15 August, 2020

Blog

On ‘Reading’ A Picture

By Charles Ponnuthurai Sarvan

Prof. Charles Sarvan

“The saying that a picture is worth a thousand words refers to the notion that a complex idea can be conveyed with just a single picture.” This particular picture appeared in ‘Colombo Telegraph’ on 12 Feb. 2019; I shared my reaction privately with some of my contacts including, as a courtesy, Colombo Telegraph Editor who suggested that I rework the material with the possibility of it being uploaded. Unsatisfactory health has hindered an earlier response. In philosophy, an ‘essential’ is a quality that something must have for it to be what it is while an ‘accidental’ is one that it happens to have but could lack. In what follows, that the men in uniform are Sinhalese and the prisoners Tamil is accidental. In other words, what I attempt here is a modest, general investigation and reflection.

Looking at the picture (rather than cursorily glancing at it) what draws immediate attention is the young woman or girl because (a) she happens to be almost at the centre of the picture and (b) is the only female. The naked man on the right seems to stare at her with concern, apparently resigned to his nakedness, and indifferent to the fact that a soldier behind him is, presumably, tightening the rope that binds him. Did he know her? Was she a much-loved relation? The nine prisoners, all stripped to their underwear (the one on the extreme right is naked) hands tied behind their back, three of them knee-deep in muddy water, have their attention focused on something to their left. At whom or what are they staring? What comes their way? The boy on the female’s immediate right stares in the opposite direction. The prisoner standing, his nakedness edited by Colombo Telegraph to preserve a modicum of decency, seems to be more concerned about the female than with his own “shameless” condition. 

In the foreground of the picture are the nine males and one female; the middle ground of the picture has two soldiers and the naked man. A somewhat portly soldier bends over the young woman, preparing to lift her up. Her face is devoid of all feeling, expression or reaction: a mixture of extreme exhaustion and resignation? Indeed, her left foot is slightly raised as if to help in standing up. Why was she singled out? What was done to her? What she endured is not to be contemplated: torture, gang-rape and murder? De profundis clamavi (Psalm 130: “Out of the depths have I cried unto thee”) but her cry probably only fuelled further sadism and triumphant jeers.

The background of soldiers fully clothed and armed provides a contrast to the prisoners’ nakedness. The soldiers are relaxed: what’s being done, and is about to be done, is nothing exceptional. What’s calamity and death to the prisoners is a casual matter to them. The second soldier in the middle-ground seems to ask his comrade-in-arms: “Need any help in lifting her up?” My wife wondered about the person we don’t see: the photographer. What was his motive in taking this picture? Was it deep compassion and high moral condemnation or congratulation, as proud hunters record themselves with their trophy? “See what we’ve done! Aren’t we great?” Louder, the applause!

Moving now to more general considerations, if prisoners are going to be killed why are they, not infrequently, stripped naked? Why humiliate those whom you are anyway about to “eliminate”? Neither space nor my competence enable me to be comprehensive but I offer a few possible explanations. Enforced nakedness brings home to the prisoner his or her utter helplessness; his or her total vulnerability. It removes any thought of resistance or even of escape. On the other hand, it gives the captors a sense of their god-like power. Lord Acton (1834-1902) wrote that power tends to corrupt and absolute power corrupts absolutely: in this picture we have a visual illustration of that truth. Reflecting further, I was reminded of Franz Stangl, commandant of the Nazi extermination camps at Treblinka and Sobibor. Note: unlike concentration camps where inmates were forced to work until they could no more, Stangl was in charge of camps established for the express purpose of extermination. At war’s end, he fled to Brazil, was brought back to what was then West Germany; tried, sentenced and died in prison. When asked why humiliation and cruelty were heaped upon those who were soon going to be killed, Stangl’s answer was on the lines of so as to make it possible, psychologically and emotionally, for the soldiers to do what they did: Gitta Sereny, ‘Into that Darkness: An Examination of Conscience’, Vintage Books Edition, 1983, p.101. Here and elsewhere, I draw on my review of a very perceptive and powerful work, Worse Than War, by Daniel Goldhagen, Professor of Political Science for many years at the University of Harvard. The review is included in my Public Writings on Sri Lanka, Volume 2. War is terrible but more horrible is what Goldhagen terms “eliminationism” and its eliminationist policies and actions.

Stangl’s reply shows, among other things, how we degrade our fellow human beings and then use that degraded condition to justify degrading treatment: see, at random, the plight of “natives” under imperialism, of slaves, of the so-called “coolies” on estates and the so-called Untouchables in their hovels. Effect or result is used to justify cause, the treatment meted out. While pedagogues, journalists and even artists are no different from the illiterate and the lowest in society when it comes to eliminationism (Goldhagen), soldiers, the paramilitary and policemen play a major role. They inhabit a brutalizing and brutalized world, and constitute “pre-existing institutions of violence”. They are either “the lead killing institution or in a critical support role” (Goldhagen). I would draw the attention of readers to Achilles in Vietnam: Combat Trauma and the Undoing of Character by Jonathan Shay. Readers will recall that Homer’s Achilles was prone to anger, and when angry, pitiless and destructive: the word “berserk” comes to mind. Truly, it’s the “undoing” of a character. Sometimes our hate is so strong and intense that not even the death of the other can quieten and quench it. Achilles tied the slain body of Hector to his chariot and dragged it round and round the walls of Troy to the deep distress of Hector’s parents and wife; family, comrades and friends. In Sri Lanka, after the final battle with the Tamil Tigers, “desecrated” bodies were found: those, particularly those of females, with objects thrust into their private parts. 

Soldiers disregard the laws of war when their officers signal that it’s alright; and the officers do so because those still more senior support them, tacitly if not overtly. And the highest ranks permit, if not order or encourage, such behaviour because they know politicians will approve and reward. Those in uniform are the creation and creatures of society. They act with brutality because they know they have the support of the majority of their people, and that “their” state will protect them from investigation and justice. Under an electoral system (unlike in a dictatorship), final responsibility lies with society and the state. (I admit: not all electoral systems are democratic in the true sense of the word.) Returning to Stangl’s explanation, we cannot recognise the other as fully human like us and then proceed to subordinate her or him. No, the humanity of the other must first be destroyed for non-human treatment to follow. (A student of mine once questioned the word “inhumane” because it suggests that humans are humane.) 

Generally, language reflects reality: signifier and the signified. For example, the existence of that pachyderm has led in English to the word “elephant”: But language can also create reality; more precisely, create our perceptions, attitudes and conduct. So while it is a sin and a crime to kill “fellow human beings”, it is admirable and meritorious to slaughter “the enemy”. Dehumanisation not only permits but encourages dehumanising treatment. Perception is paramount. I have suggested to students that while we see through our eyes, we “see” with our minds. The man who would risk his own life by jumping into the water to save an infant or child whom he doesn’t remotely know is capable, under different circumstances, of hacking that same baby or child or throwing it into the fire: as riots and pogroms prove. I repeat: perception is paramount, and the latter depends not on the eyes so much as on the mind. Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein, UN High Commissioner for Human Rights wondered: What kind of hatred could make a man stab a baby crying out for his mother’s milk, and for the mother to witness this murder while she is being gang-raped by security forces? (See, Tom Fletcher, Prospect Magazine, 23 July 2018.) We humans are indeed a strange, contradictory species. Karl Marx once commented, if this is Marxism, then I’m not a Marxist. Similarly, one can imagine the Buddha sadly saying, if this is what has been made of Buddhism, then I’m not a Buddhist – and so too with Christ and Christianity, with the Hindu gods and Hinduism, the Prophet Mohammed and Islam.

South African Bloke Modisane published his autobiography in 1963 titled Blame Me on History. There’s something fundamentally flawed in the human makeup: can we shift responsibility and say, “Blame us on (evolutionary) biology”? Robert Sapolsky is an internationally known Professor of Neurobiology, and here I turn to his Behave: The Biology of Humans at Our Best and Worst. We don’t hate violence per se but only what we consider to be the wrong kind of violence by the wrong sort of people. Though we are not aware of it, our conversations are filled with military metaphors (Sapolsky). We are “hardwired” (innately predisposed) to violence. I am an ignoramus when it comes to science but have long seen that thoughts are the products of the brain – and the brain is a physical organism. We are an aggressive species, given both to defensive and offensive aggression. “The amygdala is the archetypal limbic structure, sitting under the cortex in the temporal lobe. It is central to mediating aggression” (Sapolsky, page 31).

Returning to the picture, before subordination; before we degrade and eliminate, there must be division: the separation between “Us” and “Them”. While “we” are made up of unique individuals, “they” are a homogeneous, unchanging group. “Our brains form Us/Them dichotomies with stunning speed” (Sapolsky, page 388). This has been demonstrated by the well-known Implicit Association Test. (For IAT, see the Internet as a starting point.) But this excluding dichotomy is not fixed and permanent. If creatures from outer space were to attack Planet Earth, then all of us (including Sri Lanka’s present divisions and groups) would immediately become “Us”. Not so long ago, Jews were seen as non-European, as Asian. The Nazi general Walter von Reichenau in his notorious ‘Severity Order’ to the Sixth Army, declared the Jews to be sub-humans; an Asiatic danger to Aryans and so to be exterminated – women and children not exempted. Now occasionally I note that Israeli individuals or teams participate in some European competitions. “They” have succeeded in metamorphosing themselves into “Us”, and it’s the Palestinians who remain “They”.

Sapolsky admits that he tends to pessimism but, on the positive side states that genes aren’t about inevitabilities but about potentials and vulnerabilities. They don’t determine anything on their own. Perhaps, this where our (evolutionary and biological) nature can be influenced by nurture; by culture, in the general sense of the term, including moral upbringing? The frontiers of exploration are not only in faraway space but also with and within us.

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Latest comments

  • 20
    0

    Yes, indeed a picture speaks 1000 words. They may whitewash mass graves, demolish cemeteries of the dead/fallen, refurbish burned library, those bearing testimony to the genocidal war may pass away with time…in short, they can try to erase our memory of violence perpetrated on the Tamils and their struggle but it would be hard to erase everything. These pictures convey more than just pain to us.

    • 14
      1

      The woman in the picture is being groped by the soldier whose hand is on her breast under the guise of helping her..

      US citizen Gotabaya Jarapassa had command responsibility for these war crimes, and he is under US jurisdiction so why has he not being tried in his homeland Trumpland?

      Because the biggest violator of Human Rights the world over and biggest sellar of weapons and the worlds biggest arms dealer — from Venezuvela to Yemen- is USA

      • 3
        7

        Don Stanley, you seem to be an expert in the art of groping young women.

        • 3
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          Edwin Rodrigo,
          .
          nothing else but you seems to be more interest in such pervert acts ? Hahha..
          I thought you are under control over your hormone mirror. Please come with constructive comments Mr. You had been a good comment poster, until sometime back now.

          By the way, what you think about the Saudi’s and the acts of their MBS ? The most powerful killer of that part of the world. I happened to follow the Jamal Khashogis murder lately. Performance of the murders is akin to that of lanken RUGBY player’s whose murders seen returned to discourse these days.
          :
          Would you have been silent, if one of your grown-up children got killed the way Thadjudeen fated it within colombo city limits ? Please tell us by your words, how would you react – as an Engineer, a wealthy man from Mathugama? I wonder myself, why Muslim community back in my home country stay as if they have powerless not going on protest asking BUT justice on the misterious murder.
          The killed was not subjected to dismmemberment but but body parts such as some valuble bones had been found later in SAITEM labs ? A broad day HEINOUS crime of this nature, – had become their daily routine.
          I am in fifties, but If one of my BELOVED nephews would have been murdered by Rajapakshes, I would have gone that far even sacrificing my life. Meaning that much of fury and helplessness would have fallen on me. But MUSLIM community in CLMBO stay as if they have permanently been fed with KIRIMATI (kirimati gilapu kimbullu waage). Just add your valueble thoughts on this Mr. Thanks

          • 4
            0

            Prof. Charles Sarvan in his own way has attempted to put words into a photograph of a group of humans who know their end is near. A commendable effort.

            We should have the courage to face this head-on without taking refuge in “Ranaweeru/war-heroes” crap or whitewashing the LTTE violence and unspeakable atrocities.

            These photographs and many other photographs of atrocities of both sides should be house in a museum that all Lankan citizens can visit and observe as a deterrent ……….. for history to not repeat itself.

            People can visit many holocaust museums and gas-chambers in Germany and East European countries to witness the utter brutality of war. ………. They are open about it.

          • 2
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            Buramphisincho, Saudi Arabia is changing for the better rapidly under the guidance of Prince Salman. Khassogi very stupidly crossed a line that should not have been crossed, when he criticized the royal family members and he got what he deserved.
            .
            There is no doubt that Thajudeen was murdered in a most brutal way. My heart laments whenever I think of that. Whatever happens and however suitable a Rajapaksa contestant may be, I will never ever vote for one as long as I live because of that.
            .
            Photo: One of the problems that programmers of driverless vehicles have not solved yet to a sufficient extent is what humans do with ease every day. Say you are driving down a narrow street crowded with pedestrians, cyclists and pavement shops. An accomplished driver is capable of predicting how a cyclist ahead of him would behave and be ready to take evasive action. The software of a driverless vehicle does not have such a capability – still.
            .
            Why I am saying this is because our brains are very good at analyzing visual information such as in the above picture and come to some conclusion. The problem is that our thinking processes are colored by our racial, religious and other convictions. When scrutinizing the above photo some people see a groping, some a helping hand and some even a rape that has occurred. It is difficult to come to any objective conclusions about what actually happened here. Would a legitimate court find the soldier to be guilty of rape on the basis of this picture? The answer is NO!
            .
            What the author has done is to throw a big, juicy chunk of meat at a dog pack and the dogs are fighting over it.

            • 0
              0

              Thank you: Edwin, for some reasons, both these murders make me very upset even if I am not related to them. I DONT NEED TO COLLECT VISA me as a EU citizen but I can imagine, how one would react in such embassies while trying to pick up the visa. We then had problems with UK embassay, it ws during my studies long back though. Even if you would be living in Europe, as SL citizen to get visa to UK was not that easy in late 90ties.
              :
              Lanken murder of this young boy sounds even brutal than that premedidated misterious murder of Jamal Khashoggi i would say. As I am reviewing all the bits about the Jamal_s murders, I myself felt, I was in a horror film. The kind of brutalities to be part of those killers and us to hear them today, how brutal the human beings to go for such murders ?
              If the driverless car accident had been their device to have killed that Rugby player, there should have been a proper plan of plot accident. I think if the victimized family would have been more powerful, this investigations would not bury under the carpet as seen today. How cruel, on the other hand, the man, as the father of the alleged criminals to cover the murder, yet today, as if nothing was happened. The torments that the mother of the dead, should be exposed. I have no doubt, if my mother would have faced such human losses, she would never have been that silent.
              I have never seen any of the interviews, the family gives regarding the loss of their brother from that family. They should be living in colombo ? I think it is high time to break their LONG silence and fight for THE JUSTICE.

              Authorities should dig all the information and collect the bits as much as they can to see how and what kind of hatreds being between the Rajakshe sons and the murdered boy can reveal a lot.
              :

        • 0
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          And also an expert in talking to himself. See below.

      • 2
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        Dead on Don. The UNHRC ritual-farce in Geneva against the Sri Lanka Govt. by P3 (USA, UK, France) , Endgame is NOT justice for Tamils but setting up a US military base in Trincomalee. Diaspora Tamils must open their eyes to the US UK Human Rights games. Especially now that the UN’s highest court, the International Court of Justice has ruled against the notorious US-UK military Base Diego Garcia on Chagos Islands in the Indian Ocean. and there is an on-going US Cold War against China in the Indian Ocean
        The other endgame is the next generation of Indian Ocean Grabbing treaties and technologies so that France and EU continue over-fishing in the billion dollar Indian Ocean resources and destroy fish stock and endanger livelihoods of poor communities in Indian Ocean countries, while pushing the Washington Convention CITES – Convention on Trade in Endangered Species to distract everyone from the main problem – that fishing trawlers from Europe are over fishing the IO and should be BANNED from the IO.

    • 16
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      Prof. Charles Sarvan

      “The background of soldiers fully clothed and armed provides a contrast to the prisoners’ nakedness. “

      Actually the dry run took place in April 1971.

      Here is poem dedicated to Vithiya Sivaloganadan in particular and women in general including rape survivors:

      Today Vithiya Sivaloganadan: Who’s next?

      First they raped Manamperi
      And buried her body alive
      I did not speak
      Because there was an insurrection

      Then they came for women in Kahawatte
      I did not speak
      Because I was not from Kahawatte

      Then they came for women in Nuriwatte
      I did not speak
      Because I did not live in Nuriwatta

      Then, they came for Women in the North
      I did not speak, because
      Krishanthi Kumaraswami, Koneshwari, Isaipriya
      They were not my sisters

      Then they came for women with a different skin colour
      Eight men gang-raped Victoria Alexandra
      I did not speak
      Because she was just a foreigner

      Then they gruesomely gang-raped Rita John
      Stabbed her body fifteen times
      Left her murdered body on the Modera Beach
      I did not speak
      Because she was an Indian
      She was asking for trouble
      By walking on the beach
      with her jewellery in the evening

      Then they gang raped a woman in Wijerama
      I did not speak
      Because she was just a prostitute

      Then they raped hundreds of virgins
      And celebrated with champagne
      in Akuressa and Monaragala
      I did not speak
      Because I was too scared of politicians

      Then they raped Logarani
      Threw her naked body into a sacred temple
      Then they gang raped Saranya Selvarasa
      I did not speak

      Finally they raped
      Vithiya Sivaloganadan
      I did not speak
      Because she is Tamil
      She lived on a small island in Kayts

      By Shamila Daluwatte

      http://www.dailymirror.lk/73401/recognising-
      factors-behind-the-jaffna-hartal

      • 6
        0

        NV, thanks for the link.
        .
        There’s much more of interest there, and the poem laid out in clearly separated stanzas.

    • 2
      0

      Dear CT@
      .
      I have been collecting some info regarding BRUTAL KILLING OF LANKEN RUGBY PLAYER, by name Thadjudeen Wassim.
      :
      However, you had brought few articles on the brutal killings. Most of them in the past on your forum have now been sealed off, so that we the VIEWERs cant add our comments further… why is that ?
      :
      Please check it for your ref.
      https://www.colombotelegraph.com/index.php/thajudeen-murder-case-upfa-wants-country-to-return-to-lawlessness-ahrc/comment-page-1/#comments

      Please LET US KNOW IF YOUR MEDIA INSTITUTION IS UNDER THREAT OF RAJAPAKSHE family on this particular issue ?

      Thank you.

  • 2
    3

    The P3 – US, UK France, UNHRC ritual farce on Sri Lanka’s Endgame is a US military base in Trincomalee, and France and EU continue over-fishing in the Indian Ocean and destroying fish stock and endanger fish species and livelihoods of poor communities in Indian Ocean countries, while pushing the Washington Convention CITES – Convention on Trade in Endangered Species to distract everyone from the main problem – that fishing trawlers from Europe are over fishing the IO.

    France and EU trawlers should be banned from Indian Ocean and CITES scrapped.

  • 16
    0

    Can anyone hear Lord Buddha weeping?
    I hear it!

    • 1
      1

      Don’t get lord Buddha in to this.
      Pirabaharan didn’t follow Buddha’s teachings and created misery to many thousands.

  • 14
    0

    Appreciate this piece for dissecting the psychology behind this painful image. It is different from the usual exercise of finding an escape-goat to blame it on. Holocaust did not happen simply because of Hitler. It was possible because of anti-Semitism, dehumanising the ‘other’, and by the active/passive participation of the people. Likewise, it is the dehumanising of the ‘other’ that allowed for such treatment and genocide of Tamils to occur, along with impunity granted by the Sinhala Buddhist state and anti-Tamil sentiments perpetuated among the masses.

  • 11
    0

    Perhaps of relevance…
    You could see many here justifying the execution of surrendered in the white flag incident, suggesting that they deserved it simply because of their association to the LTTE, some even going to the extent of saying why they have not consumed cyanide, playing the god-like figure of who gets to live. This is the same logic that criminalised the entire population that lived under the LTTE administration, justifying their starvation, bombardment, and subsequent internment. The ‘terrorist’ discourse was handy to help dehumanise the subjects, justify the acts perpetrated on them as if they had moral authority, and criminalise certain political expressions.

  • 9
    1

    The picture shows clearly an army man putting his hand (Palm) on the breast of the helpless victim- perhaps perversion in action.
    This reminds me of how Prema Manamperi was to made to walk naked by the army after her capture.during the JVP insurrection in the south..

  • 10
    0

    Their is a silver lining Professor. Charles Sarvan. More and more Lankans are skeptical of the claim that GoSL soldiers carried a booklet on Human Rights. More believe that the photos of a child, given some tidbits and then shot dead, were not morphed.
    .
    ‘Reconciliation’ is yet again being portrayed as treacherous and unpatriotic.
    Will SLPP succeed in washing the silver cloud?

  • 6
    0

    In Colombo Telegraph of 18. 5. 2014 under the title “new pictures of Isaipriya alive emerge” we could see a photo of above girl sitting with Isaipriya after their capture and in another dead bodies of both side by side, with the same clothes over their top.

  • 4
    15

    I have seen this image several times in the past few years.
    Has anybody wondered whether the female had her clothes on.
    Her bare left thigh is visible.
    There is a small white cloth on placed on her lap and a shawl draped over her (most probably bare) upper body.
    The soldier need not be groping. He may have covered her a while before the picture was taken.
    Not only ‘(t)he boy on the female’s immediate right stares in the opposite direction’. There are two others looking in directions different from the rest.
    Sarvan is perhaps reading a little too much meaning into details I fear.

    • 12
      0

      SJ

      Watch your back in case if you happen to pass by their camps. You would not know what the perverts might do to you.

      Did those Gota’s goons capture some of the captives without clothes, stark naked, or strip them to break their confidence and humiliate them for being in the wrong place at the wrong time?

      Only the sadistists could ever derive erotic pleasure out of humiliating the weaker members of the society, in this case the captives.

      I suggest you wear the old Chastity belt when you pass by an army contingent.

      • 1
        4

        Ever considered the possibility of a suicide bomber being among this crowd and what a risk these troops taking on their lives even undressing them with out shooting them first?
        All this assuming that these are SL soldiers and LTTE captives because none of the soldiers are wearing any insignia to identify them as SL army Soldiers.
        With out a proper meta data analysis a photograph can say 1000 stories not 1000 words.

    • 2
      0

      I have seen this image several times in the past few years…..were you masturbating …while watching

      • 2
        0

        Rajash

        Did you aim your comment at Jim Softy?

        • 1
          2

          yes …of course….

          • 1
            1

            R:
            “yes …of course….”
            Yes of course, you are pathetic!

      • 4
        1

        R
        One always sees a part of one’s self in others.
        One’s works often are mirrors of one’s self.

  • 10
    0

    There is a purpose as to why we take births in this world. It appears that Sri Lanka Military Force has forgotten to realize that these souls have a right to live on this earth which was created by God for humans to live and let others live. This is what Lord Buddha also asserted. Merely carrying the pinnacle does not mean that these souls (innocent or not) do not have a right to live. What happened to those guidelines that are to be followed by the Sri Lanka Military Forces. Merely asserting lies at the UNHC at Geneva that these soldiers and the Sinhalese politicians would attain enlightenment. Mahinda Rajapakse went further to pay homage to Lord Venkadalasabathy. But I think Lord Venkadalasabathy has turned deaf ear and that is one reason why Rajapakse was defeated and demand for justice at Geneva has cropped up. There is a limit to fool everyone. The essence of religion (be they Buddhism, Hinduism, Islam, Christianity, etc) was not realized by any one in Sri Lanka. They are only committing sins after sins.

  • 10
    0

    I cant see any of the Sri Lankan soldiers holding the Human Rights Charter

  • 11
    1

    Dear Prof. Sarvan,
    .
    We’ve been missing you for a long time. Thanks for yet another remarkable piece of writing to make our people think. I know that your age and health are such that these articles are not easy to write.
    .
    As K. Pillai says all these efforts, of so many people, are beginning to have an effect. The mess in the South of the country is so great that our people are beginning to realise that change must come. The problem is: whom can we turn to?

    • 5
      1

      Dear Sinhala_Man

      Thanks for your comment.
      “change must come”
      We Tamils are waiting for this change from 1948. Tried ahimsa method. Tried arm struggle (I am not part of that). Now we have turned to international community. Hope they will fix it. We cant rely on Sinhalese (there are exceptions like you) to fix this.

    • 4
      0

      “whom can we turn to?”
      We Tamils are relying on the international community and the Sinhalese like you and people who run CT
      The Sri Lankan state has been organized as a centralized and unitary political system ever since the administrative model was established by the British in 1833. This disregarded the boundaries between the traditional homelands of mainly two nations: Tamils to the north and east, Sinhalese in the central parts, south and western coast. From the early 20th century the Sinhala political leadership pursued the development of a Sinhala Buddhist nation-state consolidating power and unifying the Sinhala speakers. Over the course of post-independence several processes were coordinated by the state which effectively targeted Tamils. Briskly after independence constitutional legislations were employed as an ingenious means to legalize collective oppression of Tamils. Barely a year after independence, the infamous citizenship Act of 1949 was passed, which disfranchised over a million hill-country Tamils. They were Tamils of Indian ancestry who had been brought in a century earlier as indentured laborers by the colonial regime to establish the economic backbone of the island. The Official Language Act of 1956 was another discriminatory law which ensured collective marginalization of Tamil speakers by establishing Sinhala as the sole official language. Apart from discriminatory legal measures that affected the Tamil speaking people in the fields of education, employment, land ownership, religious beliefs, as well as cultural life, the Prevention of Terrorism Act (PTA) of 1979 legalized the unlawful detention of Tamils by empowering the security forces to detain anyone without trial and retain in incommunicado up to 18 months under the suspicion of “unlawful activity”.
      Govt should stop this structural genocide https://sangam.org/wp-content/uploads/2019/03/structural-genocide-continues-in-sri-lanka.pdf

      • 4
        1

        I know that we bear a good deal of the responsibility. But I don’t know what I can do!
        .
        I agree that you have to get the International Community to work on this. If we can’t trust our own Sinhalese politicians who dominate both government and opposition, how can you?
        .
        Thanks for not turning violent, despite all the provocation. Violence helps nobody.

  • 4
    0

    It is because of horrible pictures like this that there must be accountability, and investigations, to find out where these people are, and what really happened here.
    War brings out savagery in human beings, and you would expect those wearing the country’s uniform to behavior with more restraint and decency, at least more than the other side. Some of those in the picture, including the only female, looks like children.
    We know what happened to Prabakaran’s son, and it was totally unnecessary and brutal, so we can only image how “compassionately” these soldiers would have been to these prisoners. The end was ugly, and today many people are still looking for loved ones. How many of these kids were kidnapped and constricted? They should have been taken prisoner, and processed. This is Sri Lanka’s unresolved shame.

  • 5
    0

    Very, very powerful image. Does the International Communities need any more evidence to enforce UNHCR compliance? Whatever happened to these human beings? May be they have met the same fate as Jews in Auschwitz.

  • 0
    1

    This comment was removed by a moderator because it didn’t abide by our Comment policy.For more detail see our Comment policy https://www.colombotelegraph.com/index.php/comments-policy-2

  • 5
    2

    A note to the author: Sir, Who are you and where have you been?
    I am relatively new to this platform and am absolutely shaken by the material you put before us to ponder. Truthfully, made me run before a mirror and take a good look at myself! Such is the realism of your essay.

    A note to the Editors of Colombo Telegraph: Ladies and gentlemen, you are providing a valuable service to humanity by providing a platform to air our views and grievances. I would urge you to welcome and give more print space to articles of this nature who present material that inspires critical thinking with a take home message – not rambling diarrhea of words lacking in substance with unfounded and unsubstantiated “facts”.

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      Charles Sarvan, in his eighties is a Professor of English. Married to a German, lives in Germany.
      .
      I studied for some years in the same school that he, too attended for a few years -many years before me. I haven’t met him, but we have exchanged a few e-mails. Yes, a wonderful human being. This is a “recent” article:
      .
      http://www.island.lk/index.php?page_cat=article-details&page=article-details&code_title=174369
      .
      And this another, much earlier:
      .
      http://www.stcg62group.org/PDF/Articles/44_Recollections_of_STCG_by_Charles.pdf
      .
      You can navigate within the website, but you’ll have to learn how. Well obviously!

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      you have called yourself correctly.
      The middle name I suppose is dumb! because you have jumped in to conclusions without proper examination or study the case in detail.
      Situations can be recreated and photographs made to suit one needs and then they can be analysed to portray the massage one need to send across and that need not necessarily be the truth.

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    This picture depicts the nakedness of Lanka as a country. A true stinking shit hole. As long this picture is in circulation, the world will be reminded of the nakedness of Lankans and their crooked politicians. The people who try to give excuses and justify are the real perpetrators. A picture to put in the covers of Lankan tourism promoting magazines.

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    Nice to hear from you Prof; Sarwan, after quite awhile.

    There is a phrase, A Picture is worth a Thousand words;
    The Chinese have the Proverb: One picture is worth ten thousand words:

    For those in this picture, who were caught on camera,captured by the Army, their subsequent ordeal cannot be described in pictures or words.
    Our Native above has improvised Pastor Niemollers famous quote during the Nazi regime in World War 2, to suit our local conditions.Most appropriate!

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      Plato

      I don’t want to be accused of plagiarism.
      The poem was written by Shamila Daluwatte and published in

      http://www.dailymirror.lk/73401/recognising-
      factors-behind-the-jaffna-hartal

      Sorry for the confusion.

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    This comment was removed by a moderator because it didn’t abide by our Comment policy.For more detail see our Comment policy https://www.colombotelegraph.com/index.php/comments-policy-2

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    I thank readers for drawing attention to significant details I have missed.
    Yes, the young woman seems to have been naked and a cloth has been placed on her lap, perhaps just for the photograph.

    But I was attempting to use this particular picture ONLY to share some thoughts on human (not Sri Lankan) nature and behaviour in general.

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      Sarvan
      Thanks very much.
      Not only the white cloth, the shawl too.
      The point that I made was that you could have extrapolated less in reading the picture.

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      This comment was removed by a moderator because it didn’t abide by our Comment policy.For more detail see our Comment policy https://www.colombotelegraph.com/index.php/comments-policy-2

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    By the way according to the self claimed experts here in CT, this is how we were 2500 years ago (The Great Lankan Civilization/ culture) and we have not changed even in 2019.

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    Proff,

    In Sri Lanka, after the final battle with the Tamil Tigers, “desecrated” bodies were found: those, particularly those of females, with objects thrust into their private parts.

    *** This is where I fell out with Sharmini ( when she said evidence could have been cleansed) for which the Moderator edited me out.

    Soldiers disregard the laws of war if not order or encourage, such behaviour because they know politicians will approve and reward. Those in uniform are the creation and creatures of society.

    *** The pictures dont tell a Thousand Words but tells us about the Genetic Make up of Sinkalams. . It tells us Tamils that the Sinkalams are half Animal and half humans. Amidst all this there is the Country which is united ( RW & Mangala ) behind MR & Gotha to hide the truth with Indias help . India managed to fend off UNHCR assault by buying another 2 years on the understanding that RW who India hopes will be victorius at the next election. That is where the story ends. With a 22 million racist electorate and based on a race card MR will sweep the board posing a direct challenge to India. India will be left with no alternative but to go into action which will spell disater for Sinhala Lanka. For Sri Lanka it is “DO” or DIE

    Sapolsky admits that he tends to pessimism but, on the positive side states that genes aren’t about inevitabilities but about potentials and vulnerabilities. They don’t determine anything on their own. Perhaps, this where our (evolutionary and biological) nature can be influenced by nurture; by culture, in the general sense of the term, including moral upbringing? The frontiers of exploration are not only in faraway space but also with and within us.

    *** I will question the above . Genes are about CERTAINTY ( traits passed on from Father & Mother with Dominant Gene taking charge ) and not about Potentials and Vulnerabilities which are Characteristics developed when brouht into this Corrupt World with conditioned reflex.

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      Dear Kali,
      .
      The Rajapaksas will not be allowed to “sweep the polls” by guys like me.
      .
      Please study the system of voting and see for yourself that you can express a FIRST, SECOND, and THIRD Preference. Since you say that you are a Tamil (how sad to be writing so crudely, but nobody will bother to read if I beat about the bush), you may wish to vote for a Tamil candidate. Give him Number 1, but for Number 2, may I suggest Nagananda Kodituwakku. He has vowed to eliminate corruption, so presumably, he will have no time to embrace racism!
      .
      I can’t tell anybody how to vote, but I have spelt out in detail certain guidelines here:
      .
      https://www.colombotelegraph.com/index.php/defiant-nagananda-to-represent-himself/comment-page-1/#comment-2259453
      .

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        Sinhala Man,

        I think your memory is very short. At the last local elections MR had a lanslide . Sadly in Sinhala Lnaka if you play your cards( I mean Race Card) right you will sweep the board. History speaks for itself. I like the word ” Guys like me” you are in a minority.

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          Dear kali,
          .
          I agree that we should not over-estimate the extent to which our voters will think before they vote. See what I have said: I don’t expect a miracle. I know that the ultimate winner next time will come from either the UNP camp or from the Rajapaksas.
          .
          But let’s get our message across to every Sri Lankan when they are anxiously waiting for the results after voting at the PE – or even not voting. If we force a count of the Preferences for the winner to be even a Rajapaksa, the country will realise that strategic voting is a possibility.
          .
          The politicians tell so many lies and mislead. Let us not do that. However, we can give slightly different, but not dishonest, advice to the CT reader, and to the numerous guys (at least twenty will ask me the genuine question) who have no time to study the situation regarding how to vote. Let us respect them for all the humdrum work that they do.
          .
          To you, I say, vote Number 1 for Nagananda, 2 for any other candidate, and 3 for the UNP guy, if your desire is to keep the Rajapaksas out. On the other hand, there are many Sinhalese who will always vote for the SLFP (or those who they think represent the SWRD B legacy). I’ll ask them to vote Number 3 for the Rajapaksa candidate – and perhaps go so far as to tell them that the last thing that I myself want to see is Rajapaksas returning.
          .
          The country is fed up with all politicians. What choice did the people have at the Local Elections? Many Sinhalese fear the JVP because of their 1989 doings. How could anyone have respect for a UNP that has been unable to come up with a leader different from Ranil for twenty-five years? I hope that Nagananda himself sees that I say that if he manages two lakhs of voters, and all “other candidates” another half million, we’d have done enough.
          .
          I don’t mind being forgotten by the world a month after I die.

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            My Friend Sinhala Man I live in hope . Punishment must meet the Crime. I hope there is life after death. Good luck

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    Here we have the picture and Charles analysis. Also we have a statement allegedly penned by our great MR him self to current Government about rejecting all Geneva proposals. Now these simple questions are for Rajapaksa followers to ponder (that is if you care). Do anyone think Lanka could have achieved the same results with much less casualty and losses. This probably would have seen MR still being in power without any Geneva investigations to answer. Any war between government and rebels will end in casualties which the world in general, is well aware and willing to accept as collateral. Remember Lanka did have the international support in fighting this war. Any country or organization would have accepted the casualties of LTTE and its leader alone. So what went wrong and WHY???? Obviously the results are far and beyond damaging than the real goal. So the question is the goals of Rajapaksas and the military are same or different ???/

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    Isn`t the above picture enlarged and hung at the UN premises in Geneva, permanently as evidence of ZERO

    casualties expounded by a great living Buddhist Hero and his brother, a US Citizen, here?

    What happened to those “posing” live in this picture will ever be know but published faithfully every

    year since May 2009.

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    Part 2 :(for Rajapaksas followers). A case was already in place, fool proof for government, There was 30 years conflicts with three major battles in record, India legitimizing by its own participation, by then LTTE was proscribed as a terrorist outfit and all MR had to do was win the war by taking out LTTE and its leader.But Rajapaksas had their own plans (just like JR in his own words decided to give extra day for the mobs in 1984 pogrom). They decided to do it their way by going after the community, murdering innocent victims, bombarding public places,schools,hospitals and no fire zones, murdering the surrendered, causing maximum damage just not by sheer number of human losses but to economy,culture and future generations, creating prison camps, denying medicines and medical relief to the injured, denying food,shelter and basic needs to the affected community establishing a military rule —-etc. It was systematized and planned in advance. Their past records of murdering activist, journalist and anyone who dissent, goes with their criminality. Every human has a weakness and for Rajapaksas it is their arrogance and ego .That is what made them to claim a justifiable war as humanitarian rescue operation with ZERO casualty. If nothing else could do, this sure helped the world to wake up from its slumber.

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    I had looked at this image to this fine essay by Prof:Sarvan,again and again.
    Most probably the girl must have been raped ,and then placed in the midst of the boys who are looking away to their left.
    Possibly another victim is being raped, in that direction!.
    This is the new definition for War-heroes!

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    Looking at this picture I can remember how some Sinhalese labourers working in a drainage in the East were killed by LTTE. Their hands were tied & shot dead. Likewise we can remember 1000 of such pictures / scenes. One can even write 100 000 words remembering their loved ones. Tamils can’t understand how much hate, enmity they have sowed among other ethnic people. One can forgive them but nobody will forget what they did. People will reap what they sow.

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      L
      Can you produce some matching images please.
      The East is replete with narratives of mass killings by the armed forces.
      The LTTE and EPRLF killed Muslims and there were reprisals.
      Many bad things happened.
      The big mass killing of Sinhalese by the LTTE was that of policemen who had surrendered.
      *
      This picture goes beyond just murder.
      The image that came to my mind was that of a Tamil man stripped naked and young thugs dancing around the humiliated man in July 1983.

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        SJ

        I don’t collect this kind of pictures or has no intention to analyze them or to write 1000 words about each picture but you can get them easily in SL from news paper publishers or Police or from journalists. After that you can compare which one is more brutal than the other or can arrange a photo exhibition in Geneeva.

        ” This picture goes beyond just murder”

        Where were you when LTTE forcibly recruiting children as child soldiers. Living in luxury in a Western country? Had any thought who are sacrificing lives for your eelam dream? If Rajapakshas not end the war people are still dying. You people made Hell here for all of us. Don’t Tamils live better now because war is ended?

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          L
          I do not collect either, but I do not make empty claims.
          Can you produce any credible evidence of matching evil conduct.
          If Tamils felt better, after the war there would have been be no demand for an international inquiry. UNP MP Vjayakala would not have made that silly statement calling for the return of the LTTE.
          If you are seriously interested, try talking to a few Tamils in the North and East.

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    Latha thanks for identifying your self as one of the perpetrators. As long people like you are around I am sure we will continue seeing these pictures again and again.

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    SJ.
    You are right on this; But of-course you are left!
    The 600odd Policeman who had surrendered to the LTTE IN 1990, on the advice of the Govt:of the day were massacred on the orders of Karuna-The LTTE leader in the East at that time.He went on to be deputy Minister later on!

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    Quote: “Sinhalese labourers working in a drainage in the East were killed by LTTE. Their hands were tied & shot dead. Likewise we can remember 1000 of such pictures / scenes.”

    Time and time again I read such ‘justifications’ but in as much as two wrongs don’t make a right, one cruelty doesn’t cancel out another.

    No, the world is then left with two cruelties and all the more a sad and ugly place.

    Pentheus (Latin: Sad)

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