Ms. Colvin's Report on Sri Lanka

Sunday Times Online

Dear Sir/Madam:

I was shocked and horrified to hear of the terrible ordeal suffered by your intrepid journalist, Ms. Marie Colvin. Her condemnation of the terrible treatment she has received at the hands of the apparently trigger-happy and bumbling Sri Lankan Army should be roundly endorsed by all. To have been shot at while attempting to infiltrate, in the dead of the night, an army defense line in a war zone, questioned rudely in broken english and allegedly manhandled by overly suspicious soldiers, then immediately transported by truck over potholed roads to the nearest major hospital, and in the country atsubsequently airlifted to the main hospital the crack of dawn the next day to be provided with the best medical care available in the country is indeed reprehensible.

The Sri Lankan Government and its Army should be thoroughly castigated for having the temerity to react with suspicion to Ms. Colvin's motives. The fact that she shouted "American journalist" and the fact that she is white should have more than sufficed to prove her bona fides and allay any suspicions, even in the heat of a gun battle. I strongly share her sense of outrage that this was not the case. Furthermore, the doctor described in her article should be soundly disciplined for having the nerve to suggest any form of treatment, let alone offering to operate to remove the shrapnel from her eye. He should have known that Ms. Colvin has a very low regard for the competence, ability and motives of doctors who are not American or European, or at the very least, LTTE sympathizers. One can only hope and pray that she does not fall into the grubby hands of a surgeon of south-asian descent at her American hospital.

The failure of the Sri Lankan government and its Army to anticipate Ms. Colvin's misadventure and provide her with more compassionate captors, more comfortable transport over better roads, and medical care that meets her exacting standards is quite disturbing. Ms. Colvin has to be admired by all right-thinking people on the self-professed nobility of her mission, which was to report on the humanitarian crisis in the northern jungles in Sri Lanka. An unjustified criticism, possibly propagated by some misguided and misinformed critic, is that her articles seem to describe only her difficulties in entering the troubled region and leaving it, with the humanitarian aspect she originally intended to report only mentioned in passing. Of course, Ms. Colvin's apparent lack of concern about the fate of her allegedly civilian escort is most likely due to the shock of her ordeal causing her to momentarily abandon her well documented concern for those less fortunate.

With her bravado and unquestioned journalistic talents, Ms. Colvin has not only briefly shone a bright light on the situation in the Wanni region, but has also apparently unearthed hitherto unknown facts about the genesis of the LTTE. As described in one of her earlier dispatches, the LTTE came into being after the 1983 ethnic riots in Sri Lanka. This, of course, will come as a complete surprise to most of us who have mistakenly believed all this time that the riots occurred after 13 Sri Lankan soldiers were blown up by an LTTE landmine. She is also to be congratulated on being the first to determine that the "elite" LTTE suicide bombers have only attacked government buildings (presumably empty) and a couple of state leaders (presumably deserving of such a fate). Such precision in what is essentially an indiscriminate terrorist attack is indeed newsworthy.

Ms. Colvin is extremely lucky or talented to have gone to Sri Lanka without a pre-planned agenda, and then be able to contact a network of unbiased, independent civilians to smuggle her into the war zone. To have been able to exhaustively determine the veracity all of the information she was spoon fed and to arrive at a complete understanding of the causality of the grim conditions in a rugged region many hundred square miles in area in one week only serves to illustrate Ms. Colvin's legendary journalistic skills.

It is quite refreshing to see that Ms. Colvin's reporting is entirely free of the biases she so rightly despises in the Sri Lankan Government propaganda. Her idolatry portrayal of the LTTE is also quite a change from the recent spate of bad publicity the LTTE has received, notably because of the distressing tendency of several Western Governments to list the LTTE as a terrorist organization. I am sincerely thankful that Ms. Colvin survived her terrible ordeal without losing her sense of self-righteousness or her acute perception of reality. I shall conclude with the hope that a future book deal and payment for potential movie rights will help ease the pain of Ms. Colvin's suffering.

I shall be most grateful if you would publish the full text of my letter in
your esteemed journal.


Kishan N. Amarasekera


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