Ronald Burke says genocide blamed on Sri Lanka by the LTTE is an
expression exceedingly going too far
(By: Walter Jayawardhana)
Ronald Burke, BBC's former Colombo correspondent
making an independent appearance in a radio debate between the Sri
Lankan and pro-Tamil Tiger parties in London and answering a question
whether there is any truth in the charge by pro-LTTE section about a
"genocide" in Sri Lanka said it is exceedingly an "expression going too
Burke said undoubtedly some civilians are getting
killed in the war but the allegation about genocide is not true. But
Burke protested the inability of journalists not being able to see for
them what was happening inside the warzone.
The debate between the two Sri Lankan groups was
moderated by the popular broadcaster Nihal for the BBC's Asian network.
One side was represented by the President of the
Sinhala Association of London Mr. Douglas Wickramaratne and the PRO-LTTE
side was represented by Mr. Ramanan Sri Pathmanadan.
But during the debate Mr.Sri Pathmanadan had to accept
that the child soldiers conscripted by the Liberation Tigers of Tamil
Eelam (LTTE) and the suicide bombing practiced by them are two
indefensible acts, although officially the LTTE has never said so
Douglas Wickramaratne replying to charges of
discrimination said what Eaton and Oxford educated Bandaranaike did was
only replacing English , spoken only by six percent of the people , the
elite of the Sinhalese and the Tamils , with Sinhalese as the state
language which was understood and spoken by eighty percent of the
population. He also introduced reasonable use of Tamil immediately after
the Sinhala act. This upset, mostly the Tamil elite who had become an
over privileged sector of the society due to the divide and rule
policies of the British imperial government, Wickramaratne charged.
Anyway, today both Sinhlese and Tamil languages have
become state languages of the country, said Wickramaratne , who also
added that Sri Lanka is the only country in the world which has given
such a place to the Tamil language. Sri Lanka educates all Tamil
children, free of charge , in their mother tongue from the kindergarten
to the university, once again being the only country in the world of
doing so, he emphasized.
Mr.Ramanan Sri Padmanadan opening the debate for the
LTTE said, Sri Lanka was three countries when the Portuguese invaded the
Indian ocean island and it was they who put the Tamil homeland, an
independent state aligned with Sinhala maritime areas. The British
united the countries and gave independence in 1948 and hence all these
He first of all advocated separation as a solution and
when questioned about the wisdom of it changed it to devolution. But the
LTTE has not accepted any devolution offficially but separation.
Mr.Pathmanadan denied any over- privileges for the Tamils under the
British imperial government but said since there were more English
schools in Jaffna the Tamils were able to educate themselves better and
get more jobs.
Mr. Douglas Wickramaratne argued that that because of
this position a kind of apartheid was practiced against the Sinhalese by
the British then. He said disproportionately large numbers of higher
positions were enjoyed by them. When such imbalances are balanced by the
circumstances violent reactions occur now.
While admitting that child soldiering is indefensible
Mr.Pathmanadan asked what could they do if a child comes and tell the
LTTE that he wants to fight for the cause. Though this is an argument
put forward by the LTTE, the UNESCO, has stated that the children do not
have the right to give their consent to fight for the war. Even their
parents, according to the United Nations , do not possess the right to
give away their children for the war. The young Tamil debater was
unaware of it. UN reports also say the children are abducted by the
Even today, the Sinhalese are discriminated in their
own country, despite being the majority Mr.Wickramaratne charged. Under
a law introduced by the Dutch, the Sinhalese cannot buy land in Northern
Province. The Sinhalese cannot educate themselves in Jaffna or Eastern
Universities because the LTTE kills any Sinhalese going there to learn,
he said. But Tamils, about 60 percent of them are not discriminated to
live in the Sinhala majority areas and buy land he argued.
Mr. Pathmanadan, not knowing , that in the country ,
there is no system that discriminates against Tamil students entering
universities currently said that such a discriminatory method is built
in the constitution and Tamils have to obtain more marks to enter the
universities. Mr.Wickramaratne flatly denied the statement.
He said 40,000 Sinhalese and 100,000 Muslims have been
chased out of Jaffna by LTTE leader Mr. Prabhakaran in an unique act of
ethnic cleansing .
When the moderator asked whether Mr.Pathmanadan is not
troubled by those acts of violence and by Prabhakaran always standing on
the way to peace and the LTTE being named as terrorist organization by
so many countries Mr. Pathmanadan said he is supporting the LTTE since
it is the only party that is standing for the aspirations of Tamils.
Mr. Douglas Wickramaratne said the LTTE should seek
the Tamil homeland in Tamil Nadu where 70 million Tamils live. He said
like Mr. Pathmanadan said there had never been separate states in Sri
Lanka 's history and for more than 2000 years the country it had been
run as one state and what Mr.Pathmandan had been referring to were
regional administrations under one emperor, during ancient times and not
different states. He also said the latest propaganda is escaping
civilians have to live in concentration camps. But the fact is, said Mr.
Wickramaratne that Sir John Holmes of the UN and many ambassadors of
foreign countries have expressed complete satisfaction about those
civilian camps. The LTTE sent suicide bombers even inside those civilian
refugee camps as the terrorists were desperate they could not use those
Tamils as human shields Mr.Wickramaratne argued. Hence, protection was
necessary for them, he said.