22 August, 2011

Huffington Post/Clinton & Jayalalitha

I’m over at the Huffington Post today, writing about Clinton’s recent visit to India and her meeting with the Chief Minister of Tamil Nadu (and ardent supporter of the LTTE and separatism), J. Jayalalitha. You can read the full article here. Here’s an excerpt:

It is usually the case that America’s foreign policy spokespeople are misinformed to say the least. Here’s a little context as to why neither Clinton nor Blake (who is shown in Lies Agreed Upon meeting with a man who has lectured terrorist cadres on how to raise funds abroad for the procurement of weapons for the LTTE, an organization banned by the US government!), has a clear picture. It is called missing “the ground situation.’

At the Colombo International Airport in Sri Lanka, a Tamil woman about my late mother’s age asks me to watch her bag outside the ladies’ restroom. “We met before at the check-in counter,” she assures me, though I have already nodded. We look at each other for a few silent moments, acknowledging what was not possible for thirty years and what now is: to ask a stranger, particularly a stranger from the “opposite” ethnicity, to watch a bag, parcel or any other “unaccompanied’ item without fearing that it might contain a bomb.

In the streets of Trincomalee and Batticaloa, areas where the majority of the populace speaks, almost exclusively, only Tamil, I, who do not understand Tamil, am still able to recognize and communicate a sense of empathy with my fellow citizens. I ask for directions, food, medicine, they help me, both of us falling back on gestures rather than words, on smiles and, to signify further good-will, the stroking of a child’s face, their sons or my daughters.

On the beaches of Nilaveli, a place I had been prohibited from visiting since I was a little girl, I meet a Tamil man on an early morning walk. He tells me in faltering Sinhalese: “Now that the war is over we can speak. Before this you would have been afraid of me, I would have been afraid of you. We could not travel, there were checkpoints everywhere. Now I am free.”

3 Responses to “Huffington Post/Clinton & Jayalalitha”

  1. Prem says:

    Hello .I thought I should get this out..well your recent interview to Boston Lanka was too biased favouring SL govt and was critical on all the pointing fingers. Going over your profile all over the web, It appears you have done a lot of studies and research, a person of your back ground could have been little level minded when reporting on the aftermath of war in SL. I am sure you have a loving family and so do those innocent kids and parents who perished during the war.
    I always thought conscience is a beautiful gift given to us and it works closely like a GPS correcting our course so long we run this life…
    Good bless you for all the good work you do.

  2. Kimmy Pham says:

    heyos! this is amazing RU FREEMAN, and i just wantted to say that ur going to be famous one day and very successful! go ru!
    :)

  3. Pelham Dekker says:

    Ru Freeman, once again you have unfortunately, unintentionally of course, shown your sinhala chauvinistic side. I don’t really see you as a person interested in equality of all people but only in your interested group for your self servicing agenda, whatever that maybe. I’m sadly disappointed that you have not stood up for the whole truth.

    Some points on your article:
    You say:
    ” Too bad for both the Secretary and the Assistant Secretary of State that the claims made in the Channel 4 documentary have been discredited by both the United Nations and a second documentary, Lies Agreed Upon, (now viral on YouTube), which provides background and evidence to refute every single claim made in it.”
    My say:
    The UN did not discredit the CH4 documentary. Please show me an article or link that says the UN discredited the documentary? (independent articles and links, please) Thank you.
    Lies agreed upon is a counter documentary by the Sri Lankan government(Ministry of Defense) which tries to cover up the genocide.

    You say:
    “It is usually the case that America’s foreign policy spokespeople are misinformed to say the least.”

    My say:
    I will show you how misinformed you have been or deliberately dishonest in my responses below.

    You say:
    “At the Colombo International Airport in Sri Lanka, a Tamil woman about my late mother’s age asks me to watch her bag outside the ladies’ restroom. ……….We look at each other for a few silent moments, acknowledging what was not possible for thirty years and what now is: to ask a stranger, particularly a stranger from the “opposite” ethnicity, to watch a bag, parcel or any other “unaccompanied’ item without fearing that it might contain a bomb.”

    My say:
    This comment shows what kind of a foreigner you’ve become to Sri Lanka. You are worse than Blake and Clinton in being out of touch with ground reality.
    Even during the war I know of Thamils and Sinhalese who have interacted quite comfortably. And what you say is nothing new to us sri lankas during the war years. Your exaggerated fear is nonsensical. There are more real things to fear about than the incident that you quote.
    And how can one bring in a bomb into the airport? That has never happened, even during the war years. Unless the Sri Lanka security forces allowed it. Your just exaggerating.

    You say:
    In the streets of Trincomalee and Batticaloa, areas where the majority of the populace speaks, almost exclusively, only Tamil, I, who do not understand Tamil, am still able to recognize and communicate a sense of empathy with my fellow citizens.

    My say:
    Trincomalee is quite heavily militarized and you can get directions from the armed forces who can be spotted all over the city. If you can sense the empathy why don’t you write about it. People in the Northeast are not happy with the situation that is prevailing right now. They have shown this in their vote in the elections held since the war’s end. They have never voted for the Sri Lankan government.

    You say:
    “On the beaches of Nilaveli, a place I had been prohibited from visiting since I was a little girl, I meet a Tamil man on an early morning walk. He tells me in faltering Sinhalese: “Now that the war is over we can speak. Before this you would have been afraid of me, I would have been afraid of you. We could not travel, there were checkpoints everywhere. Now I am free.” ”

    My say:
    Well the sinhalese were free to travel to the Northeast but the Thamils from the Northeast were not so free to travel to other parts of Sri Lanka during the war years because of the SL government checkpoints that discriminated them because they were from the Northeast. All Thamils from the Northeast were discriminated as terrorists by the almost entirely sinhala(majority community) dominated SL armed forces.

    You say:
    “On my travels I note the newly de-mined roads being re-paved. I notice massive reconstruction that includes the laying down…..”
    My say:
    Yes, road development is going on at a heady pace. But is it for the people’s sake? Nay, it is so that the SL armed forces can patrol them and effectively silence any form of Thamil democratic aspirations.
    Why aren’t houses for the people who lost houses being rebuilt by the Sri Lankan government? Instead the Sri Lankan government is busy building army camps and cantonments, sentry points, etc all over the former war devastated areas.

    That’s the racist development that is going on that Ru Freeman is tragically supporting.

    You say:
    “I take note of the fact that everywhere I look, whether in predominantly Sinhalese areas that once withstood nightly raids and outright massacres from the Tiger terrorists or in predominantly Tamil areas that once were subject to forced recruitment of children and youth, the curtailment of movement and the assassination of moderate leaders, there are people building new homes for the first time in a quarter century, simple brick and mortar structures that, nonetheless, affirm hope. ”

    My say:
    What you say is partly true. But what about the day-light raids and massacres by the Sri Lankan(terrorists) armed forces? No mention of that? What about the child recruitment support by the Sri Lankan government forces? What about the gang rapes of Thamil women by SL armed forces personnel?

    You say:
    ” Trail, an undertaking that involved more than 30,000 people of all ethnicities, social classes and political stripes, walked 670 kilometers over the course of 27 days from Dondra in the South to Point Pedro, the Northernmost part of an island shaped like a tear-drop. The walk raised money from a mostly Sinhalese population to build a pediatric cancer ward in the hospital in Jaffna which serves an overwhelmingly Tamil population, further acknowledging our similarities and the need for national reconciliation in the aftermath of tragedy and loss.”

    My say:
    yes, Trail was a great initiative and I commend it. But there are reports that this initiative organised by MAS Holdings was to counter the sanctions or constraints on the garment industry by western countries.

    You say:
    “At the conclusion of the war in May 2009, there were approximately 293,600 IDPs in the Relief Villages set up in the Vanni.”

    My say:
    These were not Relief Villages but rather concentration camps. They concentrated the Thamil population of the Vanni behind razor wire and barbed wire fences that were patrolled by armed personnel and kept a check on them and weeded out LTTE suspects. Relief was provided mainly by the international NGO’s and relief agencies.

    You say:
    “Today, only 3% of ordinary civilians are yet to return to their homes; though they are free to leave, they remain of their own volition until the de-mining/reconstruction work is completed,”

    My say:
    They are actually not free to leave. Because they are not allowed to go back to their homes. The SL armed forces have occupied their homes and want to relocate them to jungle areas that are not conducive for habitation. That’s why they are still in the camps. Facts, facts, facts need checking.

    you say:
    “and the government of Sri Lanka continues to support them through its national welfare programs as well as through its relief organizations and by channeling funds from generous donors.”

    My Say:
    The SL government doesn’t have the money nor the will to help the Thamil people. What national welfare programmes are you talking about?? And what are these relief organizations of the Sri Lankan government? A lot of the relief work was borne by the international NGOs.

    You say:
    “Of some 11,000 former LTTE combatants, 595 child soldiers (100% of them), have been rehabilitated and united with their parents while 6,100 adult cadres were rehabilitated and released by June 2011. Most of the remaining cadres are undergoing further rehabilitation programs and will be reintegrated to society by the end of this year. Those culpable for atrocities at a higher level will be prosecuted through legal channels.”

    My say:
    There are a lot of concerns about what kind of rehabilitation is being given to these supposed former combatants. Those who have been released complain that they are not allowed to venture away from their hometowns to find employment as the military consistently asks them to register with the military authorities every month or even more frequently. The SL government forces announced through loudspeakers that anyone who was involved with the LTTE for even 5 minutes to surrender themselves. Some people surrendered even though they was not involved with the LTTE most of their lives except for the last few hours during the final stages, because they were forcefully recruited. So what rehabilitation for those who were forced for only 1 or 2 hours??? There are also doubts about the legal standing of these people. No independent organisation has been allowed to visit them. Things are being done in secrecy. Ex-combatants who were released claimed that they were only given some vocational training for a month before they were released. They were consistently interrogated by the army as to where weapons were and if they knew anyone in the LTTE who may have slipped through.

    You say:
    “Meanwhile, in New Orleans, we hear of the “whitening” of the citizenry, and the continued disenfranchisement and displacement of its former population.”

    My say:
    It is not surprising that Ru has heard of the Whitening of the citizenry in New Orleans. But what she hasn’t said is the Sinhalisation of predominantly Thamil areas in Sri Lanka. Can you not see her Hypocrisy? Plain isn’t it?

    You say:
    “Meanwhile, in Guantanamo, the United States continues to both torture and hold people without charge and we can all be reassured that none of those people being held there are being offered opportunities for education, technical training or the chance to sit for national exams, telephone, hospital and prayer facilities according to their faith and certainly no free visitation rights for their kith and kin as is the case in Sri Lanka.”

    My say:
    While some of what you say is true you paint a very erroneous picture of the U.S.A. I think it is once again your Hypocrisy at work. If the U.S. was such a bad place why do you live there? Why not come to SL? Is it because of the lavish lifestyle you enjoy there? And the market for your books is better there isn’t it? And the Freedom to write what you want to, which is not the case in Sri Lanka.

    You say:
    “Why then would Hillary Clinton take it upon herself to utter during her recent visit to India and her meeting with Jayalalitha, the pro-terrorist (LTTE) leader of Tamil Nadu: …”

    My say:
    You need to get your facts right. Jayalalitha was not pro-LTTE, in fact she was the opposite. The former Chief Minister Karunanidhi was pro-LTTE.

    You say:
    “Could it be because the LTTE, the terrorist organization amply funded and supported by Jayalalitha also contributed to Clinton’s own campaign? Could it be the prospect of imports/exports between the US and India?”

    My say:
    Check your facts again. As for Clinton’s campaign can you show us any proof? Probably not because you are just attacking the U.S. (your beloved homeland for material resources) As for imports/exports that definitely could be a reason.

    You say:
    One thing is certain, it had nothing to do with any real interest in Sri Lanka’s own strides toward reconciliation.

    My say:
    There are no genuine strides towards reconciliation in Sri Lanka by the SL government.

    You say:
    On Hillary Clinton’s watch, in a voice vote, the US House Foreign Affairs Committee voted to ban all US government funding to Sri Lanka. This is heartening to those Americans who imagine that the United States enjoys a certain savoir faire regarding South Asia.

    My say:
    I think the U.S. government is more genuinely interested in reconciliation in Sri Lanka than the Sri Lankan government itself. Because the Sri Lankan government is a racist government. The SL govt can’t even implement its own constitution and people in custody are dying suddenly and mysteriously, journalists having gone missing and the conviction rate is around 4%. What a tragedy.

    You say:
    “To those outside the United States, and certainly to Sri Lankans, this is laughable. Sri Lanka ended its war at long last because its government finally refused to acquiesce to American threats to withdraw IMF loans and USAID grants.”

    My say:
    I don’t think it is laughable. Maybe you are laughing thanks to US comforts. Actually IMF gave loans to the Sri Lankan government even though organisations like Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch wanted the IMF to withhold giving loans. There were really no threats from the US to withdraw USAID grants. US did not use its veto power to stop IMF from giving loans. They abstained, meaning they allowed it to proceed. Ru is giving us a taste of her fiction writing.

    You say:
    ” Instead, the government of Mahinda Rajapakse returned to its traditional friends and allies: Japan, China and Pakistan and, to some extent, India.”

    My say:
    What do you mean to some extent India? It was India who provided the intelligence on LTTE arms shipments so that the SL Navy could target them. Don’t forget the radar facility given by the Indian government. India had a lot to do with it. You say traditional allies, when did this tradition start?

    You say:
    “…. the construction in Hambantota, of what will become the largest and most important port in the world”

    My say:
    The largest port in the world?? The most important port in the world?? Where did you get this from? I haven’t heard this on the streets of SL.

    You say:
    Word on the street in Sri Lanka goes something along the lines of these words from journalist Malinda Seneviratne:”

    My say:
    Why don’t you admit Malinda Seneviratne is your brother! What kind of journalistic standards do you abide by, if any?

    Your quote of your brother:
    “If ‘creativity’ and ‘innovation’ is Hillary-speak for a re-enactment of ‘Libya’, ‘Grenada’, ‘Haiti’, ‘Panama’, ‘Iraq’, ‘El Salvador’, ‘Nicaragua’, ‘Afghanisatan’ etc etc (I pity these recipients of US largesse, by the way), …”

    My say:
    What about the US largesse that Ru Freeman and Malinda Seneviratne have received? It has pretty much served them well, hasn’t it????

    Your quote of your brother:
    “We are used to threat and are not unaware of global power imbalances. We know what we can do and what we need to resist. We know that nations get bulldozed by the powerful and that it is often done in the name of things like democracy and civilization. ”

    My say:
    All the above very true of what the Sri Lankan government has done to its minority Thamils.

    Your qoute of your brother:
    “In other words, either Hillary Clinton is grossly misinformed, stupid or simply playing politics, uttering statements that have no ground in reality and designed merely to placate other people like herself who are equally disinterested in peace or real human progress. The sad thing is that Hillary Clinton will retire someday from office with a speaking gig that will pad her posterior and that of her progeny quite comfortably for the duration of her life. What happens to the ordinary American people who are left with a view of the world so warped and ignorant that their government becomes increasingly irrelevant to the course of human history? And who will be viewed in turn by the world as naive, ill-informed and powerless to resist the thuggery that is perpetrated in their name?”

    My say:
    All this very true of Ru Freeman, malinda seneviratne and the sri lankan government.

    Your quote of your brother:
    ” If he is expeditious, perhaps, he will still be able to advocate for a speaking part on the giant stage that is South Asia. That is if he, too, understands that the US won’t be writing the script.”

    My say:
    When will the sinhalese stop trying to write the script for Thamils in Sri Lanka? All what Malinda says the U.S. is doing in the world because of its power the same the SL government is doing in Sri Lanka.
    Alas, Hypocrisy can be a virtue!

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The Books:

The Books:

On Sal Mal Lane

In the tradition of In the Time of the Butterflies and The Kite Runner, a tender, evocative novel about the years leading up to the Sri Lankan civil war.

A Disobedient Girl

A Disobedient Girl is a compelling map of womanhood, its desires and loyalties, set against the backdrop of beautiful, politically turbulent, Sri Lanka.


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