Was the General wrong in what he said to Stewart Bell when the National Post Canadian journalist interviewed the Army Commander.

Noor Nizam. Sri Lanka Peace Activist. Canada.

Was the General wrong in what he said to Stewart Bell when the National Post Canadian journalist interviewed the Army Commander on the present conflict in Sri Lanka and the military interactions that are reported by the International and local media since the claimed liberation of the Eastern Province in Sri Lanka by the national Security Forces, specially by the Sri Lanka Army?

Why all this “shouting from around” when simply what the General said was his sincere views. Stewart Bells writes –

“Lt.-Gen. Fonseka talks candidly about the war, which he believes will be over in less than a year, and his views on the militant Tamil nationalism that has spilled from Sri Lanka into countries with ethnic Tamil diasporas, Canada included”.

It is with deep concern that I had to carefully follow the on going debate on this issue and surprisingly it was a daily internet news publication, well known for publishing incomplete news that started the wild fire of irresponsible journalism once again.

Firstly, journalism is telling the truth and the complete story and not fake information, as I have always pointed and stressed as a Communication Studies teaching personality and a freelance journalist in many of my articles earlier, on various political issues regarding the ethnic conflict in Sri Lanka . My background of working in a leading newspaper publishing institution in Sri Lanka in the late 1960 tees and influenced by Press icons like the late Mr. Esmond Wicremasinghe and the “power of the pen” ideology disciplined and moulded we journalist to become a creed that could have never been challenged as a keyboard punching writer full of deception and biased reporting for personal and selfish reasons., as we have seen some journalists today in Sri Lanka. The keyboard punching journalists without writing complete news/reports, slide off just only inciting the masses with there incomplete and deceptive news lines. Foreign journalists who believe in the old school journalism do not hesitate to write the truth.

Stewart Bell started his 6 part series ground reporting on the Military situation in Sri Lanka on Saturday the 20th., Tuesday the 23rd., he wrote on the subject - A life given over to war. This was Stewart Bells’s Part 5 of the National Post investigative series. In this article the Canadian journalist writes from WELIOYA, Sri Lanka on the interview he had with Brigadier Mohan K. Jayawardena , the area commander of Welioya. It is in this article that Stewart Bell links his journalistic talents to narrate his encounter with the Commander of the Army Lieutenant-General Sarath Fonseka.

What did Stewart Bell really write about the Army Commander?

This is what Stewart Bell wrote: –

“In an interview, Lt.-Gen. Fonseka talks candidly about the war, which he believes will be over in less than a year. He further mentions that –“ In the general's view” … and goes on to narrates the VIEWS of the Commander of the Army Lieutenant-General Sarath Fonseka” such as -

"I strongly believe that this country belongs to the Sinhalese but there are minority communities and we treat them like our people," he says.

"We being the majority of the country, 75%, we will never give in and we have the right to protect this country.

"We are also a strong nation ... They can live in this country with us. But they must not try to, under the pretext of being a minority, demand undue things."

Stewart Bell also states that the Army Commander had a view that “the country's ethnic Sinhalese majority will never allow the ethnic Tamil minority to break the island apart”.

So what is wrong in the Army Commander making his view known to a foreign journalist? Views are not statements or opinions. Views are expression of thoughts.

The definition of “view’ is “A way of showing or seeing something, as from a particular position or angle”. Another definition of “view” is - “It is a mental survey, intellectual perception or examination, as a just view of the arguments or facts in a case”.And then what was the case here – it was all about the Military situation in Sri Lanka vis-à-vis the militant Tamil nationalism.

The Army Commander did not make any political statement or a statement of “opinion”.
As legitimate to every citizen of Sri Lankan and as legitimate to the militant Tamil nationalist who is striving for resolutions, the Commander of the Army Lieutenant-General Sarath Fonseka as a member of the majority community of the country, has the constitutional and citizen’s RIGHT to express his VIEWS from where he stands. This is the FREEDOM OF EXPRESSION, which we have cherished in Sri Lankan for centuries and it was a very good opportunity to tell the Canadians that we still practice it in Sri Lanka .

So how can we point fingers at the Army Commander to accuse him of all what is being said by the Opposition and some NGO - CEO’s and echoed by the Media in Sri Lanka . The opposition and the media are acting like in the cartoon “The Road Runner” where the fox is tirelessly trying to hunt down the bird.

The Army Commander’s silence of not reacting to these unreasonable charges explains his maturity of both military and political strategy and understandings of an able and disciplined solider.
Looking at what the general public reaction to the accusations raised in the press/media, to the views of the army commander – the general public have reacted positively to the views of the Army Commander. A very good example is that quoted below from a very popular internet news publication of a Minority Community.

This is what one of the readers had written in the comments column of this publication: 30 September 2008 09:09:00GMT

NOTHING HARMFUL IN STATEMENT I have not seen the script of Gen. Fonseka's statement." I don't see any wrong in what he (army commander) is saying. He only says minorities should not demand any "undue things". I am with him. We minorities should not demand anything that is not due to us. If things due to us is not given and if we demand those I am sure he would not mind."(The individual who had written this comment is a well known Muslim Political journalist and a former Communication Director to a leading Minister belonging to the Muslim Community in Sri Lanka. The name of the publication and the details of the person who had made these comments are withheld due to legality issues).

The above public reactions/comments also reflects the notion that the Statement by Centre for Policy Alternatives published on 28th., September 2008 on this issue is completely challenged and gives no validity to the claims made by CPA in there website/media release.

In my research to all issues concerning part 5 of the reporting series filed by Stewart Bell of the National Post of Canada, I have had the opportunity to gather as much information and details to the background of the interview and to talk to the concerned politicians by phone who had made the serious comments. The one think that was clear was that there was NO malice in any of the statements and that it was just to call attention to the issues discussed by the Army Commander with the Canadian Journalist – Stewart Bell.

Then, were these politicians mislead by the thought that what Stewart Bell had stated was the “official stand or official opinion” of the Sri Lankan Army as highlighted by the local press and internet media in Sri Lanka ?

The answer to this is that the Commander of the Army Lieutenant-General Sarath Fonseka rightfully “candidly talked about his views’ only. It was NOT his political OPINION at all. The Army Commander therefore cannot be seen as anti-minority or chauvinistic.

Noor Nizam.
Sri Lanka Peace Activist.

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