Sunday, March 6, 2011

LTTE threat to disrupt Havard discussion on Lanka turns into damp squib

Tha Nation

An LTTE threat to disrupt a panel discussion on Sri Lanka at the Kennedy School, Harvard on Tuesday if it was attended by Sri Lanka’s Permanent Representative to the UN Dr Palitha Kohana ended up being a bluff due to effective counter action taken by the organizers and the Lankan envoy accepting the challenge and attending the event.

Sources said the planned disruption was led by a former Sri Lankan Tamil journalist who was convicted and sentenced to 20 years in jail for terrorist related activities here in September 2009, but was pardoned by President Rajapaksa in May last year and has since been living in America. Now a Neiman Fellow at the Harvard Journalism School, he had tried to arrange a boycott, failing that, had threatened to stage a “hartal”.

Prof Nicholas Burns, former Assistant Secretary, State Department who chaired the panel discussion on “Reconciliation and Reconstruction in Sri Lanka” had given Dr Kohona the option of pulling out at the last moment, but the latter had insisted that “ it was not in his nature to cow down to thuggery”. The other panelists were Dr Vasukhi Nesiah of the New York University and Ahilan Kadirgamar of the Democracy Forum.

Sources said the planned protests failed to materialise due to the presence of half a dozen police cars and a large number of burly policemen deterring any protesters. But the LTTE had packed the audience occupying most of the seats in advance.

As a precaution the University had not allowed anyone to stand within the room after the rump LTTE bombarded the Kennedy School with more than 500 emails and phone calls threatening public disturbances.

Prof Burns had also taken exceptional pains to give the floor to a number of Tamil interest groups and to even paraphrase their comments and convert them into questions. In the process he effectively curtailed available response time. The LTTE had been well represented and had even included Subha Suntheralingam, a pretend Deputy Minister of the Transitional Government of Tamil Eelam, who had repeatedly referred to her position. She had read a statement and had been reminded by the Chair that Dr Kohona could not be referred to as a war criminal.

The journalist live wire behind the protest had complained about being tortured in Welikada prison. He was reminded that he was convicted on the basis of evidence provided to a court, of terrorism related activity and sentenced to twenty years, but subsequently pardoned. Torture, in Sri Lanka, can be dealt with under the torture legislation, but he had pressed no such charges.. It was pointed out that Dr Mrs Siddiqui, a Pakistani doctor, was brought to the US in a military plane, and convicted on the basis of a confession made to a military officer and sentenced to 86 years in prison!

1 comment:

Thrishantha Nanayakkara said...

I wonder how many people have benefited from that torture act in Sri Lanka. We can expect very little in a country run under emergency laws during peace time. That torture act must be a joke in a country where the opposition presidential candidate can be sent to jail for the crime of doing politics while in uniform when the executive president's son himself who got on the political stage to support his father's campaign while in uniform is honored with medals.