One common thread runs through the many different stories of denial: people, organizations or whole societies are presented with information that is too disturbing, threatening or anomalous to be fully absorbed or openly acknowledged. The information is therefore somehow represented, disavowed, pushed aside or reinterpreted. Or else the information ‘registers’ well enough, but its implications – cognitive, emotional or moral – are evaded, neutralized or rationalized away.
Consider these common expressions and phrases.
Turning a blind eye, Burying your head in the sand, She saw what she wanted, He only heard what she wanted to see, Ignorance is bliss, Living a lie, Conspiracy of silence, Economical with the truth, It’s got nothing to do with me, Don’t make waves, They were typical passive bystanders, There’s nothing I can do about it, Being like an ostrich, I can’t believe that this happening,I don’t want to know/hear/see any more,The whole society was in deep denial, It can’t happen to people like us, The plan called for maximum deniability, Averting your gaze, Wearing blinkers, He couldn’t take in the news, Wilful ignorance, She looked the other way, He didn’t admit it, even to himself, Don’t wash your dirty linen in public, It didn’t happen on my watch and I must have known all along.
The above common expressions and phrases are from “States of denial: Knowing about atrocities and suffering” by Stanley Cohen. Stanley Cohen is the Professor of Sociology at the London School of Economics and Political Science. Stanley Cohen says; Statements of denials are assertions that something did not happen, does not exist, is not true or is not known about. There are obviously many occasions on which individuals, organizations or governments are perfectly justified in claiming that an event did not happen at all, or not as it was alleged to have happened, or that it might have happened, but without their knowledge.
Now consider the following item;
“FMM has not made any statement that I have misappropriated any amount of money form the movement. FMM has not even asked me to explain any such misdeed. This is a allegation by some media. On the contrary I have worked voluntarily for years for the FMM and spend my own resources for its activities; On several occasions I have challenged any one to prove if I have taken a cent from FMM for my personal use. I am still an active member of the movement.” On February 9, 2012 Sunanda Deshapriya wrote in Groundviews website.
I posed a question under that asking “Sunanda, Can you explain why you were sacked by CPA? Sunanda has not answered yet.
On December 28, 2008, talking to Namini Wijedasa at Lakbima News, Sunanda cleverly misled the reading public. I would like you read it again.
What is your response to the allegation that you swindled money while you were attached to the Centre for Policy Alternatives?
I have already accepted that I spent some money without going through due process but it was done with the consent of the groups we were working with. Not a cent was taken for personal use. We used that money for some other activity we were doing. Even the person who exposed this story knew what was happening. He was part of it. We discussed it among ourselves.
What was that activity?
We used it to pay the airfare of an international expert. There is no allegation from CPA or from anyone at CPA that I had used this money personally.
Who is that expert?
I haven’t discussed this so far. I only want to say that we used the money for some other activity. There is still an investigation in progress by FMM.
Why did you not follow due process?
There was no other alternative to do that. At the end of the project, we found that something was missing. So we discussed among ourselves and decided to do it the way we did, without cheating the money but by using the excess money for something else. Ninety per cent of NGOs work like this. I know that other NGOs have had much bigger issues and there has been internal disciplinary action. But Sara (Saravanamuttu) and some others have gone to the press. I accept their right to go to the media.
But you fight on the side of honesty, don’t you?
I accept that this was not the right way to do it. I paid the penalty. I paid the whole amount, 180,000 rupees, to CPA out of my personal funds.
On January 19, 2009 talking to Frederica Jansz, Sunday Leader, Sunanda Deshapriya said; “I admit I did something wrong by taking those funds from the CPA budget – but I have paid the price for that. I only did so to buy Jacqueline Park her air ticket to attend the 2007 Public Service Media Prize-Giving. No sooner funds were reimbursed from the IFJ, I intended to return these monies to the CPA. I did not do this on my own – I had the FMM Committee’s approval for it.”
So he says five things; Not a cent was taken for personal use, used the money for some other activity, Ninety per cent of NGOs work like this, He paid back the whole amount. He had FMM Committee’s approval for this. According to Deshapriya he had FMM approval for rob the money!!
On December 19, 2008, the Executive Director, Centre for Policy Alternatives Dr. Paikiasothy Saravanamuttu issued a press statement. “The Centre for Policy Alternatives (CPA) accepted today the resignation of Mr. Sunanda Deshapriya, former Director and former Head of the Media Unit, with immediate effect. Mr. Deshapriya was associated with CPA since 2002.
Mr. Deshapriya has personally returned in full money owed to the organisation after an investigation into financial anomalies of a project he was responsible for.
The Board of CPA will meet on Monday, 22nd December 2008, to consider the issues arising from the resignation of Mr. Deshapriya.”
On December 20, 2008 Malinda Seneviratne wrote to Lakbima News; Dr. Paikiasothy Saravanamuttu stated that Deshapriya was involved in a transaction that ‘lacked clarity’. Now this is a gentlemanly way of saying, ‘he is a swindler’.
So far I did not write corruption issues involved with Sunanda. Why I am writing this issue after three years? I thought it’s unethical to go public since I was the complainant and the person who did all the preliminary investigations and handed them over to Free Media Movement, Sri Lanka Press Institute and the Centre for Policy Alternatives.
CPA had taken the decision and sacked Sunanda Deshapriya. SLPI has taken the decision and suspended the “safety fund” project. But FMM has not taken any action. Talking to BBC Sandeshaya on January 12 this year FMM Convenor Sunil Jayasekara said “the FMM has decided not to carry the investigations further”. So now I have no ethical issue with writing about this subject. I will write next week about what happened. The day Sunanda was sacked Dr Saravanamuttu said to me, “Tell Sunanda not to come to any public event, I will expose him calling a press conference” . The next day he came with a theory called ‘lacked clarity’. How did this happen? How did Sunanda Deshapriya rob the money? How Deshapriya, International Federation of Journalists and some other NGO tycoons manipulated the investigation. Until next week I must say this; Sunanda did not use robbed money to buy an air ticket for Jacqueline Park and the FMM Committee never approved a decision with regard to “robbing money”
Deshapriya wrote an article to Ravaya on January 8, 2012 about Anna Hazare’s campaign against corruption. In that article he says; “There are multiple allegations against Anna Hazare, one among them is inevitably financial malpractices.” Wow!! See how Deshapriya is trying to use Anna Hazare to whitewash himself! “Being like an ostrich in a States of denial !”
To be continued next week…