UNESCO’s award of the World Press Freedom Prize 2009, is scandalous.
Posted on May 11th, 2009

By Charles.S.Perera

ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ There was a timeƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚  when USSR was still a Union of Socialist States defying the West, the Russian dissidents of USSR were the winners ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ of ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ Noble Laureates.ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚  The world was then divided into two camps theƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚  Socialism lead by Russia and Capitalism lead by America.ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚  To be recognised in the capitalist west it wasƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚  enough to attackƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚  Socialism inƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚  written or audio visual media.ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚  The Russian dissident ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ and those seeking asylum in the West were acclaimed by the ƒÆ’‚¢ƒ¢-¡‚¬ƒ…-free worldƒÆ’‚¢ƒ¢-¡‚¬ƒ”š‚ as heroes .

ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ Eventually that helped the ƒÆ’‚¢ƒ¢-¡‚¬ƒ…-free worldƒÆ’‚¢ƒ¢-¡‚¬ƒ”š‚ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚  i.e the Capitalist world to ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ break up USSR.ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚  ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ Having broken up the USSR the westƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚  was then eyeing at ChinaƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚  the other Communist giantƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚  for signs of breaking up.ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚  It was coming along with the ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ student manifestationƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚  at Tiananmen Square on June 4, 1989,. TheƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚  ƒÆ’‚¢ƒ¢-¡‚¬ƒ…-free worldƒÆ’‚¢ƒ¢-¡‚¬ƒ”š‚ ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ eagerly awaited the end of Chinese Communism..ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚  Soon many student manifestationsƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚  began in other Chinese towns.ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚  The Chinese government moved into check the spreading of theƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚  manifestations.ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚  The foreign media and journalists were ordered out.ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚  The National news papers were prohibited fromƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚  reporting the situation.

ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ The West was desperately looking for heroes.ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚  They found one in the ƒÆ’‚¢ƒ¢-¡‚¬ƒ…-tank manƒÆ’‚¢ƒ¢-¡‚¬ƒ”š‚ who defied the movement of a tank in the Tiananmen Square. ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ The man was arrested, some say he was killed others say that he is still livingƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚  in the mainland ChinaƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚  However the West missed him. The Western media was searching for information.ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚  They reportedƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚  the Chinese army shooting into the civilians killing large numbers of them.ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚  They reported ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ deaths of as much as 7000 civilians, and Amnesty International had put it to 1000 civilians killed.

ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ USA declared an arms embargo.ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚  The EU characteristically refused loansto China. UK Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher expressed “utter revulsion and outrage”, and was “appalled by the indiscriminate shooting of unarmed people.” ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ UN Secretary-General Javier Perez de Cuellar was concerned at the incident, but noted that the UN Charter prohibits interference in member states’ internal affairs.

ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ But the uprisingƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚  was quelled and the China is what it is to-day.ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚  Luckily for China the West was kept out throughout the disturbances , which helped it to avoid the disaster that befell USSR.

ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ Now the UN System has taken over the practice ofƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚  the then ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ SwedishƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚  Nobel Prize awards.ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚  But unlike those days there is noƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚  conflict betweenƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚  the ƒÆ’‚¢ƒ¢-¡‚¬ƒ…-free worldƒÆ’‚¢ƒ¢-¡‚¬ƒ”š‚ and Communism.

ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ Nevertheless, there is a problem with the globalisationƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚  in Western terms, and developing countries seeking toƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚  get away from the Western Orbit, seeking an independent development outside the Western leadership. ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ The International Community discourages this move by putting barriers for their development by withholding loans, creating internal political dissentions, and interfering into internal affairs of the developing countries.ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ 

ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ UN System has fallen in line with the Western aspirations ofƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚  keeping developing countriesƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚  dependent on the International Community which has the World Bank and the EUƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚  working along with it.

ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ UN System therefore does not help the Member StatesƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚  but intervenes to ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ make unpopular the governments ofƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚  developing countries not toeing the line of theƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚  International Community.ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚  UN System helps opposition to a recalcitrant government in place, by compensating dissidents of the government, as the Swedish Nobel Prize Committee of those days.

ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ UN systemƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚  does not ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ any more treat all ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ its Member States as equals.ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚  UN System has become a stooge of the International Community, and manouevresƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚  the governments of developing member states to be dependent on the International Community.

ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ The UNESCO recently awarded the UNESCOƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚  World Press Freedom PrizeƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚  2009ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚  posthumously to a Sri Lankan Editor. The reason for the selection was probably because he was assassinated and his wife and others around him say that hisƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚  assassination was the work of the government.ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚  Apparently police investigations are still going on, and there is no proof of the governments hand in the killing. But it suffice for UNESCO award selection Committee thatƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚  the lateƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚  editor opposed the government in place.

ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ It was an editorial that was supposed to have been written by the dead editorƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚  the day before heƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚  was killed, where he had stated that if he were to be killedƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚  the arm that killed himƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚  would be that of the Government. That shot the dead editor to fame. During his living days the Editorials he wrote were mediocre they read more like Editorials of a gossip tabloid.ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚  He was specialised in character assassination of politicians, and he latterly attacked the President of Sri Lanka and his brothers.ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚  That may have interested UNESCO to include his nameƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚  in the nomination list for the award.

ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ Sri Lanka is going through a very decisive period in its history, with a group of ruthless terrorists aiming to break away part of its territory to set up a Tamil Homeland.ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚  The terrorism had been going on for thirty long years and none of the previous governments had been able put an end to it.ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚  It was the electionƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚  of Mr.Mahinda Rajpakse as the President of Sri Lanka that turned tables on the terrorists.ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ 

ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ The President Rajapakse ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ who was determined to end terrorism used ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ the military solution having failed to make the terrorist leader agree to a negotiated peace settlement.ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚  Mr.Rajapakse is undoubtedly the most clever Presidents Sri Lanka has been fortunate to have. He was able to turn what every body thought was impossible to reality, by brining the terrorists to their knees.

ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ There were many groups who opposedƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚  the PresidentƒÆ’‚¢ƒ¢-¡‚¬ƒ¢-¾‚¢sƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚  onslaughtƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚  against the terrorists, not for any other reason, butƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚  becauseƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚  of theƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚  benefit to be gained from the on going terrorisms. Every body wanted a part of the cake as it were from the terrorists who were supported by a rich Tamil diaspora,ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚  many Western Countries, EU, UN, ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ and important foreign personalities.ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚  These groups sympathetic to terrorists set about discrediting the President, his Government and the Armed Forces.ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚  These were the barriers put before the President Mahinda RajpakseƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚  to discourage him, and to make a failure of his determined effort to end terrorism in Sri Lanka.

ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ From time to time the President, the Government and the Defence Secretary-ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚  the brother of the President, were tarnished accusing them of thefts, kidnappings, burglaries, and ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ assassinations. They speak of a White Van that is used in ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ kidnappingƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚  people for extortion.ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚  This van had not been found but after a burglary into a TV Station the White VanƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚  that had been seen at the place of the burglary was said to have been found at the home of a Security Officer of the leader of the Opposition.

ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ There had been many kidnappings and assassinations of journalist.ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚  But it is stupid even to suggest that the President, his brother or the ArmyƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚  had a hand in them. There is ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ no reason for the President of Sri Lanka or his brothers to have stooped so low to be engagedƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚  in this type ,of notorious criminal activity.ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ 

ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ They were conducting defensive military operations against the terrorists.ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚  But on the other hand these thefts, burglaries, kidnapping and extortion, are seen as accusations appropriate to discrediting the President and the Government.ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚  Therefore it is more likely that, even the assassination of theƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚  editor who was posthumously awarded the UNESCO World Press Freedom Prize 2009, may have been assassinatedƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚  byƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚  some one who wanted to discredit the President andƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚  the Government.

ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ UNESCO had unfortunately fallen a bait for scheming individuals who are all out toƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚  stop the President Mahinda RajapakseƒÆ’‚¢ƒ¢-¡‚¬ƒ¢-¾‚¢s yeoman service to his country and its people.ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚  The Director General of UNESCO on an earlier occasion issued a statement condemning the government forƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚  bombing a terrorists communication centre where two terrorists were killed.ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚  Therefore, it may perhaps be thatƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚  he is with the reactionary forces of the International Community.

ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ There are so many disreputable characters in Sri Lanka just now profiting fromƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚  terrorism such as, contract murderers, kidnappers, extortionists, ransom seekers, and underworld ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ mafia gangs.ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚  It could be any one of them that was responsible for the assassinations ofƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚  the journalists, as well asƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚  others that had met with the same fate. There is therefore no valid reason to caste aspersions on a person of valour like the President of Sri Lanka or his brother the Defence Secretary or even the Army Personnel.

ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ Neither ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ the Late Lasantha Wickramathunga nor his Wife Sonali Samarasinghe are exceptional journalists worthy of accolade.ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚  Their motherland needs patriots who support it at a time its very existence as a unitary state is at stake.ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚  For some reason the International Community and allƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚  types ofƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚  humanitarian activists including the International Media Forum want the government discredited in the eyes of the International Community so as to save terrorism from disappearing altogether from Sri Lanka.ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ 

ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ TerrorismƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚  has become a breeding ground for nefarious activities, such as, human ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ and drug trafficking, ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ arm sale,ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚  prostitution, extortion, and money laundering.ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚  Therefore, there are those whoƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚  would resort to any morally questionable activityƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚  to promote terrorism.

ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ Therefore, one could conclude that knowingly or unknowingly the Wickramatunga family had ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ fallen in to one of these traps laid by such interested parties of the underworld.

ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ Late Lasantha Wickramatunga during his life timeƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚  had condemned, whichƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚  is un-condemnable, scandalised a President whose honesty, integrity and devotion to his country and its people is aboveboard. After his death his wife Sonali Samarasinghe continues to walk ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ the same path casting aspersions at the worthy and honest,ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚  and scandalising the good President Mahinda Rajapakse, and please to have receive the shameful acclamation of those present at theƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚  Posthumous award presentation at Doha.

ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ The acceptance speechƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚  of the UNESCO WorldƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚  Press Freedom Prize for 2009ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚  prepared by Sonali SamarasingheƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚  the wife of theƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚  late Lasantha Wickramatunga to whom it was being posthumously offered had beenƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚  read out at theƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚  ceremony.

ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ The whole speech is a denunciation of the government of the President Mahinda Rajapakse of Sri Lanka. Sri Lanka which she claims is her motherland.ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚  It is a tirade ofƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚  false opinionsƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚  concocted to discredit the President and his government.ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚  SheƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚  had failed to distinguish between the terrorism of the terrorists, and a Sovereign StateƒÆ’‚¢ƒ¢-¡‚¬ƒ¢-¾‚¢s effort to counter terrorism. What she calls state terrorism is the rightful defence of a ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ democratically elected Sovereign State to protectƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚  its territory and its people using its security forces ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ against a group of ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ armed terrorists .

ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ Andrew Stroehlein writing about the acceptance speech says , it was so forceful and so impressive, and that the hundred people in the audience gave it a standing ovation.

ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ But at the present moment with all International political players seem to be defending the cause of a group of terrorists in Sri LankaƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚  the standing ovation which was certainly not for the facts, ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ but to an angry personƒÆ’‚¢ƒ¢-¡‚¬ƒ¢-¾‚¢s speech against a Government is understandable.

ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ There is nothing much to comment on the speech , suffice it to say that it was an accusation of the Government of Sri Lanka and its President who is loved and respected by the larger majority of the people.ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚  Neither the President Mahinda Rajapakse nor his brother Gotabhaya Rajapakse are criminals or persons who would ever envisage to instigate, aid and abet any one to assassinateƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚  even their worst enemies.

ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ Sonali Samarasingh is of course entitled to have her opinion, but in condemning the President ofƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚  Sri Lanka elected by the people before a foreign audience, she looks up and spits as a Sinhala proverb goes.ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚  However, if she continues being critical of the government of Sri Lanka in the same strain, the UNESCO may perhaps award her the next yearƒÆ’‚¢ƒ¢-¡‚¬ƒ¢-¾‚¢sƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚  World Freedom of the Press Prize.

ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ If the award was to beƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚  given to a Editor from Sri Lanka, the best recipient would have been theƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚  Editor of the Island News paper, for the quality of his writing , the decency of presentation of facts, intelligent arguments, objectivity, humour and fearless but constructive criticisms.

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