By Malinda Seneviratne –
They say that if you give some people enough rope they will hang themselves with it. On March 19, 2012, in Geneva, no one needed give any rope to several individuals who came to talk about ‘Rule of law and human rights violations in Sri Lanka’. They came with enough rope and a scaffolding to boot, so to speak.
The event was one of the many side-shows at the 19th Sessions of the UN Human Rights Council. It was ‘show’ alright and began before it all began. Fahrah Mihler, who I have met just a couple of times and who, courtesy a mutual friend, invited me for dinner in Geneva during the Govt-LTTE talks in Celigny, 2006, came and said hello. She said she had watched me debate Callum Macrae (Channel 4) and Bob Templer (International Crisis Group) on the Sri Lankan conflict in an event hosted by the Asia Society in New York in December 2011 (I participated via skype).
I said ‘they were spouting a lot of bullshit’.
Farah agrees: ‘I know! In fact I was in my mind thinking out the responses you should make.’
So Farah agrees that what Macrae and Templer said was bullshit. And what did they say? Macrae regurgitated Channel 4 lies (agreed upon, I should add) and Templer spat out stuff that Channel 4 and the Darusman Panel had stuffed down his gullible (I am being generous here) throat. In short, taking as fact the claims made by unreliable witnesses, believing exaggerations, having no regard for the principles of proportionality and showing rank ignorance of or showing no respect whatsoever to that little uncomfortable thing called ‘context’. Farah knows context.
Then came the next show which was a no-show. The moderator announced that the much anticipated screening of Channel 4’s latest ‘production’ on Sri Lanka was not going to happen. Now that ‘new’ film was nothing more than a re-hash of the earlier ‘documentary’ called ‘Killing Fields’ whose toilet-wash worth was more than revealed in ‘Lies Agreed Upon’, where Channel 4’s collusion with the LTTE rump and its long history of glorifying terrorism was laid out without frill or clever juxtaposition and splice. Perhaps the organizers knew that there were people in the audience who knew better than to believe anything anyone says and had evidence in hand to counter all the claims made in that second film including the stories of the tall-story spinners showcased.
Then came Farah’s main show, which began with another classic disclaimer. Ms. I Agree That Channel 4 Is Spouting Rubbish says ‘I am not against Sri Lanka’. What was coming was apparent. There was a ‘but’ to come of course, but not before it made me think that it’s like a sodomiser telling intended victim ‘this is good for you..enjoy!’
‘We are supporting the US Resolution on Sri Lanka’ she said, not surprisingly; the apologies, caveats, shy-making twisting, turning and squirming fooling few.
Representing Minority Rights Group, London, Farah did the now boring tokenism number, glossing over LTTE atrocities. This fluent operator was slick enough to toss out numbers tossed out before in the lie-construction industry, but as a doctoral student she slipped because she showed she had never heard the words reliability. If one were to believe her argument, then we wouldn’t have seen people walking out of the No-Fire Zone (rendered a joke by the LTTE moving heavy weapons into the area and firing on the Government troops from there and then shooting to kill civilians held hostage as they sought to flee); no, we would have seen ghosts or skeletons. She’s such a meticulous researcher that she missed the endorsements and words of praise accorded to the Government by the ICRC and top UN officials (Ch 4, by the way, continues to treat as biblical truth the opinions of disgraced UN officials, most of them clearly sympathetic to the LTTE and having axes to grind on account of preferred outcome not materializing).
Farah’s presentation seeks to give some ‘first hand’ evidence. When the frills are taken out, however, it’s all hearsay, littered with ‘I was told’, and nothing at all by way of numbers; just random statement that are not offered with even a semblance of substantiation. There was nothing to indicate anything systemic or policy-driven. If that’s being ‘academic’ then I seriously question the credentials of her supervisors, especially those who taught her research methodologies.
Here’s more context she missed:
Sri Lanka is emerging after a brutal war against terrorism. It is easy for a globe-trotting, neither-here-nor-there fly-by-night operator to pick and choose juicy bits that will titillate the ears of the uneducated and misinformed, but for us here in Sri Lanka, it makes absolutely no sense to defer in favour of sorry as opposed to safe. Considering the virulent hate-mongering of Farah’s think-alikes (namely the LTTE groups in the West), the delicate that is post-war Sri Lanka cannot be underestimated. Demilitarization is a process and the relevant time-table cannot be set by those who necessitated militarization and certainly not by their apologists. Like Farah.
She spoke of rape and vulnerabilities. She didn’t mention that soldiers found guilty of rape have been tried and punished (not whitewashed like Staff Sgt Robert Bales, who is not being media-pardoned on account of insanity). She fails to make the case that these alleged violations were systemic or widespread or of a magnitude that is above national average or at levels exceeding those in similar situations elsewhere in the world. She doesn’t say a word of the insecurities and vulnerabilities these very same women had to suffer at the hands of the LTTE. She knows, but will not admit, that life pre-Mat 2009 was hell. She expects Sri Lanka to move from hell to heaven in record time.
Here’s more context.
The United States, which tabled the resolution which she so ardently supports, walked into Iraq in search of non-existent weapons of mass destruction and is still there almost a decade after Saddam Hussein was overthrown. The USA overthrew the Taliban years ago and is still discharging hell-bombs. Sri Lanka is targetted though. ‘For her own good,’ she reminds us.
Farah was followed by Anna Van Gall of the European Centre for Constitutional and Human Rights, Berlin. Anna talked about gender-based violence. Anna probably has no idea of geography for had she even the slightest clue, she’d be camped out in places like Saudi Arabia instead of going for easy pickings. Unlike Farah, she can be excused for she has no idea what Sri Lanka is about, the status of women, the problems of women, what’s being done and what needs to be done. It’s the same song: nothing is perfect is Sri Lanka so everything must be wrong.
Theodor Rothgeber of the Forum for Human Rights, Geneva, was a treat. The man said that he himself could not have come up with as ‘soft’ a resolution as the one the USA came up with. Again, his annoyance is sourced to unreliable and corrupt ‘evidence’ trotted out by the likes of Colin Macrae and Bob Templer, the people who Farah agreed ‘talk rubbish’. The man needs to do some reading about the history of resolutions, country-specific and otherwise, find out who has vetoed what, voted against what/whom, and how ‘softer’ resolutions and indeed no-resolutions led to monumental crimes against humanity.
Now all three panelists and the moderator kept talking about their ‘colleague’ Sandya Ekneligoda’s presentation, but she was saved for the last. There was a reason, which I will come to; just wanted to flag that.
Next came Ms. Giyoun Kim of the Asian Forum of Human Rights, Bangkok. Poor lady. She let her colleagues down badly and I am convinced that this is because she was honest. Naïve yes, but honest. She admitted that she was brought along for the show in order to indicate to the world that it was not a ‘West’ thing. Poor thing, she didn’t realize that she had been tagged to give a ‘global’ look to a Western project, just like South Indian forums in the West always have a token Pakistani, Sri Lankan or Bangladeshe (key word: ‘or’) amidst a host of Indian, just to make it look non-Indian.
More interestingly (and hilariously too), she found herself ‘getting emotional’ as she begged (yes!) Sri Lankans in the audience not to ‘attack’ her beautiful/wonderful partners in the human rights advocacy racket in Sri Lanka. She named them: Paikiasothy Saravanamuttu, Sunila Abeysekera and Nimalka Fernando. The little girl didn’t know that all of them have been amply exposed as frauds. Giyoun can be forgiven for ignorance but Farah cannot be, especially since the entire panel was so infuriatingly self-righteous from beginning to end.
After the event, Giyoun was duly informed about the antics of these people, but she refused to believe they were anything less than angels. I will come to that later.
Sandya Ekneligoda was introduced and re-introduced as the wife of Prageeth Ekneligoda (a ‘journalist’ who has disappeared). No one, including Sandya, mentioned that Ekneligoda had once self-disappeared himself. No one mentioned the fact that Ekneligoda was not a journalist or that his ‘journalism’ was limited to the occasional cartoon and a lot of irresponsible, unsubstantiated and tasteless fantasies that bordered on cheap pornography. No one seemed to have read the excellent undressing of what could be called the ‘Ekneligoda Saga’ by Uvindu Kurukulasuriya. Now I’ve written about the incident and the debate and I shall not repeat it all here (‘On Ekneligoda, in spite of Ekneligoda and his pals’ in the Daily News of March 1, 2010: where I touched upon the issue and noted, inter alia, the following:
‘What is interesting in this missive is that Ekneligoda deems it necessary to fall on his knees and worship, again and again, a man called Sunanda Deshapriya, a charlatan of the first order who made bucks out of activism and stole bucks from the Centre for Policy Alternatives and dares not step into Sri Lanka for fear of arrest for perpetrating numerous acts of fraud. Sunanda is Ekneligoda’s hero. Need I say more?’
That man Sunanda! Sunanda Deshapriya sneaked into the discussion at the tail end. ‘The translator is here, the translator is here!’ the moderator was clearly excited. Yes, he was to translate Sandya. The moderator might not have known, but Farah could not have not known what Sunanda has been up to. Had it been Farah who moderated and had she had any integrity, she might have said ‘the translator-crook is here, the translator-crook is here’. Sunanda’s love for the LTTE aside (the LTTE killed his driver, but he never once pointed a finger at Prabhakaran) his stubborn refusal to subject himself to the accountability doctrine he so vociferously espouses (he robbed money from Saravanamuttu’s organization and the lovely man Sara, Giyoun should know, cited ‘lack of clarity’ when Sunanda was hoofed out) has been amply exposed by Uvindu Kurukulasuriya; Sunanda Saga, States Of Denial And NGO Accountability and How Sunanda Robbed The Money And NGO Accountability- FMM Still Not Submitted Audited Accounts For Rs 30.9 Million .There’s more to come, I hear.
Interestingly, Sunanda’s dollar greed and dollar theft has been facilitated by the International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) and its big names including Jacqueline Park. The IFJ is frequently cited as an authoritative source about media rights in Sri Lanka. Sunanda’s ‘Journalists for Democracy’ (JFD) has apparently submitted ‘evidence’ (doctored, it has been proven) to Channel 4. And who endorses this evidence, but another JFD stalward, Rohitha Bashana ‘who is said to have edited dedunna (Rainbow). And who showcases Rohitha Bashana? Channel 4! The ‘evidence’ of a terrorist is aired to the world as though it’s the word of some pious priest of unblemished virtue.
So Sunanda got late. Why? The man had gone with camera in hand to photograph a demonstration against the US Resolution. The police were informed that his presence, with camera, was an act of provocation. I wouldn’t disagree, knowing his links with the LTTE. He was duly taken away for questioning and got late. Hence the delay in getting Sandya to speak.
Sandya told her story. The jist: my husband disappeared and if I, a Sinhalese can’t find him, what more of Tamils who have loved ones that have gone missing? Valid point, but an incomplete story. It took 2 years for a suspect associated with the attempt to assassinate the Defence Secretary was found, just to keep perspective. Those who disappeared in the middle of a brutal war will take finding. Some may have died in combat, some may have fled. Names and numbers are needed and exercises to this end are rubbished as though the rubbishers could do a better job themselves, which is what rubbish really is. Channel 4, for example, neatly clouds the source of some numbers trotted out (Official Census of 1981!), for if they didn’t do that they would have to count ‘in’ those who fled the North and East (to the Western Province, USA, Canada, Europe, Australia and India in the main).
Much needs to be done, no doubt, but as I have said before, just as much as Sri Lanka is no Paradise on Earth, neither is it the Hell on Earth that the likes of malicious and self-promoting individuals who lack integrity (Farah, for example) make it out to be.
I feel for Giyoun, who was almost in tears. I feel for her because I think she was the only honest person on the panel. She does not know (and can be pardoned for not knowing) that Sunila’s commitment to preventing gender-based violence was amply demonstrated when a close political associate beat his wife regularly. The wife had told Sunila and she had asked her to ‘be patient’. Anna Van Gill would be appalled to know. There are police records of complaints, I hear. As for Giyoun’s darling Nimalka, the lady’s venom against Sri Lanka is well recorded, bending backwards to a) legitimate the LTTE and b) get the Government to stop the military offensive, not to mention a concerted vilification campaign all over the world.
None of these three people would get more than a handful of votes in an election. They are not under any threat. No one needs to vilify them. They do a good job of it themselves. Most importantly, Saravanamuttu and Sunanda, both of who write regularly to newspapers (freely and without holding back punches) have never once responded to cogent critiques of positions taken and, more importantly, substantiated charges of wrong doing, including hanky-panky with finances. Giyoun can google, I am sure.
The entire panel was bombarded with charges of duplicity and double standards. Farah and others were forced to say that they would not hesitate to take issue with human rights violations by the USA. Just two hours before this event there was another on human rights violations in Afghanistan (the panel included a Human Rights Watch representative and a UN official) where the blatant and horrific crimes against humanity perpetrated by the USA were pussy-footed around. None of the panelists were seen there. On the following day there was a similar discussion on Iraq where the Amnesty International representative beat a hasty retreat, fleeing when questioned about double standards. None of the panelists were seen at either event. So much for across-the-board concern for human rights.
Farah said that if Sri Lanka or anyone else brings a resolution against the USA, she would support it. She said ‘the resolution has been brought by the USA, yes, but 53 countries get to vote’, in a sad exposing of rank ignorance about global political economy. This lady still believes that the UN is about one member, one vote!
Giyoun might learn and med her ways. Farah? I doubt it. She’s thick. She knows what rubbish is (she admitted) but has no qualms about dishing it out as delicacies. It all came out in Geneva. Unintentionally.