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Sunday, June 10 , 2012 - 15.5 GMT
An indelible blot on Freedom in Britain

By Lucien Rajakarunanayake


The British were in their strongest pro-royalist mood, with a four day holiday to celebrate the Diamond Jubilee of Queen Elizabeth II. The republicans in their midst hardly had any space, with the entire media, including publications such as the New Statesman and the Guardian, also falling for the royal splendour - the GBP 1.3 billion bash. Well that was the mood, and opinion polls showed that 69 percent of Britons support the monarchy; an all time high.

The British media was fawning as it is wont to when it comes to royalty, and particularly the Queen. The BBC went all the way and beyond in its three-part BBC documentary on the Queen's 60-year reign, screened in the run-up to the jubilee, which despite the overall pro-royalist, mood was widely criticised for not presenting a single dissenting voice. The campaign group, Republic, accused it of acting like the Palace's 'cheerleader-in-chief'.

“For the past 18 months, our national broadcaster has sought to promote the institution and its incumbent family and to join in the royal celebrations. Rather than act as an impartial commentator, the BBC has become cheerleader-in-chief for an institution that is controversial and contested,” it said.

The British had the right to their regal bash, and give or take some criticism the BBC also had to do its own fawning, and even beat others at it.

But not all the fawning, for which the British public paid, even during hard times, cannot hide the fact that British media did not bother to deal with the pro-LTTE Tamils, who had their own idea of what this royal occasion should be.

Mother of Parliaments

It is not strange to know that the history of monarchies, even the British monarchy, is not steeped in democracy.

But, the UK still has claims to be the Mother of Parliaments, even while the Greeks are having trouble of their own today for having mothered Democracy.

The British talk a lot the Freedoms of Democracy, and even though David Cameron and the Con-Lib coalition are trying to curb social media, they and the Opposition Labour too, have much to say in support of the Freedom of Speech and Expression.

But neither the British media nor the Commonwealth Business Council seems to have bothered with the importance of such a cornerstone of democracy, when celebrating the Diamond Jubilee of the Queen of the United Kingdom and the Commonwealth of Nations, in the land of the Mother of Parliaments.

Of course there will be shouts of protest that all the facilities provided for the pro-LTTE, by which I decidedly mean pro-terrorist, Tamils in the UK, to demonstrate against President Mahinda Rajapaksa and post-conflict Sri Lanka, was a good example of Freedom of Expression at work. Of course full marks for all that freedom. But Freedom of Expression is not confined to the freedom to carry out threatening demonstrations in the streets of a city.

It is not limited to letting the world know only of one’s political, racial or ethnic view of on an issue that may even affect you very personally.

Commonwealth Economic Forum

Freedom of Expression also involves the freedom, for the other side to speak and be heard; however objectionable what is being stated may be, as long as it is in keeping with standards of decency and within the law.

As the quotation often attributed to Voltaire states - “I may not agree with what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it”. It is the attack on this defence of freedom that did very clearly mar the British celebrations, however lavish it may have been, and however fawning the UK Media, politicians and institutions were about the whole glittering celebration of a long reigning monarch.

I repeated the criticism of the BBC as the Palace's 'cheerleader-in-chief', not without cause. For a media institution, that claims to be so supportive of Freedom of Speech and Expression, in all its regular programming, and even goes to the extent of being tendentious in the use of this freedom for its own purposes, it saw little of importance in how the pro-LTTE Tamil demonstrators soiled the spirit of democratic celebration.

It had nothing to say on how the resulting cancellation of the keynote address by President Mahinda Rajapaksa at the Commonwealth Economic Forum on June 6, and the cowardly act of the Commonwealth Economic Council in cancelling the entire opening session, which also muzzled the other speaker on that morning, the Lord Mayor of London Boris Johnson.

It may be interesting to note that these pro-LTTE Tamils, known as 'Pulathup Puligal' or Diaspora Tigers, had a much bigger interest in campaigning for the victory of Boris Johnson’s rival from Labour, Ken Livingstone, who offered them a permanent square for protests and a memorial in the Strand if elected.

So, in the land of the Mother of Parliaments these Tigers in no other skin but that of bloody stripes, have silenced the Head of State of the oldest democracy in Asia, and the Lord Mayor of London. It is very mild to state that they struck two birds with one stone.

The BBC report of the protest against President Rajapaksa speaking at the Commonwealth Economic Forum was full of all the unsubstantiated allegations of war crimes, complete with the burning of the Sri Lanka President in effigy, possibly for good effect.

Not one word was said that he was in the country as a guest of Queen Elizabeth II, whose Diamond Jubilee was being celebrated and that he was to be a the keynote speaker at the opening of the two – day symposium titled 'Diamond Jubilee: Commonwealth Economic Forum', and expected to be attended by all member states of the 54-nation Commonwealth, of which the Queen is the titular head.

Rhetorical statements

The organizers of the event, the Commonwealth Economic Council, proved to be either as weak kneed and lily-livered or even more sinister than the office-bearers of the prestigious Oxford Union, who prevented President Rajapaksa from addressing their student members in November 2010, following similar rough and rowdy demonstrations by pro-LTTE Tamils. The BBC and British media also did not know(what DBS Jeyaraj knew) that racist rabble rousing politicians from Tamil Nadu such as Vaiko, Seeman, Thirumavalavan had issued statements urging Tamils abroad to launch a struggle and chase away Rajapaksa from London; that these rhetorical statements were heavily insulting and amounted to incitements to violence, and they were widely circulated in Britain and Europe by the Tiger flag bearing 'Diaspora' elements to mobilize huge crowds for the demonstration near Mansion House.

That special buses were also arranged to transport demonstrators to the venue while a number of activists from other European countries also began arriving, was never noticed.

They also did not see or turned the other way when President Rajapaksa, despite the cautioning against it by the Metropolitan Police, walked up to the pro-Sri Lanka protesters who were on the opposing side of the Plaza Hilton from the pro-Tiger mob, and spoke to them with the assurance that he would not betray the hard won freedom of Sri Lanka, and all its people. In a country and media that so obsessed with Muslim behaviour, there was also no recording of the Sri Lankan Muslims who, gathered to demonstrate their own solidarity with Sri Lanka and President Mahinda Rajapaksa.

The Royal Bash is over; The British public will foot the enormous bill, gladly or not. They will return to the drudge of daily life under ever worsening economic conditions in the UK and in Europe, while the UK suffers another indelible blot on its claims to be a defender of the freedom of Speech and Expression.

Twice in less than two years, the leader of Asia’s oldest democracy, and the one leader who has decidedly defeated terrorism in his land, has been silenced in the UK, by a large and ugly mob of rabble rousers, who are distorting and manipulating the freedoms of democracy; to turn them to the pattern of the violent, ruthless and bloody dictatorship that prevailed in parts of the Sri Lanka under the leader they still revere - Velupillai Prabhakaran. The heartless user of child soldiers for the cause of Eelam.






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Last modified: June 10, 2012.

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