Series of articles by Rosie DiManno carried in the Star from September 20 – 24, 2013
Posted on October 4th, 2013

Mahinda Gunasekera,Toronto, Ontario, Canada

To The Editor, Toronto Star, Toronto, Ontario

‚ Dear Editor,

Series of articles by Rosie DiManno carried in the Star from September 20 -” 24, 2013

‚ I am writing with reference to the series of articles on Sri Lanka written by your correspondent‚ ‚  Ms. Rosie DiManno which were published daily in your newspaper on five consecutive days from September 20 -” 24, 2013 inclusive.‚  While it is a good thing to have situation reports presented by correspondents visiting the country, she appears to have gone there with certain preconceived ideas probably fed to her by vested interests operating in Canada that are hostile to Sri Lanka and financiers cum propagandists for the militarily defeated Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam(LTTE), which carried on a violent insurrection to create a mono-ethnic separate state for Tamils including suicide terrorism for a period in excess of 32 years.‚  I intend to specifically deal with erroneous statements contained in her reports which were spread over 5-6 full pages of your newspaper.

The Sri Lankan Army personnel serving in the northern province have been referred to as an -Ëœoccupying force-â„¢ which is totally incorrect, as the country-â„¢s armed forces could be stationed anywhere‚  within the sovereign territory of the island nation just as much as Canadian troops have bases in all regions of this country.‚  Currently, there are less than 14,000 soldiers in the province with most of them engaged in de-mining, building roads, rail tracks, restoring or rebuilding other infrastructure required by the resettled civilians such as schools, health facilities, irrigation reservoirs, electricity, water services, etc.‚  Temporary military camps set up in places previously occupied by the Tamil Tiger terrorists (LTTE) have all been handed over to the civilian owners to whom rent was paid for the period of occupancy.‚  The only high security zone still to be sorted out is the area around the main base at Palaly located in the Jaffna peninsula which were taken over by the military as Tamil Tiger cadres earlier entered these lands and shot down two or three aircraft coming in to land on the airstrip at the base.‚  Lands so acquired that would not affect the security of the base ‚ will be given back to the rightful owners with due compensation.‚  Even if the extent of private land occupied by the Army is 6,000 acres as mentioned by her, the land area of the northern province is 8,884 sq. km. which leaves enough room for civilians in this sparsely populated province with a density of just 120 per sq.km. as against the national average of 340. ‚ Furthermore, most of the civilians do not have proper deeds as they have produced -Ëœlicenses-â„¢ probably issued by the LTTE. It is still to be verified if some of them are Sri Lankan citizens or illicit immigrants from Tamilnadu in South India brought down by the Tigers for their failed war effort.

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Other striking errors I noticed in her reports are as follows:

1)‚ ‚ ‚ ‚ ‚  -At most Sri Lankan Universities, the entry standard is higher for Tamils- a racist policy Implemented in the early -Ëœ80s that provoked massive riots-.

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This is a complex issue which originated in 1972 as an affirmative action program to provide relief to children in schools with limited facilities, whilst requiring children attending premier schools in developed districts such as Jaffna, Colombo, Kandy, and Galle, having to score a higher minimum aggregate to qualify to apply for admission to the only two universities in Colombo and Peradeniya. ‚ Minimum initial score fixed for Jaffna which had the highest number of -ËœA-â„¢ grade schools with a competent staff, library and laboratory facilities was 250 whilst the minimum aggregate for the other three districts was 239. This did not have much of an impact as those admitted had to score much higher marks to fill the limited number of spaces out of a total intake of about 3600 students for both universities.‚  With the establishment of more universities in Jaffna, Galle, and Sabaragamuwa, which increased the intake in the late 1970-â„¢s and the minimum aggregate score being lowered to 200 for all candidates, students selected on merit had no grounds to complain.‚  Students from backward areas with very limited facilities too were now able to enter the universities from rural schools including five of twelve such districts in the north/east with a majority of Tamils in Killinochchi, Mullativu, Mannar, Vavunia and Trincomalee.‚  Opening of the -ËœOpen University-â„¢ allowed for a further 10,000 student admissions for tertiary education easing the situation further. The ratio of admissions from developed and backward districts are gradually being eliminated by raising the number admitted on merit. ‚ In fact, Jaffna district which was the most vociferous objector to the to this affirmative action program at the early stages fell behind as a result of the Tamil Tigers terrorist insurgency, compelling them to seek special treatment as a backward area which was granted in 1997 by the University Grants Commissions allowing selection based on a lower minimum aggregate score.‚  More new universities have since been established in Moratuwa, Oluvil, Wayamba, Uva Vellassa, etc. affording more opportunities for graduate studies in the island.

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2)‚ ‚ ‚ ‚ ‚  – The politics are a curiosity, if also a groundbreaking advancement for the disenfranchised of Sri Lanka-â„¢s Northern Province, historical homeland to this country-â„¢s Tamil minority -¦-

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The Tamils in the north were never disenfranchised as they have voted at general elections and sent their representatives to the parliament, some of whom continue to hold cabinet ministerial rank.‚  They have participated in local government elections for the Jaffna Municipal Council and other local bodies in government controlled areas despite the elected mayors and some candidates being assassinated by the Tamil Tigers.‚  Those that lived in the Vanni region which came under the control of the LTTE were unable to exercise their democratic right to select their representatives to the local councils as the Tamil Tigers prevented them from doing so while declaring that they were the sole representatives of the Tamil people. ‚ The LTTE only allowed them to vote for the Tamil National Alliance (TNA) their proxy party at general elections, and took strong action against dissenting persons if any who were violently done away with.‚  It is only after the defeat of the Tamil Tigers, the displaced civilians forced to move with the retreating LTTE forces during the period 2007-2009 have been able to resettle in their villages following de-mining of the land and provision of habitable homes and infrastructure been able to once again take part in the democratic process and elect their representatives to the Northern Provincial Council.‚  ‚ ‚ ‚ 

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The Tamils were predominantly settled in the northern province, although today a larger number estimated at around 55% live outside in the southern regions of the island in mixed ethnic surroundings.‚  Tamils form the majority community in the capital city of Colombo where they comprise nearly 41 percent.‚  Having forcibly ejected the 27,000 Sinhala residents of Jaffna from the northern ‚ province and the Sinhala students and staff attached to the Jaffna University prior to 1981, and the 90,000 Muslims on 48 hours of notice to leave the mainly Tamil areas of the north in 1990, the Tamils are said to be around 95% of the northern province. They have expressed their opposition to the right of return of the former Sinhala residents.‚ 

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The Tamils from South India constantly carried out raids to plunder and pillage, first arriving in the island as invaders in the 3rd-4th century B.C. when they succeeded in capturing pockets of territory, and on one occasion the Rajarata region (where the seat of government had been established in the former capital city of Anuradhapura) for short periods extending from 1-40 years, till such time as the indigenous Sinhala people drove them out to regain the country. ‚ South Indian Tamils later started to arrive as settlers in the 12th century A.D. and even set up a‚  sub-kingdom called Jaffnapatam confined to the Jaffna peninsula and a narrow strip of land on the northwest coast extending to Mannar in the 14th century AD, which lasted about 150 years. This sub-kingdom was required to pay tribute to the main Sinhala King ruling the island from either Kotte or Kandy.‚  The Sinhala King regained suzerainty over the sub-kingdom of Jaffnapatam before losing the territory in 1591 to the Portuguese forces that controlled the western seaboard from 1505 to 1656.‚  The Portuguese territories along the coast were taken over by the Dutch who held control till 1796 when they transferred the Dutch controlled territory to the British. Britain came to rule the entire island in 1815 when some of the Chieftains of the Kingdom of SINHALE controlling the central hill country ceded power to the British under a treaty called the Kandyan Convention. ‚ ‚ The Portuguese and the Dutch brought in South Indian Tamil labour to cultivate tobacco in their coastal territories. Later, the British brought in nearly a million Indian Tamils to work on the newly established plantations to grow cocoa, coffee and tea on lands confiscated from the Sinhalese without a penny in compensation.‚  The bulk of the Tamils were brought in by the European colonial powers from the 16th century onwards who first settled in the north of the island thereby forcing the Sinhala residents to move further south, whilst the British brought in indentured South Indian Tamil laborers to work on plantations set up in the central hill country after dispossessing the indigenous Sinhala people who lived there..

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There are no areas within the island that is recognized as an exclusive homeland of any particular ethnic community.‚  The island belongs to all the citizens of Sri Lanka from the various ethnic communities and is the common homeland for each and everyone. ‚ Sri Lanka-â„¢s history goes back a long way with the discovery of the -ËœBalangoda Man-â„¢ whose skeletal remains and artifacts were found in a cave in the South Central parts of the island which have been‚  dated to be around 35,000 B.C.‚  If at all, it is only the indigenous Sinhalese people who could claim the island as their homeland as they founded the nation of SINHALE over 2,500 years back, with a recorded history from that time, as found in the ancient records known as the Deepawansa, Mahavansa,‚  Chulavansa and Rajavaliya.‚  There are numerous rock inscriptions confirming the sovereignty exercised by the Sinhala people from the earliest of times, and ruins of ancient Buddhist temples and other cultural objects and symbols that link the land to the unique heritage of the Sinhala people. ‚ ‚ Further proof of the Sinhalese presence in the Jaffna peninsula and the northern areas are the Sinhala place names which have been later Tamilized as accepted by Tamil historians, namely, Father Gnanaprakasar and Mr. S. Coomaraswamy in discussions they had with British colonial archaeologists Lewis and Horsburg in the 1920-â„¢s, then reported in the Ceylon Antiquary.

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3)‚ ‚ ‚ ‚ ‚  -It remains unknown how many of the 330,000 civilians trapped in what became known as the -ËœCage-â„¢ where the Tigers made their last stand were killed.‚  The UN now estimates up to 40,000 people may have died, though other rights groups such as Amnesty International suggest the numbers may have been as high as 70,000.-

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In the first place, the figure of 330,000 too is questionable as it is the estimated population within the -ËœNo Fire Zone-â„¢ at the end of February 2009 provided by the Assistant Government Agent, Mr. Parthipan, based on figures obtained from Grama Sevakas (Village Headmen) who were village folk aligned with the LTTE also trapped in the NFZ. It was common knowledge that the population numbers were always inflated in order to obtain higher quotas of food and other essentials to be delivered by the government.‚  No census had been carried out in the Vanni areas as it was not allowed by the Tigers.‚  The same Mr.Partipan reported the population as being 305,000 at the end of March 2009 and 150,000 at the end of April 2009. Meanwhile, the number of registered IDPs rose from 36,000 to 57,000 and 172,000 by April 30th, leaving one to conclude that 4,000 went missing in March and 40,000 in April, whereas such huge numbers being killed would have been brought to the notice of the outside world by informants within the NFZ. In fact, the propaganda arm of the Tigers known as the Tamilnet only reported 1349 deaths in March and 2601 deaths ‚ in April 2009.The figure of 330,000 is clearly an inflated number that shows inaccuracies when combined with the number of registered IDPs who crossed over to government controlled areas and the reported deaths by LTTE sources. Detailed analysis carried out by Kath Noble under the title -ËœNumbers Game-â„¢ published in the Island newspaper on July 3, 2013 and Prof. Michael Roberts-â„¢ notes in his blog reveals the discrepancies earlier pointed out. Refer : http://thuppahi.wordpress.com/2013/07/14/numbers-game-reviewed-by-kath-noble-the-full-monty/#more-9822 .

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The highly exaggerated guesstimate of tens of thousands of civilians being killed by the Sri Lankan forces said to be in the range of around 40,000 was based on reports prepared by the rights groups such as the ICG and HRW located in Brussels and New York respectively, which data was lifted verbatim and included by the UNSG-â„¢s Panel of Experts in their report according to Japanese diplomat Yashushi Akashi.‚  These inflated guesstimates were arrived at by the rights groups and UNSG-â„¢s Panel after a lapse of almost two years based on hearsay evidence coming from one side of the conflict which is obviously prejudiced, and without any of these parties visiting the country.‚  The UNSG-â„¢s Panel members whose writings and statements showed a clear bias against Sri Lanka also required the evidence presented to them to be locked away for a period of twenty years. The High Commissioner for Human Rights, Navi Pillay, who constantly harps on this unverified number of civilian deaths took the highly unethical step to table the UNSG-â„¢s Panel report which is not an UN authorized report at the UNHRC sessions in Geneva, and even endorsed it despite its many shortcomings.

Research commissioned by Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch from the American Association for the Advancement of Science based on satellite imagery following the initiation of the operation to capture the No Fire Zone on May 9th, in which there was talk of indiscriminate shelling, is now completely ignored because it did not support this conclusion. The analysis shows that contrary to the assertion that the Army continually adjusted its batteries to target the No Fire Zone, what it was actually doing was supporting its advancing forward defence lines, while the vast majority of its fire bearings missed concentrated pockets of IDPs.

Sri Lanka on her part established a special Commission of Inquiry known as the LLRC which held open sittings and published their report after 18 months in November 2011, the bulk of whose recommendations are being acted on by the Government of Sri Lanka.‚  Sri Lanka also carried out a census in the war affected areas of the north and east using school teachers and other such ranks from within the Tamil community as enumerators to determine the number of war related deaths in the final stages for the period from January 1 to May 18, 2009. According to the census count, the total number of war related deaths was 7432 of which the cause of 584 deaths remained unknown.‚  If one were to adjust for 4,000 LTTE combatants who would have died in battle which is about the same number that the Sri Lankan Army lost during the same period, the balance comprising civilians and LTTE fighters in civilian dress will be 3432 which is a far cry from the much hyped 40,000 deaths.‚  The UN Resident Representative in Colombo estimated a total of 7721 deaths apparently based on information collected from their local staff of over 200 who remained in the area as they were prevented from leaving by the LTTE, all of whom survived unharmed and took refuge in the welfare camps set up in Vavunia. This UN estimation of 7721 deaths in the five months of 2009 was strangely ignored by the UNSG’s Panel of Experts and the leading rights groups.‚  Even the Tamilnet which was a propaganda arm of the LTTE reported a total of only 7398 deaths for the same period.‚ ‚ 

I have tried to deal with some of the inaccuracies contained in her reports carried in five full pages of your newspaper which I considered to be most damaging, by providing data from numerous sources in order to contest her position and bring out the erroneous statements. I trust you would publish my response in full so that your readers may assess the truth.

Yours sincerely,

Mahinda Gunasekera

2 Responses to “Series of articles by Rosie DiManno carried in the Star from September 20 – 24, 2013”

  1. jayasiri Says:

    Very impresed with your analysis & counter arguments Mr. Gunasekera. This is well known that from Day ONE Tamils lied, deceived all foreign govts. & peoples so that they the Tamils can gain sympathy.

    That is how Tamils now control most of Toronto City where large number lives & promotes their own way of life. Some say, about 15 electorol units in Toronto have substantial vote bloc, which can be used as bargainining power during election time.

    Even in other cities in many countries in Europe, USA , Canada & many others, these Tamils carry a dis-information campaign through Tamilnet, and other propaganda machines. Distort the truth to gain sympathy, political favours just to paint a bad picture about Sri Lankans & Lanka Govts.

    Very keen to find oout whether some of these people who write articles dishnouring Lanka are paid by LTTE & supporting organizatios as well.

    Our Sinhalese & other Lankan people should be very alert when Tamils state & counter so many half truths to bring disrepute to our Country, but yet they flies to Colombo & Jaffna to enjoy the good weather & amenities in Sri Lanka.

    What a bunch of parasites with ulterior motives. Tamil is a Tamil, the recent elction shows us that. Best thing is to do least dveleopment in North & East as they are NOT grateful to millions poured into developing the vast areas, devastated by LTTE in the past.

    Thank you again Mr. Gunasekera for your informative rebuttle to the information published in Toronto Newspapers.

    ONE NATION< UNDER ONE FLAG< UNDER ONE LEADER, STRONG & FREE…….May God Bless Sri Lnaka~ J

  2. cw Says:

    I am surprised Rosie DiManno did not meet any kith and kin of the 40000 civilians said to have been killed. This is the figure inflated by Gordon Weiss from around 10000 to 40000 to promote his book. When questioned in Sydney he was dumbfounded. Where did Rosie get this figure from? Thanks Mahinda Gunasekara for informative article.

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