Prof Rajiva Wijesinha Highlighted the Pathetic State of Affairs in the Diplomatic/Propaganda Front
Posted on May 23rd, 2011

Dilrook Kannangara

Hon Professor Rajiva Wijesinha found time in his busy schedule to meet expatriate Sri Lankans recently. The Member of Parliament from the ruling UPFA and the party leader and president of the now defunct Liberal Party of Sri Lanka, exchanged views with patriotic professionals residing abroad on matters relating to propaganda, diplomacy, political solutions, recent political history, terrorism, separatism and connected issues.

The former Senior Professor of Languages at the University of Sabaragamuwa stressed the need for the upliftment of linguistic skills of the entire population especially English skills. He also pointed out the need to take into account the emotional aspect of state decisions, laws and practices of governments in the light of the Official Language Act (1956), Standardisation of University Admission (1973), the burning of the Jaffna Library (1981) and the aftermath of the 1983 unfortunate incidents. His views were in perfect sync with those present along these lines.However, there were disagreements as well. While agreement on the above matters seem peripheral to the core issues facing the nation, disagreements stemmed from more pertinent issues that determine the very existence of the nation.

Pathetic state of affairs in the diplomatic/propaganda frontRajiva admitted the fact that the diplomatic/propaganda arm of the nation has not functioned on a consistent manner following the war. Neglect during the election time had severe consequences in the international front as Tamil anti-Sri Lankan groups gained a clear propaganda advantage during this time which they maintained. However, more concerning was the incompetency showed by the very process he represented in the diplomatic/propaganda front.Display of intolerance of opposing views, inability to come to terms with the democratic process, shooting the messenger and the inability to outgrow third world political mechanisms/frameworks were exemplified by the learned professor.

This is the biggest drawback in Sri Lanka’s diplomatic/propaganda front. Western nations uphold a transparent, legal and democratic process towards diplomacy and propaganda. Inability to fit into this framework has disastrous consequences.Tamil Diaspora on the other hand has done remarkably well. From a total dictatorial framework they have moved to a more western framework. They are at the same frequency in the propaganda and diplomatic front with the west whereas Sri Lankan propaganda work is still bogged down in third world political shortcomings. This must change as soon as possible to turn the tables on the Tamil Diaspora in the propaganda battle.The learned professor also confided the good attempts of the president to get young educated MPs involved in propaganda work and how this attempt didn’t bear fruit owing to inefficiency.

In a way it was naive on the part of a responsible government officer to lament the inefficiency and not do anything about it for months!In this regard, hiring a propaganda agency at an annual cost of US$ 2.8 million is a wise decision by the government. Recognizing grave incompetency and inefficiency in the system is the first step towards overcoming these. Young MPs are not a choice for the nation’s propaganda battle when even professors display inability to meet western standards of transparency, diplomacy and democracy in handling crucial affairs.The fate of a good suggestionA suggestion was made by those present to raise a dedicated propaganda unit within the nation that will monitor and assess enemy propaganda and plan and execute counter propaganda.

In addition it will take the progresses within the country to the international community more effectively and on a consistent and timely manner. Development of such a dedicated unit has many long term benefits apart from the obvious benefit of saving millions paid to propaganda agencies. However, the group was told to write to the same inefficient authorities on this! The senior government MP was unable to take these good suggestions to higher authorities! This is another severe drawback of the system that was displayed right in front of the eyes of expatriates. This way Sri Lanka can never win the propaganda battle against the highly organised and well coordinated Tamil Diaspora. To their credit, they have overcome not just the absence of a government to take their concerns international but also the “banned foreign terrorist organisation” label in the west.

On the other hand Sri Lanka not only failed to capitalise its enviable position as a UN member, Asia’s oldest democracy and the legitimate representative of all the people of the island nation, but also allow Tamil Diaspora organisations overcome difficult hurdles and rise up against all odds.Lack of legal knowledge and appreciation    Lack of legal knowledge is another downside of Lanka’s diplomatic/propaganda warfront. There is a big difference between what is imposed and what followed the democratic process for the western audience. Illegal impositions are looked down with disgust and suspicion by the west.

This is a common trait shared by Sri Lankans as well who are accustomed to the democratic way of life. In this context, upholding illegal secret pacts including the B-C Pact, D-C Pact, CFA, PTOMS and the like are not going to do any good both locally and in the international front. This series of illegal pacts was initiated by Bandaranaike and his school friend and contemporary Chelvanayagam. They had no authority whatsoever to secretly come to a pact that would have implications on the nation. Both being aware of legal consequences secretly came to a personal pact that was never presented to the public, the Cabinet or the parliament before it came into effect. It was illegal in the true sense of the word.

Lack of legality meant inability to enforce it. So when the pact came to an end, no legal redress was possible. Violence was used instead. This bad precedence of an easy yet undemocratic way out became the order as almost all subsequent governments entered into secret illegal pacts with Tamil separatists. Had the democratic process been followed, these would have been more meaningful towards resolving problems. Unfortunately the learned professor of linguistics failed to see the legal, democratic and more importantly the diplomatic and propaganda side of it. If this remains the attitude of senior government officials and MPs, there is little hope for democracy, transparency and reconciliation. Good English although is an enabler of diplomatic/propaganda work is not sufficient. There should be substance in what we broadcast, not just words.Persons at the frontline in the propaganda war must possess good legal knowledge of both local and international law and more importantly the democratic process of law making.

Exposing those who lack this knowledge to the international community is disastrous. Tamil Diaspora with their global financial empire managed to hire some top legal luminaries around the world especially in the US. Although they are at a relatively weaker moral ground than Sri Lanka, they have refrained from scoring own goals.    Inability to challenge assumptionsAnother weakness displayed by the senior government MP in Sri Lanka’s propaganda process is the inability to challenge assumptions. He pointed out the importance of not challenging the 13th Amendment at this stage. His argument was that all Tamil parties/groups except Tamil Tigers accepted the 13th amendment as a viable political solution in 1987 and in the absence of Tigers it is a good basis for a political solution. This is outrageous! War time political solutions don’t fit into peacetimes.

The 13th amendment was imposed on the nation without any consultation with the people, the cabinet or the parliament. It must be critically looked at now before implementation or building upon.He was also unable to comprehend the role of Tamil/Dravidian racist politics. All other rebel/terror groups around the world were headed by ideologists but not Tamil Tigers which had no ideological unit. It grabbed the ideology baton from ACTC, ITAK, TULF and TNA. It was these parties that created and supported the Vadukodddai Resolution in 1976 which called on Tamil youth to fight for Tamil Elam. That’s exactly what the “boys” did! (TULF leaders affectionately called Tamil armed gang members “boys”).

He admitted to participate in secret talks the government has with the TNA. If it is going to resolve a problem faced by the people, why this secrecy? How can the people uphold this “solution” that is secretly cooked if the people are not kept in the loop?This is a sure disaster hatched secretly at the insistence of external separatists. Spinelessness of a few should not be the reason for all to suffer indefinitely. Nurturing separatists just south of India destabilises India as well as Lanka. TNA-AIADMK plan to get concessions from their respective governments for the creation of the Greater Tamil Nadu must be defeated. Looks like some negotiators have already fallen into the trap of TNA-AIADMK. Solutions are needed to defeat and eliminate Tamil racism of these parties, certainly not to uphold their racist views. Giving into their racist demands is not the solution!Inability to learn from history is as bad as the inability to challenge assumptions.

Power sharing with TNA creates a Tamil Nadu in the island!As pointed out by many, sharing power with race based political parties creates another Tamil Nadu in the region. There will not be any non-Tamil representation in the Northern Province making it an identical twin of Tamil Nadu! Regional governance of Lanka’s north and India’s south will have many things in common than a common agenda and a common language. It poses a considerable additional threat to the territorial integrity and sovereignty of the island nation whereas India is in a better footing to handle the threat.Once they realize they have come to the end of the devolution road, they will once again take up arms or internationalise local problems, this time from a position of power to go the extra mile in autonomy. There is no point running around like a headless chook at that late stage. This plan must be defeated right now.

The good professor is doing a fine job in battling out Tamil separatist propaganda work while contributing his expertise into many other areas in governance. However, the entire process of diplomacy/propaganda, national security and the democratic process must be overhauled to meet the challenges. Better coordination, good and appropriate communication skills (of which linguistics is only a part), self-conviction of what is right and wrong for a unitary prosperous Asian country, a clear understanding of geopolitical forces, challenging old assumptions, changing with the times, staying within legal limits, compliance with national security interests and consistency are some key elements of a good propaganda/diplomatic campaign. Truth to be told, there is no hope that things may turnout well in the foreseeable future.

3 Responses to “Prof Rajiva Wijesinha Highlighted the Pathetic State of Affairs in the Diplomatic/Propaganda Front”

  1. S de Silva Says:

    Thank you Mr Kannangara for this. At last the good Professor Rajiva Wijesinha has accurately recognised and spelled out the issues that make the efforts via the GoSL utterly pathetic compared to Tamil propaganda. Actually what we need as ‘propaganda’ is the dissemination of facts which are all in our favour – but we somehow fail to effectively do even that!! Many readers on Lankaweb including myself have pointed this out repeatedly. But no one high up seems to have noticed this serious shortcoming until now. I sincerely hope the porfessor will get something moving – quick – London

  2. A. Sooriarachi Says:

    The disadvantage the Govt of SriLanka, or any democratically elected govt, has is that they cannot resort to the unethical practices of the Tamil Tiger Diaspora, such as possible heavy bribing of journalists, politicians and various organisarions to propogate fabricated stories, printing fabricated history books etc. Being a democratically elected Govt, SriLanka can counter slander spread by these groups only by legitimate and honourable means, such as organising an effective proactive diplomatic onslaught to corner these peddlers of lies, rather than merely reacting to such lies. By reacting to lies, we are only falling more and more into their trap and wasting valuable time and other resources. Let change our roles by going on the offensive and making them react. Our plan needs to be a long term project encompassing all the diplomatic missions and neutral organisations overseas, driven by a central body within SriLanka. However, I do agree, that the hiring of an internationally reputed propaganda agency is a good interim measure.

  3. Sirih Says:

    Prof Rajiva is the only intelligent MP that our country got and know how to articulate the facts and rubbish the ltte and NGO propaganda..
    We need to have a dialog with the good professor, so that President get our feedback and formulate policy… Hope one day Prof Rajiva to be given Foreign ministers job since his communication skills are excellent and he got the pulse of the foreign thinking….

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