Response to Sri Lanka Nation Article on "War, Peace, and Reconciliation: The Way Forward for Sri Lanka" Seminar
March 11, 2011
Author: Nicholas Burns, Professor of the Practice of Diplomacy and International Politics, Harvard Kennedy School
A letter to the editors of the Sri Lanka Nation
March 11, 2011
The article “LTTE threat to disrupt Harvard discussion on Lanka turns into damp squib”, published on March 6, presented a severely distorted account of the March 1 seminar at the Harvard Kennedy School, “War, Peace, and Reconciliation: The Way Forward for Sri Lanka” and makes a number of inaccurate claims about individuals associated with the event.
Your claim that J.S. Tissainayagam, a Sri Lankan journalist and Nieman Fellow at Harvard University, organized a mass protest of the event is simply untrue. Mr. Tissainayagam attended and participated in the event, contributing greatly to the audience’s understanding of the end of the war and challenges ahead for Sri Lanka.
Second, the LTTE had no role whatsoever in this event. You allege the LTTE was “occupying most of the seats,” but the audience was composed of students and fellows from the Kennedy School of Government and community members interested in the topic. The claim of over five hundred protest e-mails and phone calls greatly exaggerates community response.
Finally, the article neglects the substance of the panel discussion. It fails to mention the criticism of the Sri Lankan government’s wartime conduct voiced by panelists, the audience, and by me. It also ignores questions and comments from the audience, inaccurately claiming response time was curtailed.
The India and South Asia Program at the Harvard Kennedy School is dedicated to an open, factual, and critical conversation about South Asian regional issues and supports a peaceful transition and development process in Sri Lanka. Beyond its factual inaccuracies, your article does a disservice to this ideal.
Please publish this letter in The Nation newspaper and give it equal prominence as your article.
R. Nicholas Burns
Professor of the Practice of Diplomacy and International Politics,
Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs,
Harvard Kennedy School
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