Those who watched the celebration of our servicemen on May 19th told me the President seemed upset when he had to condole with the families of those who had died. Catching glimpses of the march past, I could understand that. But in addition to sorry for them, and indeed for the Tamils too who had died in the last days of the war, and earlier, I was angry too.
The LTTE had to be defeated, and those who laid down their lives for this did not die unnecessarily. So too those who died because of the brutality of the LTTE, the hostage taking, the assassinations, the horrendous tactics such as electrifying water, were victims of a megalomanic mentality, and there is no point in recriminations about Prabhakaran’s brutality, just as there is no point in recriminations about the destructive power of a tsunami. One simply sorrows, for those who died, and for those who suffered, with perhaps some regret that no one had stopped him earlier.
But there must be anger about those who contributed to protracted delay, and on May 19th I was thinking of those wicked people who supported the LTTE in the last days, in particular those who contributed equipment to enable them to build up huge defences. These led to the taking of Kilinochchi taking much longer than it should have, with many of our youngsters dying in trying to get over the tall barricades. Worse, it gave the LTTE time to plan and ruthlessly execute the hostage taking that they had determined on, in Prabhakaran’s ‘Gotterdammerung’ vision.
The most horrible contribution to my mind was that of the organization called Norwegian People’s Aid, which allowed over 40 of their vehicles to be used. They did not inform us about them, and only acknowledged what had happened when the Defence Ministry asked. Even then they only admitted to a few, and it was only later that they acknowledged the full force of the aid they had given.
They lied to the European Union by pretending that this had happened because we had not permitted any Europeans to remain in Kilinochchi. At a meeting of the Consultative Committee on Humanitarian Assistance they had to admit that this was not the case, and they excused themselves on the grounds that it was only a junior person who had stayed, as though such a person could not count the number of vehicles that the LTTE had taken away.
In Colombo, when what had happened was revealed, there was anger against the Norwegians. This was misplaced. There were no Norwegians in senior positions with NPA, rather it was managed by a conglomerate called Solidar, which was headed by British personnel. The leadership of this was pretty suspect, one Britisher called Peter Sunderland I think, another with several passports called Felipe Atkins, and the spider at the centre of the web a man called Guy Rhodes. There was also Mathew Todd, who was in charge of a German aid agency, who I used to think an innocent computer buff, married as he was to a great friend of mine, until he fled Sri Lanka quite suddenly when it seemed further information was emerging about the activities of the agencies that made up Solidar.
It was clear to me from the time I met him that Guy Rhodes had an agenda of his own, and I made my suspicions clear to him when I told him that I could not recommend the extension of his visa. However this was granted, and in time he turned out to be the chief informant, as Wikileaks has made clear, of the Americans in their search for possible war crimes.
Most recently he popped up again, as head of a demining agency in Geneva, sharing a platform with Allan Poston who was the source of a claim about Sri Lanka using Cluster Bombs. That made me go through my archives, and coincidentally last week, at the Frontline Club in London, I came across another member of this gang, which has been pursuing Sri Lanka relentlessly since the beginning of our offensive against the Tigers.
This was a man called Benjamin Dix, who has a starring role in the latest Channel 4 documentary. He came up to me after the discussion, and very politely asked for some of the documents I had taken along. It was only after I had offered him more that he said suddenly, ‘You’re like Goebbels, aren’t you?’
This seemed excessive, given too that I have been engaged only in refuting propaganda, not making it up in the way those who have whipped up a figure of 40,000 dead out of nothing have done (on the Goebbels principle that the bigger the lie, the more people can be driven into believing it). I was therefore wondering who exactly this might be when, surprised it seemed that I had not recognized him, he said that he was Benjamin Dix. I remembered the name at once, and pointed out that he had been in breach of his contract when he had first engaged in public attacks on Sri Lanka, shortly after leaving the country. He had been working for UNOPS in Kilinochchi, but had then gone to Geneva where he was being taken round by Peter Splinter, head of Amnesty International there, who should have known better.
Dix claimed that he was not doing anything wrong since he had left the service of the UN, but UN contracts usually enjoin confidentiality afterwards too. Certainly the Head of UNOPS, Rainer Fraufels I think he was called, agreed with this view, since he actually came round to our Ministry to apologize and say that they had ensured Dix would not be performing again. Certainly we heard nothing more of him after that, until he popped up again in the Channel 4 film.
But what I found out then horrified me. A friend of mine kindly looked him up and found that, immediately after he had been performing as an independent witness for Amnesty in Geneva, he had been given a job for them, to take pictures in Nepal. Shortly afterwards, he was given a job by Norwegian People’s Aid in Southern Sudan.
I recalled then that he had in fact worked first for Norwegian People’s Aid in Sri Lanka. He had been picked up from there to work for Solidar, and a measure of the influence Guy Rhodes commanded can be seen from the fact that he, together with Rainer Fraufels, was part of the UN Security Coordination Team, which seems to have been responsible for the Network of Observers that had been set up to provide evidence against us, and which we had not been informed of previously until it popped up in the Darusman Report.
And there was more. Benjamin Dix, who has been used by Channel 4, who had been involved with Guy Rhodes in the agency that provided heavy equipment to the Tigers, who was given a job by Amnesty International after he had provided evidence for them against Sri Lanka, has now been given a job again by UNOPS. Despite all this, I should note, UNOPS continues flavor of the month in Sri Lanka, and the Indian High Commission told me that they had been asked by the Sri Lankan side to award a special contract to UNOPS for some construction, when I asked why they had been chosen – since their costs are generally exorbitant, as I found with the incompetent Shelter Consultant at Manik Farm who took up $11,000 per month.
This however is the problem with us. When Benjamin Dix first performed, and Rainer Fraufels apologized on his behalf, I suggested that we write formally to the UN and get a response in writing to indicate that something wrong had happened, and it would not be repeated. But my advice was ignored. After the Darusman report came out, I asked the Ministry of External Affairs to clarify with the UN what was meant by the Network of Observers and how it had been set up, but this too was ignored, along with the other questions I had suggested, which would have made clear how the system was being abused.
But, sadly, we simply allow advantage to be taken of us, and scream where there is a crisis, usually at those who are not responsible for the dishonesty and double dealing that has laid us low. So Benjamin Dix will continue to work for the UN system and undertake shady tasks against yet another country in the sights of the powerful, Guy Rhodes will continue to be front of house for aid agencies that have different agendas, and doubtless Felipe Atkins is now destabilizing yet another country under yet another name.
If I had not been asked to work for government five years ago, I would have been able to explore this from a literary standpoint. Ironically, I had just got together all John le Carre’s latest publications, since I thought his account of double dealing in international politics, and how what I (and he) would term the good British were always outplayed by the bad, would be a useful subject for my next research efforts. I still have the books, but unfortunately my life has been hijacked to I suppose a greater reality, so I should have no regrets.
But I should add that having read le Carre, I feel I have interesting insights into these strange characters who are so influential. I believe that four years ago one of the excuses made for Benjamin Dix was that he was highly emotional. This time round, after he had compared me to Goebbels, he told me I was paranoid. Since I had simply been pointing out that he had breached his contract, I thought this strange, but decided it was best to continue with polite conversation, and asked him what he was doing now.
He did not tell me about the UNOPS job, but said he was now doing a PhD, adding that he had got this out of his work in Sri Lanka, since that was his subject. When I asked him where he was doing it, he refused to tell me, on the grounds that I would set my goons onto him.
Poor man, I thought. ‘You really are paranoid, aren’t you?’ I said. He realized then that he had perhaps given himself away, and quickly gave me back the publication I had given him in which he too figured. He said nothing more, not even when I said I felt sorry for him, and hoped God would bless him. But I suspect he will not reflect on his own motives, and in the end I suppose it is people like that, when employed by those who know to use them forcefully, who will achieve much in this strange world.