Have Sri Lanka’s foreign affairs ‘pundits’ heard of widely-read Huffington Post which Disseminate ‘Tamil misery’?
To Sri Lanka’s External Affairs Ministry or its overseas diplomats the dissemination of news of ‘Tamil misery’ in Sri Lanka by an Internet Newspaper called US-based Huffington Post to discourage American investment in Sri Lanka may be another media report that could be dismissed as unimportant.
Because, Sri Lanka’s overseas public diplomacy or its public affairs program has not identified in advance the most influential media outlets in Western capitals, especially the epicenter of Western diplomacy Washington, to reach them and make them knowledgeable of the country’s current atmosphere and situation.
Identifying and maintaining closer rapport with such media outlets become assets to post-terrorist Sri Lanka to combat the dissemination of misinterpretations and falsehood about the minority Tamil ethnic community, which was physically and psychologically connected to the separatist Tamil Tiger movement, encouraging a section of the international community to tighten the noose which has been already placed in Sri Lanka’s neck.
Combating the world-wide misinformation campaign is possibly the hardest public affairs and public diplomacy battle Sri Lanka is waging far worse than the military battle it unleashed against the well financed and well equipped Tamil Tiger movement.
The widely read California-based Internet Newspaper Huffington Post which is tied up with another widely-accessed media outlet America On Line (AOL) on it August 18 edition highlighted in its Business Page, which even has a wider readership, that “ramped up American business investment could benefit Sri Lanka by expanding its infrastructure and markets and creating jobs. However, many of the country's ethnic Tamils remain disenfranchised politically, socially and economically”.
If Sri Lanka lacks the knowhow and competent personnel to combat this misinformation the investors and business community in the United States could turn their dollars somewhere else.
This is exactly what the California-based senior and experienced medical doctor Karunyan Arulantham, the head of the Tamil American Peace Initiative, wanted when he wrote the column to Huffington Post to discourage American investors and businessmen reaching Sri Lanka.
And Dr. Arulantham who tours American cities and universities and reaches out to Congressmen and their influential immediate staff to make them ‘knowledgeable about the plight of the Tamils in Sri Lanka’ seems to be familiar with the basics of strategic communication the Sri Lankan foreign affairs pundits are incapable of studying even at this late stage.
Started in 2005 Huffington Post relentless march toward world domination: The Company attracts a staggering 26 million unique visitors for a month. In the United States alone its monthly hits are 21.5 million a month. This is a real big audience for the site, especially its Business Page, to which Dr. Arulantham wrote about the misery of Sri Lanka minority Tamils under the Rajapaksa government.
The objective of the Tamil American Peace Initiative of Dr. Arulantham represents when he address audiences in American cities attended by U.S. policymakers, lawmakers, media and businessmen are:
(Begin Quote) To inform and engage the American people and American policymakers on the issues involved in peace-building in Sri Lanka.
To encourage the United States and the international community to support a political solution that will create stability and promote reconciliation in Sri Lanka by guaranteeing the rights of all peoples on the island, including the right to security, political representation, full economic participation, and religious freedom.
To promote changes to the political and governance structure of Sri Lanka that will allow for greater regional autonomy, fuller political representation of all ethnic and religious groups on the island, and the defense of the individual and collective rights.
To support a Sri Lankan government that will defend the rights and well-being of all its citizens.
To work toward true reconciliation by promoting justice, accountability, and transparency.
To ensure the safety, dignity and prosperity of Tamils and other groups in the regions where they traditionally live, and to protect and preserve their culture. (End Quote)
The Huffington Post gave extensive exposure to what Dr. Arulantham says about the Sri Lankan Tamil minority discouraging American investments in that country.
Has the Sri Lankan foreign policy pundits and their overseas representatives capable of combating the ‘interpretation’ he gives to the American, and international, audience, a section of the audience that Sri Lanka needs to develop its economy?
This is what the learned doctor says:
(Quote) In theory, ramped up American business investment could benefit Sri Lanka by expanding its infrastructure and markets and creating jobs.
However, many of the country's ethnic Tamils remain disenfranchised politically, socially and economically. The Sri Lankan government has buoyed military occupancy of traditionally Tamil-majority areas in the north and east, where it is increasingly relocating the majority Sinhalese in an obvious policy to change the island's demographics. The government has also failed to locate much new employment-generating businesses in the war-devastated north and east of the country where there are tens of thousands of impoverished women-headed households due to the war.
Development projects in the north rarely help local Tamils, with jobs largely going to newly-relocated Sinhalese and foreign workers. This, and other government policies of ethnic discrimination, fuel continuing tensions and stoke fears of renewed conflict. (Unquote)
Another Quote: "On-going exclusionary policies," according to a recent report by a UN panel of experts on Sri Lanka, "have been at the heart of the conflict." But little is being done to correct the problem. Certainly the government has not taken meaningful steps, largely because it is more interested in promoting opportunities for the Sinhalese and the president's family. (Unquote)
Dr. Arulantham uses the widely-read Huffington Post Internet Newspaper to reach the American investors:
(Quote) Amid the many ethnic equality-related concerns that continue to go unresolved, American businesses must do their homework and not allow themselves to become smitten by Rajapaksa or his family as they seek corporate dollars in the name of developing the country while building a political dynasty and family business empire. Many regions of Sri Lanka, including areas around the capital that were never involved in the conflict, have rising reports of alleged murder, torture, rape, and kidnapping by soldiers and other government agents.
Journalists face intimidation and the media continues to be censored or to practice self-censorship. Many of the island's lingering problems go unreported.
If American businesses want to invest in Sri Lanka, they must craft equitable investment strategies that fully support policies of non-discrimination and investment in war-devastated regions. If the government of Sri Lanka is not willing to cooperate in these and other efforts for accountability and reconciliation, then American businesses should take their investments elsewhere. Many of the conditions that led to the brutal, decades-long civil war in Sri Lanka have yet to be resolved. Shareholders and consumers must not become unwitting accomplices to the on-going oppression and discrimination by pumping investment dollars into the island without understanding the policies they are funding. (Unquote)
The Sri Lanka External Affairs Ministry needs to be reminded of the mid-1800 pronouncement of the foremost American circus entrepreneur P.T. Barnum. He famously said: ‘There’s a sucker born every minute: There’s no such thing as bad publicity, and the more outrages your claim the more people that will notice you and buy a ticket to your show.’
Sri Lanka has faced a severe international challenge slowly built up by people like Dr. Karunyan Arulantham and others since the military defeat of the Tamil Tigers in May 2009. This systematic and strategic campaign by a section of the Sri Lankan Diaspora in Western nations have now entered the portals of political power in Washington, London, Bonn, Paris, New York (UN) and elsewhere. If there were competent Sri Lankan officials in the External Affairs Ministry and among its overseas diplomatic corps a study would have been undertaken at the initial stage to ascertain that strategy that has engulfed the power centers in Western capitals a year later. Understanding that strategy and the covert and overt movements of the section of the Sri Lanka Diaspora and their foreign cohorts and placing a counter-strategy wouldn’t have led senior Sri Lankan officials including defense secretary Rajapaksa to recognize that there is a serious anti-Sri Lankan misinformation campaign in operation.
Instead, Sri Lanka is giving wrong messages to the world. When senior Sri Lankan officials declare that there is no need for devolution of power to the periphery because the LTTE is already defeated, that’s the wrong message picked up by the misinformation campaign. When the Government of Sri Lanka allows its commissioner of election to declare the reduction of electoral representation to the predominantly-Tamil northern districts, even it is constitutional, that’s a wrong message. The message that Washington has already received is that the GSL, which they throughout the past several decades described as Sinhalese-dominated entity, is endeavoring to reduce the Tamil voice. When the cabinet spokesman declares that the assault on a Tamil journalist in the northern city of Jaffna is a ‘simple incident’ that’s a wrong message.
Sri Lanka’s foreign policy pundits and their overseas representatives have themselves created a ‘monster’ which they have to battle now. And, Dr. Arulantham has used widely-reached Huffington Post to undermine what the Sri Lanka mission in Washington undertook recently to attract the American investors because of their utter lack of knowledge of public affairs, public diplomacy and strategic communication.
- Asian Tribune -