Some suggestions for promoting Sri Lanka in Canada
Posted on February 11th, 2011

By Albert J. Fernando, Edmonton, Canada

During the last few weeks various Ministers in Colombo have expressed their disappointment with the poor performance by our Missions abroad. Some have, quite rightly, emphasized the need to appoint competent and dedicated officers to our embassies. This applies especially to political appointees who are sent to our missions to reciprocate their support to the party in power. In Canada, such political appointees sent to look after the media campaign against Eelam terrorism have failed miserably. During the height of Eelam demonstrations and protests in the three months preceding the defeat of LTTE and even in the months after that, the Media Director, a son of a SLFP minister in the 50s, 60s and 70s, was doing hardly any media work but boating about his high-level political connections! It was such an incompetent officer that the VIPS in Sri Lanka appointed to our High Commission in Ottawa to counter the Eelam propaganda that was handled by experienced media professionals of LTTE. (Fortunately, this officer quit saying that his services are not being appreciated!)

 Following are some suggestions to promote Sri Lanka in Canada:

1) Appoint a full time media officer to Ottawa Mission

Since hostile attitude is shown by the parliamentarians, NGOs and the media in Canada towards Sri Lanka, due to the sustained adverse publicity campaigns carried out by Eelam activists, Colombo should appoint a media officer on a full time basis. Instead of sending an official from Sri Lanka, it is better to appoint a Canadian citizen of Sri Lanka origin to handle media because such a person will know both Sri Lanka and Canada. The officer should have a good track record in media matters. Perhaps, Colombo must be under the impression that the Eelam War is over and, therefore, there is no need to have a full time media officer to counter Eelam propaganda in Canada. This is a mistaken belief. Please remember that only the Eelam military campaign is over. But the Eelam propaganda campaign is carried out vigorously, day in and day out, with personal visits to various agencies both Government and non-Government, tarnishing Sri Lanka’s image. Also, as Prof. Rohan Gunaratne has pointed out on more than one occasion, LTTE is regrouping internationally using Canada as a base. Also, don’t forget that Canada has the largest number of Sri Lanka Tamils (some 200,000) in the world, outside Sri Lanka. Although 95 per cent of Tamils in Canada do not want to get involved in Eelam activities, the balance 5 per cent””‚about 10,000″”‚are quite active: distributing doctored photos and videos about so-called violations of human rights. This is why a full time media officer is required at the Ottawa Mission.

2). Provide necessary resources to promote Sri Lanka

It would be naƒÆ’†’¯ve to expect quick results just by appointing a full time media officer. He cannot do a job properly unless he is provided with necessary resources such as funds for entertainment (since a fair amount of discussions are done in an informal atmosphere) and above all, media material. One cannot talk in a vacuum, and then how much can the listener absorb. This is where media kits come in handy. I understand that our Missions abroad are provided with meagre supplies of printed material from Colombo citing budgetary constraints. This is one reason why even career diplomats, with dedication and commitment, cannot do their job properly. While it is true that a fair amount of information can be obtained by going into various Government websites, that is good enough for the staff in our Missions to find out what is going on in Sri Lanka. However, after briefing an outsider like a parliamentarian, media person or a NGO representative, our Mission staff member easily can say, “If you go into the following websites, you can get more details.” The listener most probably might say, “Sorry, I don’t have the time to go into various websites. Anyway, thanks for your help.” On the other hand, when LTTE activists go to meet someone of influence, they carry with them a media kit containing not only printed pamphlets and booklets but also photos, CDs and DVDs “”…”all doctored no doubt””‚to prove their point. They know the value of media kits. So Colombo also should seriously think about preparing and supplying such media material to our Missions. For goodness sake act like professionals, not as bureaucrats.

3. Establish close links with Sri Lanka diaspora

In Canada, more can be done by establishing close links with Sri Lankan diaspora. What is often said here is, “don’t waste your time asking for information from Sri Lanka Mission in Ottawa, because they will ask you to check websites.” (This is explained under item no.2). So in a way, one cannot blame the Mission staff for taking such a discouraging attitude. Apart from lack of material, Ottawa Mission is also handicapped as it has only a few officers to attend to numerous activities. At present, media work is being done by a staff member who also handles several other duties. Sri Lanka Associations are functioning in most of the Canadian cities but the Ottawa Mission cannot do very much due to lack of resources. During the height of LTTE protest rallies and demonstrations last year, it was left to a few members of the dedicated Sri Lankan diaspora to take on LTTE attacks. Meanwhile, our Mission in Ottawa hardly did anything worthwhile to protect the good name of Sri Lanka. Worse, even those who asked some information, like me, to counteract LTTE arguments, found nothing was forthcoming, regrettably.

4. Establish a Division at External Affairs Ministry to assist Sri Lanka Diaspora

Several countries, including India, have such organizations working under the Ministry of Foreign Affairs to assist their diaspora with various matters. They coordinate with other state agencies and expedite assistance when diaspora seek help. This is quite useful because Missions abroad can refer requests from diaspora directly to this division which in turn can obtain information from relevant agencies and send them back to the Mission abroad.

 There is no use asking Missions abroad to help in Sri Lanka’s development effort in such areas as foreign investment, trade, tourism or even responding to Eelam attacks, unless the Ministry of External Affairs sends (i) competent staff and (ii) provide necessary resources, to our embassies abroad. Saying, “Sorry, we have budgetary restraints,” is a poor excuse. However, if this is true, then the Presidential Secretariat should cut down unnecessary expenditures in some other areas (tamashas, joy rides etc.) and provide adequate funds to the Ministry of External Affairs to market Sri Lanka abroad. That will be a worthwhile investment that will pay dividends.

7 Responses to “Some suggestions for promoting Sri Lanka in Canada”

  1. Susantha Wijesinghe Says:

    Albert ! I quite agree with you, on your suggestion to revamp the Missions with Personnel who have the capacity and clout, to counter LTTE FALSE PROPAGANDA. They should be the cream of Media Intelligence.

    Sri Lankan Governments from time immemorial, have filled Diplomatic vacancies with stooges of Politicians, who are not educated to meet the rigors of a Diplomatic posting. Many people who write about Sri Lanka, defending Sri Lanka from outside, are ignored or taken for granted. The present Government, I believe endorses in the concept reflected in this article. Hence, Albert, you could look forward to some positive response from His Excellency, to appoint people with intelligence, and a flair for literal persuits.

    Albert ! There is this rare LITERATI that fits the job, right at your DOORSTEP. A true Patriot of Sri Lanka, whose knowledge, about LTTE Terrorism, Sri Lankan History, and International Political Interloper-ism, that cannot be surpassed. His expressions on print can often, be formidably rhetoric. While I write this testimonial, you would have already imprinted this literati-s name in your mind.

    WELL HE IS, LITERATI ASOKA WEERASINGHE OF GLOUCESTOR, ONTARIO.

    I never miss reading any of his articles. It keeps you enthralled.

    If you initiate a communique to His Excellency, President Mahinda Rajapakse, requesting a Diplomatic Posting for him, I would be too happy to throw in my two cents worth. There would be a million others who would endorse the move. ALLES GUTE.

  2. jayt Says:

    IT does not work at all. Sinhalese come Sri lanka do not know about the west no the world at all and they are not citizen of these countries. Sinhalese in the West have to form paid a media group of a large Sinhalese world org. witch I mentioned a few days ago.

  3. Susantha Wijesinghe Says:

    RACSIST TAMIL STERCUS TAURI.

  4. jimmy Says:

    good article

    some honest suggestions
    I mentioned earlier I will mention again and again
    The war is over . The Government should win the minds of Tamils in Lanka
    A common man , or a villager in Tamil areas see Army , Police and Navy in their areas. They are the only sinhalese they see every day
    My point is The army , navy and Police should show compassion respect to Tamils whose cultcure , language are different . There can not be even a small mistake . No beatings or no killings or no rapings

    I see improvments when I see epdpnews site. I see Army officers , Governor visit Tamil functions and people garland them. It is very positive

    I am not a fan of Douglas or not at all interested in Politics . I honestly do not know much about EPDP
    I kind of like him because every time he speaks in tamil he ask people to support the Government
    He says we need to go along with Government instead of arguing and fighthing for every thing I wish our former tamil leaders who were brilliant Lawyers and well educated people should have done it what Douglas is doing now

    Army in Tamil areas should behave extremely careful
    Any small mistake they do could give a bad picture . It will come in Tamil news and English news all over the world which is not good. Government should train them every day to treat Tamils as Srilankans and be compassionate towards them

    Tamils in Lanka can not use one leg in Lanka and one in Tamil Nadu . Only any tamil issues or Muslim issues or Burger issues can be resolved By Lanka only . Be patriotic , hoist Lankan Flag in schools even at homes Be honest to yourself
    We all can work harder . It may be very difficult for some to give up hatred which last 60 years
    It is possible we all can live in peace

  5. Terry Says:

    Jayt:
    Those who contrast one ethnic group’s superiority or inferiority over the other, be they Tamils or Sinhalese are doing so only because of their own personal insecurities and these only lead to further polarization between the two communities.

    SW:
    With no disrespect to AW and Lankaweb.
    Asoka Weerasinghe writes exceedingly humourous letters playing to the Lankaweb gallery. Doubt he will or can be taken seriously in the international diplomatic areana.
    Statements like “a Sustaining Donor, but not anymore” is meat and drink for the LTTE Tamil Diaspora and the Canadian vote seeking wish lists.

  6. jimmy Says:

    Terry
    You are a good man I agree your opinion on Jayt but not on Asoka

    I like Asoka he is a decent man he is very blunt ( I like people who are blunt)

    I am touched by his wrtitings . will be happy if he also writes what Sinhalese should do for tamils to help them feel secure and be patriotic

    We Srilankans many times do not appreciate other srilankans
    you know what? that is the Lankan mentality pal for both Tamils and sinhalese

  7. jayt Says:

    I never talk about any Superiority stuff and what I said is no body should be allowed to attack Sinhalese culture history or identity. In addition to that, I would say that no Tamil bribe anybody, and Tamil are used by deferent group to scare Sinhalese make Sinhalese accept their propaganda and proposals. If Tamil do bribe western govt. why can’t other groups bribe any western govt. There are millions of Muslim in the West and many of them are natives of Europe and have billions of dollars and willing to bribe anybody with any amount if they can. Why can’t they?

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