6 June, 2023


Lord Naseby’s Number Game – II

By Karikalan S. Navaratnam

Karikalan S. Navaratnam

[Continued from 12 Dec. 2017]

Facts are stubborn things, but statistics are pliable.” ― Mark Twain

Lord Nasby had relied on UTHR (J) Reports as one of his source materials in support of his ‘guesstimate’ on civilian casualties in the war. Apparently, he had selectively ignored such information as would debunk his own figures ,found in the same Reports. It is, therefore, apt to peruse the relevant portions.

Destructive phase

The war reached its more destructive phase, in January 2009. Government gave monstrously low figures on the number of people marooned in the NFZ. It was a deliberate distortion and the UTHR(J) reveals the atrocious purpose behind: “…There was no consistency or any genuine information behind the Government’s figures. These were just pulled out of the hat, and on the basis of these food and medicines to the IDPs were curtailed to ridiculously low quantities, irregularly delivered, causing starvation and extreme hardship…….. In a more sinister vein, by deliberately understating the IDP numbers the Government was preparing for the eventuality where it could dismiss any later suggestion of high civilian casualties by pointing out that, according to its statistics, the dead person s never existed. It was as though they had been disappeared on paper in preparation for their extinction by cannon fire……” (UTHR (J), Special Report No.34, 13 Dec. 2009 – vide 5.1. “Strategic Numbers” )


“The Government had in a way turned the discourse to suit its aims, where the international agencies, if they wanted to avoid confrontation that would be fatal to their operations, were best advised to moderate their figures……..

“There had in fact been well above 250 000 in the NFZ, taking into account the 37 000 in IDP camps in early March and 290 000 on 25th May. How much more, is a question we need to answer as part of determining how many died in a straightforward manner?………. We were ourselves guilty of understatements and mix ups, the sum of which allowed the Government to manipulate the discourse”. ( UTHR (J), No.34, ibid – vide 5.7 )


Whereas, in an effort to reach some realistic figure, the UTHR(J) had proceeded to compare and contrast the different counts, Lord Naseby had misconstrued their reckoning. Suffice to say that different figures showed up, ranging from 6,400 (till March) to 40,000. Relevant excerpts may be elucidative: “…….The community leader gave us …… that a minimum of 6400 civilians were killed up to the end of March. (*The UN briefing referred to above suggests 4800.) What we gathered is that we must be prepared for much higher casualty figures than are commonly talked about. (Emphasis added)

*What is the veracity of the UN briefing? It was not briefing, but UN bluffing ! ( as exemplified below )

“ 5.2. Quantifying the Suffering ”

“………. The surest way to find out how many died…… is to compare the number of those who arrived in IDP camps with an authoritative estimate of the original Vanni population. The best figure we have for the latter is about 365, 000 given by government administrators in the Vanni…..”.

………Another important figure is the 330 000 given for the number of people on the run by a Senior Government Official (SGO). The gap between this figure and those eventually in IDP camps is more than 40 000. As to whether these give an indication of the total dead requires careful consideration. ……….”

“5.4. OCHA (UN) figures”

“OCHA gave figures of the dead as nearly 3000 from January 20th to March 8th. But the figures bear closer examination.”

“5.5. Other Estimates”

“……… a lady doctor in the LTTE’s Medical Corps, who had a lot of field experience during this period gave her estimate of the total dead as 35 000 to 37 000. Her breakdown was January to March 10 000, April 10 000 and May 15 000.”

“We find her estimate for April to be high….., but her other estimates are quite plausible, especially the one for May.” ( UTHR (J), No.34, ibid- vide 5.2, 5.4 & 5.5).

These were estimates thrown up hot on the heels of the endgame in May 2009 or shortly thereafter. Sober reflection – scrutiny after the dust had settled – had produced different, and in essence, more realistic numbers, ranging from 70,000 to 147,000. There is a rationale behind each of these estimates and each has its evidentiary basis.

UN withheld information

Though the UN Office in Colombo had information on the number of war casualties during the last phase of the war, they had either cunningly or under coercion from the government withheld the information from other UN agencies, the media and the public. The UNSG (PoE) Report was presented to the UN Security Council on 11 April 2011. A fortnight later, the Inner City Press confronted Ban-Ki-moon:

“………. Inner City Press asked Ban two questions about the report. Among his answers on Sri Lanka, Ban implicitly acknowledged the report’s charge that the UN withheld casualty figures during the conflict. Asked to “respond to the criticisms in the report that the UN failed in those last months to do what it could to help protect civilians, including keeping statistics of the actual casualty figures back,” Ban said that the Sri Lankan authorities said that they couldn’t guarantee the safety of UN staff….So, allowing the Rajapaksas to in essence point a gun at UN staff, Ban’s UN withheld the facts about how many civilians were being killed….” (Inner City Press, 26 April 2011).

Attacks targeting NFZ & hospitals

Eminent Toronto Star Columnist Rosie Dimanno, visiting Sri Lanka, reflected on the UNSG (PoE) Report, and particularly on the casualty figures: “The UN has now acknowledged that it withheld releasing the more accurate numbers……..while the death toll rose to at least 70,000 within a mere five months. The report tacitly accepts the 70,000 figure, and a further 146,000 estimated missing. Church leaders who stayed behind, working from census statistics for the area, have calculated the deaths at nearly 147,000……..

“….(T)he UN …… had abandoned the Vanni region as the war escalated, and purposely avoided revealing casualty figures collated by its staff in Colombo. Even when issuing the woefully minimized numbers, it deliberately omitted mentioning what it incontrovertibly knew: the majority of civilian casualties were caused by Sri Lanka’s military forces, primarily inside government-declared safe zones, as well as attacks against hospitals. But the UN cast blame solely on the Tigers.” (Toronto Star, 04 Nov. 2013 –“How the UN failed Sri Lanka”)

How to fudge the figures?

How to fudge the casualty figures without adverse fallout? This was the most difficult conundrum for the government. They counted, recounted and counted again in the face of international reproach:

In Feb. 2012, the government fixed a figure of 7,000 casualties:

“Sri Lanka government publishes war death toll statistics” “Sri Lankan government statistics put the death toll in the north of the country during the final phase of the war at 9,000……More than 7,000 of the deaths appear to be directly related to the military battle three years ago. (BBC News, 24 Feb.2012 )

In Jan.2013, Lord Naseby defends Sri Lanka’s 7,000 against UNSG (PoE) figure of 40,000 (House of Lords Hansard – Vol. 742. 8 Jan. 2013).

In Nov.2013, the Sri Lanka starts counting the casualties again: “Sri Lanka to Start Tally of Civil War Dead”

“The government of Sri Lanka announced plans this week to conduct a nationwide census ……‘The death toll of civilians during the 30-year conflict has not been accurately assessed,’ a Nov. 26 government statement read. (Time magazine, 28 Nov. 2013,)

In the latest episode on 12 Oct.2017, Lord Naseby appears in the House of Lords, with a revised narrative, suggesting 7,000 to 8,000 war casualties, and putting forth amended/additional pleas, addressed to the British Government, UN and UNHRC.

*To be continued…..

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Latest comments

  • 4

    Thanks again Karikalan. Keep going.

  • 3

    Though Lord Neseby is irrelevant to the facts and figures of civilian war casualties as he was repaying gratitude to the former Sri Lankan publicity campaign the figures found in the District Registers of Kilinochchi and Mullaitivu is more official and later found to be the truth.
    300,00 surrendered and 146,000 killed within few days. The president Mahinda Rajapakse stuck to his claim of “zero” civilian casualty. The government wanted to hide the conduct of their operations and the dead bodies as there was a moratorium on the local and international media except their own controlled media.
    It was later explained by the spokesmen of UN Panel of Experts that they used scientific methods to estimate the casualty figures. It was stratified sampling on satellite pictures of the affected zone and 70,000 was the lowest and not the average figure as it wanted to maintain its credibility. If the government wanted to know the actual figures it would have cooperated then with the panel. If the present regime is interested in reconciliation they can call local and international experts on scientific estimation and establish the facts. If all that they got is the habitual liar they no one will ever know the truth.

    • 2


      This is an internal matter and can and should be dealt within the country.
      Since we have plenty of smart ass patriots, clever dicks, wise-asses …………………… smarty-pants, …. the war crimes investigation goes on.

      Many Sinhala/Buddhists smartly believe if the matter is dragged on it will bound to disappear as an important issue.

      Well it won’t happen.

    • 1


      Zero civilian casualty is the believable figure but militants in civil attire may make it maximum 7000. Accept it without bursting with hatred.

      • 2

        Real fool

        How will you account for the children,elderly and the disabled killed ? Stop your propaganda coming out of your arse. I lost 20 of my own family members who were not combatants. Should you wish I am brave enough to reveal my identity to the war crimes tribunal.

        • 0


          Hold both parties responsible for deaths (who’re not combatants) in cross fire, that’s the legitimate/reasonable way,

        • 0

          pirabakaran- velupillai
          “Stop your propaganda coming out of your arse.”

          Better to Remain Silent and Be Thought a Fool than to Speak and Remove All Doubt.

          Abraham Lincoln?
          Mark Twain?
          Biblical Proverb?
          Maurice Switzer?
          Arthur Burns?
          John Maynard Keynes?

      • 0

        Real Fake Revolutionist

        Did the armed forces give good acid bath to the rest of the civilians. Perhaps incinerated in some underground Gas chambers.

        Only Dr Gota (DSc) and his fellow war criminals would know.

        Were you in the army, spitting and polishing Svendra Silva’s dirty boots?

  • 2

    The government (Sirisena, Marapone and Mangala) in thanking the lord Nasty have accepted the figure of 7000. Why not hold an impartial inquiry with foreign participation and clear the matter up? Sri Lankan law requires all deaths of Sri Lankans to be inquired into and causes found. Why does the President not comply with the law if he knows as lord nasty does that 7000 Sri Lankans were killed. The criminal procedure laws require that the government records how they met their ends. Sirisena, who sent a letter of thanks to lord nasty needs to do this.

  • 0

    It does not matter whether the number killed is 7,000 or 70,000 thousand. Precious lives were lost by the indiscriminate bombing by the armed forces. The Defence Ministry purposely hid the real number of those found in the war zone, as claimed; the Defence Ministry deliberately understated the number to starve the people. The TRO has to bribe the army to allow more provisions to the besieged people. President Sirisena was acting Minister of Defence for two weeks prior to May 19, 2009. These two weeks so large scale slaughter by the air force bombing. It is a disgrace he writes to Lord Naseby for doctoring the casualty figures. Even if the number is as low as 7,000 it is still a war crime. No wonder he doesn’t want to place any member of the armed forces to sit on the electric chair.

  • 0

    Whether the number is 7,70, 700, 7000, 0r 70,000 it is the act of the Mahinda & Gota company to be questioned. Is there a single sinhalese in Sri lanka who who could openly condemn the indiscriminate killings as genocide and against Buddha’s damma ( if it is in existance in Sri Lanka). It is a disgrace for Maithiri mahatya to rush to thank the Lord Naseby for his effort to safe Sri Lanka from the UN clutch. You will be caught. no lords can safe Sri lanka. Send a letter of request to Buddha.


    • 1


      I am not from the language Police, trying to police your writing. But if your writing is anything to go by, you don’t sound very educated. You sound like a typical Tamil fool whose opinion counts to nothing. How can you send letters to Buddha? Or you joking or what? Do you also send letters to Santa Clause? LOL!

      Don’t you think LTTE was part of the Genocide? LOL! Don’t you think LTTE’s act of hiding behind civilians caused the indiscriminate bombing? Or are you conveniently being oblivious to that?

      BTW, according to Tamil fools, 70000,0000,0000 civilians died at the hands of the Army. You forgot a few zeros at the end. LOL!

      • 0

        It is said that language is the vehicle used for expression of ideas.This was what Gen.Denzil Kobbekaduwe impressed upon us students when he taught English and coached Rugby at “the best school of all” when he was under interdiction for a short period during the UNP regime in the 60s until he was reinstated by the Sirima government. If that is the yardstick regarding usage of language, Vijay’s comments and the ideas he wished to convey should be taken in the correct spirit. The comments made by Lt. Shamal Perera leaves a bad taste and is proof that the good General Kobbekaduwe was the last in the line of Officer and Gentleman category in the Srilankan Army.

        Coming back to Vijay’s comment, there is no doubt that the Srilankan state is playing the numbers game, taking it’s case to the very high point of zero casualty and thereafter to “may be 10,000 to 12,000” and now stooping to the level of 7000 provided by Lord Naseby. That the prevarication and falsification of numbers has not succeeded in fooling anyone is evident by the timely statement released by the British High Commission recently that numbers should not take away the focus from war crimes and that even a single death is a tragedy while anything more is statistics that ought to be investigated into. Lord Naseby is one of those who are in the pay roll of the Srilankan state dating from 1996 being part of the Srilankan caucus of MPs in the British Parliament. In the year 2005 Srilanka bestowed on him the highest honour of Srilanka Shiromani or some such thing that could be given to a foreigner in the service(sic) to the nation. The stark truth therefore is that Lord Naseby is singing for his supper and will not be taken seriously except of course by the Grama sevaka and his ilk ruling the country and who seem to have been enthralled by Lord Naseby’s antics.

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