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

By Charles.S.Perera

 There was a time  when USSR was still a Union of Socialist States defying the West, the Russian dissidents of USSR were the winners  of  Noble Laureates.  The world was then divided into two camps the  Socialism lead by Russia and Capitalism lead by America.  To be recognised in the capitalist west it was  enough to attack  Socialism in  written or audio visual media.   The Russian dissident   and those seeking asylum in the West were acclaimed by the “free world” as heroes .

 Eventually that helped the “free world”  i.e the Capitalist world to  break up USSR.   Having broken up the USSR the west  was then eyeing at China  the other Communist giant  for signs of breaking up.   It was coming along with the  student manifestation  at Tiananmen Square on June 4, 1989,. The  “free world”  eagerly awaited the end of Chinese Communism..  Soon many student manifestations  began in other Chinese towns.   The Chinese government moved into check the spreading of the  manifestations.  The foreign media and journalists were ordered out.  The National news papers were prohibited from  reporting the situation.

 The West was desperately looking for heroes.  They found one in the “tank man” who defied the movement of a tank in the Tiananmen Square.  The man was arrested, some say he was killed others say that he is still living  in the mainland China  However the West missed him. The Western media was searching for information.  They reported  the Chinese army shooting into the civilians killing large numbers of them.  They reported  deaths of as much as 7000 civilians, and Amnesty International had put it to 1000 civilians killed.

 USA declared an arms embargo.  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.”   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.

 But the uprising  was quelled and the China is what it is to-day.  Luckily for China the West was kept out throughout the disturbances , which helped it to avoid the disaster that befell USSR.

 Now the UN System has taken over the practice of  the then  Swedish   Nobel Prize awards.  But unlike those days there is no  conflict between  the “free world” and Communism.

 Nevertheless, there is a problem with the globalisation  in Western terms, and developing countries seeking to  get away from the Western Orbit, seeking an independent development outside the Western leadership.  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. 

 UN System has fallen in line with the Western aspirations of  keeping developing countries  dependent on the International Community which has the World Bank and the EU  working along with it.

 UN System therefore does not help the Member States  but intervenes to  make unpopular the governments of  developing countries not toeing the line of the  International Community.  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.

 UN system  does not  any more treat all  its Member States as equals.  UN System has become a stooge of the International Community, and manouevres  the governments of developing member states to be dependent on the International Community.

 The UNESCO recently awarded the UNESCO  World Press Freedom Prize  2009  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 his  assassination was the work of the government.  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 that  the late  editor opposed the government in place.

 It was an editorial that was supposed to have been written by the dead editor  the day before he  was killed, where he had stated that if he were to be killed  the arm that killed him  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.  He was specialised in character assassination of politicians, and he latterly attacked the President of Sri Lanka and his brothers.   That may have interested UNESCO to include his name  in the nomination list for the award.

 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.  The terrorism had been going on for thirty long years and none of the previous governments had been able put an end to it.  It was the election  of Mr.Mahinda Rajpakse as the President of Sri Lanka that turned tables on the terrorists. 

 The President Rajapakse  who was determined to end terrorism used  the military solution having failed to make the terrorist leader agree to a negotiated peace settlement.  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.

 There were many groups who opposed  the President’s  onslaught  against the terrorists, not for any other reason, but  because  of the  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,  many Western Countries, EU, UN,  and important foreign personalities.  These groups sympathetic to terrorists set about discrediting the President, his Government and the Armed Forces.  These were the barriers put before the President Mahinda Rajpakse  to discourage him, and to make a failure of his determined effort to end terrorism in Sri Lanka.

 From time to time the President, the Government and the Defence Secretary-  the brother of the President, were tarnished accusing them of thefts, kidnappings, burglaries, and  assassinations. They speak of a White Van that is used in  kidnapping  people for extortion.  This van had not been found but after a burglary into a TV Station the White Van  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.

 There had been many kidnappings and assassinations of journalist.  But it is stupid even to suggest that the President, his brother or the Army  had a hand in them. There is  no reason for the President of Sri Lanka or his brothers to have stooped so low to be engaged  in this type ,of notorious criminal activity. 

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

 UNESCO had unfortunately fallen a bait for scheming individuals who are all out to  stop the President Mahinda Rajapakse’s yeoman service to his country and its people.  The Director General of UNESCO on an earlier occasion issued a statement condemning the government for  bombing a terrorists communication centre where two terrorists were killed.  Therefore, it may perhaps be that  he is with the reactionary forces of the International Community.

 There are so many disreputable characters in Sri Lanka just now profiting from  terrorism such as, contract murderers, kidnappers, extortionists, ransom seekers, and underworld  mafia gangs.  It could be any one of them that was responsible for the assassinations of  the journalists, as well as  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.

 Neither  the Late Lasantha Wickramathunga nor his Wife Sonali Samarasinghe are exceptional journalists worthy of accolade.  Their motherland needs patriots who support it at a time its very existence as a unitary state is at stake.  For some reason the International Community and all  types of  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. 

 Terrorism  has become a breeding ground for nefarious activities, such as, human  and drug trafficking,  arm sale,  prostitution, extortion, and money laundering.  Therefore, there are those who  would resort to any morally questionable activity  to promote terrorism.

 Therefore, one could conclude that knowingly or unknowingly the Wickramatunga family had  fallen in to one of these traps laid by such interested parties of the underworld.

 Late Lasantha Wickramatunga during his life time  had condemned, which  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   the same path casting aspersions at the worthy and honest,  and scandalising the good President Mahinda Rajapakse, and please to have receive the shameful acclamation of those present at the  Posthumous award presentation at Doha.

 The acceptance speech  of the UNESCO World  Press Freedom Prize for 2009  prepared by Sonali Samarasinghe  the wife of the  late Lasantha Wickramatunga to whom it was being posthumously offered had been  read out at the  ceremony.

 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.  It is a tirade of  false opinions  concocted to discredit the President and his government.  She  had failed to distinguish between the terrorism of the terrorists, and a Sovereign State’s effort to counter terrorism. What she calls state terrorism is the rightful defence of a  democratically elected Sovereign State to protect  its territory and its people using its security forces  against a group of  armed terrorists .

 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.

 But at the present moment with all International political players seem to be defending the cause of a group of terrorists in Sri Lanka  the standing ovation which was certainly not for the facts,  but to an angry person’s speech against a Government is understandable.

 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.    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 assassinate  even their worst enemies.

 Sonali Samarasingh is of course entitled to have her opinion, but in condemning the President of  Sri Lanka elected by the people before a foreign audience, she looks up and spits as a Sinhala proverb goes.  However, if she continues being critical of the government of Sri Lanka in the same strain, the UNESCO may perhaps award her the next year’s  World Freedom of the Press Prize.

 If the award was to be  given to a Editor from Sri Lanka, the best recipient would have been the  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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