Still Counting the Dead: A welcome first step

Still Counting the Dead: Survivors of Sri Lanka’s Hidden War, by Frances Harrison, Portobello Books, 246 pp, £ 14.99

“We used to be a very proud people”1 – Uma, The Teacher

I

Few years ago, during a very wintery January weekend, at a Copenhagen hotel, I was scrambling to prepare a last minute Power Point presentation for a conference themed, violent conflict and health. The reason was one of the Mullivaaykkaal survivors had agreed to speak at the conference’s public symposium as an eyewitness of Vanni war (witnesses from Iraq and South Sudan also spoke at the symposium). The presentation was meant to aid the witness while speaking at the symposium. I was planning for a very brief video or photographic presentation followed by few slides with texts, therefore I was looking for pictures and videos both in my computer and online. Suddenly I remembered about this particular video, which I watched back in May 2009. I managed to get the YouTube link for that video with the help of a friend, in that video, a healthcare professional is attempting to resuscitate (cardiopulmonary) a toddler boy with abdominal injuries and he is gasping for breath few times and later video is showing his dead body, throughout this ordeal, boy’s mother’s faintish sobbing can be heard in the background. I was watching this video with another doctor and I stopped the video in halfway because it was excruciatingly painful to watch, there was a complete silence and we didn’t speak for few minutes. Eventually we decided not to use part of the video, which is showing the resuscitation of the boy. Due to my medical training, normally I am ‘comfortable’ in seeing blood, flesh and injuries but this particular video is extremely agonizing to watch, the irony is, unlike any other typical video taken during the Vanni war, this video doesn’t show much blood or graphic visualisation of bodily injuries.

Here I am recalling my experience for simply to highlight the courage and determination of those survivors of the Vanni war to come forward and share their tragic stories with wider world. They are courageous in two aspects, firstly, for defying the security risk to them and to their families and secondly, their willingness to revisit the memory – even for few hours – of one of the most brutal civil wars since Biafra conflict. The level of dehumanisation and brutalisation of human life during the last few months of the Vanni war is comparable with the conditions of Nazi concentration camps.

Therefore it is extremely important for every reader of this book to acknowledge the invaluable contribution of those survivor-witnesses to the post-war discourse on justice and reconciliation. Whatever their personal political views may have been but one cannot find fault with their desire to see justice for the thousands of victims perished during the war.

II

The battle for narrative 

For a long period, it has been said repeatedly, that victors and wielders of power dominate the historiography and narrative of communities and nations. Even now that may be the situation, but the contestation to the established narrative is almost a universal phenomenon and the contestation is equally formidable in the western world. Presently we live in a world, where one can opt out of being wired to the established narrative and discourse, despite being powerless and weak. This is mainly due to the increased access to education and the ever-expanding dimensions of the Internet technology. The Internet has opened up new modalities of discourse that can circumvent the established narratives. The politics – especially in the west – is increasingly heading towards a grinding halt; politicians are searching for an elusive centre point within the right to left political spectrum and the Occupy Movement is protesting without a programme2, in essence, the western society is facing its contradictions and flaws head on.

It is a form of post-political society, there is no ‘political action’ in Arendtian sense and we have many descriptions and names – from various intellectual traditions – for this present impasse, but none provide a way out of this. Hence the established narrative has become too irrelevant these days; people don’t bother whether the emperor is naked or dressed and they are content with tapping their iPhones. Since we live in an era with full of contradictions – where drones are assisting revolutions in Libya and a woman foreign correspondent is being “raped” by a mob celebrating the fall of Mubarak at the Tahrir Square3 – we are increasingly comfortable in having our own self-sustaining discourses, rather than coalesce into a dominant narrative. Because, the power is no longer exist exclusively in conventional modes and power also exists in new forms and networks.

It is in this context that the war in Sri Lanka ended with the defeat of the LTTE and the massacre of several thousand Tamil civilians. Because of the technology, Tamils around the world saw most of the pictures shown in the Channel 4 documentary, Killing Field, during the conflict period itself, in a real time fashion. The ‘international community’ and the UN knew what was happening inside the warzone through their own surveillance systems. The war was allowed to continue because there is no charity called NATO exists to conduct humanitarian interventions to protect humanity; it is merely a political and military organization meant to protect its member states. Ever since the end of war, in May 2009, the Sri Lankan state never had a monopoly on the history or the narrative of Vanni war. The exiled Tamils have switched onto full-blown neo-liberal mode – human rights, institutions and good governance – comfortably working with many right wing western governments, to rebalance the lost deterrence, the LTTE.

The Sri Lankan state’s success, at the Special session of the UN Human Rights Council (UNHRC) in May 2009, was received with the satisfaction of being vindicated for confirming our distrust of the UN system. The Wikileaks merely confirmed our cynicism; we have increasingly become immune to surprises. On the other hand, Tamil nationalists have successfully managed to establish their own narrative regarding the Vanni war, as if the Tamil civilians were shelled and bombed by the Sri Lankan military inside a completely decontextualized space, where the LTTE had vanished into thin air. The UNHRC regular session in February 2012, this is Sri Lanka’s turn for being disciplined, Sri Lanka is effectively locked into an international mechanism; this cannot be undone, as long as the power wielders of the international system want the status quo to continue. Thus the Tamil nationalists have gained their ‘asymmetrical power’ in a new form, the Tamil-Sinhala political discourse has been stabilized, and the good and the evil dichotomy is impeccably intact. So the challenge for any ‘outsider’ – like Frances Harrison – is to make sense out of these, equally formidable, competing and ‘legitimate’ narratives.

A group of historians, sociologists, anthropologists, psychiatrists and lawyers, supported by the Paris based Centre for International Studies and Research (CERI-Sciences Po), the UN and few other international agencies, were engaged in a research, “how best to approach rehabilitation of post-mass-crime-societies” and they have come out with rather unconventional findings. The principal researchers state:

“Interventions in the aftermath of mass violence tend to focus on war crimes trials today, elections and institutions building tomorrow. The frame of reference is macro, at the level of the state, although the experience of mass crime by a population is also micro, at the level of community. When selective interventions take place at this level, they are generally premised on Western health models, infrastructures and institutions. In application, these programs have ranged too often from the ineffective to the actively unhelpful. A key reason for this is that insufficient attention has been paid to the radical transformations in belief systems and codes of conduct of the individuals and communities who experience mass crime. Such transformations define a host of reconstruction issues: questions of communal and national identity; justice and reconciliation; the redistribution of property, land and wealth; the writing of history; the rebuilding of trust; and the capacity to build a new political system”4

Thus the desire to impose one community’s narrative on the other, will never be successful in this globalised and technologized world, and will never help resolve the crisis of how various groups in Sri Lanka can organize themselves into a plural society, without perpetuating direct and structural violence.

III

The author of the book, Frances Harrison, former BBC journalist, has mentioned in her acknowledgements that she is “grateful” to Sarmila Bose, academic and journalist, “whose book on the Bangladesh liberation struggle inspired me to think of writing this book in the first place” [p. xii]. Though these words may be mistaken as a benign ritual of acknowledgements from the author to her former colleagues at the Oxford University, instead these words are very crucial to understand Harrison’s writing.

Bose’s book, Dead Reckoning: Memories of the 1971 Bangladesh War, has earned the unfortunate adjective of ‘controversial’ since its publication in 2011, nearly four decades after the Bangladesh liberation war. Traditionally, the history of Bangladesh liberation war and Indian intervention in then East Pakistan, are historicised on the foundation of established ‘facts’ and ‘truth’. According to Bengali nationalists, West Pakistan forces committed a genocide by killing nearly three million Bengalis and raped nearly 400, 000 Bengali women, hence the India intervened to stop the humanitarian catastrophe5. This foundation is regarded as absolutely unshakable truth and that is an inherent component of the Bangladeshi national myth – Bangladeshi liberation war and its ‘dominant narrative’. In Dead Reckoning: Memories of the 1971 Bangladesh War, Bose had attempted to test these established ‘facts’ by embarking on a detailed inquiry by interviewing victims and perpetrators and she comes out with far lower figures for the number of victims killed and raped during 1970-1971 period. Also her book discusses in detail about hitherto unspoken intra Bengali civil war, during the same period. Not surprisingly, she came under intense criticism and her book didn’t hit the shelves of Bangladeshi and West Bengal bookshops. Also Indian government was not happy for tarnishing facts surrounding its ‘humanitarian intervention’ in former East Pakistan. Nirupama Subramanian of the Hindu found it problematic to see the “moral equivalence Bose has sought to create between the actions of the oppressor and the oppressed”6 in the book, (she never had such clear-cut views on Sri Lankan ethnic crisis!). But unperturbed by these criticisms, Sarmila Bose defends her findings:

“Scholars and investigative journalists have an important role in “busting” politically partisan narratives. And yet, far too often we all fall for the seductive appeal of a simplistic “good versus evil” story, or fail to challenge victors’ histories…The publication of Dead Reckoning has spoiled the day for those who had been peddling their respective nationalist mythologies undisturbed for so long. Careers have been built – in politics, media, academia and development – on a particular telling of the 1971 war. All the warring parties of 1971 remain relentlessly partisan in recounting the conflict. As the dominant narrative, which has gained currency around the world, is that of the victorious Bangladeshi nationalists and their Indian allies, they stand to lose the most in any unbiased appraisal. Unsurprisingly therefore, the protests from this section are the shrillest.”7

Essentially Bose had attempted in her book, “the product of several years of fieldwork based research”, to demystify the “facts” that had been “exaggerated, fabricated, distorted or concealed”7. Therefore it seems that Harrison in her book, Still Counting the Dead, has embarked on a similar task of demystifying the “dominant narrative of the victorious” that is Sri Lankan government’s stated policy of “zero casualty”. Bose sees the casualty numbers of the victims in Bangladeshi liberation war as exaggerated whereas Ms Harrison sees the civilian casualty numbers in Vanni war as grossly under reported. Bose challenges the narrative of the ‘oppressed’ in her inquiry whereas Harrison seems to be challenging the narratives of both the ‘oppressed’ and ‘oppressor’.

Still Counting the Dead, contains the stories of ten Tamil survivors, nine of them survived the ‘apocalyptic’ Mullivaaykkaal massacre and the tenth one survived the horrible ordeal of rape and detention by the Sri Lankan police. Each story is interspersed with first-person statements from the survivor and “author’s own opinions”, which seems to be “intruding” for Ms Jan Jananayagam of Tamils Against Genocide (via twitter). Unlike Bose, Harrison didn’t attempt to analyze the conflict in detail but she has succeeded in clarifying her position on many sensitive aspects of the discourse surrounding the Vanni war and the ethnic crisis in general. Initially I thought that she might be compelled to be ‘pro-Tamil’ in her writing in order to bargain the access to survivors. But it seems that she stood her ground; for example, she steadfastly avoided using the word, genocide, hence came under criticism from Tamilnet for “contributing an injustice” to those survivors8.

As we noted earlier, even after four decades, openly discussing about the events occurred during the1970-71 period is not possible in Bangladesh, hence it is nearly impossible to discuss about the Vanni war and Mullivaaykkaal massacre in an objective manner, it is too contemporaneous to deal with. In that respect Frances Harrison’s effort needs commendation for daring to document the survivor testimonies within few years of end of conflict. The author states that she spent many hours with survivors in order to record their story; it is a very sensitive and delicate task, since recalling wartime memories can be immensely traumatic to those survivors. It seems that Harrison has managed to deal with them with enormous empathy and has succeeded in protecting the dignity of those witnesses.

I must admit that I will not be commenting much about the statements of those survivors (a detailed analysis can provide valuable insight into the LTTE led Tamil politics); I am more than satisfied with the fact that they have come forward to share their ordeal with wider world. On the other hand, I have made following observations on author’s views that are expressed throughout the book.

IV

Counting the dead: Not really

Harrison has made this comment – “Sri Lankans haven’t been very good at counting their dead” – few times in her book. And few reviewers have grasped that as the core issue of the book and the conflict in general; one reviewer is praising Harrison for “backing up her emotive portraits with hard facts and figures” 9. I found that – the claim of counting the dead – to be problematic in three aspects. Firstly, there are many individuals and organizations within the Tamil community – within and without Sri Lanka – have been involved in the task of documenting the death and destruction due to ethnic crisis and none of them are complete but those documentations deserve the description of “hard facts and figures”. The NorthEast Secretariat on Human Rights (NESHOR) is one such organization involved in the documentation and publication with details of the massacres and pogroms of the past. Also there were few initiatives by the Tamil diaspora organizations but none had managed to reach any significant progress in counting the dead – detailing each and every casualty by name and counting – on par with ‘The Bosnian Book of Dead’, which is a culmination of an internationally funded three years study 10. This kind of study is not feasible at the moment to count the Eelam Tamil casualty, due to the fact, it is impossible to carryout such study in Sri Lanka, though such a study is possible within exiled Tamils but it will be a partial documentation only. In the backdrop of this dire situation regarding counting the dead ‘projects’, Harrison’s implied claim, that the book is primarily dealing with counting the dead, is highly exaggerated.

Secondly, it is unethical to privilege the victims of the last Vanni war – over other victims of previous massacres and pogroms since 1948 – for this ‘special treatment’ of documentation and historicization. It is the pro-LTTE diaspora activists, who started this trend for entirely a different set of purposes and Harrison has merely succumbed to this trend. (I have argued somewhere else about Tamil diaspora activists’ newly found love for human rights11). Thirdly, whatever the facts and figures mentioned in the book is already available in the public domain and there is nothing original in terms of numbers.

The difficulty of gaining territorial awareness and two no-fire-zones

When describing the geographical locations, streets, towns and villages, apart from some major landmarks, Frances Harrison uses a general description and she doesn’t use any names. People, who followed the conflict very closely, will not have much problem in gaining the territorial awareness during the reading but it may be difficult for a non-familiar reader to grasp a spatial picture of the terrain. As noted by Emanuel Stoakes12, the author faced with the hindrance of lack of access to former warzone area but she had visited several times to that area in the past, when she was a BBC correspondence, therefore it is highly unlikely that she is not familiar with the territory. Most likely reason is that she has avoided using too many names of villages and towns to avoid confusion for a reader not familiar with Sri Lanka.

It is noted in the map, as well as in author’s own words, that there were three no-fire-zones declared by the Sri Lankan army during the course of last six months of conflict. According to the SL defence ministry website13, there were two no-fire-zones, the first one was declared on 21/01/2009 and the second one was declared on 12/02/2009, on 08/05/2009 “re-demarcation” of the second no-fire-zone was declared with the reasoning that “This has been modified to match with the present situation and after considering the concentration of civilians in the area”13.

Humanitarian intervention and moral hazard

Most of the survivors have made a remarkably same narrative of their hope for some form of international intervention to take place until the last few days of the war. On the one hand it is very agonizing to read repeatedly of this completely misplaced expectation and on the other hand it raises serious questions about the LTTE led Tamil politics for the last three decades. It is very difficult to believe that the LTTE was expecting an external intervention, knowing very well that they are a proscribed organization in all of the potential intervening countries. Here, I will be dealing with just one aspect of the LTTE politics – its complete disregard for civilian safety and its willingness to compromise the civilian safety in order to protect itself from military assault.

Alan J. Kuperman is one of the critics of the principle of Responsibility to Protect (R2P) and its previous incarnation humanitarian intervention; his critiquing is not based on the principle sovereign equality or non-intervention, rather his critique is based on a concept called ‘moral hazard’, that means the provision of protection against risk encourages or enables risk-taking behaviour14. Even former UN boss Kofi Annan noted that humanitarian intervention “might encourage secessionist movements deliberately to provoke governments into committing gross violations of human rights in order to trigger external interventions that would aid their cause”15. Now there is enough evidence available that the LTTE was gambling with civilian safety for an unlikely outcome of external intervention. Puliththevan’s exchanges with the author during last stages of the war demonstrate the LTTE’s awkward and obfuscative attitude: it had always spent its energy on how to keep others guessing about the organization, rather than forging genuine solidarity with others. The author has succeeded in documenting – though briefly – this problematic aspect of the LTTE under the chapter of The Spokesperson.

Pro-LTTE diaspora activism: the race to the bottom

The author makes a shocking claim, that during the last few days of the conflict, a “Tiger front organization in London, who insisted the [rebel] medics [who are trapped inside the warzone] should take their cyanide capsules because surrender was not an option”, when a Tamil doctor in London was attempting to save the lives of those rebel medics by facilitating their crossing into army territory. Harrison writes that she was “left wondering if they just wanted to score a propaganda point in the media, rather than actually save lives” (p. 67).

When I contacted this doctor, he said that he sought help from Frances Harrison to publicise the situation of rebel medics and their intention to cross into army territory, thinking that may save their lives but he was asked by a prominent Tamil spokesperson in London at that time, to keep quiet and not to make any ‘unauthorised’ moves, such as this. Perhaps I would categorise this revelation that can go with the cliché of ‘most explosive revelation’ of the book.

I hope Frances Harrison’s effort will go down in the history as a welcome first step in the direction of justice and genuine reconciliation.

Reference

1] Still Counting the Dead, p. 131.

2]http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/cifamerica/2012/apr/24/occupy-wall-street-what-is-to-be-done-next

3]http://www.nytimes.com/2011/04/29/business/media/29logan.html?pagewanted=all&_r=0

4] Pouligny, B, Chesterman, S, Schnabel, A, After mass crime: Rebuilding states and communities, United nations University Press, 2007, p.1.

5]http://www.aljazeera.com/indepth/features/2011/04/2011429174141565122.html

6] http://www.thehindu.com/todays-paper/tp-features/tp-bookreview/article2488679.ece

7]http://www.aljazeera.com/indepth/opinion/2011/05/20115983958114219.html

8] http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6whLIpbXF-0&feature=share&list=PLnkMxkZnA0gg7GUE4aZLVKVW_TSeK2FbW

9] http://www.huffingtonpost.co.uk/helena-williams/new-book-details-sri-lank_b_1935101.html

10] http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/world/europe/6228152.stm

11] http://anapayan.tumblr.com/post/18705829261/the-tragedy-of-sri-lankan-political-discourse

12] http://www.huffingtonpost.co.uk/emanuel-stoakes/sri-lankas-civil-war_b_1943430.html

13] http://www.defence.lk/new.asp?fname=20090508_11

14]http://live.belfercenter.org/publication/1999/gambling_on_humanitarian_intervention.html?breadcrumb=%2Fpublication%2F21561%2Fus_and_russian_experts_assess_threat_of_nuclear_terror

14] http://anapayan.posterous.com/tamilnet-jokes-11516

15]http://www.un.org/millennium/sg/report/full.htm paragraph 216.

 

  • http://thecarthaginiansolution.wordpress.com/ Mango

    Credit to Mr Kalaichelvan for at least being honest. “The exiled Tamils have switched onto full-blown neo-liberal mode – human rights, institutions and good governance – comfortably working with many right wing western governments, to rebalance the lost deterrence, the LTTE.

    It’s a damn shame these exiled Tamils had to wait until the LTTE was destroyed to discover human rights, a key weapon of neo-liberal Western institutions. Why didn’t they use ‘human rights’ to prevent the LTTE holding hostage 300,000+ of their ‘own people’ to prevent its military defeat?

    A reasonable person can only conclude that the exiled Tamils were hoping, willing and funded the LTTE to win the war, but after facing defeat, suddenly discovered human rights.

    As for this piece of nonsense, “..the level of dehumanisation and brutalisation of human life during the last few months of the Vanni war is comparable with the conditions of Nazi concentration camps.highlights Mr Kalaichelvan’s incredible ignorance of the conditions of Nazi concentration camps.

    • Off the Cuff

      Mango,

      “Why didn’t they use ‘human rights’ to prevent the LTTE holding hostage 300,000+ of their ‘own people…..”

      They could not because they were Bank Rolling the violators.

      They are still Bank Rolling but this time the beneficiaries are the western politicians and probably some in the media. Hence of course they are “comfortably working with many right wing western governments”

      • http://thecarthaginiansolution.wordpress.com Mango

        Jansee,
        My apologies in advance for not knowing of your shoddy historical knowledge.

        Nazi concentration camps were holding camps/factories in a system created to efficiently murder Jews, gypsies, homosexuals and political enemies of the Reich and a way station on the route to genocide and the destruction of European Jews.
        http://www.holocaust-education.dk/lejre/koncudd.asp

        Sri Lanka’s IDP camps were holding/internment camps to detain Tamil civilians to filter out key LTTE cadres and to prevent them returning to their town and villages before they’d been (partially) reconstructed and demined. Not pleasant, but not concentration camps.

    • jansee

      mango:

      So, please explain wherein you find the difference between the two “concentration camps”?

      off-the-cuff:

      Because we don’t buy your argument that the LTTE was holding the civilians hostage – it was just the regime’s propaganda. We have heard many a times of a zero civilians deaths and safe no-fire zones propaganda, don’t we?

      • Off the Cuff

        Jansee,

        “Because we don’t buy your argument that the LTTE was holding the civilians hostage”

        Oh I did not argue that but stated a Fact.
        You could deny it to deceive yourself, but that wont change the fact.

        “it was just the regime’s propaganda.”

        Was it? Then why the amputations, the suicide bombings of Tamils civilians who were crossing over and shooting them in the back?

        “We have heard many a times of a zero civilians deaths and safe no-fire zones propaganda, don’t we?”

        A goofy statement about zero civilian deaths does not negate the safe no fire zones which were safe until it was compromised by your hero, who moved heavy weaponry into it and started firing from amongst the civilians. Do you deny that too?

        Your hero was a coward who hid behind civilians and got shot because he did not have the courage to bite his capsule.

        • jansee

          off-the-cuff:

          Could it be that you are naive, ignorant, or a sly fox? Whichever it may be, it does not bode positively. This game has been tried by the regime, then your rep to the UNHRC (Mahinda Samarasinghe) and GL Peiris, etc. Poor you, now that they have no face anymore, you seem to be their hero. Welcome aboard.

          What about the 136,000 murdered by your regime. You mean, it is a no? A propaganda? Their pants went down, is it a no also. We know the tricks from the regime and the likes of you. Go on as long as you want and as long as you like to bluff us and the world, the culprits will be sniffed out eventually. In SL, you people hold the gun, you can talk and behave in whatever way you want and, of course, open diplomatic relations with countries like Swaziland (what a pity) but let us see what happens at the next UNHRC.

          “A goofy statement about zero civilian deaths does not negate the safe no fire zones which were safe until it was compromised by your hero, who moved heavy weaponry into it and started firing from amongst the civilians. Do you deny that too?”

          Of course, I deny that. Just a mere propaganda from a discredited regime. Aerial bombing, cluster bombing, heavy shelling, denying food and medicine, bombing hospitals – with all these where did the LTTE stand the chance to protect the civilians? If the LTTE had the means and the capacity to defend against a genocidal regime, the Tamils wouldn’t have lost 136,000 civilians. They were merely defending the Tamil civilians because they knew what kind of a ruthless and barbaric regime would be subjugating the Tamils. Even after three years, look at the carnage. He knew what was in store for the Tamils and he tried his best to defend them. It is pure silly and mere propaganda that the regime wants to escape and try its luck to pass the blame. You see, the likes of you are as the regime with no remorse for the civilians. How many did the LTTE kill, if we go by your argument, and how many did the regime kill? Should it be an excuse that the LTTE were in their midst when you people claimed it to be a humanitarian operation? Whom are you trying to lie? Did you have or feel they, too, were Sri Lankans? No, they were Tamils and that is the mind-set most of you have and some of you don’t even pretend to be one. When Prabhakaran mentioned this again and again, we faulted him for dividing the people, dividing the nation, and I am ashamed that I am one of them but how prophetic he was. The only way the Tamils can live in peace and with dignity is to go their own way. You can stop us as much as you want, but we will get there one day.

          “To you he is a hero because your children were not abducted for cannon fodder and you did not experience the grief of having your children torn from your hands and the spouse shot for objecting to the abduction. You see, you don’t represent the Vanni Tamils who were terrorised by Prbahkaran.”

          What about the 136,000 murdered by your regime? I don’t represent the Vanni Tamil – would it be better if you or the regime represent them? How many girls did Prabhakaran rape and how many of your rogue soldiers raped them? The sad thing is the Tamils only had Prabhakaran to protect them but once he was killed they have become defenceless and helpless, facing the continuing atrocities. Ok, going by your argument, I don’t represent the Vanni Tamils, then the leeches and vultures wanted to try their luck as MR tried – but, too bad, he was “pushed out” If you want to try your luck, no one will stop you.

          “There is no war here and that is not by luck.
          Don’t look back, lest you see the devastation and human suffering that you bankrolled.”

          When have we stopped looking back? The devastation and human suffering has been inflicted by a barbarous regime, not by the LTTE. The regime murdered 136,000 innocent civilians, not the LTTE. It is aerial bombing, cluster bombing and the heavy shelling that killed them. Denying food and medicine and bombing hospitals. I know, the sinister plan that was hatched – right from the beginning was to use this ploy to conduct a genocide against the Tamils and conveniently put the blame on the LTTE. It is not going to work anymore. We are not blind, at least, not anymore. You can continue with your convenient lies and you can dance around with it, that’s all.

          Of course, I have opened my eyes now, very widely indeed. I was sceptical when Prabhakaran tried to convince us that there would be no way the Tamils can trust the Sinhala regime. The Sinhala masses only see the Tamils as adversaries and people like you continue to sing the hosannas of this regime without any regard to the devastation and grief to the Tamil people, conveniently and insidiously piling the blame on the LTTE. What kind of a humanitarian operation was this? Say, for your argument sake, the LTTE held them as human shields and was firing from the midst of the civilians. You went in claiming to save the civilians, how do you do that – by killing 136,000 of the civilians – and it is even more distressing that you guys know and understand that but the same mindset emerges from the Sinhala masses like you – and that is a good enough reason that the Tamils need to go on with their own destiny.

          Behind door events of Prabhakaran, you say. Am I allowed to say you also have the same character of the Sinhala soldiers? I don’t know. So let us talk what we all know. You see, the problem with the likes of you is to cover one lie with nine lies – a trade this regime has mastered well. Prabhakaran marrying someone equated with the well-known rape atrocities of the Sinhala regime? You have to try better.

          “While your children were given Motherly Love it was denied the Vanni Tamil Children”

          What have you and Mahinda given them? Dump them under the trees and jungles? Come on, you can do better than this.

          “You should have realised your folly when the Murderous Megalomaniac refused to be the Chief Minister of a NE Province. That’s when you should have stopped funding him. Imagine what Prabahkaran could have done for the Tamils if he used the money you poured in for the benefit and development of the Vanni instead of the destruction.”

          Prabhakaran was a murderous megalomanic. What do you call those who murdered 136,000 of their own citizens? Genocidal sadists – may be someone can come out with a better word/phrase. Vanni was not destroyed by Prabhakaran – he developed a very clean and efficient administration, not the corrupted regime you people are. You people destroyed the Vanni. We knew the onerous task he had to defend the Tamils from a brutal regime.

          “But you were as power hungry as him and you were prepared to pay the Ultimate Price by destroying the Vanni Tamil Population. You can play the blame game to pacify your conscience. But the blame lies squarely on your shoulders and that of people like you.You were short sighted then and you are short sighted now.”

          Who is talking here about being power-hungry? Throwing away the 17thA and becoming the autocratic, no-period limitation, power hungry leader of yours – what do you call him then? In his over-zealous greed, conducted a sham inquiry on his appointed CJ? Look at your own back. We never complained to you that Prabhakaran was autocratic. We saw sense in what he was telling and doing – the facts are there to see – when he was weakened, the regime went on to murder 136,000 civilians. Neither Prabhakaran nor we were short-sighted – we knew very well that if and when the shield is removed – the Tamils will suffer immensely, and isn’t that what happened. And after murdering 136,000 people and lay waste to the entire Tamil homeland, you are asking about my conscience and yes, we will carry the blame on our shoulders, in not able to do enough to stop this regime and the likes of you to destroy, from the day of independence, the Tamil race and their property. WE WILL NOT SLEEP ANYMORE.

          • Off the Cuff

            Jansee,

            As expected you have denied that the LTTE placed Mortars amongst the Civilians in the NFZ and fired from the NFZ converting it to a war zone.

            That was indeed foolhardy as Evidence of gun emplacements are available from the following sources

            1. HRW and AI commissioned review of High Resolution satellite imagery for the Civilian Safety Zone (CSZ) in northeastern Sri Lanka and reported by AAAS
            2. Times of London pictures accompanying a story by Catherine Philp’s “The hidden massacre: Sri Lanka’s final offensive against Tamil Tigers”

            (I have challenged the contents of Catherine Philp’s story at these links http://groundviews.org/2009/09/28/doing-the-right-thing-freedom-for-vanni-idps/#comment-9618

            http://groundviews.org/2009/08/29/a-video-of-shame-and-outrage-responses-positions-and-clarifications/#comment-12878)

            you say “What about the 136,000 murdered by your regime. You mean, it is a no? A propaganda? Their pants went down, is it a no also”

            You see Jansee although the death toll keeps on increasing at a higher rate than vermin procreate, the war did have witnesses, which you will find difficult to counter. A count of the graves as seen from the sky does not support your fantasy as very well known to Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International.

            You say “We never complained to you that Prabhakaran was autocratic. We saw sense in what he was telling and doing”

            Of course you did not.
            You and your Children were safely out of his reach living in comfort, busy Educating your Children and fanning hatred.

            But what did the Vanni Tamils say about him?

            My parents refused to give me to the LTTE so about fifteen of them came to my house-it was both men and women, in uniforms, with rifles, and guns in holsters. I was fast asleep when they came to get me at one in the morning. These people dragged me out of the house. My father shouted at them, saying, “What is going on?”, but some of the LTTE soldiers took my father away towards the woods and beat him. They also pushed my mother onto the ground when she tried to stop them.
            (girl recruited by the LTTE in 2003 at age sixteen)

            They took away my younger brother the other day. He was coming home from the market and he was taken away. I went and begged them, saying, “I gave you years of my life and I gave you my health. Please let me have my brother back-he is the only one I have who takes care of me, helps me to go to the toilet, helps me get into bed.”They didn’t release him, and they threatened to shoot if I reported his abduction to any NGOs. They also told me at the same time that I had to re-join. Is this how they thank me for all the time I gave them?Why are they doing this to me?
            (girl who was recruited by the LTTE at age sixteen and severely disabled in combat)

            Parish priest of the St Agnes Church Mankulam Fr James Paththinadan describes in detail how the LTTE came to his church and took those who were under his care at gun point, after a shoot out with cadres who had deserted the LTTE.
            Velaudan – resident of Mulativu, Father of Niruba
            Niruba a 15 year old Tamil female child
            Madavaraja – President Vallipunam Regional Development Society
            Sinnayya Sivaneshan a Tamil youth
            http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hpPBJr4Pq5A&list=UUHLitxsriMl-jcpvUYtV2Xw&index=0&feature=plcp

            And what does NGO’s say about them?

            Tamil children are vulnerable to recruitment beginning at the age of eleven or twelve. The LTTE routinely visits Tamil homes to inform parents that they must provide a child for the “movement.” Families that resist are harassed and threatened. Parents are told that their child may be taken by force if they do not comply, that other children in the household or the parents will be taken in their stead, or that the family will be forced to leave their home. The LTTE makes good on these threats: children are frequently abducted from their homes at night, or picked up by LTTE cadres while walking to school or attending a temple festival. Parents who resist the abduction of their children face violent LTTE retribution.

            Javier Aguilar – UNICEF minute 3:26 onwards (from the BBC Hard talk program) says 8000 children were saved (some as young as 9 years). He says that number is just the tip of the iceberg. During the last 6 months LTTE forced at least 200 children a month.
            http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4gXbFPoDWSI

            You did not fight for Eelam.
            Your children did not fight for it either.
            All of you stayed in safety and comfort away from the fight.
            Your children had a childhood and a good Education.
            What did the Vanni Tamil children have? Death and Destruction curtsey the separatists Tamil Diaspora and Prabahkaran?
            You deserted the fight and pushed the Children of the Vanni to die for a cause that they did not want. Eelam war was fought by proxy, by the poor Tamil children of the Vanni, as young as 9 years old.

            You sacrificed them Jansee, your Eelam fervour was limited to sacrificing others and was too weak to do that with your own Children or yourself

            You say “Could it be that you are naive, ignorant, or a sly fox? Whichever it may be, it does not bode positively”

            Keep wondering Jansee for it wont bode well for your propaganda war.
            I am not interested in converting you. My interest is in placing facts before the GV readership.

            The audience of your propaganda war.

            If you can, please go ahead and deny what I have written.

  • Candidly

    This is quite a different review of Frances Harrison’s ‘Still Counting the Dead’ compared with others that have appeared, e.g. in the UK’s The Guardian. Those other reviews have attempted to present the book as an account of the alleged war crimes of the Sri Lankan government against Tamil “rebels” in Sri Lanka’s north in the final stages of the conflict there. Those reviews have characterised the Tamil Tigers as noble rebels fighting to defend innocent Tamil civilians against a ruthless blood-thirsty army intent on massacre and rape. Well, that is the myth Tamil Tiger apologists and their supporters in the West’s radical-chic chattering classes try to propagate.

    Now one of the first principles of rebellion is that a rebel force has to defend its civilians. In fact it’s one of the reasons people turn to armed rebellion – to defend themselves and their way of life from physical attacks. So an important tactic of a rebel force is to place themselves between the civilians and the oppressor in order to try to prevent loss of civilian life, particularly amongst women and children. So what are we to make of a rebel force that places itself AMONGST and BEHIND the people it claims to be defending and punishes or shoots any of the civilians if they object to this?

    Well, clearly, whatever they may have been 30 years ago, by the time we get to the last few years of the Tamil Tigers they had become something entirely different from a rebel group. Others may object that this is not so. By the time the Tamil Tigers got organised and began eliminating other Tamil political groups in the 1980s they were already on their march of folly to lead the northern Tamils to an inevitable catastrophe. The final hellish ending, they will say, was already programmed into the Tigers’ political principles from the time that the Jaffna Tamils, and other Tamils in the north, decided to put their trust in a gang of criminals and mercenaries under the leadership of the megalomaniac and psychopath Vellupilai Prabhakaran.

    If it helps Tamil people from the north and their sympathisers understand the errors they made in trusting Prabhakaran and his gang of criminals and mercenaries and the devastating consequences of that mistaken trust, then this book may be useful and it deserves a translation into the Tamil language. In that sense it is to be commended. However, elsewhere Frances Harrison (like Gordon Weiss) has indicated her disappointment at the defeat of the LTTE. Perhaps, like Weiss, she believes that the final stages of the Tigers’ tactics were merely mistakes in judgement on their part?

    • Off the Cuff

      Candidly,

      The training grounds of Frances Harison was the BBC.
      Her colleague, Charles Haviland, has this to say about BBC policy when I accused him of being a Terrorist Supporter and being adept at distorting the truth.

      Quote
      I reject your contention that I am “adept at distorting the truth” or your implication that I am a “terrorist supporter”. BBC usage is not to use the word “terrorist” in any of our reporting on international outlets. You do not need me to explain the reasons why. The BBC HAS traditionally used the word in its domestically oriented outlets, mainly with reference to the IRA in Northern Ireland, although many BBC staff do not agree with this discrepancy. And the word did also slip into even our international coverage after 9/11, something which many staff were equally unhappy about and a usage which I think has largely ended. (It is still used in quoting others or in general terms, for instance in this current story: “An east London mosque is being investigated by the Charity Commission over potential links to terrorist and extremist groups.”) I myself have never used the word (except generically or in quoting others) as I have always worked for international outlets. It is not a matter of my opinion; it is a matter of BBC style, a style which I support.
      Unquote

      (http://groundviews.org/2012/06/04/gotabhaya-rajapaksa-on-ethnicity-in-northern-sri-lanka-post-war/#comment-45423)

      A bomb goes off in London’s public transport and the BBC quite rightly labels the perpetrators as TERRORISTS.

      A bomb goes off in Sri Lanka’s public transport and the Lopsided and Shameless BBC, elevates the perpetrators on a pedestal, by calling them REBELS.

      Then a BBC “Truth Tiger” crowns the perfidy, by having the gall to tell us, that it is just the BBC style as if that is an over riding excuse for the shameless double standard.

      Harrison and Haviland are seeds of the same pod, adept at misreporting and distorting the truth, they can’t see a Terrorist as a Terrorist, unless, terrorism happens in their own garden or across the sea in the USA.

      • Candidly

        Thanks for that. It doesn’t surprise me as the BBC is now being accused in the UK of using lack of frankness in its language and fear of upsetting minority opinions as a way of sanitising the conduct and opinions of extremists from amongst those minorities, and Charles Haviland’s response is a good example of that.

        In this context I was once told by an American acquaintance that he had been approached by a Tamil woman trying to raise money in the USA to help them to conduct a campaign for a separate Tamil state in Sri Lanka. “Will this be used to help the Tamil Tigers?” my acquaintance asked, “because they’re a terrorist group, aren’t they?”

        “No they’re not terrorists at all,” the Tamil woman replied, “because they don’t kill white people.”

        The Tamil Tigers may have been masterful at manipulating the sentiments of liberal-minded white people, but I’m pretty sure my acquaintance will not have made a donation.

      • http://thecarthaginiansolution.wordpress.com/ Mango

        Ah, the good old Beeb. Terrorism is only terrorism when it happens to the UK. A classic case is how they called pissant amateurs like the UVF (Ulster Volunteer Force) ‘terrorists’, but never the LTTE. Haviland just follows the BBC mindset. A perfect example is how it’s been taken to task in the UK about its’ uncritically pro-EU reporting before the Euro crisis exploded.

        As for Frances Harrison’s efforts, one of the best bits is where Frances recounts her chats with “Puli”, a “thoughtful” LTTE spokesman with whom she had regular Skype and satphone calls even as the fighting reached its climax.

        “Mostly Puli wanted to escape the butchery,” she writes, “to talk about the heavy snow that lay on the ground that winter in England, the books he’d read and my mundane domestic life.” Along with most of the Tigers’ senior leadership, he was killed on the war’s final day.’

        Oh, poor little persecuted, “Puli”…

        Has there been a verified case of a Western journalist being bribed by the LTTE to report favourably on the struggle? A lot of them are sympathetic to the cause and because the witty epigram went, “You cannot hope to bribe or twist, thank God! the British journalist. But, seeing what the man will do unburied, there’s no occasion to.”

        Also, GoSL’s own brazen, unbelievably damaging, irrational, self-defeating post-war behaviour has been a gift to the hacks.

      • jansee

        off-the-cuff:

        I am glad that you feel rotten of your belief of the BBC having double standards, and much do I wander if not for the cynical attitude and help of the Indian Union govt, what is there to boast of a “Sri Lanka victory”? That Prabhakaran had to face so many countries/adversaries who bought the lies of the SL regime, he will still remain a hero for the Tamils for many years to come. You see, he was the only one who had the guts to stand against the Sinhala regime’s atrocities against the Tamils. Talking so much about the so-called atrocities of the LTTE, where were you people when the Sinhalas, regime after regime murdered, raped and brutalised the Tamils? Where were the likes of you when the Jaffna Library was reduced to ashes? Show me just one incident that Prabhakaran was responsible for the rape of even one Sinhala woman. After all we do not have to discuss about the appetite of the Sinhala soldiers. And should it be a wonder why the Tamils had to turn to the LTTE? And if you think that the war has ended with his death, you are sadly mistaken. Many of us who had moderate views of a new era after the end of the war have significantly and substantially moved to take a very hard stand against this regime. The war will continue in a different form and you can try your luck there. We are not going to look back. For the devastation caused to lives and properties this regime has a lot to answer. What Prabhakaran did or may have done pales in comparison with the colossal damage done by this regime.

        • Off the Cuff

          Jansee,

          “I am glad that you feel rotten of your belief of the BBC having double standards,”

          What are you blabbering incoherently about?

          “and much do I wander if not for the cynical attitude and help of the Indian Union govt, what is there to boast of a “Sri Lanka victory”?”

          Still hurting? Good.
          You do have a very short memory, forgot the parippu drop that saved your cardboard hero?

          “That Prabhakaran had to face so many countries/adversaries who bought the lies of the SL regime, he will still remain a hero for the Tamils for many years to come.”

          To you he is a hero because your children were not abducted for cannon fodder and you did not experience the grief of having your children torn from your hands and the spouse shot for objecting to the abduction. You see, you don’t represent the Vanni Tamils who were terrorised by Prbahkaran.

          You represent the New Rich Power hungry Tamils that ignored the lamenting Vanni Tamils and sacrificed them and over 20,000 Tamil children in the quest for power.

          “You see, he was the only one who had the guts to stand against the Sinhala regime’s atrocities against the Tamils.”

          That is how you see him but to the intelligent and moderate Tamils he was a Foolish Megalomaniac who refused the Chief Ministership of a combined North and East Provincial Council which he could have led and developed.

          What do you have today? Nothing

          “Talking so much about the so-called atrocities of the LTTE, where were you people when the Sinhalas, regime after regime murdered, raped and brutalised the Tamils? Where were the likes of you when the Jaffna Library was reduced to ashes?”

          We were busy risking our lives, the lives of our spouses, of our children and our properties to save our Tamil neighbours by hiding them and feeding them for weeks, from thugs who were going on the rampage. A result of divisive politics practised by power hungry leaders. High cast Tamils trying to maintain the advantages they had during colonial times, by inciting the Tamil peasantry and Sinhalese who used it to incite the Sinhala peasantry to get into power themselves. I don’t know who saved you but it wouldn’t have been the police.

          “Show me just one incident that Prabhakaran was responsible for the rape of even one Sinhala woman. After all we do not have to discuss about the appetite of the Sinhala soldiers. And should it be a wonder why the Tamils had to turn to the LTTE?”

          We are aware that he abducted a teenager and took her to India where he started visiting her at all hours breaking his own rules enforced on his followers and Adele Bala had to point out that Indian neighbours would report to the Indian police about the night visits which could become an issue. We also hear that he had private meetings with female suicide cadres before they went out on a mission. The dead won’t tell tales, do they? Are you privy to what Prabha does behind closed doors? Please do not issue empty challenges regarding his good character.

          “And if you think that the war has ended with his death, you are sadly mistaken. Many of us who had moderate views of a new era after the end of the war have significantly and substantially moved to take a very hard stand against this regime.”

          You have moderate views! You who willingly and shamelessly sacrificed over 20,000 Vanni Tamil Children (some as young as 9 years).

          “The war will continue in a different form and you can try your luck there. We are not going to look back.”

          There is no war here and that is not by luck.
          Don’t look back, lest you see the devastation and human suffering that you bankrolled.

          “For the devastation caused to lives and properties this regime has a lot to answer. What Prabhakaran did or may have done pales in comparison with the colossal damage done by this regime.”

          Open your eyes Jansee,
          While your children were having an Education what Education did the Vanni Tamil Children have?

          While your children were given Motherly Love it was denied the Vanni Tamil Children.

          While your children were playing with plastic guns the Vanni Tamil Children had AK47s.

          You poured Millions of dollars into a futile war and destroyed several generations of Tamils.

          You should have realised your folly when the Murderous Megalomaniac refused to be the Chief Minister of a NE Province. That’s when you should have stopped funding him. Imagine what Prabahkaran could have done for the Tamils if he used the money you poured in for the benefit and development of the Vanni instead of the destruction.

          But you were as power hungry as him and you were prepared to pay the Ultimate Price by destroying the Vanni Tamil Population. You can play the blame game to pacify your conscience. But the blame lies squarely on your shoulders and that of people like you.

          You were short sighted then and you are short sighted now.

      • Dev

        OMG the evil BBC !
        This is added to the long and growing list of other evil groups/individuals all out for the blood of this resplendent island/dharmadeepa !
        The BBC joins the the following (incomplete and concise list)….
        1) Amnesty International
        2) Human rights watch
        3) Asian Human rights commission
        4) International Crisis Group
        5 The elders group
        6) Desmond Tutu
        7 )Mary Robinson
        8) Jimmy Carter
        9) Hillary Clinton
        10) Stephen Harper -PM of Canada
        11) David Cameron PM of UK
        12) Navaneethan Pillai UN HR chief
        13) UN Sec General
        14) Marzuki Darusman
        15) Yasmin Sooka
        16) Steven Ratner
        17) Jayalalitha Jayaram

        • Off the Cuff

          Dear GV Moderator,

          My reply to Dev that was awaiting moderation and had got lost

          http://groundviews.org/2012/12/02/still-counting-the-dead-a-welcome-first-step/#comment-49886)

          should appear here

          Thank you

          • Off the Cuff

            Dev,

            The man has admitted that BBC policy on Terrorism has double standards and you are trying to defend the BBC? What idiocy.

            Are you more educated about the BBC than Charles Haviland who works there?

            Remember trying to use Charles to denigrate Dr Rajasingham Narendran?

            My question to you here is still awaiting an answer
            http://groundviews.org/2012/11/19/the-vanni-depicting-the-end-of-sri-lankas-war-through-a-graphic-novel/#comment-49768

          • Dev

            Ha ha, looks like you will clutch at anything and anyone (Rajasingham Narendran) who will defend the regime?

            As for Rajasingham Narendran, and his defense of the regime….the impeachment of the CJ shows who was right.

          • Off the Cuff

            Ha ha haa … looks like you do not understand the language. We were writing about BBC policy that her correspondent has admitted to be fickle. Hence being fickle yourself, your dependence on the BBC is not surprising.

            I reminded you of your attempt at using Charles Haviland in order to challenge Dr NR and still not a word in defence?

            It is noted that Silencing other Tamils who counter your propaganda has been your primary objective.

            “….the impeachment of the CJ shows who was right “

            The process adopted in impeaching the CJ is unjust but it does not prove that you are right. Ha ha haa …. you seem to be making a habit of clutching at straws, first it was the BBC now it’s the CJ.

    • jansee

      Candidly:

      “Well, that is the myth Tamil Tiger apologists and their supporters in the West’s radical-chic chattering classes try to propagate.

      Can this be worse, if at all it is true, than a blatant lie and propaganda of undertaking a “humanitarian” operation and in the process murder brutally 136,000 civilians? Three years has passed since the war, what happened to the promises of devolution – again mere propaganda/lies? The Tamils had the bargaining power so long as the LTTE was around.

      “Now one of the first principles of rebellion is that a rebel force has to defend its civilians. In fact it’s one of the reasons people turn to armed rebellion – to defend themselves and their way of life from physical attacks.”

      What do you make of a regime that is supposed to protect its citizens killed thousands of Sinhalas? What about the regime brutally murdering 136,000 civilians who are also citizens of the country? I am not surprised – moral will never be your strength anyway.

      “The final hellish ending, they will say, was already programmed into the Tigers’ political principles from the time that the Jaffna Tamils, and other Tamils in the north, decided to put their trust in a gang of criminals and mercenaries under the leadership of the megalomaniac and psychopath Vellupilai Prabhakaran.

      Vellupillai Prabhakaran – a megalomaniac and psychopath. How do you call one for the murder of 136,000 civilians – a genocidal sadist? The Tamils felt protected so long as the LTTE and Prabhakaran was around. If they should not place the trust in him, should it be on a murderous regime that maimed 136,000 civilians? What kind of trust have you people earned from the Tamils since independence? Promises after promises all just conveniently forgotten and side-stepped. Even agreements made were unilaterally dishonoured by successive Sinhala regimes. The Tamils have been continuously cheated since independence. Murders and rapes were carried out with impunity. So, pray tell me how on earth can you expect the Tamils trust a Sinhala regime. What happened to Basil’s promise of full implementation of the 13A? Whatever happened to the undertaking given by Mahinda Samarasinghe on the full implementation of the 13A? These were promises by ministers and a govt. Even after three years, look at the plight and sufferings of the Tamils? No, the Tamils will never be wrong in placing their trust in Prabhakaran.

      “Perhaps, like Weiss, she believes that the final stages of the Tigers’ tactics were merely mistakes in judgement on their part?”

      200,000 army, aerial bombing, cluster bombs, bombing hospitals, denying food and medicine – imagine if Prabhakaran had an equal number of soldiers, had the same weaponry as the regime, it could have been fun. Unfortunately, he did not have the numbers but he tried his best to the end to defend the Tamils. Look at the lives of Tamils there now? What kind of freedom is this?

  • Anuruddha Tilakasiri

    “Has there been a verified case of a Western journalist being bribed by the LTTE to report favourably on the struggle? A lot of them are sympathetic to the cause and because the witty epigram went, “You cannot hope to bribe or twist, thank God! the British journalist. But, seeing what the man will do unburied, there’s no occasion to.”

    The epigram apart, has there been a verified case of a western journalist being bribed by the LTTE to report favourably on the struggle?

    “Also, GoSL’s own brazen, unbelievably damaging, irrational, self-defeating post-war behaviour has been a gift to the hacks.”

    Any examples of this ‘brazen, unbelievably damaging, irrational, self-defeating’ beaviour?

    • http://thecarthaginiansolution.wordpress.com Mango

      From such a target-rich environment, in no particular order, here’s a few to get started with. You can add your own.

      – Breaking promises made to India & US, without whose help, the LTTE could not’ve been crushed,
      – National anthem debacle (deliberate),
      – Still keeping terror suspects in indefinite detention, when they should be either charged or freed,
      – creating a dynastic kleptocracy.
      – LLRC recommendations being kicked into the long grass..

    • Candidly

      Anuruddha Tilakasiri asked:

      “Has there been a verified case of a Western journalist being bribed by the LTTE to report favourably on the struggle? A lot of them are sympathetic to the cause and because the witty epigram went, “You cannot hope to bribe or twist, thank God! the British journalist. But, seeing what the man will do unburied, there’s no occasion to.”

      First of all the word “unburied” above should be “unbribed”. The couplet is intended to express the view that British journalists are so lacking in morality that there is no need to bribe them, for they will write propaganda and falsehoods for many other reasons.

      What drives journalists is not money but fame and reputation, getting a scoop, or an exclusive story. The bribery is a reputational one, not a financial one. The best example of this in the context of the war in Sri Lanka was the UK Sunday Times journalist Marie Colvin who risked her life, almost literally, in the hope of getting an exclusive interview with the Tamil Tiger military leader Velupillai Prabhakaran in 2001.

      She didn’t get her interview, but did lose an eye when trying to cross back into government controlled territory, for she had previously failed to get permission to travel to the north. She’s seems to have blamed the Sri Lankan government for the loss of her eye, rather than her own reckless, attention seeking behaviour. Thereafter Marie Colvin cultivated the appearance of a one-eyed pirate and took to posing for photographs wearing a black eye-patch rather than the usual unnoticeable glass eye worn by others, for example Sri Lanka’s former president Chandrika Kumaratunga.

      Colvin’s contacts with the Tamil Tigers over the years resulted in her being drawn in as a go-between in certain discussions alleged to have taken place to allow some of the Tigers’ leaders to surrender in the last days of the Tigers’ rule in northern Sri Lanka. Her account of those events is memorable not least for her description of the Sri Lankan administration as a “Buddhist government”! Marie Colvin was known for her disdain for facts and accuracy. The main thing, for her, was to get a live story and hit the headlines. However, this time she was reluctant to get involved, not least because she was an American citizen in contact with an organization designated as terrorists by the US government.

      Marie Colvin died in somewhat murky circumstances in Homs, Syria, early last year. She was American, by the way, not British, but she had lived in the UK for many years.

      • Candidly

        Second to last line should read:
        “Marie Colvin died in somewhat murky circumstances in Homs, Syria early in 2012.”

      • jansee

        Candidly:

        “for they will write propaganda and falsehoods for many other reasons”

        SL has one of the worst record on press and journalistic freedom. Like ghosts many of them just simply disappeared in thin air. It is a well-acknowledged fact that the remaining mainstream newsmedia are just mouth-pieces for the regime. So, what they write is just propaganda. With such a critical and pathetic record, would it be not proper to pt our house in order instead of pointing fingers at others? Just how many cases of missing or murdered journalists has this regime solved? What happened to the murder case of Lasantha Wickramatunga?

        “What drives journalists is not money but fame and reputation, getting a scoop, or an exclusive story.”

        Does laptops and loans figure in this equation?

        “Thereafter Marie Colvin cultivated the appearance of a one-eyed pirate and took to posing for photographs wearing a black eye-patch rather than the usual unnoticeable glass eye worn by others, for example Sri Lanka’s former president Chandrika Kumaratunga”

        Does it really matter how he appearance ought to be? I hope you do wear traditional Sinhala attire wherever you go, to the workplace or otherwise. as it now appears that others have to mind how and what you wear. Your remark is not only petty but stooping so low does not really bode well.

        She did not die in “murky” conditions. She died in a Syrian rocket attack

        • real justice

          Sri Lanka will be counting the dead for several decades to come. There are mass graves from North to South, East to West!!!

          Recent unearthed one being one at Matale. In the Vanni, East and the North there is plenty of unmarked graves and plenty of “living corpses”!!!

          Shame for country which constantly boasts of Budhism!!!

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