22 October, 2017

“Beyond A Reasonable Doubt” Vs “The Balance Of Probabilities”

By Emil van der Poorten –

Emil van der Poorten

It seems like what used to be the yardsticks in allocating guilt in criminal and civil law respectively have now begun to play an increasingly important part in general public discourse with, it seems, an increasingly polarized Sri Lankan public choosing to use one or the other of those yardsticks as is convenient to them at any given point.

What has lent a significant element of irrationality to the use of the two terms has been the dearth of hard information in the public domain due to the deliberate suppression of information that might not project the Rajapaksa Regime as being one of absolute perfection.  This has been achieved by two primary means: literally buying over the media or inveigling the decision-makers in that sector into unquestioning allegiance by threat or bribe.

There appear now to be two streams of public expression – the “bought and paid for press” and the elements under threat, on one hand and the “underground” media, “underground” for Sri Lanka, that is. Typically, the government has sought, with varying degrees of success, to block the latter which the public hitherto had free access to via the internet.  Typically, the suppression of normal avenues of discussion and debate has led to information, sometimes wildly speculative and often times deliberately mischievous, reaching not only epidemic proportions but achieving  a degree of hitherto-unprecedented credibility.  To someone of my vintage, this comes as no surprise.  In the days of Sirimavo Bandaranaike’s efforts to crush dissent of any and every description during the first JVP uprising of the very early ‘seventies,’ something very similar occurred and the wildest of wild rumours achieved gospel-like credibility, bolstered by occurrences unheard of before then such as the disposal of piles of bodies under burning motor vehicle tyres.  There was then also, for a time, the blocking of “trunk telephone calls” and the impact of this could be imagined in a day and age when a call to anyone outside a radius of a few miles had to go through an operator.  For instance if I needed to call anyone outside the immediate Galagedera area, I had to call the “Kandy Exchange” and (hopefully!) have the operator connect me with whoever I was trying to reach.  The modern equivalent of this was the attempt made to register every mobile phone to facilitate the easier interception of people’s private telephonic communications.  I will desist from naming the individual who succeeded in having this done for the reason that it would be redundant!

Anyway, back to what happens, particularly, in rural Sri Lanka.

For a time now, my friends in the village keep informing me from time to time that there are individuals from “security organizations” lurking in mufti (“civil-pita”) at places that people tend to gather and chat while awaiting such as a bus.  Apparently, it is very important to the security of one’s person that no anti-government sentiments be expressed at such places for the very good reason that people who have made that mistake have disappeared, never to be seen again.  Of course, if one chooses to seek verification of this information, the teller of the tale takes offence at his/her honesty being questioned and in the interests of maintaining an acquaintanceship or friendship, the attempt to verify the story is dropped!

One individual, during the time that General Sarath Fonseka was running for President, told my better half and me that SF had been assassinated.  Now, the person telling this story which could be (and was) exploded in very short order could not but have known that the truth would out soon.  However, it seems to have been symptomatic of that time and the current one that melodramatic tales of that hue will be peddled around and achieve credibility of a long- or short-term nature depending on the verifiability of the content or even the lack thereof!

In the long run, those who are, no matter how indirectly, responsible for the emergence of this level of “information” and its dissemination are at serious risk of being victims of the negative fall-out from it whether or not it is accepted or exploded by the public at large because the overall climate of fear generated does serious damage to the emotional and mental well-being of the citizenry at large and ultimately, by some process of osmosis, leaves a significant residue of resentment against those directly responsible for the culture from which it emerges.

In evaluating the accuracy of word-of-mouth information dissemination, many would remember that old parlour game where you sat in a circle and one person passed on a story to his or her neighbor and the final story when recited by the last person to receive the narrative bore little or no resemblance whatsoever to what began the process.!  That is precisely what happens in places like Sri Lanka where the state has effectively taken absolute control over information dissemination: the end result is never a glowing picture of what is in fact the case but something akin to a horror tale befitting a starring role for Boris Karloff!

Because of the polarization that is our Sri Lankan “reality,” the final opinion is rationalized by the application of either of the yardsticks of jurisprudence – “beyond a reasonable doubt” or “the balance of probabilities.”  Given the fact that all the facts of any case are no longer in the public domain, the Hobson’s Choice is “the balance of probabilities” and this becomes, for very obvious reasons, completely subjective in nature where the prevailing culture says “you are either for us or against us!”  Consider the fact that, more than incrementally, Muthubanda or Siyane Hamine or Selvamani are being subjected to astronomical increases in the prices of the necessities of life while those dishing out all the euphoric “good news” are, literally, riding around in air-conditioned comfort in upscale automobiles and it doesn’t take an Einstein to realize in which direction most people’s judgements are going to veer!

As they used to say, “As you sow, so shall you reap” and, considering what is being sown increasingly thickly in this country, retribution might well be in store for the perpetrators before too long.  This might not be a revolutionary process but it is beginning to seem like a (swiftly-accelerating) evolutionary one if any of the recent acts of resistance by the general public are to be viewed in anything resembling an objective manner!

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Latest comments

  • 0
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    There is no doubt on the Genocide and War Crime

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      How good if Tamil genocide were true!

      Then we don’t have to put up with 3,000,000 Tamils still living in SL.

      • 1
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        Hi Animal

        Fat ” Mama” Fuk U Shima

        Sinhabahu or (“Lion-arms”), was the son of a Vanga princess and a lion. He killed his father and became king of Vanga. His son Vijaya would emigrate to Lanka and become the progenitor of the Sinhala people.

        It took 89,000 Tamil war widows (and still continuing) but NO Tamil Elam in sight!

        How beautiful
        Dr Dayan Jayatilleka, a leading Sri Lankan strategic analyst and a former ambassador, has warned that an Indian government led by Narendra Modi will not bring any relief to Sri Lanka as Modi will not only be tougher than the present administration but will also give Tamil Nadu Chief Minister J Jayalalithaa a great role in national affairs, including foreign policy.
        “There must be no illusions that our problems will cease or abate with a change of administration in Delhi. A Modi administration will be more robust and tough-minded in its reactions to perceived Chinese and Pakistani influence in India’s neighbourhood. It will regard China as more a rival than a mere competitor, especially in the South Asian region. A Modi administration will also have a far greater role for Jayalalithaa. Both these factors cannot but impact adversely on Sri Lanka,” Jayatilleka told Sunday Times.
        “In a speech, significantly enough in Tamil Nadu, the BJP’s Prime Ministerial candidate had called for a greater role in foreign policy to be given to India’s states. This is something that Sri Lanka will have to factor in and reckon with,” he said.
        “The Tamil diaspora is stronger and more in touch with TN than ever before, there is more anti-Lankan fanatical sentiment in TN than ever before, TN is more influential at the Centre (Delhi) than ever before and India is a closer strategic partner of the US than ever before. It is a great and complex challenge to Sri Lanka “
        “The volatility in the international arena around the Colombo CHOGM shows that the Sri Lankan state has lost the battle for international public opinion. We have almost lost our soft power, while Myanmar has regained hers!”

  • 0
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    The article is more of A wishful thinking on the part of the author. He as well as we know very well the SL sinhala buddhist haven’t got the gut to protest against any injustice what so ever.

  • 0
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    Great post Emil.

    I also have been away for a very long time from this country, since coming back and seeing the political issues going on here, is there really a rigging of the votes actually?? (from information I believe it is) but how can anyone prove it?? Are people in this country this disillusioned to not understand about why the country needs this amount of ministers, the amount of debt inherited from the present insane government?? Well.., actually I rather not ask any questions because I feel a little but dumber asking such stupid questions.. eg Sanath Jayasuriya deputy minister of postal services( seriously……. what the hell are these people doing????), Dumyia being some kind of hero in Kalinya.. etc. etc.. etc.. etc.. etc..

    Are the people of Sri Lanka this stupid to be proudly saying it to the big businesses that are landing on these shores.. They belive we are otherwise they would not be dealing with this Dictatorship government..

    Are we willing to die for the cause?? What ever that may be.. Better future for our children, blah, blah, blah.. I’m sick of listening to these fools about life…. Shoult just say “Great mate, glad to see you put a child out into the world.. You are fantastic and he or she will grow out to be just like you..” Praising to some God and to do the exact thing you done to them.. It’s just F***ing great..

    I believe that we can never blame other people because it is very very easy to do this.. “Hey man it’s that guys fault”.. Are we.. the free thinkers wiling to die for the cause?? The talking part of politics has disappeared from Sri Lanka a while back.. We can talk about Karuna being an MP, White vans, Government departments, the Raja brothers being absolute fools.. But who here is actual fools?? The MAJORITY OF SRI LANKANS.. It is very hard to understand what exactly is going on here because of the Sri Lankan “machan” culture.. Hope I get to understand very soon…..

  • 0
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    For anyone looking for classic symptoms of ‘paranoia’ here is one from above – “there are individuals from “security organizations” lurking in mufti (“civil-pita”) at places that people tend to gather and chat while awaiting such as a bus. ‘Apparently’, it is very important to the security of one’s person that no anti-government sentiments be expressed at such places for the very good reason that people who have made that mistake have disappeared, never to be seen again.”

    This is serious. This man needs treatment, not ridicule or scorn.

    He should be made to understand, at least, that he is not as important as he believes, for the government wanting to kill him. His near and dear (if there are any) should try to correct his delusional state of mind.

    As Buddhists we pity his plight. There is refuge in the Dhamma.

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      Rate Badu:
      Is yours yet another example of a total inability to comprehend simple, direct English, such nonsense parading as “analysis?”

      Another explanation might well be that it is simply a part of the deliberate “Koheda Yanney Malle Pol” responses intended to obscure simple recounting of fact.

      I now await the further outpourings of “comment” befitting the wards of a mental mental hospital from more of your tribe. A Sunday would be dull indeed without the literary fancies of these wannabe-Chomskys!

      • 0
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        Mr. EMIL VANDER POOTEN:

        Tell me, if you are honest to your heart and if you don’t harm any one on this earth , that includes even the animals on this earth, why should you be that scared ?

        Of course, you love your life and you want to live and you fear death as most Christians do….

        Try to under stand more Emil. There is far more than what you say AND WHAT YOU UNDERSTAND.

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          JimSofty:
          Could you please have someone translate what you have said into English so that I might attempt to respond to whatever it means?

      • 0
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        More than a Chomsky or whoever (who is Chomsky?), this man’s paranoia is similar to McCarthy’s delusion of seeing “reds under the beds”.

        In McCarthy’s case it was all a pretext for invading Vietnam and other Asian countries. The motive of this paid Canadian agent is to spread fear in the hope that people will start rioting.

        But he is dreaming, just like he did in Alberta in the early years of the Internet age, trying to form an electronic “forum”.

        He never addresses direct questions and chooses to abuse the questioner.

        The man is sick, and as someone had suggested he will rot in whereever he is hiding from the ghosts of his own creation!

  • 0
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    “Koheda Yanney Malle Pol” is a good heading for this article ..

    • 0
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      Goth-abhaya,

      Speak English man not Sinkalam from far away Detroit.

  • 0
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    Rate Badu:
    I would recommend anyone interested in an example of monumental (and abusive, lying stupidity)to get in touch with you (if you are able to come out from under the particular bed that your plummy-accented mentors provide you).
    Those whose bidding you now do are the DIRECT descendents of Tail Gunner Joe McCarthy, but you’d be too stupid to realise that fact since your handlers merely provide you with the material to stick in your “responses” without explaining their context.
    Remember, “paranoid cowards” are not those who hide behind pseudonyms.It is those for whom the unhyphenated name begins with “jack” and ends with “ass.”

  • 0
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    I see the yapping chorus have changed their names !

    Only JIM is so proud of his brilliance that ego stops him from changing ?

    Keep going Emil, the buffaloes will turn and stampede back over those they supported… in due course !

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    Oh I say Mr van der Poorten! You have stirred old memories with this one. Who remembers the Hendala pirate radio of the fifties? Myself, I have grim memories of playing chinese whispers on a curfew-darkened veranda one late May in 1958 and what started of as ‘Sinhalese getting stoned in Batty’ ended nine jokers later as ‘Wellawatte on fire’. Didn’t Uncle J tell us off for ‘tempting providence’. Recalling that sobering admonishment, how little did we realise what the future held.

    But as every one of our local politicians well knows, and works on, is that Sri Lanka, is blessed with a more than fair share of gormless gullibles yakkoos who will fall hook, line and sinker for that old ‘you’ve never been better off’ line that leaves them in a tropical stupor.

    Misinformation, Disinformation, Denial and Supposition; elements of the Sri Lankan stock in trade delivered with a coy wiggle of the noddle (that send foreigners weeping in disbelief).

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    “For a time now, my friends in the village keep informing me from time to time that there are individuals from “security organizations” lurking in mufti (“civil-pita”) at places that people tend to gather and chat while awaiting such as a bus.”

    In the big cities there is no “lurking”. They are your customers, your friends, your teachers, your students, your employees and the auto drivers at the junction etc etc. There is deep surveillance of the internet with Chinese compliments. All that goes online is clearly recorded. All identities very well known. Every post clearly identified and a profile of the posters ideology carefully generated.

    The blustering idiots are largely ignored or have shit dumped on their heads. The ones that cannot be figured out are the ones who are listened to for as long as it is convenient before the inevitable mishap occurs. There is a war going on out here and if you cannot take it then it is time to flee.

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