- The Washington Times - Thursday, September 3, 2009

DEFEATING THE PEACE

The ambassador from Sri Lanka this week accused some ethnic-Tamil expatriates of trying to undermine government efforts to rebuild the south Asian island nation after more than two decades of civil war with Tamil rebels.

Ambassador Jaliya Wickramasuriya told scholars at George Washington University that groups supporting the defeated Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) are still promoting the lost cause and raising money for whatever remains of the rebel movement.

“The LTTE lost the war, and now the pro-LTTE diaspora is trying to defeat the peace,” he said.

Meanwhile, press-freedom groups are denouncing the Sri Lankan government for sentencing a reporter to 20 years in prison after he wrote articles that accused the army of killing Tamil civilians. He was also convicted on charges of receiving money from the LTTE before the rebel defeat in May.

The U.S. branch of Reporters Without Borders and the Global Media Forum this week awarded the first Peter Mackler Award for Courageous and Ethical Journalism to J.S. Tissainayagam, who was convicted under Sri Lanka’s anti-terrorism law for two articles he wrote in 2006.

The prosecutor in the case conceded that the Sri Lankan constitution “gives freedom of press” but added “that doesn’t allow anybody to spread false information to spur ethnic violence.”

In one article the reporter wrote that “state security forces” are the “main perpetrator of the killings” of Tamil civilians. In the other story, he accused the government of “attempts to starve the population by refusing them food as well as medicines and fuel.”

Jean-Francois Julliard, secretary-general of the Paris-based Reporters Without Borders, argued that Tissainayagam represents courageous journalism.

Sri Lanka “needs journalists who are determined and concerned with finding the truth, and J.S. Tissainayagam is one of those and should never have been imprisoned,” he said.

The award is named after Peter Mackler, a veteran war reporter for Agence France-Presse who died last year of apparent heart failure at age 58. At the time of his death, Mr. Mackler was the agency’s chief editor for North America and a well-known reporter in the Washington press corps.

‘BIG-PICTURE ISSUES’

The new U.S. ambassador to China predicted Wednesday that global issues will dominate relations between Washington and Beijing, as Chinese President Hu Jintao and President Obama prepare for meetings at the Group of Eight summit in Pittsburgh this month and in the Chinese capital in November.

“We’ll put to test the durability of the U.S.-Chinese relationship over the coming months,” Ambassador Jon Huntsman Jr. told reporters from the Associated Press and other U.S. news organizations in Beijing.

“We don’t always have interests that precisely converge, but I think increasingly the relationship recognizes that, if the two parties aren’t going to get serious about solutions, then there likely won’t be solutions any time soon.”

Mr. Huntsman, who arrived in Beijing in late August, noted that he has had frank talks with Mr. Hu and with Foreign Minister Yang Jiechi.

“There’s a desire to engage in forthright conversation. I think that’s a sign of a mature relationship,” the ambassador said.

Mr. Huntsman said the bilateral relationship will be dealing with what he called “big-picture issues” like the global financial crisis, climate change and security threats in Iran, Pakistan and other countries.

cCall Embassy Row at 202/636-3297, fax 202/832-7278 or e-mail jmorrison @washingtontimes.com.

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