21 October, 2019

Blog

The Cage By Gordon Weiss

By Padraig Colman

Padraig Colman

While I was reading the new publication from the International Diaspora Group on counting the dead in Sri Lanka,[i] I cast my mind back to what Gordon Weiss had to say on the subject in his book, The Cage.

Bad Writing

Jason Burke[ii], writing in the Literary Review, describes this book as a : “comprehensive, fair and well-written work”. I beg to differ about the well-written bit. It is a good read, but not a good write. As seems to be the custom with contemporary authors in any genre[iii], Weiss provides a lengthy list of acknowledgements to those without whom etc….One of these is “David Rampton of the School of Oriental Studies, for his insights into the JVP”. Dr Rampton, or “Dave” as he was calling himself when he was trying to persuade writers to boycott the Galle Literary Festival,  was gracious (unlike many Sri Lankan academics I could mention) when I made extensive changes to a paper he had submitted for publication by an organisation for whom I acted as consultant/editor. Dr Rampton’s sentences were interminable and full of jargon. It was quite a struggle for me to bring out the essential inner beauty of his thought.

Weiss is readable enough but it is a pity that some of those who “helped” did not draw his attention to several examples of inelegant English or lack of clarity.

I am not sure if it is helpful  or logically sound to describe Sri Lanka as “this endemically violent country”.[iv] I will leave it to those with more expertise than I possess in linguistic analysis and Sri Lankan history to argue that one.

“Most ominously of all, there is good evidence that at least on some occasions the Tigers fired artillery into their own people”.[v] Notice the jarring disjunction between the firm “good evidence” and the slippery and logically meaningless “on at least some occasions”. The way that he expresses it make it seem like a minor peccadillo on the part of the Tigers, perhaps no more than clumsiness.

“Yet, contrary to the ICRC, the very breadth of this mandate makes for inherent contradictions, so that  the UN often finds itself   at loggerheads with itself”.[vi] It is that “contrary to” that buggers up the sentence. I think he means that the UN has a broader mandate than the ICRC.

“Hunger, however, is a great leveller, and erodes at notions of freedom, turning a resistant mood”. [vii] What?!

Navi Pillay, UN Commissioner for Human Rights,  is described as “an ethnic Indian Tamil of South African origin”. [viii]Would it not be better to say “A South African of Indian Tamil origin”?

“Despite the stubborn impenitence of the Sri Lankan government, and its insistence on cloaking its victory in a Potemkin-like pretence of bloodlessness, a quarter of a million people had witnessed the death and destruction inflicted by both the army and the Tigers”. What does “Potemkin-like” mean in this context? I have seen Eisenstein’s film The Battleship Potemkin and I know about Potemkin villages in Catherine the Great’s reign, but what is the relevance here?

Factual Errors

In his review on Groundviews, Sanjana Hattotuwa, pointed out some errors and even sternly scolded about “irresponsibly written and edited content”.[ix]  Sanjana points out that it was an armour-plated BMW 7 Series that saved Gotabaya’s life, not a Mercedes. When the war ended, there was a “big, riotous party” in Colombo (and indeed in Badulla) rather than ”little of the air of celebration” that Weiss claims. Sanjana points out that Weiss gets his Peirises mixed up – Prof. GL was never Attorney General.

Some of Weiss’s statements raised an eyebrow with me. “In what they called Eelam (a Tamil word implying separation) a small portion of the Tamil inhabitants of Sri Lanka began to enjoy the fruits of an independence long denied by the Sri Lankan state, including the right to use their own language”.[x] Did Tamils living under Prabakharan in Killinochchi really have a better life than those living in Wellawatte?

Am I alone in finding Weiss’s use of his Jewish forebears’ victimhood vicarious and somewhat distasteful? Weiss claims that during the Second World War his own grandfather “and dozens of other relatives were killed because of their ethnicity”. He is blasé about the LTTE’s racism. Would Weiss be in the appeasement camp had he lived in Europe in the 1930s?

On page 203 he says the Chinese built a port in Laem Chabang in Myanmar. Laem Chabang is in Thailand not far from Pattaya Beach, where I once went on holiday.

“In relative terms, and in the course of a long and bloody civil war, the number of civilians killed by terrorist acts attributed to the Tigers was somewhat modest compared with estimates on the overall death toll inflicted on the Tamils”.[xi] Discuss. What does “in relative terms” mean? The “overall death toll inflicted on the Tamils” includes, of course, Tamils killed by the tigers. Perhaps he should have clarified that.

Weiss says on page 65 that Alfred Durayappah, Prabakharan’s first victim, was appointed mayor of Jaffna by the prime minister. He was elected not appointed.

On page 237, Mano Ganesan, is described as “the TNA party leader”. I asked Mano about this. “What to say? Gordon is a known friend. It is an oversight. No issue. haha. I am comfortably the leader of Democratic People’s Front, the party of the Voiceless, the party which conducts democratic struggles for all the people of all the regions.” [xii]

In his survey of Sri Lankan history, Weiss criticises D S Senanayake for settling Sinhalese in Anuradhapura and Polonnaruwa,  “part of Tamil majority ‘dry zone’ as opposed to the Sinhalese majority ‘wet zone’”.  Sinhalese view those areas as the cradle of their  ancient civilization rather than part of a Tamil homeland.

Lack of Expertise

“In Sri Lanka, even though I could not bear witness, I was close enough to the levers of action to believe that they [children] were being wounded and killed in large numbers each day”. My emphasis.

That’s not what it says on the tin. The cover blurb says: “Gordon Weiss witnessed the conflict at first hand as a UN spokesman in Colombo”.

The bibliography is both long and deep. If he has actually read all those publications he is a better man than I am. I wonder how he found the time. The notes are also extensive and informative although open to debate in some instances.

Weiss was not a witness. Like an urban myth or an internet hoax, a story gets passed around and is treated as legal currency. The neologism “churnalism” has been credited to BBC journalist Waseem Zakir who coined the term in 2008. “You get copy coming in on the wires and reporters churn it out, processing stuff and maybe adding the odd local quote.” Stephen Colbert coined the term “truthiness” – “We’re not talking about truth, we’re talking about something that seems like truth – the truth we want to exist”.

Praise for Sri Lankan Army

Weiss has good things to say about the Sri Lankan Army. “On the whole, however, the vast majority of people who escaped seem to have been received with relative  restraint and care by the front-line SLA troops who quickly passed them up the line  for tea, rice and first aid. The faceless enemy, such a source of terror for the young peasant men and women of  southern Sri Lanka who made up  the majority of the troops, were suddenly given a human aspect, as thin, bedraggled and women clutching children to their breasts and pleading in a foreign tongue fell at their feet”.[xiii]

Note that Weiss cannot say that those who “escaped” were treated with care. It has to have the begrudging modifier “relative”. Relative to what? Relative to the care given by the  LTTE from whom they had escaped?

He repeats similar sentiments later but drops the begrudgery. “During the course of research for this book, dozens of Tamils described the Sinhalese as inherently kind and gentle people. The front-line soldiers who received the first civilians as they escaped to government lines, those who guarded them in the camps and the civilian and military doctors who provided vital treatment distinguished themselves most commonly through their mercy and care.”[xiv] We will forgive the dangling participle. Only a pedant would point out that Tamils were not doing the research.

Hang on – weren’t these internment camps? “If a civilian survived the crossing , they faced an uncertain future in government internment camps (of the existence of which they were well aware)”.[xv] I was tempted to file that under Bad Writing.

“It remains a credit to many of the front-line SLA soldiers that, despite odd cruel exceptions, they so often seem to have made the effort to draw civilians out from the morass of fighting ahead of them in an attempt to save lives. Soldiers yelled out to civilians, left gaps in their lines while they waved white flags to attract people forward and bodily plucked the wounded from foxholes and bunkers. Troops bravely waded into the lagoon under fire to rescue wounded people threading their way out of the battlefield or to help parents with their children, and gave their rations to civilians as they lay in fields, exhausted in their first moments of safety after years of living under the roar and threat of gunfire”.[xvi]

Numbers Game

Weiss introduces a caveat. “I have not dealt in close detail  with the matter of figures of dead and wounded, how they are calculated and how reliable those sources  might be. I make the point in the text that it is for others to get closer to that particular particle of truth”. [xvii]  A strange way of putting it. Despite this disclaimer, throughout  the book , Weiss  repeats the mantra that 10,000 to 40,000 civilians were killed.

Weiss was and is a major player in the numbers game. When he was  working  for the UN in Colombo,  he went on record as saying the number of civilian casualties was 7,000. This became the official figure quoted by The UN General Secretary’s New York spokesperson,  Michelle Monas, who told Inner City Press reporter Matthew Lee, “We have no way of knowing the exact count”. When Weiss left the UN and returned to Australia and began writing this book he increased the figure to 15,000,  which he then upped to  40,000, a figure that a whole range of media outlets, including BBC and NDTV, ran with. Journalists confused the issue by failing to make clear whether information came from “an employee of the UN”  or  “a former employee of the UN”, rather than “the UN”.

“From this confusion of information, and despite the prospect that the Tamil Tigers might be forcing the Tamil doctors or the UN staff, to give inflated figures of the dead and wounded, the accumulation of events and casualties seemed consistent”.[xviii] Having raised the possibility that figures were inflated, he gives himself licence to inflate further.

“From this point on, the death toll could only grow”.[xix] Does this mean that more people would be killed or that estimates of the dead would become more inflated? Earlier on the same page, a press release by Navi Pillay is quoted saying that as many as 2,800 civilians “may have been killed”. Weiss gives this spin: “Critically, the civilian death toll Pillay quoted finally established a baseline that had some kind of official imprimatur and weakened government efforts to confine solid numbers to the realm of speculation and confusion”. Pillay’s statement did not take us out of the realms of speculation because she said “as many as 2,800 may have been killed”. That is speculation. What does establishing a “baseline” mean? Does it mean that because Pillay says “as many as 2,800 may have been killed” that gives Weiss licence to say 10,000 to 4,000 and Frances Harrison and Alan Keenan to say 147,000?

Gordon Weiss’s lower  estimate of 7,000 civilian deaths, made in 2009, was challenged by Sir John Holmes, the UN Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and UN Emergency Relief Coordinator, who stated in New York on 24 March 2009 that this figure could not be verified. In spite of this, Weiss throughout The Cage routinely talks of “between 10,000 and 40,000”,  which is meaningless.

Convoy 11

In his Groundviews review, Sanjana Hattotuwa writes that The Cage is: “A mind-numbingly harrowing account of violence that supports what the UN Panel of Experts says are credible allegations of war crimes and crimes against humanity. Weiss takes pains to emphasise that the appalling details are based on reports by two men who each had significant experience in active combat.”

Sanjana  chastises Weiss for naming names which the Darusman Report withheld: “Justifiable caution over and confidentiality of sources in the UN Panel’s report is ruined by the revelations in The Cage, attributed by Weiss to specific individuals. ..After reading The Cage, it is a matter of simple extrapolation that the sources were in fact Col. Khan and Col. Du Toit.”

Rajiva Wijesinha recalls meeting ”the shady South African Chris du Toit”[xx], whom he says was an intelligence officer for the apartheid regime. Weiss also claims that Du Toit had trained and commanded proxy guerrilla forces in the illicit wars fought by South Africa in Angola. Du Toit was most probably involved in the training of Jonas Savimbi’s UNITA guerrilla group who committed horrendous crimes against humanity in Angola.

Wijesinha questions Du Toit’s method of calculating civilian casualties. “He said that there were three elements taken into consideration, first the dead bodies … seen by UN staff, secondly reports they received, and thirdly extrapolation. Pressed on the number of those seen by the UN, he said it was something like 39, over the previous month. Given what he then said about the numbers calculated on the other methods, I believe the figure that was being floated around was excessive. The implications of the methods he employed, for speculation that is now treated as gospel by the panel, need to be reviewed in greater detail”.[xxi]

Wijesinha continues: “Under close questioning, he had to admit that, while there had been firing on areas near where he had been sleeping, he could not say with any certainty from which direction the firing had come. He had brought with him large pictures of craters caused by shells, and he took out one and said that was the only shot the direction of which they could be certain of, and that had come from the direction of the LTTE forces.”

The UN officer who was actually with the convoy was Retired Colonel Harun Khan. He is said to have managed counter-insurgency operations in Bangladesh,[xxii] most probably against the Buddhist Chakma hill tribes in the Chittagong Hill Tracts where horrific crimes against humanity were committed.[xxiii]

Weiss says Harun Khan took photographs of the carnage, but the only example he provided seems to be questionable. This is what Groundviews said: “The problem is that this photo, part of what Weiss claims is ‘many other images of the wounded and dead from these days in late January 2009’ taken by Col. Harun was actually taken 22nd August 2008 at 5.08pm, and not in late January 2009. This emphatically does not help any advocacy, domestic and international, to hold those responsible for alleged war crimes accountable for their actions and calls for independent investigations to determine the veracity of these very serious allegations. It is possible that Weiss was careless, and posted the wrong photograph. It is possible he and the UN, as we noted in our review of his tome, have the originals of these images, where similar scrutiny under any photo editing programme can very easily determine whether they are in fact from late January or earlier.”[xxiv]

I do not know the truth of what happened but there is a lot of churnalism here. Weiss’s account cannot “support” the Panel’s view because he was not there and they were not there. I gather from Weiss’s account that Du Toit was not with the convoy either but was back in Colombo.

Conclusion

Weiss quotes Timothy Garton Ash: “Liberal internationalism… means developing norms and rules by which most states will abide, preferably made explicit in international law and sustained by international organisations. It posits some basic rights that belong to every human being on this planet…It seeks to  build peace between nations on these foundations”.

I am a great admirer of Timothy Garton Ash. I have even set up a Google alert so that I can read all of his articles. Let us not forget, however, that he supported the 2003 invasion of Iraq by the “Coalition of the Willing”. Remind me what the reason for that invasion was. First of all, Iraq was somehow behind 9/11; then Saddam had WMD; when those excuses proved spurious the invasion was retrospectively justified as being about  “basic rights that belong to every human being on this planet”.

Weiss puts his own spin on this: “The choice between strategies when fighting  an insurgency is relatively straightforward”. There’s that word again; relative to what? Weiss believes that liberal democracies choose the “hearts and minds” strategy. I am reminded of General Westmoreland’s maxim: “Grab ’em by the balls and their hearts and minds will follow”. See how the liberal democracy that is the United States conducted “counterinsurgency” in Vietnam[xxv]. Weiss sermonises: “Counterinsurgencies are fought by liberal democracies in places like Afghanistan. Their leaders and decision makers understand that they are ultimately answerable to constituencies that might, like the French in the Algerian war of independence, withdraw support if they become too murderous”.

Despite praising the conduct of most SLA soldiers, Weiss in the end accuses the winning side of exceptional brutality, not fitting in with his sense of how liberal democracies would fight insurgency.  As Sanjana Hattotuwa said in his review: “Weiss offers no larger analysis of this tragic fragmentation between spontaneous compassion and calculated mass scale atrocity, and its effects on the civilians caught in direct or cross-fire. “

Has the book had an influence? It generated great interest in foreign embassies in Colombo. As Sanjana told me: “Several embassies had block booked 20 – 30 copies of the book, which resulted in higher than planned demand. This may have given rise to the perception at the time the book was hard to get, which it was, but not because of heavy handed Govt censorship.”[xxvi]

Jason Burke is generally positive about The Cage but finds something lacking in the coverage of President Rajapaksa: “His various political victories are not the result of electoral fraud. The end of the war in Sri Lanka has sparked an economic boom that is forecast to double the wealth of Sri Lankans – if not of northern or plantation Tamils – within a few years and possibly triple it within a decade as foreign investment and tourists flow in. If that is so, his continued rule seems assured.”


[i] http://www.satp.org/satporgtp/countries/shrilanka/document/TheNG.pdf

[ii] http://www.literaryreview.co.uk/burke_06_11.html

[iii] http://pcolman.wordpress.com/2013/05/01/peter-grimsdale-perfect-night-or-perfect-fright/

[iv] The Cage pxx

[v] The Cage p109

[vi] The Cage p139

[vii] The Cage p191

[viii] The Cage p205

[ix] http://groundviews.org/2011/05/24/a-review-of-the-cage-the-fight-for-sri-lankan-the-last-days-of-the-tamil-tigers/

[x] The Cage p8

[xi] The Cage p81

[xii] Personal communication via Facebook.

[xiii] The Cage p181[xiii]

[xiv] The Cage p186

[xv] The Cage p209

[xvi] The Cage p216

[xvii] The Cage pxxvii

[xviii] The Cage p135

[xix] The Cage p205

[xx] http://www.thesundayleader.lk/2011/04/24/bad-faith/

[xxi] http://rajivawijesinha.wordpress.com/2011/05/09/the-darusman-panel-a-review-of-the-evidence-in-the-context-of-past-realities-and-future-plans/

[xxii] http://www.lankaweb.com/news/items/2011/07/10/book-review-%E2%80%93-the-cage-by-gordon-weiss/

[xxiii] http://www.angelfire.com/ab/jumma/religion.html

[xxiv] http://groundviews.org/2011/07/02/photographic-evidence-of-war-crimes-in-sri-lanka-or-not/

[xxv] http://pcolman.wordpress.com/2013/04/21/deadly-accountancy-part-1/

[xxvi] http://groundviews.org/2011/05/24/a-review-of-the-cage-the-fight-for-sri-lankan-the-last-days-of-the-tamil-tigers/

Print Friendly, PDF & Email

Latest comments

  • 0
    0

    The stooge is back I see, reduced to reviewing a book published a long time ago in order to re-establish his credentials with his favourite Fascists!
    Whenever there is a contest for excellence in sycophancy, you should throw your name into the hat!

    • 0
      0

      Aney Apochchi,

      Apart from insulting the author, have you got anything else to say?

      • 0
        0

        Ben Hurling:
        Yours is an interesting comment and is of the same brand as the others who are so full of praise for Mr. Colman. Incidentally, that list reads suspiciously like a who’s who of the Rajapaksa Psycho-fants brigade. Every single one up to this point! Says it all I’m afraid.

        • 0
          0

          Ha..ha!

          Asked you a very straight forward question. You choose to brand me a stooge of MR. Instead. Calling names is not an answer.

          PS: Is it tough responding to the article on a factual basis?

      • 0
        0

        @Ben Hurling

        Have you read the book? If you haven’t please do. Colman is only nitpicking. Don’t judge a book by a sycophants review. A friend gifted the Cage to me last year. If I had read it in my teens or my twenties I would have surely cried. Most of what happens in the book is through eye witness reports…not the stage managed crap they showed us on Rupavahini and ITN and other private channels.

        Just because there are a few discrepancies as to whether the Goats vehicle was an armour-plated BMW 7 Series or a Mercedes is besides the point. Colman has been paid just to trash the book. Even the bible has mistakes and contradictions mainly due to so many translations. Looking forward to Colman’s review on “Gota’s War.” Maybe Colman and Malinda (Seneviratne)could collaborate to write this review? :D

        Malinda & Colman…sounds a bit like Duckworth & Lewis noh? :D

        • 0
          0

          PresiDunce Bean,

          Book was a heart breaking read.

          Climax of a 30 year long extremely brutal war. Only a naive lunatic would expect anything else. But human suffering. West ususally rubbishes this horrific reality of war as “collateral damage”. And that’s it.

          PS: Do you have any evidence to substantiate your claim that the writer of this article is a paid agent? Or is it more like those outrageous claims, such as “Genocide”, Concentration Camps & 100 000 dead” etc?

        • 0
          0

          Clearly, Shehan, you HAVEN’T read the book, or you weren’t paying attention when you did. Most of it ISN’T eye-witness reports. Weiss and du Toit were in Colombo, and the rest is what Weiss was told by others second- or third-hand.

        • 0
          0

          “Even the bible has mistakes and contradictions mainly due to so many translations.”

          And really, you comparing The Cage to the Bible??? :D The Bible is mostly fantasy, written by people who never witnessed any of what they wrote about. You really need to think your comments through, Shehan. Lol.

        • 0
          0

          Boo Hoo, poor Duncie’s been so traumatised he can’t even cry anymore. Get a grip. Come on Duncie, where’s your evidence that Colman’s been paid to trash Weiss’s book? C

          an you explain the ‘minor discrepancies’ of Weiss’s casualty figures which range from 7,000 to 40,000?

        • 0
          0

          @Mr Bean
          “Just because there are a few discrepancies as to whether the Goats vehicle was an armour-plated BMW 7 Series or a Mercedes is besides the point. Colman has been paid just to trash the book.”

          I wish I could adopt Michael Roberts’s dignified approach and refrain from responding to people hiding behind silly names.

          Unfortunately, I cannot resist.

          The error about the Mercedes was pointed out in Sanjana Hattotuwa’s review on Groundviews. I credit Sanjana in my article. Is Sanjana a paid stooge of the government?

          Uvindu Kurukulasuriya (another paid stooge?) pointed out further errors:

          “…there are irritations throughout the book due to factual errors. Many of them occur in his assessment of the media. But again many would not fault an outsider for his lack of media literacy in such a nuanced often cantankerous, deceptive, cagey, chameleon like atmosphere that is the media in Sri Lanka. That said, in the quoted paragraph above Gordon Weiss has either got his facts wrong or has for reasons best known to him deliberately exaggerated the issue.

          Firstly neither Prageeth Ekneliyagoda nor Namal Perera were working journalists at the time these incidents took place. It is my considered opinion that there is more than sufficient evidence of genuine journalists who have suffered immensely under a repressive regime and such evidence is more than adequate to prove beyond a shadow of a doubt that there is media suppression in Sri Lanka. There is no justification to exaggerate or colour a situation or issue. Such practices even with the best of intentions will only help discredit rather than help.

          Secondly, Prageeth Ekneliyagoda was abducted a long time after the Namal incident. Ekneliyagoda was abducted for the first time on August 27, 2009 where as Namal Perera was attacked on June 30, 2008. Thus not only did Weiss get the chronology wrong he got the timing wrong as well. It was not a gap of a week as Weiss claims but over a year between the two incidents. Weiss claims to quote a monthly e bulletin by the Free Media Movement (FMM). I was both the Convener of the FMM and a Director of the Sri Lanka Press Institute where Namal was working during the relevant period. But I’m unaware such a monthly report existed.
          Thirdly the question that has to be raised is that while Namal Perera’s incident was related to Journalism whether Prageeth’s was also.”

          I am afraid that this is more than a “few discrepancies”. If Weiss thinks Mano Ganesan is leader of the TNS how can one trust him about anything?

          I have not yet been paid anything to review Weiss’s book but I am fairly confident that I will receive Rs 2,000 for the shorter version published in the Sunday Island. I would expect more for the sale of my soul.

    • 0
      0

      is that all you can say Aney Apochi ? Reality is the key word in this excellent analysis . Wake up from your dream and face facts and figures ,that is if you know what they mean . It is sad that some cannot comprehend facts when presented .Congratulations to Pardig Colman for an intelligent,logical and factual approach for this review.

    • 0
      0

      Just like Rajapakse attacking the rugby referee, Aney Appochi’s who obviously hasn’t got the brain power to critique the actual article, instead attacks the writer. Typical Sinhala Modaya response.

    • 0
      0

      This review reminds me the unsuccessful attempt by the GOSL in producing a video ‘lies agreed upon’ in response to the channel 4 video.

      When a book is reviewed, you commend on the positive side of it and criticize on its negative part. Padraig Colman is not reviewing the book; he is only criticizing it and that also on minor issues. A few minor errors/discrepancies pointed out by Colman is not going to change the character/spirit of the book. Weiss tries to piece together events which unfolded inside the cage which had been sealed off from most independent observers by the Sri Lankan government. An actual review of the book ‘The Cage’ has already being done by Sanjana Hattotuwa. Padraig Colman is a GOSL paid collie, he is simply carping and nothing else.

      • 0
        1

        Ravi,

        Do you have any evidence to substantiate your claim that the writer of this article is a paid agent?

        Or is it more like those outrageous propaganda claims, such as “Genocide”, Concentration Camps & 100 000 dead” etc?

        • 0
          0

          Ben Hurling

          Read the articles what Padraig Colman has written, they are all biased towards the GOSL.

          Why should an Irish man come to SL and write in favour of the GOSL in the local News papers??? pretty Obvious??? Singing for his supper.

          Evidence to substantiate???

          What kind of evidence are you expecting??? Can you specify???

          • 0
            0

            Ravi,

            Based on your logic.

            Shall we then conclude both Frances Harrison and Callum Macrae are both paid agents of the LTTE rump?

            • 0
              0

              Ben Hurling

              Why do you want to use my logic? This is exactly what 90% of the Sinhalese, I repeat Sinhalese are already saying.

          • 0
            0

            Ravi

            So..based on your logic.

            Sinahelse Sri Lankans are right.

            Frances Harrison and Callum Macrae are both paid agents of the LTTE rump.

            • 0
              0

              Of course channel 4 and Francis Harrison are [Edited out], even Francis Harrison work with Tamil Tigers to get the information , then she is always bias to Tamil Tigers side of story her figure 147000 dead in final battle is hilarious

      • 0
        0

        A few minor errors/discrepancies pointed out by Colman is not going to change the character/spirit of the book.

        Yes Ravi, for you change the figures from 7000 dead to 40000 dead is minor error

  • 0
    0

    Now you’re talking my friend!

    Where’ve you been?

    I knew it would take a keen mind like your’s to question Weiss’ counting of dead bodies, worse than the economic calculations of the Australian Treaturer Wayne Swan!

    Keep up the good work.

  • 0
    0

    Fortunately, we have individuals like Padraig Coleman to look at facts objectively and attempt to put the record right. Thank you.

  • 0
    0

    “Alan Keenan to say 147,000?”

    Explanation for this 147,000 is on Slide 4 of http://tinyurl.com/cqeuy39

    Continuous killing during the war
    • The population in Vanni was 429,059 in early part of
    October 2008 (Statistics of GA).
    • UN and government statistics in July 2009, the total
    number of people who came out of the Vanni to
    government controlled areas after this is estimated to
    be 282,380.
    • Therefore missing persons between October 2008 and
    July 2009 are 146,679.
    Reference: LLRC submission of Mannar Catholic Bishop.

  • 0
    0

    A good review of ‘Cage’. I gave up reading the book beyond a certain point, because of the factors Padraig Colman points out. I in fact gave the book away soon after, because it had no place in my library.

    Dr.RN

    • 0
      0

      @Dr.Rajasingham Narendran

      Do you by any chance happen to have the ‘Mahavamsa’ and ‘Gota’s War’ in your library? :D

      • 0
        0

        Ben Hurling:
        If you’ve done nothing else, you certainly have shed the “democratic” mask you have sought to don lately!
        If you haven’t already, why don’t you, Blacker, Colman and the rest of the pandankarayas band together and ask for a collective employment agreement from those you serve? You might be able to negotiate even better terms than you operate under at present!

        • 0
          0

          I don’t know about you, but I’m quite happily employed, Aney. Don’t you have anything to say about the review; do you not understand it; is that why you instead attack the author and commentators? :D

  • 0
    0

    Thank you very much, Padrig Colman (real name Michael O’Leary, living in Sri Lanka since 2002) for your unbiased articles regarding Sri Lanka …. You are a gem among western journalists who has never prostituted journalism …. Many are ego driven, unbalanced and uneducated about the countries they write on … Gordon Weiss and the drama queen of journalism (Frances Harrison) are the two ‘journalists’ fighting for the top spot in that category of journalism ….

    By the way, we all know that major part of the Money collected by the LTTE agents in western countries spent on arms before 2009 … Where does it go now? I mean the money collected now by the LTTE rump …

    • 0
      0

      About the money you mentioned.. Does any of you really have courage seriously ask what happened to the money KP had and controlled?
      It looks like all Sinhalese are aleays certain thst all white or brown foreigners concerned or criticized Sinhalese SL, they were paid by LTTE.. The LTTE. Money man KP is with Rajapkses. Why none of you have courage to seriously question about that money? You SL people always try to correct the outside people ( westerners, Induans) but very rarely try to fix your own
      Anura

      • 0
        0

        Anura.

        The LTTE Funds recovered by SLA can be partly traced to this point:
        lankaenews.com/English/news.php?id=13673
        (7-5-13 release)

      • 0
        0

        Anura:
        Nobody bothers to ask what happened to the loot that KP brought to the Rajapassas because it is so obvious!
        However, it is not certain how much of it is being doled out to those who sing for their (Rajapassa-provided) suppers on CT!

    • 0
      0

      Bruno:
      While you are about it, why don’t you take a wee step back in time and ask what become of the fairly large sums that KP had under his control. I am SURE he hasn’t shared those spoils (or a couple of ships) with his new-found friends!

    • 0
      0

      Oyes! Typical of Irish bulldogs to go after the Jewish folk.

      • 0
        0

        @ ONE

        “Oyes! Typical of Irish bulldogs to go after the Jewish folk.”

        WTF does that mean? “Bulldog” is normally associated with the English. I am not aware that anti-Semitism is a typically Irish trait.

    • 0
      0

      Gordon weiss, Francis harrison are now waiting for their awards for their fabricated stories. An intrenational award is waitng for these two , wait for it .

  • 0
    0

    http://pcolman.wordpress.com/about/ He proudly says: “I contribute a regular weekly columns to the the Sri Lankan Sunday paper The Nation. I have also been a regular contributor to two other Sunday newspapers, The Sunday Island and Lakbima News.” How anyone can claim to be an independent journalists while contributing to these government propaganda papers is beyond me.

    On his website he also refers to articles published in New York Times and The Himal Magazine, one in each. A quick read of the crap article in NYT reveals that the fact that he only refers to one article in each is probably related to the low quality, he published one article and after that he was not allowed to publish again.

    Conclusion: a bad writer and government apologist has pointed out some incorrect facts in Gordon Weiss book, faults that were already known. His rambling about the numbers is just silly and it sounds like Rajiva drafted them.

    • 0
      0

      So the NYT will let any old rubbish through once huh? Then decide it was rubbish after they publish it. Funny editorial system they must have – you should send them an article about it, it should get published provided you haven’t sent them anything previously.

    • 0
      0

      @ John

      “On his website he also refers to articles published in New York Times and The Himal Magazine, one in each. A quick read of the crap article in NYT reveals that the fact that he only refers to one article in each is probably related to the low quality, he published one article and after that he was not allowed to publish again.”

      Johnny boy, I am an elderly gentleman scholar who writes mainly for his own entertainment and education. If I get published it’s a bonus. As I have a guaranteed income on which I can live comfortably if frugally, I am not scrabbling for fame and fortune. I make enough from my writing on a monthly basis to keep me in booze.

      I have never submitted ANY articles to NYT. They picked up that crap article from Le Monde diplomatique and published it without notifying me or paying me. I had two articles published in Himal Southasian (I suppose it would be nit-picking to expect you to get the name correct). They were very keen to have more articles from me but hey ran into financial difficulties and ceased publishing a print edition. I believe they are now publishing again, so I might submit something else.

      The 10,000 plus people who have read this article might wish to read those Himal Southasian articles to check if they are crap. I think they are pretty good. Incidentally there is nothing in them to suggest I am a government stooge.

      http://himalmag.com/component/content/article/4625-the-prince-of-fitzrovia.html

      http://himalmag.com/component/content/article/4689-just-stay-home.html

      Dear Johnny, let me have some links to some of the articles you have published so that I might learn from you how to be less crap.

  • 0
    0

    I have not read the book but can anyone tell me if Gordon Weiss makes any mention of how the LTTE dealt with their many cadres who were maimed and disabled during the conflict? Did they all heroically swallow the cyanide pill.

    Also the likes of GW should remember that it is not only the LTTE cadres and civilians whom it was holding as a human shield who perished in the war. A great many brave SL servicemen also died. We hear little of these fine lot.

  • 0
    0

    A valid argument from your side, your conclusion is one of several possible conclusion. Another one, which I find more likely, is that after they published that Op-ed their Delhi correspondent or someone ells on their staff, pointed out to the editor responsible for the Op-ed section, that the article by Pardraig Coleman/Michael O’Leary was rubbish and that such article would reflect badly on NYT.

    Whichever conclusion one draws, the fact that he only published 1 time on Sri Lanka in NYT is a fact, do you agree ?

  • 0
    0

    BTW Siva, do you have anything to add on the Nation, The Sunday Island and Lakbima ?

    I dont blame you for not trying to challenge the fact that these newspapers are just government propaganda tools, its well known who own and controle these newspapers.

    • 0
      0

      Would I be banned from writing for the London Times because it is owned by Rupert Murdoch or the London Telegraph because it is owned by the Barclay twins?

  • 0
    0

    The whole objective of Gordon Weiss in not truth or even “truthiness”

    Its about making money, and additional “fame” would be gravy.

    So Gordon Weiss quickly writes a book, does a lot of references reading a page or a synopsis of book/article. He is the first to publish a book on a controversial issue. The book sells because its the first out, i.e the first into market.

    Gordon Weiss gets invited to give talks on the book. Conference organizers sell tickets for the talk. They make money too.

    Mission Accomplished.

    • 0
      0

      Spot on!!

  • 0
    0

    Padraig Colman is posing the hypothetical question “Did Tamils living under Prabhakaran in Kilinochchi really have a better life than those living in Wellawatte?” The answer is a definite yes, although it is an unfair comparison because the people of Vanni were living under war conditions. Yet, the people in Vanni under the Prabhakaran were living happily and in freedom. Kilinochchi market was full of vegetables and fruits at dirt cheap prices. I was in Vanni for 2 months in 2004, and I couldn’t believe my eyes that LTTE ran a modern state where law and order were taken for granted. There was no corruption at any level or scale. A woman can walk the streets at midnight wearing jewellery without fear of being robbed. There were fewer crimes because justice was swift and punishment was relatively severe. People living outside the LTTE controlled areas came to Kilinochchi courts to settle disputes, because it was relatively cheap and less time consuming. There is no denying the fact Prabhakaran and the LTTE enjoyed immense support of the people. The vast majority of the people in Vanni under LTTE rule thought of the LTTE cadres as their own sons and daughters. The peopled feared the Sinhala army who are foreign apart from the fact that they were brutal. Now coming to the claim by Gordon Weiss “It remains a credit to many of the front-line SLA soldiers that, despite odd cruel exceptions, they so often seem to have made the effort to draw civilians out from the morass of fighting ahead of them in an attempt to save lives. Soldiers yelled out to civilians, left gaps in their lines while they waved white flags to attract people forward and bodily plucked the wounded from foxholes and bunkers. Troops bravely waded into the lagoon under fire to rescue wounded people threading their way out of the battlefield or to help parents with their children, and gave their rations to civilians as they lay in fields, exhausted in their first moments of safety after years of living under the roar and threat of gunfire”[xvi] he got it all wrong. The surrendees were subjected to inhuman and degrading treatment. More than 50 senior LTTE cadres who surrendered have not been heard since. The spouse of one the surrendees Ananthi Sasitharan (40) wife of Elilan, former Trincomalee political head of the LTTE before the LLRC said that her husband, Mr. Elilan, and other senior LTTE officials Yogaratnam Yogi and Lawrance Thilakar, both of whom took part in negotiations earlier, and LTTE Political Wing Deputy Chief Thangkan, former Jaffna Political Head Ilamparithi, Head of Administrative Unit Poovannan, Piriyan, Thee pan, Sports Wing Chief Raja and his 3 children, Kudu and Holster Babur were among those surrendered in front of her eyes to the Sri Lankan forces under the coordination of a Catholic Priest at Vadduvaakal in Mullaiththeevu on 18 May, 2009. In addition, the list of names of missing are Poet Rathnathurai, V. Balakumar, LTTE strategist, Karikalan, Head of the Political department, Batticaloa and Ilankumaran (Baby Subramaniam) Head of the Educational Department.

    Mrs. Ananthi Sasitharan further said President Rajapaksa should know the whereabouts of her husband and fellow LTTE officials who surrendered. If they have not been murdered, then the government must produce them or disclose their whereabouts. It should be mentioned the ICRC, media, INGOs, Members of Parliament, and UN Agencies have been denied access to internment camps holding LTTE cadres.

    Till this minute we have no clue whether these senior cadres are under detention in secret locations or they have been summarily executed by the army like the white flag surrendees B.Nadesan, Head of the Peace Secretariat, Mrs. Nadesan his wife, Col. Ramesh, Pulithevan and close to 300 ordinary fighters.

    • 0
      0

      But still they cut off the hands of the women when they wanted to vote in 2005….so much for freedom..

    • 0
      0

      @Nakkeeran:
      If Eelam was as idyllic as you experienced it, could you please answer these simple questions?

      1. Why did you only spend two months in Eelam? Surely you should’ve spent the rest of your life enjoying the bountiful fruits of Fatty”s benevolent rule. Why forego that unmissable experience to live in Canada?

      2. Why did so many Tamils living in Eelam try to leave?

      3. Why did the LTTE extort money from people trying to leave Eelam, often more than 50,000 Rs per person?

      4. Why didn’t the overseas Tamil diaspora (who supported Eelam) come back to live in this paradise on Earth?

      5. You agree with Weiss when he praises aspects of Eelam, but dismiss his reports of the Genocidal SLA (™) behaving in a humane fashion. Why do you dismiss the latter?

      I do agree with you that some senior LTTE commanders were (almost certainly) executed after surrender. Don’t you agree that given what they forced the Tamil people to suffer, in vain, by not surrendering earlier, they got what they deserved?

      Fatty and his senior commanders promised to end their lives rather than give up on Eelam, so you should be grateful to the SLA for enabling them to keep that promise. The LTTE wanted to play by big boys’ rules and they lost. Tough.

      • 0
        0

        Mango,
        Narendran says that LTTE compelled pregnant female cadres to jump from trees,so obtain abortion,among other things.
        You should ask him.

        • 0
          0

          What has Narendran to do with Nakkeeran?

    • 0
      0

      Nakeeran says”A woman can walk the streets at midnight wearing jewellery without fear of being robbed.”

      Only problem is if she had bumped into the LTTE when doing that very commonly seen night stroll at midnight she would have had to donate it for the cause.I think many LTTE leaders wives had a lot of gold at the end of the war,far more than what they could have legitimately earned.

    • 0
      0

      Nakkeeran,

      Consider moving to North Korea.

      If you loved VP’s Vanni open air prison, Kim’s North Korea would be a paradise for you.

      Good luck!

      • 0
        0

        Ben Hurling:
        You certainly provide evidence of Kim-type brainwashing except it has the MR flavour. But then you are closer to a particular part of their anatomies than to those of any North Korean, I suppose

        Your efforts to be “subtle” in your interminable defenses of the Rajapassas and all they stand for and keep delivering are increasingly tiresome!

    • 0
      0

      I agree with Nakeeran that Tamils lived more happily under the LTTE controlled area than in Wallawatte or anywhere else. The conditions under Tamils lived under LTTE are different to Wellawatte. They lived under continuous shelling from Sinhala armed forces from land and sea and day and night bombings from the air. It is also true that there was an economic sanction from the Sinhala state against Tamils lived in the North (A-9 was blocked, people are blocked from taking items from Vavuniya to Kilinochchi).

      When it comes to numbers game Colman says “and despite the prospect that the Tamil Tigers might be forcing the Tamil doctors or the UN staff, to give inflated figures of the dead and wounded, the accumulation of events and casualties seemed consistent”.[xviii]

      There is no secret that Tamils supported and continue to believe that LTTE fought for the freedom of Tamils. We all should understand that LTTE did not come from the moon. They are the sons, daughters and brothers and sisters of Tamils. They had the full support of all Tamils irrespective of where they live, what they are. Even those Tamils doctors who served in the Vanni area behind LTTE in this war for the freedom of Tamils.

      It is true that the surrendered LTTE members, TNA parliamentarian and these doctors and KP were brought in front of media after the so called rehabilitation told us a different story. It is obvious if you know what happened to Lasantha Wickrematunga, no one will come and tell the truth in Sri Lanka.

      It is true nobody understands this war because it was done clinically in a closed theater and the people who experienced this disaster still live under this closed theater and it is not the number that what the government of Sri Lanka says or Gorden Weiss says. We know the number of people lived in the war zone varied from 70,000 to 400,000 during the war by official and unofficial sources from inside and outside the war zone and over 300,000 people emerged from the war zone at the end of the war.

      We Sri lankans know still we are counting the numbers of people who were killed or missing in the 1970 and 1989 insurgency. Critics like Colman can raise the questions about the reliability of the Goldon Weiss’s numbers.Can he deny the fact that it is a war that happened in a closed theater and can he explain why it happened in a closed theater? Has he got a reliable number?

  • 0
    0

    Where does Colman deny that a war happened or people got killed. He’s critiquing Weiss’s book and the claims Weiss makes and the accuracy and/or verifiability of those claims. Do you understand anything that Colman’s written? It appears not.

  • 0
    0

    Criticism will bring truth to the world, if this review was not there normal person will believe what GW said in his book all correct because he was a former Red Cross worker

  • 0
    0

    Coleman’s analysis is excellent, but it will not go down well with LTTE stooges or Gordon Weiss fans.
    Gordon Weiss an employee for around 7 months in the Colombo UN office had no access to the battle front and had no knowledge of the SriLankan history. But his assignment was to write up something to discredit the SriLankan Govt and Security forces who rescued around 300,000 Tamil hostages from the LTTE terrorists and truth had no place in his badly written book ‘The Cage’.
    Anyway the bad news for those trying to revive the LTTE terrorists is that the Tamils in the North who suffered the most from these terrorists, are well aware of the truth and are relieved the LTTE is no more in the North, as long as the security forces maintain their presence in the region.

  • 0
    0

    From where did Weiss get his number of civilians killed? Who made reports from the field of killings?
    Were these reporters better equipped that the Tamilnet Correspondents who were making almost daily reports from the battle fields?
    The total civilian killings during 2009 reported by Tamilnet is less than 10,000.
    At the end of the war the most ‘authoritative’ figure of 10,000 deaths was given by Professor Francis Boyle who has been a long time and active supporter of the Eelam project. As the legal adviser to the LTTE Diaspora he would have been privy to inside information of the actual situation in the NFS. The date of the statement i.e. 20th May 2009 is also significant. He may not have had the time to inflate the figure which he did later in a few months to go up to 50,000. Even the figure of 10,000 could be considered an overstatement.

    Why is Weiss not disclosing the number of LTTE casualties?

  • 0
    0

    Prabhakaran’s 1st Tamil victim, the Mayor of Jaffna, Durayappa was elected, as you say. What is most pertinent is that he was elected as a member of the SLFP, a national party which wanted representation all over the country, as opposed to the Federal Party (of crypto-Eelamists) who wanted Tamil separatism and had support almost exclusively in the Northern province.
    It is interesting that the Army General in Vavuniya says that not a single person is ‘missing’ from his area, when the LTTE terror supporters say that 140000 are, a figure obviously picked out of thin air, and presented to the Keenans and the Harrisons of this world.
    The dead in Rwanda (800,000) were presented to the world as the absolute truth. However the same methodology was reviled when used to calculate the far more widespread killing in Iraq someway into Bush-Blair invasion by the respected medical journal The Lancet (600,000 at that time), but now said to number as much as 1.4 million.
    There seems to be a truth coefficient that needs to come into play when playing with these numbers, depending on who does the maths.

Leave A Comment

Comments should not exceed 300 words. Embedding external links and writing in capital letters are discouraged. Commenting is automatically shut off on articles after 10 days and approval may take up to 24 hours. Please read our Comments Policy for further details. Your email address will not be published.