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Significant Honor With Tamils from Around the Globe for Sri Lanka War Crime Reports (VIDEO)Tim King Salem-News.com
Our Oregon based media group is recognized in historic Baltimore, for our reports on Sri Lanka's war crimes against the minority Tamil population.
(BALTIMORE / SALEM) - Our role with Salem-News.com has brought honors in the past; however this weekend in Baltimore was the scene of the most significant event of our professional lives.
I was asked to be the key note speaker at the FeTNA (Federation of Tamil Sangams of North America) Conference in Baltimore, it is the largest gathering of North American Tamils held each year and this was a special 25th Anniversary Jubilee Event.
Bonnie King and I both spoke to the USTPAC (United States Tamil Political Action Council) event with a direct focus on our research of the war crimes in Sri Lanka on the afternoon of 6th July.
This was a great warm-up for my talk to the main event that night which took place in context with the words of several incredible speakers and also breathtaking, captivating entertainment. The video of the speech was recorded from a number of points. Below you will find a slideshow and video that was recorded and released Sunday by Agron Belica.
Cultural Immersion: Tamil 101
It was a dream come true for this reporter, and extremely rewarding to be able to meet and interact with so many incredible and dynamic people that I had only known through email and phone contact; the focus of my invitation was the series of reports I have written about the war crimes in Sri Lanka that culminated in 2009 during a terrible genocide that left tens of thousands dead and far, far more missing.
While I have concentrated on the most pressing need for justice with regard to the Tamil struggle and diaspora, the experience in Baltimore leaves us with such a more vivid understanding of this historic and profoundly interesting culture! It is said that the Tamils are tied to some of the earliest recorded language known to exist in history. I spent hours learning and listening and my head is still spinning from the informational intake.
I also want to say that it is truly rare to meet this large a number of people as a cultural outsider, and be treated in such an outstanding way. It is pure class and I know now as I suspected always, that the Tamils are far too important and advanced to accept isolation and that is why their determination is something you can almost feel, and to see it all in such a positive, celebratory light, was just a lifetime gift for Bonnie and I.
So as the more bleak side of their story will continue to be the focus of my reports, I now have been introduced to the very reason they will always refuse to be subjugated and eliminated in political and religious domination and warfare.
The Tamils are vibrant and full of life and celebration for all of the good things God has given us on this planet we call earth, they seek what they have always wanted, what all people want; that is simply peace and a chance to exist.
During her talk at the USTPAC conference, Bonnie reminded the audience that our philosophy is tied to the simple yet extremely important concept coined by our friend and writer Ken O'Keefe; that is TJP- Truth, Justice and Peace.
This is the order we must follow to gain what we seek. Truth largely stems from accurate media coverage which is in part our role, and one we want to see all media increasingly fulfill; justice is established when international law pertaining to human rights are strictly enforced; peace is possible under these conditions.
The fact that Sri Lankan Tamils are the victims of an incredibly horrific ethnic cleansing program that continues today in their own country, is a mark of shame on the entire human race- that is bad enough. But this terrible series of crimes against humanity of the worst form, happened without most of the world, Americans in particular, having any idea whatsoever.
The real story still has yet to fully surface here, though many individuals and well organized groups are working toward that goal constantly and we believe that in the near future, a much larger segment of the U.S. population will know about Sri Lanka's recent past.
I do not hide the fact that my particular frustration is based upon the methodology of this genocide; that was a systematic elimination of journalists who revealed the true stories about the country's real ambitions toward the minority Tamil population in the north- that was a death sentence.
The most intense slaughter of human life happened in a place called the Vanni. This is where the infamous resistance military and political force, the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam, were overwhelmed by the Sri Lankan Army (SLA) which failed, by design, to distinguish civilians from militants.
This group was given the dubious designation of 'terrorist' after the current president of Sri Lanka, Majinda Rajapakse, took office.
This word allowed the Sinhalese Buddhist majority government of Sri Lanka to conduct its war of mayhem and degradation and utter cruelty under a clever banner and guise used by George Bush to slaughter over a million people in Iraq, and the same in Palestine, where Israel murders civilians with regularity while claiming 'terrorist' to every sentence.
In truth, the label is applied to resistance forces fighting for liberation in most cases, and the notorious word is added when the quest for liberation becomes costly to occupying forces.
What the SLA conducted against the Tamils is called 'Total War' and this is a practice long ago deemed illegal under international standards.
All countries are subject to this international law even if they are not signers of the Geneva Convention. Sri Lanka is a signatory of the Geneva Convention and it simultaneously practices state terrorism against its own citizens.
We will have a great deal of information on this event coming forth. The whole experience is a lifetime memory that allowed us to absorb a great deal of information that is critically important in our work, and it was truly humbling; we both felt so accepted and well received that there are hardly words for it.
Running this news group seven days a week, Bonnie and I do little traveling, and neither of us had ever visited Maryland. Because of this rare opportunity, a number of our team members and friends made the trip to Baltimore to rendezvous with us.
In addition to our wonderful visits, they all had their own introductions to this unique culture and now carry broader a broader understanding of Tamil culture.
Salem-News East Coast Friends & Writers Head to Baltimore
First, the co-author of my first book, 'A Few Good Men, Too Many Chemicals' (We do have a pending title change) Robert O'Dowd, who has been writing for Salem-News.com since 2008, visited from New Jersey.
Bonnie and I had not seen Robert for three years, since we got together with Salem-News.com's John Uldrich, at our former Marine base in Southern California.
This trip it gave us a chance to connect and talk about our book and other big plans that center around our time as U.S. Marines at a base that is, as it turns out, heavily contaminated with cancer-causing toxic waste.
Robert is well aware of the Tamil Diaspora and the struggle against Genocide in Sri Lanka as one of our valued writers who I have so much in common with.
It was during Robert's visit, which took place on our day of arrival, that I realized how each of my visiting friends had their own special way of relating to the Tamil struggle and each of their own life journeys had interesting parallels.
It was incredible meeting for the first time in person, a longtime acquaintance, Blake Smyle, who is the granddaughter of the famous American author John Steinbeck.
We have been talking for years about the role of her father, John Steinbeck IV, who was a Vietnam Army Veteran and war photographer and writer who was very close to Sean Flynn, the son of Errol Flynn. John Steinbeck IV returned from Vietnam and died during a medical procedure in the early 1980's.
Along with Dana Stone and other journalists and photographers, Sean Flynn disappeared during the invasion of Cambodia in April 1970.
This story is one I have followed and written about for years and remain very connected to through the efforts of those who have carried on the search on behalf of Rory Flynn, Sean's sister. In fact it is the foundation for my position toward the journalists killed and disappeared in Sri Lanka.
After so many phone calls and of course email, it was a pleasure to meet Blake and spend a brief but excellent amount of time visiting and sharing information and to meet her husband James, who works as a patient advocate.
It could not have been a better first visit, we all wished we had more time, but we were able to meet near the medical center where Blake works as a trauma nurse in a fast moving, life saving environment right in the heart of one of America's largest cities; located only 45 minutes from the nation's capitol. They were both such a pleasure to finally meet, Bonnie and I both greatly appreciated the fabulous opportunity.
Coral Theill is a writer who has been associated with Salem-News.com for many years.
She survived years of marital abuse, to become an author whose book, BONSHEA: Making Light of the Dark, became widely read by frontline U.S. combat troops dealing with PTSD; Marines in particular.
While we have spent a great deal of time communicating over the last few years, Coral and I had never met in person and it was truly a gift that Coral was able to make the trip.
Adding an additional level of excellence to this rich experience, Coral also documented the event by taking notes during the USTPAC and by taking many photos.
She allotted sufficient time to stay for the main event, however I did not get to say goodbye because of the time backstage after my speech, and thank her for everything she has done for us.
I do not exaggerate when I say that there are only a handful of people on this earth like Coral; she truly is a resilient hero for women who suffer domestic violence, and so many other people who are trying to learn to live as victims of unjustified abuse and unspeakable treatment at the hands of those we are told to trust.
Coral's success as a writer shows us once again, that it is possible for all of us to reach out and strive for our goals and reach them, while maintaining our highest level of dignity.
Some things just can't be taken from a person.
It is another example of how our team relates without hesitation to anyone who is unable to exist in a safe life free from bondage and fear. It is another reason it is easy for us to unquestionably extend our hand to the Tamils and do everything in our power to expose their tragedy.
I could sense her appreciation for the Tamil culture and I know she had a particular empathy as an abuse victim and survivor of tragedy; a significant point she was able to express to those attending USTPAC.
Agron Belica, one of Salem-News.com's most talented team members, made the trip from Boston, Mass. with his wife Gentiana - who we also quickly became friends with, and his boys, Jamal and Benjamin.
Agron wrote and performed the song, 'Depression' about the Tamil Genocide in Sri Lanka which is a hard hitting look at one of the darkest periods in modern history.
We work closely together and have a number of projects underway including the new album, 'Newsic Revolution' which is commissioned by Salem-News.com.
Agron was able to witness much of the event and he met a number of people who were interested in the fact that other writers from our organization were there to take in the special celebration and time of solidarity.
Agron was taking pictures from the time he arrived and he recorded my key note address, and also the special moments following this, when I was honored and presented with a special shawl and beads representing the Tamils of Sri Lanka.
We look forward to publishing so much more about FeTNA including a wealth of photos recorded by our team and also video that tells the story of the Tamil people taking part in this incredible event.
I am thankful to all of those who made this incredible event possible; there are so many people to be considered as it was a massive effort and every volunteer was working in sync with a smile on their face.
We offer our special thanks to Elias Jeyarajah, PhD, S. Ilangovan M.D. and the large number of people connected to the conference who went out of their way to ensure that the event was so thoroughly educational and productive.
On a personal level, I am so happy to know that our humble efforts on behalf of this embattled culture have reached out beyond the Internet to see real impact; I won't go into the drawn out media politics of this but I will say that a very large number of people from the Sri Lanka government and its supporters, have stated repeatedly that our work and that of Channel-4 in London, is fictitious when it is nothing of the sort and all sides really know it.
What we seek is justice toward governments that stand in direct violation of international law, particularly this one that breeches world order on a daily, continual basis.
The Sri Lankan government is seizing land and destroying temples and remaining in place as a thuggish band of occupying militants.
The world government must do its job, Rajapakse must go and the Tamils' rights be restored. We need full accountability and to never allow such an abomination of human nature to happen again. We will release news, videos and photos related to FeTNA 2012 all week and we stress our gratitude to our friends and fellow writers who went out of their way to visit us and partake in the Tamil culture. For those who asked how they can help us, please remember that there is a PayPal icon at the top right section of this page, and those who want to utilize other methods are encouraged to write to us, my email address is below.
Here is a very special music video commemorating this event, the song is titled 'It's Big What You Did' and it is written and performed by Agron Belica, Salem-News.com Reporter/Author/Singer-Songwriter. The next video below that, is a slideshow and video by Agron Belica of the key note address at FeTNA 2012:
Here is the slideshow and video by Agron Belica of the key note address at FeTNA 2012:
Jul-01-2012: Did a Ghost Crawl Inside My Laptop?
May-07-2012: Sri Lankan Buddhist Mobs Call for Mosque Demolition
Apr-10-2012: Sri Lanka: Genocide and Poor Toilet Training
Mar-18-2012: Is Google Earth Hiding Sri Lanka's Ghosts?
Mar-11-2012: War Crime Court and its Conflicting Interests
Mar-08-2012: Sex Abuse and Murder in Sri Lanka- New Photos Emerge
Feb-28-2012: Tweets from Tamil Eelam
Feb-24-2012: Two of Sri Lanka's Foulest War Crimes
Nov-24-2011: Fear, Genocide and Torture in Sri Lanka
Oct-15-2011: Genocide 101: World and Media Apathy
Oct-05-2011: War and its Aftermath... a Real Killer for Tourism
Oct-01-2011: Sri Lanka in the Crosshairs of Canadian Parliament
Sep-13-2011: Sri Lanka Recalls Diplomat Accused of War Crimes
Jun-20-2011: Sri Lanka's Violence Toward Tamil Minority Continues
Jun-02-2011: UN Experts: Sri Lanka Tamil Genocide Video is Real
May-31-2011: Sri Lanka Tamil Genocide: Killing the Messenger
May-03-2011: Confronting the Tamil Genocide in Sri Lanka
Apr-27-2011: Tamil Genocide in Sri Lanka Emerges Into Public View
Tim King has more than twenty years of experience on the west coast as a television news producer, photojournalist, reporter and assignment editor. Tim is Salem-News.com's Executive News Editor. His background includes covering the war in Afghanistan in 2006 and 2007, and reporting from the Iraq war in 2008. Tim is a former U.S. Marine.
Tim holds awards for reporting, photography, writing and editing from The Associated Press the National Coalition of Motorcyclists, the Oregon Confederation of Motorcycle Clubs, Electronic Media Association and The Red Cross In a personal capacity, Tim has written 2,026 articles as of March 2012 for Salem-News.com since the new format designed by Matt Lintz was launched in December, 2005.
Serving readers with news from all over the globe, Tim's life is literally encircled by the endless news flow published by Salem-News.com, where more than 100 writers contribute stories from 20+ countries and regions.
Tim specializes in writing about political and military developments worldwide with an emphasis on Palestine and Sri Lanka, Iraq and Afghanistan, and the U.S. Marines. You can write to Tim at this address: firstname.lastname@example.org. Visit Tim's Facebook page (facebook.com/TimKing.Reporter)
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