorance. Fiji is a military regime and Sri Lanka, with all its infirmities, is a democratically elected government. If */The Age /*and*/ SMH /*know anything about regional politics and international relations they would hire knowledgeable leader writers who would not rush into places where angels fear to tread. Though it may be music to the ears of the anti-Sri Lankan lobby they should realize that their ill-informed sermons cannot serve (1) Australia’s foreign interests, (2) regional stability and (3) the war-weary people of Sri Lanka.

In any case, this stance is a bit too rich given the fact that Australia happens to be the only member of the international community that did not ban the deadliest terrorists of world, the Tamil Tigers. If it gave liberal space for the agents of Tamil Tigers to broadcast, raise funds, and even fly their brutal flag on Australian soil, violating Security Council Resolutions on terrorism, what is the rationale for Australia to spearhead a campaign against Sri Lanka in the Commonwealth now? How can it go to bed with the Tamil Tiger terrorists and then point a finger at the oldest democracy in the Asia-Pacific region? On the contrary, shouldn’t Australia commended Sri Lanka for stabilizing the Indian Ocean Rim by eliminating the threat of terrorism linked to Maoists of India and even Islamic fundamentalist in the region?

Any threat to the Indian Ocean Rim is a threat to Australia. Smuggling of boat people by human traffickers is only one aspect. If wiser counsel prevails Sri Lanka should be given all assistance to strengthen its democratic institutions instead of adopting a neo-colonialist attitude of waving a stick at the people of Sri Lanka. Australia tried it on a lesser scale by making a bid to ban Muthiah Muralidaran. This attempt failed. Murali rose to greater heights despite his denigration and threats to block his career in cricket.

Prime Minister Kevin is a seasoned diplomat who, I am sure will know the difference between the military regime of Fiji and the democratically elected government of Sri Lanka. It is most unlikely that he will lead a crusade against Sri Lanka within the Commonwealth. Besides, it’s a move that is not going to succeed within the Commonwealth, particularly with India on her side. Furthermore, in the new geopolitical realities of the Indian Ocean, with China too backing Sri Lanka internationally, it is Australia that stands to lose and not Sri Lanka.

Writing to the */Wall Street Journal/* (3/2/2010) President Mahinda Rajapakse mentioned that the IMF has rated Sri Lanka as the second fastest growing economy, next to China. IMF has also highlighted the new status of Sri Lanka which has risen above the poverty line to a middle-income group. If Sri Lanka could have achieved this during a time of war will not the peace-time opportunities/possibilities take Sri Lanka to greater heights?

Multi-cultural democracy prevails in Sri Lanka because the majority of the minorities (54%) have chosen to live with the Sinhala majority in the south, outside their ethnic territories of the north and the east.

In any case, the fear of Sri Lanka going under a dictatorship in peace time is rather far-fetched. If it has survived storms that battered it democratic framework for 4/6^th of its independent life why should democracy crumble now?

If, however, Australian wants to wave its big stick at Sri Lanka it can try. But bigger nations have tried to muscle in and failed just last year. For instance, when David Milliband and Richard Kouchner came marching in to stop the war they were told bluntly to put their house in order before they come to tell Sri Lanka how to conduct their internal affairs. Isn’t it better for Australia to take the good neighbourly route and promote democratic institutions rather than pose as a big bully? My guess is that Australians, with their traditional commitment to “fair-go” principles, would be rather reluctant to be seen as a bully in the Asian neighbourhood.

H. L. D. Mahindapala

Editor, The Observer and Sunday Observer (1990 -1994)
President, Sri Lanka Working Journalists’ Association (1991 -1993)
Secretary General, South Asia Media Association (1993 -1994)
53, Galahad Crescent
Glen Waverley,
Victoria, 3150

6 Responses to “Bashing Sri Lanka relentlessly using fabrications, THE AGE and SYDNEY MORNING HERALD refused to carry the following article by HLD Mahindapala”

  1. mike Says:

    I am a Australian Citizen. I came her from SriLanka decades ago. I see day after day the propaganda carried forward by the Medial here against SriLanka. There are Tamil sympathsiers in the media and they provide hateful propaganda and the Australian Media publish the propaganda. The Tamils are very powerful in these countries and have a lot of influence and most journalists are in their pockets. Day after day the SBS, Herald Sun and the Age news papers carry news items most likely planted by the Tamils here. Not one word of good about the SriLankan Government that destroyed terrorism. The Tamils have Tamil Nadu, Canada, UK and Australia to live. The poor hapless Sinhalese have only the tinr area called SriLanka to live. No Fair Go for the SriLankans.

  2. jljay1 Says:

    The problem is not only the LTTE sympathisers are very powerful, but our embassy does not take any action to overcome in any negative news we read on newspapers and watch on TV in this country. At the end SBS and other printed media always highlight any small incident to discredit our country. That’s a sad reality.
    James Jayalath

  3. Siri Says:

    I am a US citizen and see that Australia is being dragged down by the Tamils who are LTTE sympathisers. These Tamils who have infitrated the media are disgracing a beautiful country like Australia. If Australia tries to kick Sri Lanka out of the Commonwealth she might face defeat in this and become very unpopular. The Australians are basically a very nice and fair people. They should stand up and speak for themselves and not allow outsiders to disgrace them.
    Australia should also realize that Sri Lanka has come a long way on it’s own without the help of Australia and the British commonwealth. I am sure Sri lanka will continue to prosper under The Mahinda Rajapaksa regime with or without the help of Australia and the Commonwealth. It is in Australia’s interest to have friendly relations with Sri Lanka.


    In particular, the white race with the beginnings of English, do listen and act very differently to the rest of the western races. English (Australian) are bit like robots, “outcomes will be firmly based on what is said, done and seen”. What I am trying to say is; whatever the first lie they hear, that is relayed very passionately, the English and their off-springs would believe to the very detail. Therefore, we need to be very careful with false propaganda by the LTTE fuelled Diaspora. However, it is not too late for counter-propaganda by the Sinhalese camp.

  5. M.S.MUdali Says:

    Australia was founded by British Criminals and not by natural Immigration. Those people from Britain killed and destroyed the people already lived in Australia. The Church is always part of the criminal activities. If Sri lankans who really love their nation, dig the history of LTTE, will find the CHURCH involvement with the terrorists.

    Australian based TAMIL Catholics praised the LTTE as the DIVINE SOLDIERS OF CHRIST.

    As a Tamil Hindu, I feel very sad to inform that this kind of TERROR or RACISM and other ills are supported by powerful Sinhala citizens as well. UNP is a CHURCH party and foreign stooge.

    Sri lanka must leave the so called common wealth for ever!

  6. aravinda Says:

    The demise of LTTE and lasting peace in Sri Lanka is a huge delimma for Western journalists. The stability in Sri Lanka is a massive problems for some Western nations but not for Australia. Kevin Rudd is Asia-wise. He has always acted reasonbly in dealing with Asian nations. Australians will appreciate his foresight in generations to come. 99% of Australians are fair minded people, but constant doses of half truths and downright lies can influence the minds of even the most decent humans.

    Mr.Mahindapala is one of the most well informed, fair and balanced journalists to come out Sri Lanka in recent times. Not publishing his articles is their loss. The obvious reason is, he is not writing what the editor want to hear. Australian newpapers rearly do indepth analysis on political matters. AGE and SMH are tabloids in size of broadsheets.

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