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'Taste of Humbug, Risk of Danger'

June 20, 1987

Johnson's article is malicious to say the least. He denigrates the Tamils to the status of illegal aliens by stating that they "came to Sri Lanka by crossing the straits in small boats."

If Johnson moves away from Sinhala-Buddhist mythology and researches Sri Lankan history he will find that the Tamils had lived in Sri Lanka long before Christ. Furthermore, when the Tamil kings from South India invaded Sri Lanka they came as conquerors with mighty armadas, not in small boats as illegal aliens. History will show Johnson that the Tamil kingdom exerted its influence to such distant places as Burma, Thailand and Cambodia.

Johnson writes about the "merciless campaign of terrorism" by the Tamils. Here the "historian" seems to have completely forgotten the recent history of Sri Lanka, in which successive pogroms were unleashed by the Sinhalese and their government against the Tamils in 1956, 1958, 1977, 1981, 1983 and thereafter. The gross human rights violations by the Sri Lankan armed forces have been well documented by Amnesty International, International Alert, International Commission of Jurists, Law Asia, and other human rights groups.

Johnson states that Sri Lanka is "peaceful, poorly armed and anxious to be democratic." I would like to point out that democratic elections were last held in 1977. The president of Sri Lanka has stated that there may not be one even in 1989. Seventeen Tamil representatives, including the leader of the opposition, were dismissed by the government, thus Tamils have no legitimate representatives in the government.

This "poorly armed" country is spending $1.5 million a day on its military efforts and is armed and trained by Pakistan, Israel, and mercenaries. Arms are also supplied by China, South Korea, South Africa and Egypt. In three years, Sri Lanka has increased its military strength from 10,000 to 55,000 troops.

The author states that the Sri Lankan government has been trying all along to give meaningful autonomy to the Tamils; however, they are unreasonable and are demanding a separate state. Here again, the "journalist-historian" needs to refresh his historical memory. From the time of independence, the Tamils have been asking for meaningful autonomy. They requested a federal setup and it was denied. They had a signed agreement, in 1958, with the then prime minister, Sirimavo Bandaranaike to have regional autonomy in the Tamil areas. In the face of the opposition, led by the current president, Junius R. Jayewardene and the Buddhist clergy, Bandaranaike capitulated and literally tore up the agreement he had signed with the Tamils. All subsequent promises and agreements to grant some form of autonomy to the Tamils were unilaterally abandoned by successive governments.

R. MAHADEVAN

Palmdale

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