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DateLine Sunday, 11 May 2008





Marriage Proposals
Government Gazette

INGO ‘concerns’ and their ‘unimpeachable’ sources

Words are interesting things. They can be used to communicate. They can be used also to lie, to distort, misrepresent, vilify and obfuscate.

All words subject the communicator to appraisal. All words should be taken with a pinch of salt, I believe.

The amount of salt employed depends on one thing: clarity in the statement of bias.

If stories are lies, then a good story-teller is also a good liar. Does this mean that no one is honest? No, there are honest people and there are dishonest people.

The better human beings are those who clearly state their bias, who are willing to admit fault and who have the humility to correct themselves when proven wrong.

Let me state mine. I am a Sri Lankan and I entertain healthy suspicion of all NGOs, local and international, and not without reason. As a citizen, to me, the greatest threat to my citizenship is the LTTE.

To me it is eminently logical for a Government to thwart the terrorist, especially since all other avenues of settlement have been exhausted thanks to the LTTE’s intransigence regarding negotiations. I believe that in times such as now there will be inevitable curtailing of certain freedoms I used to enjoy. I stand with the state.

Do I stand with the Government and do I give it a blank cheque? No. There are excesses and yes, the state has not been 100% successful in reining in errant elements in the enforcing agencies.

However, by and large, the state has prevailed, is robust in ensuring justice and freedom, and exemplary in all these given constraints including the fact that Sri Lanka is a developing country, has a relatively weak economy and is under siege by terrorism.

I have just finished reading a document authored by a group of International Non-Government Organizations and addressed to all member states of the United Nations urging them to stop Sri Lanka’s bid for a UN Rights Council seat.

Reading through one would think that they have travelled to every nook and corner of Sri Lanka, investigated thoroughly her institutions, and interviewed thousands and thousands of people before concluding what they have concluded and recommending what they have recommended.

The arguments are familiar. In a nutshell, if we are to believe them, Sri Lanka is a living hell, especially for minorities. One is asked to believe also that the Sri Lankan Government doesn’t give a damn for the UN, has nothing by way of institutional structure to ensure that universally approved norms pertaining to human rights are adhered to.

There is more. Sri Lanka has so many things to hide in these matters that the Government will not allow any outside agency to play watch-dog over its operations. In short Sri Lankan is a barbaric state and one that is so rabidly uncooperative with the UN that it does not deserve a seat in the UN Rights Council.

There are two ways to respond to all this.

One, do a comprehensive assessment of all members of the Rights Council and indeed the Security Council, the movers and shakers, in terms of track record on human rights within those countries and in their involvement outside; comparing them all against Sri Lanka’s performance giving appropriate weight to Sri Lanka’s ground reality of having to deal with the world’s most ruthless terrorist organization with sparse resources while doing the regular tasks that are required of states including the protection of all citizenry.

The good people in the INGO community would not I believe entertain the notion that people in Sri Lanka or elsewhere live in Utopia and perforce, given also their good-heartedness, enthusiastically do the relevant mathematics that they’ve failed to do in this plea.

There is another way.

Since this is after all a story and a story written by organizations that do not have any real on-the-ground presence is Sri Lanka, we can investigate their sources.

Hearsay is not fact, we need to understand. Claims, exaggerations etc are the meat and gravy of any account and the ratio of meat to gravy is easily obtained by investigating the sources, their political predilections, their alleged neutrality and throwing in the true, verifiable facts and figures.

Gravy, sad to say, only adds flavour; contains little nutrition, contains little or no ‘body’. Reading through the document and the references therein is indeed an entertaining exercise in the archaeology of narrative-construction.

It all comes down to some local organizations and a handful of local ‘key-informants’.

Surprise, surprise!

Are these organizations politically value-free? No. Are they politically ‘neutral’?

No. Do they not have political lives outside worrying about human rights, democracy, justice and so on? Yes, they do. Are they agenda-free?

No they are not. Do they not have party loyalties? Yes, they do. Do they not have preferred political outcomes in the play of power politics? Yes, they do.

Are they absent in the equation of party politics? Are they engaged in a pure, remuneration-free exercise?

No, they are not.

Are there ‘hundreds of extra-judicial killings’? Yes, in directly combating armed terrorists, one doesn’t have the luxury of arrest and fair trial.

How many ‘extra-judicial’ killings have taken place outside of the conflict zone and wherever such killings have taken place, outside of the general culpability of the state in not preventing them, in how many cases has it been proven beyond a shadow of doubt that there has been deliberate intent and execution on the part of the Government?

The onus for providing such naturally falls on the distinguished ladies and gentlemen of these INGOs sitting in judgment.

‘Hundreds of enforced disappearances’ have taken place, it is alleged. Yes, people have disappeared. I know for a fact that all such cases have been recorded and have been or are being investigated. Some of them have been found to have ‘fled’ the country to the proverbial greener pastures abroad. Some have ‘disappeared’ into LTTE-held areas.

Some have eloped with their lovers. Take those out and the ‘hundreds’ diminish into a handful and even among them the so-called hand-of-the-state is not established.

Who are the ‘human rights defenders’ and ‘humanitarian workers’ denounced and threatened by the Government, pray? Does not a Government or anyone else have the right to denounce those who are actively undermining the state and overtly and covertly aiding terrorism? Should the fact that such persons wear a ‘humanitarian’ and ‘human-rights-defending’ costume provide them with some kind of immunity from censure?

Employees of UN agencies, employees of NGOs and INGOs have been found guilty of providing material and other support to the LTTE.

No one should be provided with blank cheques in Sri Lanka, not the Government and not NGOs and INGOs. Terrorists can wear a priests cassock, can disguise themselves as Buddhist monks, can come as a Police Officer, can wear the paraphernalia carried by a journalist, can work their way into UN agencies and INGOs and so on. This is the reality that has forced the State to take extraordinary measures to protect the general citizenry.

Louis Arbour, Allan Rock, John Holmes and others are no doubt inspired by the highest ideals of human decency but with all due respect they too are humanly frail and in the case of Sri Lanka they have been, unfortunately, mislead by informants whose credentials are utterly suspect, informants who have carefully crafted human-rights-advocacy resumes but who have publicly slipped and even slipped in wordage, admitting, ‘we are not sincere’.

(Names of organizations and individuals and their complicity in all this can be provided if necessary).

As for ‘cooperation’ with UN agencies, effort to implement recommendations, the Government has certainly not done nothing. One can quibble about amount of sincerity but on the other hand no sovereign state is contractually bound to implement each and every proposal, and especially not those offered by admittedly well-meaning but clearly misinformed individuals.

Those living in the comfort zone outside of immediate and violent terrorist attack can of course pontificate but there are honour-bound to appreciate the lived realities of ordinary citizens in Sri Lanka.

These are not easy times.

These INGOs want Sri Lanka out of the Rights Council. In the worst-case scenario, that kind of ‘punishment’ for crimes not committed will only compromise the Rights Council, the member states and the petitioners in the eyes of the general citizenry of Sri Lanka. The petitioners will no doubt be applauded, but only by a small coterie of intellectual frauds adept in language, rhetoric and elitist social-networking.

The rest of us will of course appreciate that it is a blow to the country but given our understanding of the long-run, will shrug our collective shoulders and battle on.

These INGOs have every right to appeal to the member states of the UN to ‘say no to Sri Lanka’s bid for UN Rights Council seat’. We reserve the right to say ‘no’ to anti-intellectualism, misinformed buffoonery and everything and everyone that is patently anti-Sri Lanka and anti-Sri Lankans


Gamin Gamata - Presidential Community & Welfare Service
Ceylinco Banyan Villas

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