Hon Ban Ki-moon

Secretary General

United Nations

Dear Mr Ban

One of the young doctors who had spent long hours working at Manik Farm drew my attention yesterday to a serious fallacy in the Report handed to you by Messers Darusman and Rattner and Ms Sooka. In Para 161 they claim with regard to the Welfare Centres at Manik Farm that ‘Some women were forced to perform sexual acts in exchange for food, shelter or assistance in camps’. The footnote they insert to substantiate this claim refers to your Report on ‘Children and Armed Conflict, 13 April 2010, A/64/742-S/2010/181, para 148. The report also states that “Within the internally displaced person sites, exploitation of women and girls appeared to be perpetrated by various actors through promises of favours, money or marriage and through threats.” Report of the Secretary-General on Children and Armed Conflict, 13 April 2010, A/64/742-S/2010/181, para. 151.’

Checking this reference, as urged by Dr Safras, reveals that Para 148 deals with child recruitment by the LTTE. In a more judicious phase you write –

‘148. Reports of recruitment by LTTE continued to be received until the end of the conflict in May 2009. UNICEF verified and documented 2397 cases of child recruitment, including 147 girls, by LTTE that occurred from 1 January to 19 May 2009. As of the end of November 2009, UNICEF recorded at least 34 children as well as 1,345 persons who were recruited as children but are now aboe 18 years of age, whose whereabout remain unknown. LTTE appears to have ceased to exist as a military organization  in Sri Lanka.’

Your perspicacity is apparent in that last phrase, implying that the LTTE does exist as a military organization elsewhere, and I hope you will share our fears about its continuing activities, similar to those President Obama felt about Al Qaeda.

Be that as it may, I must also draw your attention to Para 151, which your Panelists quote from as evidence about what was supposed to be happening in Manik Farm. I assume that you have not checked your references, since otherwise you would surely not have released publicly so slipshod a report, so I will cite it in full.

151. Interviews with internally displaced persons also indicated that during the months leading to the end of the conflict, there were reports of rape during flight and of sexual harassment, especially towards former female LTTE cadres, including girls. Some women and girls trying to flee the conflict areas had their hair forcibly cut by LTTE as a deterrent to fleeing, knowing that women with short hair would be suspected by the Sri Lanka army of being LTTE cadres and would likely be treated differently from other internally displaced persons. Some young girls were forced by their families to marry their relatives to avoid forced recruitment by LTTTE. Within the internally displaced person sites, exploitation of women and girls appeared to be perpetrated by various actors through promises of favours, money or marriage and through threats.’

Anyone with a modicum of intelligence would realize that this paragraph refers to what happen before these ladies got away to safety with the government. One sentence specifically mentions LTTE agency while another talks of actions to prevent LTTE abuse. The first sentence, in referring to ‘the months leading to the end of the conflict’, indicates that this is not about Manik Farm at all. It is true that the final sentence could conceivably refer to a later stage, ie Manik Farm, but the paragraphing as well as use of the phrase ‘internally displaced person sites’ suggests that this too refers to what took place in the’ months leading to the end of the conflict’.

Since there is no doubt that your Panelists are intelligent, one has to assume that they are either careless, or else extremely cunning, and relied on your not checking your references, a practice that was enjoined on me early in my academic life, and which I strongly recommend. I am  not sure about the other two, but I believe Mr Ratner went to Yale, and I am sorry that he seems not to have been taught this elementary lesson.

I too had been careless in not immediately checking the reference, though I had seen some oddity in the reference to promises of marriage, in an allegation that seemed intended to denigrate soldiers, since it followed on the sentence, ‘Women were not given sufficient privacy, and soldiers infringed on their privacy and dignity by watching them while they used the toilet or bathed.’ I had indeed mentioned, in the annotations I am making to the Report you publicized, that ‘Presumably not even these perverse Panelists assume that the good Secretary-General was talking of the soldiers offering favours or money or marriage’, but I failed to notice the implications of the Panelists alleging problems in ‘the camps’ but trying to substantiate this with a quotation referring to ‘sites’.

This last suggests that the Panelists were not being careless, but had a more insidious motive. I will however leave it to you to decide whether such strong inferences are valid. Meanwhile, I hope very much that you will inquire into this aberration, and others. I was moved by the anxiety of the doctor who had worked so hard for the healtn of the displaced, and is even now amongst those urging me to spend more of my decentralized budget on psycho-social support for former combatants.

Such youngsters are deeply hurt by what they see as this travesty of justice. I am conscious that they have worked enormously hard under appalling conditions, in a manner which intellectuals like you and me can never hope to emulate. We too have our own role, but the standards we impose on ourselves, especially when sitting in judgment on each other, must be high.

I hope therefore that you will look into this offending paragraph and, if you agree that it is misleading and misuses your words, that you will remedy the situation. I hasten to add that we do not require retributive justice, but simply a remedy for errors.

 I look forward to hearing from you, and I hope you will ensure that at least this allegation against our soldiers and the administration of Manik Farm is withdrawn, and the abuses laid at the door of the LTTE, which is where your original report, so shabbily misread here, placed them.

Yours sincerely,

Prof Rajiva Wijesinha

Member of Parliament

Daily News 6 May 2011

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