Now that the Land of the Free and the Home of the Brave has achieved its pinnacle of greatness – the ruthless oppression of a small country a fraction of its size in extent and population, to the accompaniment of staggering hypocrisy - we need to take stock, as calmly as possible, and plan for the future.
Regrettably, we have to realise that we are under the gun as never before. Geneva Two was only the prelude. The Anglo-American persecutors and their mainly western acolytes, are out for our blood. Big Brother up there, in his infinite subtlety, stands ready to mop up the remains. We have to counter their combined onslaught or perish.
The manic Anglo-American obsession to "get" Sri Lanka has been attributed by some commentators to their jealousy that Sri Lanka defeated the LTTE, while their troops
are being drubbed in Iraq and Afghanistan. This is too simplistic. Our real offence was to reject pressures from big powers to lay off and talk peace yet again. We rightly refused, and prevailed. For the big powers, this was serious. It would never do for a small country like Sri Lanka to defy big powers; what if other small countries followed its example? So we had to be taught a grim lesson. Human rights and accountability are for the birds - they merely provide the cover for the nasty realpolitik driving the big power witch-hunt.
Thwarting Violent Overthrow
Given the grisly record of the US, the leader of the pack, in meddling in other countries, and the viciousness of its current attack on Sri Lanka, our first task is to thwart the violent overthrow of government (sanitized as regime change), an operation in which the US have impressive expertise through assassinations, plane crashes, invasion, whatever. The required tightening of security is within our capability, and we must press on regardless of the probability that our every move, however justified, will probably be distorted beyond recognition.
Thwarting Insidious Regime Change
Next, we have to thwart insidious regime change through CIA/RAW- instigated civil unrest, arming of dissenters, bribery, economic sanctions, and general dirty tricks. Tight surveillance of foreign intelligence agencies and NGOs would be a priority area, with a) an urgent public listing of all NGOs and their ostensible functions; b) the retention of those providing a useful service to Sri Lanka, and a quick goodbye to the others; c) a probe into NGO sources and utilization of funds; and d) a probe into their links with the LTTE, and with foreign embassies.
Cleaning up the domestic act
Which brings us to the other priority – i.e., that the GOSL must clean up its act domestically. The rule of law must prevail, the underworld must be cleaned up, and the police must enforce the law regardless of the offender’s connections. The regime must act with the same single-minded determination to achieve this clean-up, harnessing the best manpower, as it showed in so successfully wiping out the LTTE.
Tightening up security, keeping the rampant superpower at bay, and restoring domestic law and order are the indispensable infrastructure for survival. Anything less and Obama, of Tamils for Obama fame, and surely the most undeserving Nobel Peace Prize winner ever, will be at our jugular.
Having secured our defensive infrastructure, we must transform servile mindsets, jumbled with naive notions of diplomacy. For instance, after the defeat in Geneva, it was mortifying to watch senior Ministers falling over each other to genuflect before the architects of our defeat, the US and India, and assure them that nothing would affect the friendship between us and them. True, we have to mind our p’s and q’s in dealing with giant international thugs, but the vicious campaign and dirty tricks of the US, and the Indian betrayal, surely called for dignified but strongly worded diplomatic responses.
Even before the ink was dry on the Resolution, Hillary Clinton, of Tamils for Clinton fame, was leaning on the GOSL "to implement the constructive recommendations of the (LLRC) and take the necessary measures to address accountability. We are committed to working with the Sri Lankan government to help realize this goal, and I look forward to discussing future actions with Foreign Minister Peiris soon."
Beware! We need to have the US "work with the GOSL" like we need a hole in the head. In today’s context, that would mean doing the bidding of the LTTE, which seems to have an extraordinary grip on the Blake /Clinton/ Obama axis.
"Future actions" that Clinton, will stipulate (not discuss) are entirely predictable: Withdraw the army; implement 13A Plus pronto, with the US/India/LTTE drafting the Plus; bring in phoney "experts" to probe the final days of the war.
The US has already hijacked the UNHRC’s dealings with Sri Lanka; let it not also hijack GOSL policy on the pretext of working with us. Discussing future actions with Minister Peiris is no business of the US, and would trap the GOSL into a pattern of deference and then submission to the US.
Costs of Lethargy
The Darusman Fraud
A related flaw has been our slow-footedness in refuting western-instigated slander. We have paid dearly for sitting on our hands while the Darusman Report’s falsehoods were being gleefully propagated by the US/UK/EU/ Norway/Canada axis, all home to large blocs of LTTE voters and paymasters.
It was the Darusman report that disseminated the lie that has turned into the biggest stick with which Sri Lanka is beaten at every forum – i.e., that 40,000 civilians were killed in the last stages of fighting.
We have failed to point out that the report itself qualifies this number. Its Section E- The number of civilian deaths- opens with a categorical statement that rules out any specific figure of civilian casualties. To quote the opening words of para 132:
"E. The number of civilian deaths
132. There is no authoritative figure for civilian deaths or injuries in the Vanni in the final phases of the war. "
But, ignoring its own unequivocal statement, the Panel embarked on a fishing expedition journey in paras 133 onwards, citing doctors’ estimates, a UN estimate, estimates by unspecified "others"; "limited surveys"; and " a number of credible sources", with vagueness being the common factor.
Then, in the final para 137 of Section E, the panel produces a classic of doublespeak: "Two years after the end of the war, there is still no reliable figure for civilian deaths, [and then, without a qualm,] but multiple sources of information indicate that a range of up to 40,000 civilians cannot be ruled out.. "
"Cannot be ruled out"! What kind of reporting is this? And it was this number, dreamed up by unspecified "multiple sources" that was seized upon by western countries and media bent on crucifying Sri Lanka.
The hollowness of this guess is exposed by the report’s final para 137, which reinforces its opening para 132, by concluding: "Only a proper investigation can lead to the identification of all the victims and to the formulation of an accurate figure for the total number of civilian deaths."
The momentous conclusions emerging from the report’s own words above are that
1) at the time of issue of the report, there was no authoritative figure of civilian deaths; and
2) there had been no proper investigation.
For the Panel to float one large figure, after having itself stated that there is no reliable figure, was the height of irresponsibility and dishonesty, for which they should have been taken to task immediately. It is not too late to expose the dishonesty even now, and dispose of a major pillar of the Anglo-American witch-hunt which has been lapped up uncritically by countries and media.
Phoney Narrative of Credible Allegations, and the Astounding Caveat
Another scam in the Darusman report which inflicted great harm on us was their bogus "narrative" of "credible allegations." To quote para 53 of the report:
"The Panel has chosen to present the allegations it finds credible as a narrative account rather than listing the various allegations under their legal classification, so as to provide a greater sense of context and perspective."
Pause for a moment to consider this apparently innocent statement. Why a narrative, instead of listing the allegations and explaining how their credibility was determined? The answer reveals itself as the "narrative" gets into its stride.The narrative a) tends to sweep the reader along and lull him into accepting assertions (unsubstantiated, because that would interrupt the flow of the story); b) passes off speculation as facts; and c) dodges the task of rigorously establishing each allegation. The Panel does not have the facts, but they want to put over their story, hence the apparently innocent choice of a narrative.
Then, in the very next sentence of the same para 53 above comes a bombshell that self-destructs the entire narrative. The panel’s itself warns that-
"This account should not be taken as proven facts, and any effort to determine specific liabilities would require a higher threshold."
Fake Conclusions Despite Caveat
But the panel, disregarding its own warning, draws conclusions from its unproven narrative. For instance, the report’s Section I – Conclusions – begins –
"176: The Panel’s account of the allegations associated with the final stages of the war thus reveal five core categories of potential serious violations committed by the Government of Sri Lanka: " ...
a) Killing of civilians through widespread shelling.
b) Shelling of hospitals and other humanitarian objects.
c) Denial of humanitarian assistance.
d) Human rights violations suffered by victims and survivors of the conflict.
e) Human rights violations outside the conflict zone.
But this catalogue of violations is nullified by the panel’s own caveat above that "This account should not be taken as proven facts, and any effort to determine specific liabilities would require a higher threshold."
Web of Contradictions
To summarise, the Panel chose to present the allegations it found credible as a narrative account. But in the same breath (the very next sentence), they warn that this account should not be taken as proven facts, or as a basis for determining liabilities. Then, ignoring its own caveat, the panel selects material from its flawed account (which in its own words is not proven and should not be used to determine specific liabilities) to make grave charges against the GOSL - charges which are invalidated by its own caveat above
Deception Plus Plus
The deliberate deception of the panel on these key issues – the number of civilian casualties, and the charges based on their self-confessed non-proven narrative, is shocking, and provides sufficient grounds to discredit the entire Darusman report.
But in the absence of a strong refutation by the GOSL, foreign countries, UN agencies and media lapped up the falsehoods in the Darusman report, missing or ignoring the caveats. If we don’t demolish the report, no one else will.
The Channel 4 videos have done us as much harm as the Darusman report. The LLRC found that "there are troubling technical and forensic questions of a serious nature that cast significant doubts about the authenticity of this video and the credibility and reliability of its content", and recommended that the Government initiate an independent investigation to establish the truth or otherwise of the allegations arising from the video footage.
Suffice it here to point out that both videos start with huge lies. "Killing Fields" begins with the lie that the army swept the civilians along with them in their final drive, whereas it was the LTTE that corralled the civilians and compelled them to serve as a human shield. The second video screened in Geneva in March begins with the lie that the UN estimated that 40,000 civilians were killed, whereas the UN estimate was 7,721; it was the Darusman panel that fabricated the number 40,000, as explained above.
There are other lies that have been spotted; like the Darusman lies, they should be exposed.
CSI Paper on Media Beat-Up and Channel 4
The Centre for The Study of Interventionism (CSI) published a paper titled "Channel 4 and Sri Lanka: A Case Study in Media Interventionism" on March 21, 2012, from which the following extract is reproduced:
"journalists have for a long time blurred the difference between reporting and campaigning. The result is a new phenomenon: interventionism by media. The media beat-up has become a common event. A media beat-up involves the Western mainstream media picking on a particular foreign country - often a small one or a third world one but never a large member of the Western alliance - and portraying its government in a bad light. This has most recently been focused on Russia during its election campaign. The characteristics of this beat-up are often the same: a complex situation or conflict is presented in stark black-and-white terms, the government is the villain, and the head of state is singled out for particular vilification.
Although it is not one of the most famous cases, the attacks by British media on Sri Lanka are a case in point. Two Channel 4 documentaries attacking Sri Lanka’s "killing fields" have brought campaigning journalism to a new level because the message communicated is so specifically interventionist. The producer, Callum Macrae, physically went to the UN in Geneva during the 19th session of the Human Rights Council (where his earlier documentary on the same subject had been screened last year) because it is clear that he is de facto also involved in the campaign in favour of the hostile resolution brought against Sri Lanka by the government of the United States of America. He did not report on the fact that he is doing the American government’s dirty work."
The CSI’s description of media beat-ups in fits the Sri Lanka case like a glove.
What to Do
Now the big question –what to do? We have two deadlines – the October Human Rights Council Universal Periodic Review of all countries by the UNHRC, and the 22nd session of the UNHRC in March 2013. We can be sure of further attacks, complete with new fake videos by Channel 4. But these two meetings also afford us the opportunity to counter-attack by exposing the shaky foundations of the western witch-hunt.
A sensible strategy would be to 1 ) Expose the lies on which the western witch-hunt is based; 2) highlight the GOSL’s military and humanitarian achievements, which have been ignored by western countries and media, and underplayed even by the GOSL; 3)explain the complexities of 13A; 4) refute lies about oppression of Tamils; and 5) begin a logical approach to handling Tamil grievances, which would achieve the objective of building a harmonious society without the perils of excessive devolution.
Identifying the Big Power Lies
The most harmful lies being propagated about Sri Lanka are the following:
* 40,000 civilians were killed in the last few weeks of the counter-insurgency [Source: Darusman report]
* The army deliberately fired into NFZ and hospitals, and executed captured LTTE cadres. [Sources: Darusman report, Channel 4 videos]
* The GOSL withheld food from Tamil civilians. [Source: Darusman report.]
* The Tamils have many legitimate grievances against GOSLs. [Source: Tamil diaspora]
* The GOSL is dragging its feet on 13A plus devolution, which will solve the Tamil problem. [Source: India, TNA]
Exposing the Big Power Lies
All these canards can be exposed. For the 40,000 civilians lie, the quotations above from the Darusman report highlight the panel’s own finding that there was no reliable figure of civilian deaths. The army’s alleged firing into NFZs and hospitals was part of the Darusman narrative which the panel itself cautioned should not be taken as proven, and should not be used to determine specific liabilities (see above). This accusation was extensively investigated by the LLRC, which concluded that there was no deliberate shelling by the army. The Channel 4 video’s authenticity was doubted by the LLRC after examining technical evidence, and the LLRC recommended a separate investigation to establish authenticity. It also attracted censure by the CSI as an example of "media beat-up" (see above). The alleged withholding of food was also a part of the bogus Darusman narrative; actual movements and tonnages were examined in detail by the LLRC and the allegation was found to be without substance.
Tamil Oppression Canard
The alleged oppression of Tamils is easily refuted by describing how Tamils have reached the topmost rungs of the civil service, the judiciary, the legislature, the executive, the professions, the universities, the diplomatic service, the police, and business. Even former US ambassador Robert Blake, no friend of Sri Lanka, said, in an interview with Shanika Sriyananda in the Sunday Observer of May 25, 2008: ``I always remind people who are visiting from USA that Sinhalese, Tamils and Muslims lived together and continue to live peacefully together. Tamils are living in Colombo peacefully with their Sinhalese and Muslim friends. So there is no ethnic problem here. ‘’
As for 13APlus, there are complex issues which render it irresponsible to commit ourselves to a time frame merely to satisfy the USA and India. We will have to face the fall-out, not they. More devolution than we already have is not a kokatath thailaya, as many advocates of 13A Plus seem to believe. First, we have to be very clear whether devolution is necessary, and if so why, and exactly how it will benefit Sri Lanka. We should never forget that one of the dangers of excessive devolution (which is what 13APlus would be) would be that the extra powers devolved would be irrevocable, and could trigger centrifugal tendencies. In our case the probability of UDI would be high, considering Karunanidhi’s recent brazen statement that Eelam remains his dream; that an abortive UDI was declared by Varatharajah Perumal in 1990; that the TNA is becoming increasing belligerent; and that, to judge by the intensity of the US/UK/EU/Canada axis’ witch hunt, there would be remorseless pressure from them for a separate Eelam. Nor can we forget India’s role in arming, training and financing the LTTE, its halting of the Vadamaarachchi campaign when it was about to wipe out the LTTE in 1987, the infamous airdrop, the one-sided Indo-Lanka Accord rammed down our throats in 1987, the consequent 13A, India’s persistent pressure for 13A Plus, and the recurring false complaints about harassment of Indian fishermen, which would provide a convenient excuse for a quick invasion. In these circumstances, to rush into 13A Plus would be a reckless gamble, with the odds stacked heavily against us.
If all these refutations and clarifications are convincingly presented, they could significantly change foreign and media perceptions about Sri Lanka – assuming that somewhere there remain some western politicians and media persons who have not sold their souls to the LTTE.
Equally important in changing perceptions would be to highlight the valour of the army in advancing through rivers in spate and extensively mined terrain in the face of heavy LTTE fire, and the epic hostage rescue, which has been shamefully ignored or rubbished by the western cabal and their media. The breaching of the bunds; the care taken to minimize civilian casualties; the kindness of the army in helping across thousands of escaping Tamil civilians and caring for them in camps (filmed live on video); and in organizing basic subsistence, food, medical facilities, bank facilities and rudimentary schooling; are the stuff of documentary masterpieces. So was the rehabilitation of thousands of LTTE cadres to enable them to return to civilian life.
Tamil Grievances – A Logical Approach
We have painted ourselves into a corner by linking alleged Tamil grievances to excessive devolution, without a clear idea of either. A rational approach to this issue would be to
1. Determine, along with Tamil representatives, what the Tamil grievances are.
2. Identify those grievances which can be remedied by administrative measures, and speedily implement those measures
3. Identify grievances which can be dealt with by amendments to laws, and have those laws amended.
4. Identify grievances which would require an amendment of the constitution, and decide whether they affect fundamentals of the constitution or not. If the remedying of the grievance is not practicable, we should say so.
Instead of this rational approach, we have blundered into the "solution" of devolution without even defining the problem!
Grievances, Not Aspirations
A cautionary word here - remedial action must be firmly rooted in actual grievances. Mr. Kumar Ponnambalam was once caught flat-footed when asked to name just one Tamil grievance. When he was next asked to specify grievances, he replied loftily that the Tamils had "graduated" from grievances to aspirations! This was a convenient escape route, because grievances are specific and ascertainable, while aspirations are limitless. We can have no truck with aspirations, only grievances.
If this approach is adopted, the "Tamil problem" may be seen to be exaggerated or manageable. Such a conclusion would deprive foreign countries of an excuse to interfere in our internal affairs.
Rapid Response and PR Teams
The Darusman and Channel 4 episodes highlight the need to have expert quick response teams which would promptly refute false charges against Sri Lanka. The expertise is available. We have to harness it. Professionalism is the key, in statements, videos, interviews, even titles (would the inexplicably titled "Lies Agreed Upon" video, quite well done, have induced any browser to click on it?)
The RR team should also promptly disseminate positive material. A major sin of omission by the GOSL was its failure to disseminate footage of the hostage rescue, referred to above under the heading "Achievements". There were dozens of scenes of great human interest, such as army men and women helping refugees across and caring for them, which may have been screened even by the biased western media.