OnPoint by Keith Ng

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OnPoint: Breaking Point in Sri Lanka

14 Responses

  • Ben Austin,

    Ver illuminating article. So can we assume this newTamil force, the Kurana, are purely proxies of the government, or are they merely in an alliance of convenience? I could fully understand that there would be support from some Tamils for a genuine alternative force to the LTTE but I would be interested to see if that is how they are percieved by Tamils

    London • Since Nov 2006 • 1027 posts Report Reply

  • Jackie Clark,

    Dear god, as if they hadn't been through enough with the tsunamai. I can so vividly remember one of the Sri Lankan mother's of a child I taught. She was standing with me in the playground, just talking with me about her son, as parents do with their childrens' teachers - and then, a police helicopter came overhead. She ducked, and I said quietiy to her that it was okay, they weren't after her. She apologised, saying that it had been a wee while that they'd been in NZ, but she was still scared when the helicopters flew overhead. And this in an area where the police helicopters hover at least four times a day. Imagine what that's like. I've seen that alot in people from war torn countries. And every time my reaction is the same - bloody bastards, to take away, not only peoples' homes but their lives and their peace of mind. Good luck with getting the story out there.

    Mt Eden, Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 3136 posts Report Reply

  • Sue,

    The only time we hear about sri lanka at the moment is related to cricket.
    heaven forbid newpapers report on anything other than that :/


    The photos alone tell a moving story.
    I'm thinking another way to get the word out is to post them up on somewhere like flickr?

    Wellington • Since Nov 2006 • 527 posts Report Reply

  • Sue,

    eeep
    that's where you have them already

    Wellington • Since Nov 2006 • 527 posts Report Reply

  • Ben Austin,

    If I recall correctly there was a period of time when articles on Sri Lanka were more common, back when the peace process started off and was working. Perhaps people were interested in good news stories as opposed to backsliding to the old status quo?

    London • Since Nov 2006 • 1027 posts Report Reply

  • Che Tibby,

    Perhaps people were interested in good news stories as opposed to backsliding to the old status quo?

    dunno. i think that this conflict has pretty much worn out its welcome in the media, at a guess.

    we're talking about something with its origins in the 1950s, its major outbreak in the 1970s, its attempted resolution in the 1980s, its "ripening" and decline in the 1990s, and resumption in the 2000s.

    and all because some sinhalese nationalists decided in '54(?) there would be only one, "mainstream" language for the entire country.

    the back of an envelope • Since Nov 2006 • 2042 posts Report Reply

  • Ben Austin,

    I guess the implication is that long runningwars, like products, need clever marketing to stay in the global news.

    London • Since Nov 2006 • 1027 posts Report Reply

  • Sam F,

    And what do you know? The Herald just ran a story on the situation today, far inferior to yours, which was taken from the Observer. Link is here. Did you contact them before?

    Sigh.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 1609 posts Report Reply

  • Bob Williams,

    I was in Sri Lanka at the same time as Keith, spending a lot of time with agencies who are trying to bring some form of relief to those dispossesed by the current phase in the civil war (for that is what it is).

    What Keith reports reflects much of what I was told, and also much of what has been reported in the local English language newspapers that are not entirely alligned with the Government. [These are influential because English is such a common language of the Sri Lankan middle and upper class that for some of them, I was told, Singalese or Tamil were their second not first languages]

    One thing Keith didn't mention was the threat by the UNHCR to pull out its support and resources unless the Government stopped forceably repatriating refugees back into their original areas. In fact, my recollection is that the UNHCR acted on that threat in an attempt to force the Government to stop doing it. It did pull its people out (although I haven't been able to confirm this). If they did, or if they do, then would be enormously significant - since it strongly affects the inclination and ability of other aid agencies to carry on their work. Their work is tough enough as it is - I spoke with aid workers who had been evacuated by their agencies several times as the bombs fell around them.

    That this is a nasty, ugly and largely ignored war goes without saying. What is less known is the extent to which New Zealand has a direct interest. Fonterra has a very major stake in the country. There are 18 million or so people in Sri Lanka, and through its own exports and ownership of local producers and processors Fonterra controls about 60% of the country's dairy sales by volume.

    We are, as a country, involved and yes it is disgraceful that Keith can't get the local news media interested. I could care a toss whether or not Kim Hill and Ruth Pretty have a rather closer relationship than I'd previously assumed, but what I do care about is that a so-called high quality magazine such as the Listener chooses to put that on its cover than something as substantial and important as the work that Keith has done.

    Wellington • Since Apr 2007 • 13 posts Report Reply

  • Che Tibby,

    i so, so miss SBS world news.

    they'd talk about this.

    the back of an envelope • Since Nov 2006 • 2042 posts Report Reply

  • Keith Ng,

    Ben: The Karuna faction is the result of regionalism among the Tamil community in Sri Lanka. Their raison d'etre is the perceived dominance of northern Tamils in the LTTE, and that the LTTE have continued the conflict when it should have settled for peace.

    The government lets them operate with impunity (and might even supply them with weapons, intel, etc. - nobody knows for sure), and in return, they do the government's dirty work, intimidating the local community, assassinations, etc. So yeah, it's convenient for both sides.

    Che/Ben: I thought the homemade airforce was a pretty good "hey-look-at-me!" effort...

    Sam: Yes - The Herald told me they were running a piece from the Observer. I thought it was quite a good piece - I guess the Herald deserve to be let off the hook. 8-)

    Bob: Heh, I gave the Fonterra story a miss so I could go to Batti. Now that you mention it, it does sound like a good hook for the story.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 543 posts Report Reply

  • Matthew Reid,

    One thing Keith didn't mention was the threat by the UNHCR to pull out its support and resources unless the Government stopped forceably repatriating refugees back into their original areas. In fact, my recollection is that the UNHCR acted on that threat in an attempt to force the Government to stop doing it. It did pull its people out (although I haven't been able to confirm this). If they did, or if they do, then would be enormously significant - since it strongly affects the inclination and ability of other aid agencies to carry on their work.

    Indeed, it would be a major statement by UNHCR, and not something they would do lightly. I know that Médecins Sans Frontières pulled out in October, but have since been able to return. That wasn't directly related to forced repatriation, but interference with their work.

    Their work is tough enough as it is - I spoke with aid workers who had been evacuated by their agencies several times as the bombs fell around them.

    And worse, with the murder of aid workers from Action Against Hunger (reported by BBC) also last year.

    The only time we hear about sri lanka at the moment is related to cricket.
    heaven forbid newpapers report on anything other than that :/

    Sri Lanka made it into MSF's top 10 most underreported stories in 2006 - which is measured by TV coverage in the US, but clearly holds true for NZ as well.

    South Africa • Since Nov 2006 • 80 posts Report Reply

  • Charles Mabbett,

    I would even go as far as to surmise that the Herald might even have run the piece on northern Sri Lanka being a new Darfur because someone there saw Keith's blog and pointed it out to the world desk editor.

    (I'm assuming that you did approach the Herald, Keith) The issue is that if they had published a report by Keith they would have had to pay him for it (perfectly reasonable - freelancers can't be expected to do things out of pure altruism even if highlighting a burgeoning humanitarian tragedy).

    The Herald evidently has a copyright and reprinting agreement with The Guardian and The Observer to use their stuff.

    Since Nov 2006 • 236 posts Report Reply

  • Karla Hill,

    Sport and politics are always a potent mix... Amnesty International has launched a "Play by the Rules!" campaign to raise awareness of the urgent need for independent human rights monitors in Sri Lanka and put pressure on Sri Lanka by delivering signed cricket balls to the government and the LTTE during the ICC Cricket World Cup.

    London • Since Apr 2007 • 3 posts Report Reply

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