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UN "Expert" report is an illegal one based on fudged assumptions

by Dr.Susantha Goonatilake

The UN expert team report on alleged "war crimes" castigates Sri Lanka, lightly raps the knuckles of the LTTE, ignores vital history, intrudes into contemporary issues outside its mandate, castigates the very UN that appointed it, off-handishly interprets Sri Lankan social reality which even professional social scientists would shun from, uses terminology straight from NGOs like "triumphalism" and "ethno nationalism", and praises Sri Lankan "civil society" (read foreign funded NGOs and not real civil society like political parties, trade unions and professional organisations).

Perhaps a sign of guilt at providing this misinformation, NGOs themselves have been spewing out statements during the last few days that they are being unfairly targeted for attack in the newspapers. Curious. And not so curious. We should begin with the war's context (and also put into context the Time magazine poll on Mahinda Rajapaksa which was announced almost on the day of the UN expert report). Let us begin with ground facts on war.

Wars are messy and bloody, especially long-lasting wars for national sovereignty. Our concluded war is perhaps the longest war in the world of the 20th and 21st centuries began when 20,000 detonators for 20,000 explosions were found in 1973 smuggled into Jaffna from South India. It was fuelled ideologically by pan-Tamil chauvinism emerging from around the 1920s in South India. It predated the tragic riots in 1978 and 1983. It was dramatically helped by the Indian proxy invasion beginning in the early 1980s when all the separatist groups were trained, armed and sent to Sri Lanka as a foreign policy act of the Indians.

Contrary to calls for transparency, democracy and accountability implicit in the UN expert report we have had over the decades attempts, some successful some not, to subvert the will of the country's people by foreign powers and their NGO proxies. First was the so-called Indian Accord imposed with Indian gunboats which forced Sri Lanka to change its Constitution. This was cheered heartily by NGOs including the current one which is bleating publicly. It then said gleefully that Indian forces would not leave unless Sri Lanka bends to Indian views. Perhaps the worst leader of Sri Lanka as far as our sovereignty was concerned; Chandrika Kumaratunga was hoisted on us over her nationalist mother through machinations of NGOs.

Chandrika wanted to hand over the North and East for 10 years to the LTTE. In her time, the traitorous CFA was signed and there were also attempts at the ISGA and P-Toms. All of this was meant to strengthen the LTTE and whittle away our sovereignty. All were cheered by NGOs; the currently bleating one even wanting the constitution changed after P-TOMS was suspended by the courts. The NGOs acting as paid proxies for foreign powers also questioned the need for sovereignty and had called for “shared sovereignty” and two near-states. Not surprisingly, almost all leaders of the NGO’s were from sections of society that lost colonial privileges after our Independence. Amidst all these machinations against the country, we finally had the guts to take the LTTE on.

The last few weeks were very bloody as Prabhakaran dragged "his people" under duress to an ever shrinking part of his invented homeland and co-opted many of them as unwilling fighters. He had already wanted one member of each family, but now in the dying days of the LTTE he wanted almost every family member to serve in his army. Such an act of mass herding had not been done by his predecessors Hitler or Mussolini as they faced defeat in World War II. Hitler committed suicide with family and friends in his bunker not surrounded by German masses as a human shield. Our Hitler who had distributed suicide pills forgot to take his. Finally surrounded by pincer movements of the Sri Lankan Army, Prabhakaran forced the innocents into a sliver of land preventing them from leaving. The last few days indeed would have been bloody, very bloody.

It would not however have been bloodier than the West's wars for sovereignty like the American Civil War, World War I and World War II. Many of these had policies of "taking no prisoners" and consequent mass summary executions. Nandikadal had no parallel to the mass murder in Hiroshima, Nagasaki, and mass bombing of German cities like Dresden. And hidden from the western World War II triumphalist propaganda were the large-scale massacres and rapes of Germans after World War II.

The West’s colonial wars were all genocidal including that of the Portuguese on Sri Lanka. Post World War II western wars of intervention such as in Vietnam (millions killed) and Iraq (the respected journal Lancet estimating nearly 700,000 killed) and Afghanistan are a continuing saga. And as Sri Lanka with an over 30-year-old war, with memories of nearly 500 years of Western colonialism and 2500 years of historical memory struggled to regain sovereignty, many indeed would have died in the last few confused weeks in that sliver of Nandikadal land.

Towards the end of the war on May 13 2009, the UN Security Council in a Press Statement, had condemned the LTTE for “its acts of terrorism over many years, and for its continued use of civilians as human shields”. It reaffirmed “the legitimate right of the Government of Sri Lanka to combat terrorism” and demanded that the LTTE “lay down its arms and allow tens of thousands of civilians still in the conflict zone to leave”.

The UN Human Rights Council (UNHRC) on May 27 declared “respect for the sovereignty, territorial integrity and independence of Sri Lanka and its sovereign rights to protect its citizens and to combat terrorism”. It denounced “all attacks the LTTE launched on the civilian population and the practice of using civilians as human shields”. It greeted positively “the conclusion of hostilities and the liberation by the GOSL of tens of thousands of its citizens that were kept by the LTTE against their will as hostages, as well as the efforts by the Government to ensure the safety and security of all Sri Lankans and bring permanent peace to the country”. It wanted the government “to continue to persevere in its efforts towards the disarmament, demobilization and rehabilitation of former child soldiers recruited by [the LTTE] in cooperation with relevant United Nations organizations”. (These facts pointed out by veteran diplomat Nihal Rodrigo).

The same crowd that brought in the EU restrictions on our garment exports was now trying hard to reverse the above UN words said at the heat of the battle. In fact, the current report was criticizing these earlier actions of the UN itself. The report's narrative mischievously put the cart before the horse. It describes (falsely) government forces' actions first - which were only a reaction to LTTE attacks - while mentioning LTTE actions only as an afterthought. It was denouncing the feeling in the country of triumph over adversity.

We in the older generation must indeed be triumphalist that the younger generation can now enjoy the peace that we had when we were young. We must indeed be triumphalist that the LTTE was defeated. Sri Lanka triumphalism is nowhere near Western triumphalism after World War II. NGO doublespeak was easy to spot in the report. Where did the country go wrong after the war's end and what was the remedy that we missed?

On close examination, the UN "Expert" Report is seen as an illegal one based on fudged assumptions, reminiscent of similar false concepts such as the "Traditional Homelands of the Tamils". It also has, in the spirit of missionaries of earlier colonialism, implicit timelines and false data on our history similar to those put out by foreign funded NGOs.

UN circles have maintained that the expert panel had legitimacy and was at the request of a joint statement on May 23, 2009 by Ban Ki -moon and Mahinda Rajapaksa. D.B.S. Jeyaraj, after his "in depth perusal" of the Joint Statement finds no such joint pledge. So at the beginning itself, the mandate of the Panel was non-existent, rigged to please interested parties.

While the tone of the report is one of castigation of the government, the report itself is revealing of ground LTTE facts which the panel does not properly place with adequate emphasis.

Tucked away in the tail end, the Report mentions “Despite grave danger in the conflict zone, the L.T.T.E. refused civilians permission to leave, using them as hostages, at times, even using their presence as a strategic human buffer between themselves and the advancing Sri Lanka Army,” and adds “from February 2009 onwards, the L.T.T.E. started point-blank shooting of civilians who attempted to escape the conflict zone, significantly adding to the death toll in the final stages of the war.”

This is echoed by Gordon Weiss, the former UN spokesperson who left Sri Lanka under a cloud in an interview on the Report with Radio Australia. Weiss says that the “The Tamil Tigers held essentially hundreds-of-thousands of people hostage. As the siege intensified, they refused to let people go and as people tried to escape, they shot them. They were also guilty of the mass conscription of people and certainly in my book … the Tamil Tigers are responsible for the deaths of thousands of teenagers, who were forcibly conscripted."

The question is if Tamils were held under hostage, what would a legitimate government do at the tail end of a 37-year war? Indeed, what are the western guidelines in the taking of only a few hostages by terrorists, not the hundreds of thousands of the LTTE? Many popular films have been produced on such freeing of a few hostages using lethal force in different theatres from the US heartland, to the Iranian Embassy in London, to Somali pirates in the sea to Afghanistan. When the hostages are not just a few, but hundreds of thousands and had been kept without democratic rights and freedoms under a Hitler type regime now on its last legs, the humanitarian route is obvious. Use all means for rescue to prevent future greater suffering.

The Report claims that at the tail end of the war, the government did not provide food and humanitarian aid. Sri Lankan governments (of all shades) were perhaps the only state in the world that although its writ in other matters was denied by the LTTE kept the Tamil population under enemy control continuously fed, educated and provided with free medical care. And many of these humanitarian efforts ended up with the LTTE. Sri Lanka state humanitarianism went to feed the enemy. Even during the last stages of the war, the World Food Programme and UN agencies were delivering provisions. Yet, the local UN officialdom was hardly neutral in the war, as was seen in the large quantities of food items and medicines with the UN emblem clearly marked found after the war in LTTE stores and war bunkers.

The present UN "experts" Panel Report denies these already well documented UN efforts. It mentions that "during the final stages of the war, the United Nations political organs and bodies failed to take action that might have protected civilians". It also now wants to reconsider UN decisions taken when the facts were current and well-known. The hidden implication possibly is that the UN should have intervened to stop fighting to allow Prabhakaran safe passage, a position that hardly would have been allowed to Osama bin Laden and his crew if they were surrounded.

A Report presumably looking at the last days of the war has some telling recommendations beyond its mandate which reveal its hidden hands. It wants "the root causes of the long-running ethno-nationalist conflict" and removal of "on-going exclusionary policies, which are particularly deleterious as political, social and economic exclusion based on ethnicity, perceived or real, have been at the heart of the conflict" and "the full and inclusive citizenship of all its people, including Tamils as the foundation for the country’s future."

Comparing Sri Lanka with India, the US, and many Western countries, I had shown in an article in the OPA Journal as well as in my submissions to the LLRC that in formal legal terms, there are no such exclusionary policies. In fact, Sri Lanka has better legal provisions for minorities than Tamil Nadu. (But legal provision and ground reality can of course be very different.)

The Panel also wants "a process, with strong civil society participation [read foreign funded NGOs], to examine in a critical manner: the root causes of the conflict, including ethno-nationalist extremism on both sides; the conduct of the war and patterns of violations; and the corresponding institutional responsibilities." This is in the spirit of NGO hogwash and half truths which I had detailed in my book on NGOs. With hundreds of millions of rupees of foreign money, the local NGOs undertook careful processes of brain washing (I use the term literally) the local population. However, this was to no avail as the locals took the money but welcomed the end of the war.

These recommendations of the Panel immediately recall those of the Berghof Foundation in its carefully laid out plan of governance of the country through NGOs, downsizing the military, and giving NGOs a veto power on the military. Berghof was tightly linked to all other NGOs, and during the war its head was deported as a security risk.

Again going outside its mandate, the Report has some recommendations on removal of Emergency Regulations, the validity of the justice system, independence of the judiciary and concentration of power in the Presidency. Emergency regulations have been in force for several decades and indeed should be removed when it is no longer needed for national security. The justice system should be improved and power should be spread throughout the country. Democracy in Sri Lanka as in the US is a work in progress. I can make several recommendations for improving US democracy (as I had done in international journals). But, these are for the local population to undertake, for the local national level political parties - the UNP, the JVP and of course the UPFA. We citizens while resisting foreign interference and attacks on sovereignty must and should make our country better. That is our duty, not that of foreign colonial missionaries.


This racist crap should end now..these old men with their 1956 mentality are the ones who got us into this whole mess in the first place..30 years of death is enough..whether they are sinhala or tamil racist, hopefully their brand of jingoism will die with them and leave the younger generations of Sri Lanka with a hope of reconciliation and a possibility of peace..

Posted by: Sharn | April 19, 2011 10:51 PM

Great response to a shoddy, muck coming from the UN and Ban Ki Moon is not fit to be the SG as much as Barak Obama, as the US President for a second term.

The US has become a basket case. They try to enforce their will on other countries without getting their house in order. We must ignore like of Robert Blake and also tell Berghof Foundation to exit Sri Lanka, asap.

In the mean time, the GOSL also needs to get their act together. Otherwise, every dog will have their day on account of GOSL.

Posted by: Max Headroom | April 20, 2011 07:29 AM

Goonatilake's logic is flawed in so many respects, that I forgot to breathe for nearly a full minute. Is Goonatilake aware that 99% of the post-WWII rapes in Germany were committed by Russia, S. Lanka's pre-eminent ally on the Security Council? Hiroshima and Nagasaki were "bad", indeed, yet they were also undertaken as a last resort, after Japan refused to surrender. Furthermore, Goonatilake forgets to mention that the Japanese murdered 23 million Chinese, in addition to 7 million others in the territories they illegally invaded and captured - 5 times the number of Jews that perished in the Holocaust. If the LTTE had murdered 30 million civilians in cold blood, and raped hundreds of thousands of women, as the Japanese did at Nanking, I doubt that the UN or anyone else would care how GOSL finished them off. Let me cut to the chase: comparing WWII to the Sri Lankan conflict is sheer folly, because there simply is no comparison. WWII was the mother of all battles - entire generations were lost, new technologies were invented whose impact we feel even today, and perhaps most importantly, the civilized world took one look at the Holocaust and said NO to genocide, in a single voice. I am not going to talk about Iraq/Afghanistan, where 99% of the murders have been committed by Islamic militants, not the West, as Goonatilleke tries to assert.

There are different degrees of genocide. Goonatilake is trying to downplay the one in Sri Lanka, but let us hope he will not succeed.

Posted by: Anonymous | April 20, 2011 01:16 PM

My famous writer from South India Jeyakanthan wrote as follows: "உண்மை சுடும்".

This and other writings and comments are the result of the pain, the truth causes to their conscience.

First one has to understand the pain of the truth before one is ready for reconciliation.

V. Stanislaus

Posted by: v.Stanislaus | April 20, 2011 03:05 PM

Good try Goonatilake, unfortunately no one will buy it.

Thanks for trying.

Posted by: Arul Sittampalam | April 20, 2011 08:43 PM

(Note to editor: Please ignore my previous comment. Thanks)

The author of this article had not reflected the entire population of the Sri Lanka. The main argument in his article was justifying the killing of the innocent people in Sri Lanka in the name of war against LTTE.

He failed to see the following points in his article.

LTTE was viewed a terrorist group in the eyes of the Sri Lankan government and some section of the Sinhala community but it was viewed as savior from the systematically oppressed and discriminated Tamil community both in Sri Lanka and out side. LTTE can be an indicator to measure the desperate protection of the Tamil community needed in Sri Lanka.

Author was attacking the NGOs actions and their presence in this country for different reasons. However they were most trusted agencies by the Tamil community because the government and the government forces were not accessible to ordinary Tamil man on the street. The reason being was that both the government and the forces were machinery of corrupt practices and show case of racial animosity.

Author did not talk about the systematic killings of many journalists in Sri Lanka. There were many ordinary innocent wealthy people belong to minority community were kidnapped and killed for ransom by the Government forces in the civil suits (many court cases are still pending). There was no law and order to protect those minorities in that country. These were the indicators for how the governance in the Sri Lankan government machinery was collapsed in the name of war against LTTE.

In his last paragraph, he mentioned some political parties should decide to have the emergency law or to put away. Note, that those parties mentioned have no representations in the North and East of the Sri Lanka. Further, he failed to include a party called TNA which is the main political party represent the North and East people, if he is interested in the democratic approach. This is simply an example shows as how the author ignores the major points and balance in his article.

So simply, this article exposes a group of people’s outcry who is fear to face the truth.

Posted by: Mayu | April 21, 2011 01:20 AM

Hi Dr.Susantha

If we carefully examine the ethnic, social and political state of affairs in SL, and, with reference to the political domain in the West: We could clearly see that there are several dimensional column of elements and groups in SL, who are opposed to the government, to prove that the general population do not agree to the current regime, and are not happy.

Tamils are racists, no doubt about that. However, what triggered the ethnic confrontation? Sheer power hunger of one person, SWRD Bandaranaike, with his political avidity, wanted to bring in Sinhala only within 24 hours to which the illiterate masses responded by electing him as the PM, and SWRD did enforce what he promised in his election manifesto. The issue here is: The government could have implemented whatever is productive and useful for the country on a horizon of say 10 to 30 years (slowly). We humans should understand that impulsive decisions and actions in the political arena can attract racial confrontations.

After 1955, how many racial pogroms and violence. You are aware about that. Do not tell that the Sinhala people have been given the license by the UN and the international world, to rape, loot and murder minority victims. In a social perspective do you think that actions of this sort will not generate conflicts, struggles and fights? You know that the JVP took up arms in 1971. What did Srimavo do? Mass murder young Sinhala youths. The regretting part here is that the UN kept a blind eye of the killings in 1971. Is the UN going to categorise that as “internal affairs”. Of course “YES”. However, eliminating another act of terrorism by the LTTE has attracted the UN’s attention. Well, could that be the only rationale?

The slogan “China with Love”, and General Sarath Fonseka has been a major issue to the West. Who gave the photos to the UN? Can we assume that a Tamil was there taking photos? What about other information? Does this not let slip and divulge that there are Sinhala people who are opposed to the current regime which has brought SL to this reprehensible, disgraceful and appalling situation today.
The Tamil Diaspora has built up their political framework for international propaganda and the cheap Tamil Nadu politicians are sliding in on this situation.

What the SriLankans are doing is writing articles, articles etc. Have we got any forum that can stand up against the UN? Have we got any powerful Diaspora associations, Forum, or Congresses that can formulate plans and programs to stand against external aggression? No! The entire SriLankan Diaspora is depending on our HE MR, and finally will blame HE MR when things have been cooked. Why have we left things to HE MR. Because SriLankans are scared and afraid to talk because HE MR is the authority and connoisseur on all matters?

SriLanka has gone from bad to worse with corruption, bribery, and illegal acts worse than that of LTTE. What is the answer?

Release General Sarath Fonseka.

Bring about a permanent solution to the Tamils which will reinforce our solidarity and strength to such an extent that we can stand against external aggression, even from those clowns in Tamil Nadu.

Readdress the “China with Love” worship.

As Sharn stated the “racist crap should end”. Sharn’s comments are valuable and we must think about that.



Posted by: Sandilyan | April 21, 2011 02:07 AM

So terminology like "Triumphalism" and "ethno nationalism" are words used only by the dreaded NGOs are they? Well I've never worked for an NGO but what I see as triumphalism is the continous partying we have had since May 2009, spending 800 million on a party for Bollywood, expensive Military exhibitions and parades to show off to the Sinhalese southerners all the deadly weapons we used against the northerners, The air punching president celebrating as if he has scored a goal in the world cup without a thought for the thousands who died and lay permanantly maimed by the final weeks of fighting. This was a pyrrhic victory if ever there was one. We sacrificed one section of our citizens so the others coud live without fear. Nothing to be too proud of. Imagine having to abandon one of your own children in a burning house in order to save another. Would you be throwing a party afterwards to celebrate having survived intact?

If Rajapakse handled this whole affair with a bit of compassion and sensitiviy at the end of the war he would not be in the possition he is now. Instead of punching the air and kissing the earth and throwing a party if he acknowledged the true cost of the battle and made a solumn promise to devote every spare cent of the country's money to rehabilitate the survivors no one will be critisising him now. Instead, the fool found it all too easy to pretend no civilians died and embrace the likes of Susantha Gunathilake, Nalin Silva, Wimal Weerawansa and Malinda Seneviratne and their selfish "ethno nationalism". Consequently we are now where we are.

Posted by: dingiri | April 21, 2011 04:43 AM

Dr.Susantha Goonatilake so you can't accept that the Srilankan Saints were cought by UN while their pants were down. "the root causes of the long-running ethno-nationalist conflict, was and is the 'mind set' of the Majority Community with a minority mentality / conscience[feeling of guilt or anxiety]as Kohona said the other day. The 'Mythical Ideology' acquired by Sinhala Politicians from about 1910 has ruined the country, and is still clinging to this ideology is dragging the country down, now into its six foot hole. Remove your blinkers, get out of that well and see the world around you.

Then you have said... "And as Sri Lanka with an over 30-year-old war"..., what war, are you talking about, is the burning of Jaffna library and Tamil MP's house by two thuggish Ministers and the armed hoodlum of 1981? with short memory of yours, you have failed to take into account of 150 men women and children killed in June 1956 in Ampari. Thousands died in 1958 and displaced 30,000 from the southwest.
Yes nearly 500 years of Western colonialism and now 63 years of internal colonialism, Tamils had struggled to regain their sovereignty,which they lost to Portuguese in 1621, This sovereignty form its Tamil kingdom,once again the Tamils lost when it was handed over to the'duplicitous Sinhala politicians' by British in 1948. implementing their mother parliament and democracy with meagre safeguard in the constitution. This was the biggest mistake made by Tamil politicians, being 'complicit with the evil' Sinhala politicians.

Many Thousands, indeed have died in the last six months before reaching the sliver sand of Nandikadal. Brutal assult with 8000 sorties of aerial bombing between Jan-May 2009[R.Gota's claim], In addition Multibarrel shelling,with the use of banned weapons such as Phosphorous bombs. Dr.Suss..tell me Which is the country where its rulers starve their citizens, and then bomb them? don't you think, it can only be Srilanka. Please wake up to reality. Yes the Government and its security forces have committed war crimes and it still continues with crime against humanity. If you deny this Then let in an Independent International men,women to come and search the scoarched lands in the North East. A well Staged a [Witnessless silent] racial war-genocidal war under the cloak of war on terror, having mustered other criminal countries to fight your dirty war and then celebrating it as your own victory. One day natural justice will be dished out to those war criminals.

The West’s colonial wars were all genocidal including that of the Portuguese on Sri Lanka. Post World War II western wars of intervention such as in Vietnam (millions killed) and Iraq (the respected journal Lancet estimating nearly 700,000 killed) and Afghanistan are a continuing saga. And as Sri Lanka with an over 30-year-old war, with memories of nearly 500 years of Western colonialism and 2500 years of historical memory struggled to regain sovereignty, many indeed would have died in the last few confused weeks in that sliver of Nandikadal land.

the conclusion of hostilities and the liberation by the GOSL of tens of thousands of its citizens that were kept by the LTTE against their will as hostages

Posted by: Dr Waran | April 21, 2011 10:23 AM

The difference between the local populace or political parties in one of these western countries trying to improve democracy and Ceylon: they will not be made to disappear - One has a magician that makes people, buildings, political parties and even the volunteer that comes to check there are no mirrors disappear. The trouble the magician believes he is a wizard and along with his glamorous assistants is whining that people are looking under and around the stage instead of at it.

Posted by: mirrorwatcher | April 21, 2011 11:22 AM

An excellent article that examines the expert panel's leaked report with forensic precision and castigates the double standards employed with regard to Sri Lanka and its sovereignty to conduct its own investigation.

It also provides the historical perspective of Sri Lankan leaders who had to deal with Indian hegemony. It was India that trained and assisted the LTTE to unleash the trail of terror in Sri Lanka. In the end the Indians too fell victim of the LTTE’s terror tactics.

It was left to the political will of Mahinda Rajapakse , the military skill of Gotabaya Rajapakse and the operational expertise of Sarath Fonseka and the might, dedication and discipline of the Sri Lankan forces to get rid of this cancer of terrorism forever.

As regards the civilian deaths please note Sri Lankan forces made all possible efforts to remove the civilians from the area of conflict sometimes in detriment to their own military personnel. It was the LTTE that detained the civilians to use as a human shield to protect their own leaders. Please read the article below by ex-TNA MP S. Kanagaratnam who was in the Vanni with his electorate during the conflict.

Just imagine if Osma Bin Ladin was cornered like the LTTE and held onto a civilian human shield to protect himself and his cohorts – would the United States forces done anything different to that what Sri Lankan forces would have done? The brutality of war and the consequences of civilians caught in the cross-fire is a dilemma that forces on the ground have to resolve in situ. The Sri Lankan government did all in their power to save the civilians but as the LTTE proved time and again that killing civilians and putting them as sacrificial lambs was justified in saving their own skins.

Posted by: Merlin Van Tweest | April 21, 2011 04:13 PM

At the start, the UNSG said; he is appointing a panel to advice him on what went during the end of the 'war' in Sri Lanka.

However, it now looks as if the trio appointed to the panel had elevated themselves to be the judges, the jury and the executioners for all what had happened.

So we should not make any endeavor to analyze the judgement by panel but organize a through campaign to show it to the world and India in particular in order to undermine the panel's arbitrary action.

Posted by: Anonymous | April 21, 2011 08:37 PM

Can the Dr explain whether the constitutionally guaranteed status given to Buddhism as 'the foremost religion in Sri Lanka' in 'formal legal terms' promotes exclusionary or inclusionary policies and practices within the state?

Posted by: cyril | April 22, 2011 06:59 PM

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