I wish to state that much of the information in The Observer article published in The Japan Times on Oct. 27, titled “Rajapaksa: Sri Lanka’s affable authoritarian?,” is based on hearsay and unfounded information. It is baseless propaganda provided by supporters of the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE).
His Excellency the President Mahinda Rajapaksa hails from a land-owning family of the village Giruwapattuwa, in the southern district of Hambantota, where his family had been in politics since 1936. President Rajapaksa is proud of his traditional upbringing and, even today, practices the kind generosity that is observed in his village with each person he encounters.
Among Sri Lanka’s post-independence leaders, only 30 percent have been educated abroad; the rest have received their education in Sri Lanka, a country renowned for its high standard of education. These leaders have been very much a part of the strong political leadership that has led to Sri Lanka’s progress.
President Rajapaksa’s attire is the national dress of Sri Lanka, and his strong linguistic skills convey his ability to speak in Tamil and English, in addition to Sinhala, when he addresses the different communities and ethnic groups in the country.
The conflict that lasted 26 years was brought to an end in May 2009. Lasting peace came to the country after years of terrorism by the LTTE, the most ruthless terrorist organization in the world. Successive Sri Lankan leaders during the last 25 years had tried to resolve the conflict through dialogue, but the LTTE withdrew each time once they had gotten resupplied and had regrouped.
The last ceasefire agreement was signed in February 2002. During this Ceasefire Agreement (CFA), the International Monitoring Mission, which was monitoring the CFA, ruled that the LTTE violated the CFA more than 3,000 times. In May 2006, an LTTE suicide craft attempted to attack a civilian ship carrying 700 unarmed troops off the northeast coast, and in August the LTTE launched a full-scale attack against Sri Lanka’s armed forces, which prompted the government to defeat the LTTE militarily.
From January 2009 until the last few weeks of the conflict in May 2009, the LTTE held more than 300,000 civilians hostage as a strategic buffer against the advancing Sri Lankan Army. The army rescued the 300,000 civilians from the clutches of the LTTE.
Following the end of the conflict in May 2010, President Rajapaksa appointed a commission of inquiry — The Lessons Learnt and Reconciliation Commission. It was mandated to investigate the facts and circumstances of all allegations made against the military or any other party. According to the commission, the military gave the “highest priority” to protecting civilians whereas the LTTE had “no respect for human life.”
Sri Lanka is a vibrant democracy with regular elections in the country under the supervision of international observers to ensure total transparency. After 25 years, the first Northern Provincial Council election was held in September 2013.
Commonwealth leaders agreed on Sri Lanka as the 2013 host for their Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting when they met in Port of Spain, Trinidad and Tobago, in 2009. They reaffirmed this decision at the 2011 CHOGM in Perth, Australia. Sri Lanka will be an ideal venue for CHOGM 2013, and it will be the first time that an Asian country has hosted the meeting in 24 years. The emphasis will be on Sri Lanka as a developing hub for shipping, aviation, energy, commerce and knowledge-based activity.
The opinions expressed in this letter to the editor are the writer’s own and do not necessarily reflect the policies of The Japan Times.