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People of righteousness ‘pursue campaign against Sri Lanka with missionary zeal’

by Prof. Michael Roberts

The war crimes accusations levelled against the Sri Lankan government at the moment are driven by a complex coalition of forces. Though the principal engines are Tamil migrants in the Western world bent on vengeance, there are Western people of righteousness in the vanguard as well.

Such a man is Gordon Weiss. His demeanour as he addresses television audience is that of a crusader. The iconic picture of himself adopted in his very own website,[1] benignly overseeing a mass of African children, reminds one of a missionary.

Weiss is not alone. The advocates of human rights today are reminiscent of the nineteenth century missionaries in Sri Lanka and India whom I confronted when researching my dissertation as a postgraduate. To these dedicated people the world was at their feet. They interpreted this scene underfoot through an either/or philosophy. As onward Christian soldiers they would save the poor benighted “natives” and rid them of idol worship.

Today, the moral crusaders are of a different cast. They pursue a different agenda, generally secular in cast with some threads centred upon human rights. But they too adhere to an either/or evaluation of the worlds before them. For this reason I see them as secular fundamentalists. Drawing upon my 35 years experience of Australia I see them marching forth to cleanse the world of “evil” in the form of carbon pollution, smoke inhalation, et cetera. Human rights extremism is one product of this era of secular fundamentalism.

For Sri Lanka these people of righteousness have a clear picture. They are the new knights unveiling the facts in honest fashion. Eelam War IV was a brutal war involving atrocities from both sides in the conflict, government and LTTE. This seeming even-handedness shrouds (surprisingly for moral people) a double standard in the choice of targets for their war crime courts: only the Rajapaksas and their henchmen in the Sri Lankan government are targeted, LTTE functionaries abroad being (carefully?) exempted.

The last stage of Eelam War IV was, these people of righteousness also say, “a war without witnesses.” This iconic phrase was widely deployed in 2009 and is routinely utilised today by the people of righteousness, one instance being the Weiss interview for ABC in May 2011. So, they, then, are the supreme witnesses. Their witness includes statistics on “civilian” deaths. This is no cause for surprise.. We are dwelling in an era captivated by the magical wand of statistics and the impression of precision generated by the imprint of number.

So Gordon Weiss told us earlier that his computation of civilian deaths ranged from 15,000 to 40,000. Invariably this sound bite gets twisted in world reportage and is presented categorically in several outlets as “40,000” persons, with the Global Tamil Forum in the forefront of this particular voice. Facts are sacred but statistics are not.

Since the spokespersons of righteousness themselves trot out testimony from witnesses, from

(a) Tamil “civilian” victims of war;

(b) Colonels du Toit and Kahn, UN men of righteousness who were part of Convoy 11 bearing humanitarian aid,[2] and

(c) others whose names cannot be revealed in order to protect them, what the phrase “war without witnesses” means is that there were no Western reporters at the battlefront and thus no reliable reportage.

Does this mean that such a claim is colour blind or colour conscious? Does it mean that only people of a certain colour could provide untainted reportage?

Anyone residing in Sri Lanka would be aware that local media personnel provided reports from the rear of the frontlines. Some TV reporters were gung-ho patriotic in disposition; and one would certainly have to treat their presentation as tainted and filtered. But does this mean that all their tales are to be discounted?

As an analyst it would be puerile for anyone to discard such reports as those penned by Sheran & Roshini Fernando and Vidura for the Sunday Leader on the 3rd and 17th May 2009 respectively.[3]

But that is what the insistence on “a war without witnesses” does. More to the point it renders a part-truth into a whole truth. The Sri Lankan government certainly restricted the entry of foreign media personnel; and some, such as Jeremy Page and Nick Paton-Walsh, were unceremoniously bundled out for practicing dishonesty. However, the Hindu correspondent, Muralidhar Reddy, was able to visit the frontlines periodically from October 2008 to May 2009. Kanchan Prasad of Prasar Bharati did so from the 25th January onwards.

In late January as well as mid-April they were among a contingent of foreign media personnel taken to Kilinochchi and the front. Both Reddy and Prasad were also accorded the privilege of being permitted to visit Kilinochchi on the 13th May and to then visit the army-controlled section of the No Fire Zone on the eastern side of Nandikadal Lagoon on every day from the 14th May to 18th May inclusive. There, in that last battle arena, they had the freedom to travel its length and breadth.[4]

My analysis thus far would suggest a measure of colour prejudice in the voicing of “a war without witnesses.” That is too simple an explanation for the manifest bias. Rather the people of righteousness are prejudiced towards their own kind, people without nationality, people of the universe, people humane. Thus, in my analysis, it is ideological prejudice that encourages such selectivity.

Invariably, however, when campaigning in an imperfect world their righteous war crimes movement draws unto itself a coalition of various interests. It is not a pure White movement in composition because it attracts people of Asian colour as well: Tamil, Sinhalese, Burgher and Moor people of righteousness; Tamil ultra-nationalists and former Tigers posing as humanists; Sinhalese journalists victimized and endangered by the Rajapaksa regime, some now bent on revenge.

Thus, the people of righteousness who are giving witness to the viciousness of Eelam War IV are also Reporters Sans Frontieres, siblings of MSF. To repeat my opening lines: they are universalist-world-citizens, people without nationality. They prosecute for Virtue, driven by a mixture of universalism and righteousness. True, some of them become entwined in the work and join an array of legal types who are part of a vast underbelly of organisations for whom the issue of human rights is also a vested interest and a business. However, one should attend to the degree to which righteousness impels many, in part or whole, and is emblazoned on their foreheads. It is the ramifications arising from this spirit that I am focusing on today.

So it is that their reportage is expressed in either/or terms. It is a tale of a Sri Lankan government juggernaut versus Tiger terrorists. In this view both were equally horrid and the Tamil civilians were caught in the middle as poor victims in the anvil of war. While it is recognised that the LTTE held the Tamil people of the Vanni area as hostages, this tale is highly simplified. This is where the either/or epistemology dominates.

In speaking to the world for the world, the picture presented by the crusaders hides, or fails to stress, two critical facts about Eelam War IV: namely, (I) that in the years prior to the outbreak of war and from its onset in August 2006 the LTTE trained many civilians in peoples’ militia known as Mākkal Padai;[5] and (II) that, during Eelam War IV, and especially in 2008/09, the Tigers mostly fought in shorts, trousers or sarong.[6] In other words one of the critical aspects of the vicious war was the blurring of the distinction between the “civilian” and the Tiger army person (whether infantry, catering, engineering or supply corps).

In their simplified and bureaucratic evaluation from some humanitarian cloister, the people of righteousness seem to expect an army infantry platoon crawling through a booby-trapped no-man’s land, usually at night, to have the magical capacity to sort out who was Tiger and who was “civilian.” Worse still, they implicitly consider it good policy for infantrymen to refrain from the conventional practice of throwing a grenade into a bunker in front of them; that is, they ask the infantrymen to poke their heads into the opening first so as to discern if there were “civilians” or Tigers inside.

Such crass idiocy and a failure to exercise analytical empiricism are further complicated by the manner in which the people of righteousness fail to recognise their own complicity in the awful story of the months January-May 2009. By 2009 the LTTE had perfected its strategy of taking a sea of Tamil people with them as a shroud of protection, a labour pool and a bargaining chip in geo-political diplomacy.

This monstrous act was, as far as I am aware, unprecedented in the history of the world. It could match 9/11 in scale and implication, especially if it becomes part of the armoury utilised in the future by states or pseudo-states in extremis. As such, it remains remarkable that this outstanding act/event has received limited emphasis then and now.

This Machiavellian strategy on the part of the LTTE was predicated on the presence of two sets of forces whom, the Tigers felt, would come to their aid and save their bacon: namely, (A) the Western states (Canada, Australia, Britain, USA and EU) directed by their own specific agendas, including constituency pressures in some places; (B) people of righteousness both within agencies in Sri Lanka and abroad and (C) those for whom human rights is a professional business.

In other words, the people of righteousness, whether White, Weiss, Brown or Black, were seen as allies by the LTTE. Allies they became during that crucial stage of the war January to May. Allies they remain for Tiger branches abroad, embittered Tamil migrants as well as Tamils and Sinhalese of humane disposition. The war of manoeuvre in word and thrust continues.

[1] http://www.gordonweissauthor.com/blog/?page_id=2.

[2] See Report of the Secretary-General’s Panel of Experts, on Accountability in Sri Lanka, 31 March 2011, section 82 and also Weiss, The Cage, . It seems that these two foreign observers left LTTE territory at the end of January.

[3] S. and R. Fernando, “Coping with the IDP Tsunami,” Sunday Leader, 3 May 2009 and Vidura, “The Great Escapes,” Sunday Leader, 17 May 2009.

[4] http://thuppahi.wordpress.com/pictorial-images/ AND http://thuppahi.wordpress.com/2011/06/07/
the-landscape-of-the-ltte%e2%80%99s-last-redoubt-may-2009/
http://www.flickr.com/photos/thuppahi/sets/72157627005320170/ AND Figure 17 in Roberts,
Fire and Storm. Essays in Sri Lankan Politics, Colombo, Vijitha Yapa Publications, 2010.

[6] See “Tiger Dead and Vestments” in http://www.flickr.com/photos/thuppahi/sets/ 72157626922473698/. Also see Figures 19a and 19b in Roberts, Fire and Storm. Essays in Sri Lankan Politics, Colombo, Vijitha Yapa Publications, 2010.

45 Comments

  1. Nimal Sandaruwan says:

    “In their simplified and bureaucratic evaluation from some humanitarian cloister, the people of righteousness seem to expect an army infantry platoon crawling through a booby-trapped no-man’s land, usually at night, to have the magical capacity to sort out who was Tiger and who was “civilian.” Worse still, they implicitly consider it good policy for infantrymen to refrain from the conventional practice of throwing a grenade into a bunker in front of them; that is, they ask the infantrymen to poke their heads into the opening first so as to discern if there were “civilians” or Tigers inside.” Say no more than-http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/My_Lai_Massacre

    As to how a crusader regime ( part of the force whom, the Tigers had felt, would have come to their aid and saved their bacon, according to Roberts) ,Australia, where Weiss and Roberts both also live and work, got around the issue of their warriors getting off the hook of being implicit in committing war crimes in Afghanistan, please follow the recent case of the charges against Sergeant J and Lance Corporal D of Australian Defence Forces.- http://www.theage.com.au/opinion/society-and-culture/commandos-finally-get-justice-20110524-1f2dl.html They were charged under the Australian domestic laws, in order to avoid handing over the alleged perpetrators to the ICC -Australia is signatory to Rome Statute but has domestic laws in place to avoid embarassing situations like these-

  2. SriLankan says:

    The author seeks to depict opposition to Human Rights violations, killings, murders, abductions by the govt as a minor matter and opposition to such heinous crimes as failure to exercise analytical empiricism, crass idiocy, complicity etc
    ,in which case he is equally guilty of siding with the Govt in a like manner and should add these adjectives to his own list of accomplishments. Crusaders and missionaries are now bad words coined by our local patriotic zealots to dismiss attempts to bring justice to the victims of war.

  3. Expatraite says:

    Roberts,

    I quote from your article titled ‘Dilemmas at War’s end: Thoughts on hard Realities’ in February 2009.

    “Statistics, ah!! As the LTTE retreated and the remnant ‘civilian’ population of SL Tamils was increasingly in danger of being engulfed by troop fire-fights and artillery projectiles, aid agencies in Sri Lanka have trotted out figures to underline the potential disaster awaiting the Tamil people. During January 2009 figures of 250,000 trapped were quoted by both Lankans and foreigners situated in Colombo; while sometimes the figure rose to 400,000. These statistics have been duly parroted in global media circuits. They are still in the air (7 February 2009)!!

    Impelled by genuine humanitarian concerns, those in Colombo who underlined these figures probably felt that their goals would be enhanced if the numbers were larger: so in their reasoning presumably 250,000 could engender a better outcome than say, a figure of 130,000. But questions arise: don’t their emotional ethical concerns also warrant more careful considerations of veracity and fact? … and a closer examination of the category ‘civilian’? And thus the addition of significant caveats in the information conveyed to those outside the Sri Lankan realm? Emotional agitation does not excuse political naivety among those moderate and/or non-partisan.”

    statements you made during the war

    thousands of people whose murders by the GoSL were made possible

  4. Indonicus says:

    Dear Michael,

    I have no grouse with much of what you are sayng here about the high expectations some people seem to be having of Sri Lankan security forces. I have also not forgotten the barbarity of the LTTE. However, it is also my belief that the West (as opposed to the pro-Tiger diaspora) would have been much less antagonistic towards this regime had it carried out post war reconcilliation in a different way. I think the West’s reponse has a lot to with what is happening post-war than with what happened during the war. Perhaps you can also direct your attention to the righteous people in Sri Lanka who are going about as if nothing needs to be done about recocilliation other than propping up pro-Rajapkse Tamil overlords and populating the north and the East with military personnel?

  5. Karl says:

    Mr.Roberts should look up the word”casuistry” in the dictionary.Among all the comments on the Sri Lankan situation I have never come across a bStter example.
    I won’t be surprised if the government makes him a deshabandu!The abuse of Weiess alone and the invocation of racial prejudice alone should merit such honor.And the reference to the missionaries should please every Sinhala supremaccist.
    K

  6. Karl says:

    Mr.Roberts should look up the word”casuistry” in the dictionary.Among all the comments on the Sri Lankan situation I have never come across a better example.
    I won’t be surprised if the government makes him a deshabandu!The abuse of Weiess alone and the invocation of racial prejudice alone should merit such honor.And the reference to the missionaries should please every Sinhala supremaccist.
    K

  7. NAM says:

    (c) others whose names cannot be revealed in order to protect them, what the phrase “war without witnesses” means is that there were no Western reporters at the battlefront and thus no reliable reportage.

    Can the Author name a single non partisan, independent, non escorted not toured Journalist during the war ? Be it Srilankan, Indian, Brouwn, Olive or white in color ??????

  8. Nimal Sandaruwan says:

    Mr Roberts carefully avoids the fact that the 30 year war against the Tamils is an illegal war in the first place.

    It’s responsiblity lies squarely on the Sri Lankan establishment who ruled the island for the past 60 years. There is enough ‘evidence’ to allege war crimes against the Sri Lankan security forces not only during the last stages of the war but also during the past 30 years to which any investigation must be extended including who backed the perpetrators. Anyone doubting that is an apologist for the Rajapaksha regime.

    But that does not mean the ‘hypocrisy’ charge against UN, ‘international community’ etc in demanding war crimes prosecution must not be raised.If one looks at what has been under the dictates of UN in the past, it is obvious UN has lost it’s legitimacy in that UN itself could be implicated for abetting war crimes. UN’s reputation for justice is good as reputation for Kapuruhami’s breadth.

    There is great urgency and all kinds of diversionary tactics are being schemed (by so called proponents of UN’s invlovment as well) to leave out the ordinary people from the equation. The so called opposition in Sri Lanka, both UNP and JVP refute the war crimes allegations and instead blame the escalating the debacle.

  9. Dr. Sammy says:

    Prejudice, thy name is Prof. Michael Roberts! International laws don’t matter for you or Rajapakse or the great reporter muralidhar Reddy of the great Indian newspaper The Hindu, which writes only lies and deceptions on Tamils! God save Sri Lanka

  10. gunda says:

    sri lanka terrorists got killed from the army that has the duty protect the country.These sadists are worrying about the success of the war.
    These ex UN guys still cannot forget the fun they had in kilinochchi with chocolate coloured girls provided they by LTTE.So they are crying.
    \hands off sri lanka.
    if you have any concern for real human tragedy shout againts the ongoing killing of civilians in libiya.
    Why comments blocked for miliband,s atcle.The sadist’s never want reconciliation .what they want is revenge.this is truly intention for revenge.
    Anyway jaffna tamil’s and sinhalese are closing each other together day by day.let foreing sadists cry.dont worry.

  11. Kumar says:

    The documentary was factual as much as it was disturbing; there was no dramatization; there was nothing “fake” about it as the Sri Lankan government may have the world believe. The images were real; the people were real; the dead bodies were real; the injuries were real; the targeted bombardment of No Fire Zones was real; the mass summary executions were real; the torture and abuse were real; the carnage and destruction was real; the state terrorism inflicted on innocent civilians was real; the fear was real; the depravation was real; the hunger was real, the lack of food and medicine was real; the pain, suffering and trauma were real; the cries for help were real; most of all the abandonment of a people by the very organization fated to protect them was real.

  12. Canadian Tamil says:

    “In a grotesque perversion of humanity, the military had considered the mechanics of human grieving and come up with a novel way to kill tens of thousands: they would drop an initial shell on a village, usually killing those too old, weak or young to take shelter in time. Then they would wait ten minutes — until people had gathered around dead or dying loved ones, trying to save them, or weeping over them — and then shell for a second time; thus wiping out whole families in 11 minutes flat,” says Caitlin Moran, in UK’s The Time’s review of the Channel-4 “Sri Lanka’s Killing Fields,” widely believed to be “the most visceral war footage ever broadcast.”

  13. Nanthalal says:

    I just can’t believe how fat this prof can go on defending the rouge regime, for what.

    When Paul harris, a self proclaimed conflict analyst first started reporting on Srilanka, I was wondered the interest he had.

    It came to lihgt that he bought property in Srilanka to be called his new home ( until Ranil expelled him- persona- non grata – not really)- http://articles.cnn.com/2002-11-08/world/srilanka.journalist_1_british-journalist-tamil-tigers-peace-process?_s=PM:asiapcf

    However he was right on one statement about VP

    ” He lives on the Oxygen of war. He is not a peacetime leader.”

    Mr .Roberts too has or seems to have some vested interest in the Tropical Island.

    Here is the take, I often hate to go behind the messengers but if the messenger has conflict of interest, then the message he brings is null and void.

  14. Lanka Lion says:

    Prabakaran, Anton Bala,Charles Antony are all Christians. With end of LTTE, it is an end Christianity in Sri Lanka. After all, It is land of Theravada Buddhism.

  15. Expatraite says:

    Prof M.Roberts what are you trying to say , “However, the Hindu correspondent, Muralidhar Reddy, was able to visit the frontlines periodically from October 2008 to May 2009. Kanchan Prasad of Prasar Bharati did so from the 25th January onwards.” Do you want us to believe Hindu/Raw to tell the truth about Tamil sufferings to the world with out prejudice???.

    Indian central Gov led by Sonia was also partner with Mahinda in this crime against Tamils.Ihave seen your pictures they don’t revel any thing. It does not mater how Hienous the LTTE was it is the Government’s duty to protect its( if it still considers as it’s ) Civilians.It has not only failed it has killed without accepting.

  16. selvan says:

    Dear Prof

    Thank you very much for highlighting henious crimes comitted by the tigers during final stages of the war. Tamil militants have been brutal to the Tamils first before they unleashed their wrath on the SL state. this includes militant organisations currently affiliated with the SL state.

    But Tamil militant atrocities does not justify the mass violations of Sri Lankan state either.
    Instead of using convoluted long sentences, can you say with hands across you heart that “Sri Lankan state did not use indiscriminate fire with heavy wepons systems knowing there will be civilian casuality?”

    I am guessing you cant. that is the point.
    The problem of LTTE had to be eradicated, But the methods deployed were wrong and violated humanitarian laws.

    Your arguement sound hollow

  17. T. Siva, Cornwall says:

    When the West was campaigning against LTTE terrorism no body saw this. Now when those kept silent rightfully as HRW and Amnesty condemned LTTE child recruitment, in 2009 thru today when the very same ‘child soldiers’ are executed and subjected variuos sexual and rights abuse even after being ‘liberated’ by Mahinda forces, a lot of hypocrtical arguments are around.

  18. MC Ramon says:

    Its an interesting article and one that shows how the LTTE lobby over the years have resorted to using white people to argue their case.

    It is very effective when a white person argues the same line as Tamil ultranationalists in the West, other whites then believe them cos it looks balanced.

  19. MC Ramon says:

    Good reply. I think there is always two sides to the story. Your point is valid.

    Sri Lanka has in many ways not handled the West well. So you have a good point.

    But also the way in which Sri Lanka discarded the West was also a result of years of indifference and arrogrant behaviour by Western NGOs who thought and behaved like they were lords.

  20. Bharath says:

    you behave like a Tom fool or a Nazi punk
    you should join skin heads

  21. SL says:

    Siva,

    They condemned and that’s it. Did they go after the terror supporters like you? No they just condemned and wait. So now they can condemn and wait. We don’t care.

  22. PatrioticDiplomat says:

    Gorden Weiss was a well known LTTE supporter and anti Sri Lankan since his very first day as the head of Communication of a leading UN agency in Sri Lanka…. Then he joined Sri Lanka’s main UN compound under Neil Bunne… Can we assume that the heads of those UN agencies were unaware of his nature ? I don’t think so…. One moderate African professional in UN Sri Lanka at that time simply said “he is a hired boy who does not fit to the UN mandate”. UN is dominated by morons and crooks from powerful countries while professionals from other countries are forced to keep quiet merely for the survival… Because of the conflict many local staff of UN offices in Sri Lanka were minorities who hate Sinhalese. Those two fractions fit well in their campaign against the very country due to which they earned high UN salaries. It is high time Sri Lankan government enforce patriot Sri Lankan professionals to get into international services to counter these viocius elements who take refuge under UN immunity.

  23. PatrioticDiplomat says:

    Gordon and many like minded international UN staff encouraged minority local staff against the few Sinhalese staff in UN… The same divide and rule tactic of their forefathers….

    The UN agencies recruited Gordon Weiss must check the brains of those who recomended and recruited them. Still there are such staff in UN Sri Lanka of whom the Min of Foreign Affairs must have a clear policy for not extending Visas. These guys are now do their job silently while being in the good books of certain government Ministries.

  24. Sati says:

    Well said nam.

  25. T Siva, Cornwall says:

    SL, Your state of denial is creeping out. What I like to see is all those ‘Sinhala moral high-grounders’ will pack their bags and leave the West. In fact a call from Asgiriya is over due to do so.

  26. cyril says:

    Dear Professor,

    Irrespective of ‘secular fundamentalists’ and ‘human rights missionaries’ the Sri Lankan state is accountable to its citizens for violations committed by the armed forces. Therefore, the state has a responsibility to its citizens to investigate allegations of crime committed by not only its own forces but also by the LTTE and other paramilitary groups within its territory.

  27. Tamilson says:

    Dear Professor,You are right on the point sir, well said!

  28. Vigilante says:

    Thank you Professor

    It is known fact LTTE brutus Kill and mime innocent poor sinhala villagers (including babies and pregnant women)and video them and show to west as atrosities done by Armed forces. The killing field video is the same product. Most probably LTTE terrorist killed surrendered army personnal, took off their uniforms and wore them for the video – may be directed by Tamil Nadu Director, a friend of Vaiko the fool. Dont forget the fact that LTTE Brutus killed 600 surrendered policemen (unarmed) and buried them in Mass grave. Do you know about this Captain Weiss?? Now the supporters of these inhumane terrorist including Gordon Weisse trying to make a false case out of this. You all go to hell!!

  29. Dr.Rajasingham Narendran says:

    What we need among all Sri Lankans, is the courage to face the truth. Truth of course, in matters of our mundane world, a relative concept. It can be coloured by experiences and preconceptions. As one man’s nectar can be another’s poison, what one man sees as truth, can be another man’s lie. Even Mohandas Kramchand Gandhi- the Mahatma (great soul)- was only experimenting with truth (Satya Sothanai). But ‘TRUTH’is absolute. ‘TRUTH’ is GOD.

    Michael Roberts has presented the truth as he sees it and I do the same. Many of you do the same too. However, it is sensible for us the seek the truth ourselves and in the process listen to and explore the truth in what others say. Ultimately, what matters is the truth we have discovered and reconciled with.

    Dr.Rajasingham Narendran

  30. Maxmien says:

    During the Katunayke operation the ltte comando seperated himself to avoid civillian casuality before his death.

  31. Maxmien says:

    The Ltte brutus is a minister now. what is that meaning.committing crime against the humanity a qualification to become a Minister in Sri Lanka. Look into the history of other ministers as well.

  32. “LTTE functionaries abroad being (carefully?) exempted.” – by Prof. Michael Roberts, this is what you have written in your article. First of all, we have to know that Tamil in abroad if committed War Crimes, they have to face charges, without prejudices. Tiger also accepted for this and this has been published by Tiger’s press release recently. I think the author has not been aware of this press release and if he needs a copy, i can ready to send. Half backed article by this author not authentic and will not be taken care of by the world.

  33. Merlin Van Tweest says:

    Selvan,
    Please read the article of Dr. Stuart Reiss below – you may learn something about the methods deployed by the Sri Lankan Forces.

    Article by Dr. Stuart Reiss on Sri Lanka and
    Channel 4 allegations.

    It is the content not who he is that matter.
    About those videos; one does not need Hollywood to concoct out any fantasy.

    I have followed the misfortunes of the Sri Lankan conflict over the years and it’s very clear to me that both Tamils and Singhalese are relieved that it’s finally over.

    The country is beginning to recover from its horrible aftermath and the international community should help Sri Lanka heal its wounds.

    However the Channel Four program titled ‘The killing fields of Sri Lanka’ served rather to inflame them.

    It’s clear that Channel Four has an agenda of discrediting the Sri Lankan government and this is accomplished at the expense of truth and good journalism.

    The documentary insisted that the Sri Lankan government carried out deliberate and systematic attacks on Tamil civilians. This is wholly untrue and is a reprehensible suggestion.
    It is as ridiculous to suggest that the British Army deliberately targeted all republican Irish citizenry during the height of the Northern Ireland conflict.
    A sovereign democratic government will not met out mob justice using it’s armed forces on it’s own citizens, and Tamils are as much Sri Lankans as are Singhaleese and other ethnic minorities in the country.

    It was particularly evident during the end stage of the Sri Lankan conflict that the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Elam (LTTE) held Tamil civilians hostage, denying them the very freedom that the LTTE allegedly sought for them.

    Throughout the long history of this conflict various methods have been tried to bring about a peaceful settlement and to encourage the LTTE to enter mainstream politics.

    This included direct intervention by Sri Lanka’s powerful neighbor India.

    However, the LTTE rejected all these efforts in pursuit of an independent Tamil state under its control.
    It was unacceptable for a terrorist state to exist and export its evils such as suicide bombings, therefore the Sri Lankan Government carried out its duty to protect and serve its citizens by removing the LTTE terrorists from their area of dominance.

    Unlike in Afghanistan and Iraq the Sri Lankan government did not need foreign intervention to accomplish this task.

    Contrary to what the documentary suggested, every effort was made by the Sri Lankan government to extract civilians from the combat zone, and local journalists were given unprecedented access to the front lines.
    Perhaps the government didn’t allow some western journalists – such as Chanel Four – with a liberal bias towards the LTTE terrorists, into the frontline to prevent truth being a casualty and to avoid military attack plans being divulged to the enemy.

    Embedded journalists in combat zones are a privilege allowed by the government.

    It was no secret that the United States armed forces disliked Al Jazeera correspondents in the front lines during the last Iraq war, and directly attacked the Al Jazeera building on the outskirts of Bagdad.

    This was not the case in Sri Lanka, where Chanel Four correspondents were only escorted out.

    The UN chose to leave the combat zones in North Eastern Sri Lanka, as they abandoned Rwanda, Kosovo, and many other places.

    The Sri Lankan government merely highlighted the fact that it couldn’t guarantee the safety of UN officials.
    There was a very plausible danger of the LTTE killing UN employees and blaming it on the government.

    Clips chosen for the Chanel Four documentary were emotive, screaming people and the crowd outside the UN offices showed the real horrors of any war.

    They didn’t show direct evidence of the Sri Lankan government’s cruelty. Perhaps the Tamil civilians begging the UN to stay, were afraid of exactly what followed, that the LTTE taking them hostage and used as a human shield, or the forcible conscription of their children.

    The alleged aftermath of a Sri Lankan army bombardment of a hospital showed buildings very much intact and patients lying on their beds.

    As for the execution videos, these have been proven to be unauthentic by the Sri Lankan government.

    Mr. Gordon Weiss, the former UN spokesman in Sri Lanka, who was interviewed extensively in the documentary has published a book titled ‘The Cage’ about his experiences of the final days of the war against the LTTE. Its worth quoting a chapter in page 216 of the book in its entirety:

    ‘It remains a credit to many of the front line SLA (Sri Lanka Army) 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.’

    Gordon Weiss is a hostile witness for the Sri Lankan government, however Chanel Four chose not to show any of the positive comments he made in his book focusing entirely on the negative.
    Mr Weiss has made bizarre unsubstantiated comments but even he cant deny the fact that there was no official policy of deliberately harming Tamil civilians.

    The capture of LTTE carders was made difficult by their suicide policy and the danger to civilians in the conflict zone.

    Many LTTE suicide bombers crossed over to government held lines mixed in with the population only to detonate their bombs in the presence of Army personnel, causing heavy civilian deaths.
    Despite all its sophisticated technology, the US navy seals team in its mission to capture or destroy Osama Bin Laden, chose to kill him rather than take him captive, as precaution against a suicide bomb concealed in his person.
    The killing of LTTE leaders was inevitable, as they would not surrender.

    War is an evil that ultimately reduces the humanity of its participants, however it is a well used conflict resolution tool of mankind.
    A surgeon will hack a diseased limb to save the body.
    It is unpleasant, but often has to be done.
    War also serves to highlight peaks of humanity and the personal sacrifice of individuals for the greater good.
    Once it’s ended, a healing has to begin, and this process can only happen if scars are allowed to settle.

    Chanel Four should get off its high horse of moral monopoly and allow Sri Lankans to sort out their own issues.

    Dr. Stuart Reiss
    Department of Surgery
    William Harvey Hospital
    Kent

  34. a velayutham says:

    It seems to me the whole article is a way to justify the current regime including its war crimes. This is what is unsaid but implicit in the whole article. Roberts could not get fame or recognition through being a Anthropologist. Given his own background it is funny that he is targeting colonial and Christian missionaries for ridicule.
    Perhaps Rajapakse will take pity and give him an honorary Anthropologist post a sort of embedded Anthropologist for the Sri Lankan military. And at last the historian turned anthropologist in his twilight years will be recognized as Putha. If colonialists are being vilified here, one must not forget that their offspring will continue to do the work for them.

  35. NAM says:

    You must read this before you write your next comment

    so does Prof. Roverts

    http://www.ahrchk.net/pub/pdf/Dysfunctional_AHRC.pdf

  36. Migrant says:

    I wish to address the thesis sentence of Dr Roberts–” Though the principal engines are Tamil Migrants in the Western world bent on ‘Vengeance’, there are Western people of righteousness in the vanguard as well”.

    The author has deliberately or otherwise ignored the well known and well documented circumstances that led to Tamil migrants becoming the “Engines”. Peaceful actions, including Ghandian style Satyagraha by Tamils who or whose progeny became migrants, for equality and to live with dignity in the land of their birth, was met with brute force and barbarity. Successive Ceylonese/ Sri Lankan govenments either encouraged or condoned such excesses. The Rule of Law was thrown overboard in dealing with the atrocities against the Tamils.

    How would Dr Roberts have reacted if his ” people”
    had been treated similarly?

    He has condescended to acknowledge the existence of “Western people of righteousness”. Is this because of his feeling of affinity with these souls?

    It is perhaps not in order to ascribe motives for his stance. However, when he turns a blind eye to the despicable acts of inhumanity in the combat areas and even ventures to infer that there has been freedom of the press, I have to question whether Dr Roberts is sucking up to the Sri Lankan Government to allow him to spend a good part of his retirement days in comfort in the Sri Lankan Paradise!

  37. Dr.Rajasingham Narendran says:

    Dear Nam,

    Thanks for the reference. I have read it just now. What I have to say in reply is that Sri Lanka is not a perfectly working democracy. It is an immature democracy. It can be even called a facade of a democracy. It may even be said that it is a elected monarchy that is not bound by any rules. Many things are wrong. Institutions inherited from the British have been destroyed beyond recognition, including the system of dispensing justice. This process began soon after independence and has accelarated. How could the Supreme Court acceed to the disenfrachisement of millions of Sri Lankan citizens of recent Indian origin or permit Sinhala only to become law ? How could the the principles-section 29- of the Soulbury constitution have been thrown overboard with the blessings of the Supreme Court. It has been a continuous process of decline. The JVP and LTTE phenomenon accelarated this decline and made what was abnormal, a neccesity at times. Thugs are the best qualified to become politicians and they infect every level of society. Men have been replaced by mice at every level of the system that governs us. The people do not any more know what true democracy is. The only redeaming feature is that yet governments can be changed regularly.

    However, these problems affect all the people of Sri Lanka, including the Tamils. The Tamils may have been the first victims of this process, but they are not the only ones now. The Tamils also were unfortunately the victims of a double whammy- the monstrosity of the LTTE and other Tamil militant groups who claimed to be their liberators.

    The problem you have highlighted by referring me to the AHRC report, has to be approached now as problem afflicting all Sri Lankans. The people- the vast number who matter- have to be educated on what true democracy is, what accountability means and what justice and rule of law should be. How is the big question. I think when the time is ripe it will happen (Egypt is the most recent example). If the GOSL remains deaf to these concerns, when the reaction comes, it may be break all bounds of discipline. I do not think the politicians in Sri Lanka are sensitive to such concerns yet- which is a tragedy.

    Dr.Rajasingham Narendran

  38. MC Ramon says:

    Geez, people like you need to get a life!

    Instead of engaging in constructive debate, you engage in pathetic drivel and mudslinging like many Sri Lankan bloggers seem to like doing.

  39. MC Ramon says:

    Here we go again… another conspiracy theorist and mudslinger!

    You know, people have different points of view that will disagree with yours. remember that please.

    If these white crusaders want to get involved in someone elses war they better get their facts straight cos no one is going to tolerate a foreigner intervening in another country’s affairs taking sides in local politics as Gordon Weiss is doing with the Tamil diaspora and Sri Lanka.

    Gordon Weiss has a lot to be accountable for bringing out a lot of misunformation and he should be held accountable.

  40. rohan j says:

    Thank you for enlightening the likes of me. The ignorant’s.

    All these days I was under the impression that as Velu Pirbha’s late father was a trustee of a Hindu temple in Point Pedro his offsprings should have been Hindus.

    I am also reliably informed that sergeant mahindathambu has catholic statutes under his pillows, is that right and that he became a catholic to sow his seeds and his offsprings are in public Buddhists but are in real life roman catholics with close links to Portugal.

    They have all been baptized at the Holy Rosary Church situated in Slave Island where the first lady still worships. R j.

  41. […] Roberts, 7 June 2011, from the Island, 22 June 2011, after an initial draft appeared in transcurrents on 20 June 2011. Readers are encouraged to visit the transcurrents site to see a number of caustic […]

  42. […] Besides they had political chips that the Japanese war cabinet did not possess. They had people of righteousness, do-gooder outsiders who had no subjective experience of the Sri Lankan war and did not have Ben […]

  43. MC Ramon says:

    “Half backed article by this author not authentic and will not be taken care of by the world.” –

    Well, if you say so, then of course everyone in the world will definitely believe you.

  44. Nalliah Suriyakumaran says:

    If we set aside Professor Michael Robert’s bile against white human rights activists, his argument boils down to the following: the LTTE are a vicious bunch of terrorists (no argument here) who caused the deaths of tens of thousands of civilians during the last stages of the civil war;that it is hard to distinguish between the LTTE and Tamil civilians;the world one resides in, is imperfect and world history is littered by brutality and we are all sinners; and any criticism made by white people and their ‘brown helpers’ on issues pertaining to violence and civil rights is a throwback to the colonial era.

    He fails to deal with what Gordon Weiss actually wrote and said. Gordon Weiss is not against the Sri Lankan state; he sees the LTTE as unreconstructed terrorists.What he wants to highlight is the ruthlessness of the Sri Lankan army in how they conducted the war. I heard him speak; he did seem troubled mainly because the UN, and by inference himself, had let down the Tamil civilians who were caught in the war zone.

    Professor Fails to acknowledge the progeny of LTTE was the the Sri Lankan state.Ironically if Professor is so convinced of the symbiotic relationship between the LTTE and the Tamil population is such that they are indistinguishable, then one can infer that the controversial claim of the LTTE as the sole voice of the Tamil people is valid. Then the conflict can be seen as an invasion by the Sinhala army into the traditional homeland of the Tamil people.The ruthlessness of the LTTE cannot and should not offer an ideological fig leaf to justify the Sri Lankan military atrocities during the war.

    Credible evidence has come to light of the indiscriminate killing of civilians through widespread shelling, the denial of humanitarian aid and the summary execution of LTTE cadres and the rape and murder of Tamil women by the military. These have to be investigated not shrugged off These brutal killings need to be investigated in a genuine, transparent and nonpartisan manner otherwise the issues that fuelled the war will fester on making genuine reconciliation impossible.

    A business as usual strategy institutionalise state terror as a valid instrument in the contemporary world. Our failure to investigate the tens of thousands of deaths of Sinhala youths at the hands of the state in 1971 and in the late 1980s has allowed our elite to use state terror as a valid legal and political instrument in managing dissent.

    Western perfidy is not an excuse to hide our own barbarism and to protect the powerful. One can live in hope that our intellectual courtiers in the future will be on the side of the poor and the marginalized

  45. Candidly says:

    Gordon Weiss reminds me very much of the character Kurtz in Joseph Conrad’s novel “Heart of Darkness”. In that novel Kurtz is not at all what he appears, initially, to be. Kurtz is asked to produce a report by the fictional ‘International Society for the Suppression of Savage Customs’ (which, as an aside, seems to be a fitting description of Mr Weiss’s attitude to his former UN work) and that report is praised by the novel’s narrator as “a beautiful piece of writing… the peroration was magnificent, though difficult to remember… it made me tingle with enthusiasm.” The narrator then adds: [but] “there were no practical hints to interrupt the magic current of phrases”, an observation wholely appropriate to Mr Weiss’s book “The Cage”.

    But in Conrad’s novel, Kurtz, the apparent doer of good-deads, has another agenda – the profits to be made from ivory smuggling & the ruthless exploitation of the region’s residents for that purpose. In Gordon Weiss’s case we can only speculate about his motives for having such venimous dislike for the Sri Lankan government, and especially the Sinhalese. But certainly there seems to be no interest in helping the previously warring parties in overcoming the anger & hatred of the past and moving forward to reconciliation & co-operation, for he writes hardly a word about that.

    Few people with balanced views & judgement seem to have taken “The Cage” seriously for a variety of reasons, the most important of which is the book’s obvious one-sidedness. For its most obvious & glaring flaw is that although it subjects the Sri Lankan government’s actions to detailed examination, including an attempt to place them in the context of Sri Lankan nationalism, the author carries out no such scrutiny of the actions of the Tamil Tigers themselves, nor other key actors such as the governments of India, the UK, Norway, or the USA. It’s as if he regards their actions as being part of the natural order of things, like bad weather, and only the government of Sri Lanka & its people are morally responsible for their actions. All other’s, bar some passing criticisms of his former employer, the United Nations, are inviolable.

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