To Sachindri Wijekoon,
President of the Sri Lankan Students Association
Let me first thank you for taking the time to read my article, I always appreciate getting feedback from as many sources as possible. You may be surprised to know that I was also contacted by the Tamil Students Association shortly after publication, asking me why I did not call more attention to the atrocities apparently committed by the Sri Lankan government. My own belief is that everyone is entitled to their own opinion, and that it is nearly impossible to determine objective truth, especially when humans are the subject involved.
That being said, as a journalist, I am often faced with the difficulty of how to be objective, particularly when writing about very sensitive or controversial issues. You may notice that the bulk of the article — all but two paragraphs — dealt only with the protest fast being staged by the Tamil Students Association, since The Medium exists primarily to highlight students and student groups. The two paragraphs of background information on the conflict that I provided — condensed from various online sources — blame both sides equally and attempts to provide only dates, facts and events that have been confirmed and are undeniable.
Allow me to call your attention to a specific phrase: both sides inflicting heavy civilian casualties. In order to be objective, I chose not to identify either side, Sri Lankan or Tamil, as being correct, justified or right as you are suggesting. You argue that the absence of information blasting those Tamil terrorists is thus implicit support of their cause? Please note that I stated Tamil Tigers launched an attack starting the war, before quoting my source and stating that 400 to 3,000 ethnic Tamils were killed in the years that followed, adding that all death tolls were unreliable. If anyone is being blamed here, I would think it is the LTTE.
In short, this article was intended to be a profile of a club event first and foremost, and I think I accomplished that. Through deliberate action I tried to avoid pointing any fingers as you colourfully put it, or referring to the conflict except where necessary. Although I may not have reached that hypothetical and theoretical point of pure objectivity I think I came pretty close considering the subject.
On the other hand, your letter to me is completely one-sided and biased, an excellent example of the propaganda that you say is misleading people. You admit I am by no means claiming that the government has not committed any crimes; however, the LTTE has committed far greater and heinous crimes against humanity. The terrors of the LTTE you provide in detail, yet there is not one mention of any actions by Sri Lankans, except providing the escaped civilians with food, water, housing, medical attention and most of all protection from the LTTE. Is this showing both sides, or just one?
Your brief account of the entire situation, which I admit is highly complicated, pays no service to objectivity and makes it clear that you are very much taking up one side against another. By responding to my article with heated rhetoric and partisan attacks, it is obvious why you read it as being pro-Tamil. Of course I respect your right to hold whatever opinion you wish, but lets be clear about who is being biased and opinionated here.
Andrew Hamilton-Smith News Editor