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Supposedly one of the wonders of modern management studies is what is termed a SWOT analysis. We had to engage in them endlessly when trying to make good use of funding the World Bank provided for universities about a decade back, Sadly the present state of the universities suggests that, while the good universities have arguably got better, the others have not really developed in the ways that were anticipated. SWOT it seems turned out to be just that, worthless repetitive labour, not a way of transforming weaknesses by building on strengths, and turning what seem threats into opportunities.

I was reminded of this when reading through the State Department report on incidents during the conflict in Sri Lanka. What some have seen as a threat seems rather to provide an opportunity to make clear the sterling professionalism of the armed forces in their struggle to deal with terrorism.

In this context it is worth noting the detailed study by Neville Laduwahetty of what he sees as a problem with the report, namely that it also extends to possible war crimes, whereas it was meant only to look at possible violations of international humanitarian law. The distinction is a subtle one, and understandable in a context in which the United States and its allies have been accused of war crimes, but to me the advantage of the confusion is that it suggests the report has recorded every single incident its writers think could possibly be an offence.

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La tyrannie de la penitence

Many years ago, I had been responsible for a great deal of noise very late into the night in my rooms at University. We had been playing Diplomacy, a game much in vogue for a few months during that period, and Benazir Bhutto, who did everything with much enthusiasm, had shrieked with anguish whenever she was let down in negotiations. The rest of the group were equally endearing, and we played on for hours, to the fury as I found out of the Senior Tutor. When I was letting the others out, I met him in the quadrangle, and greeted him enthusiastically, thinking he must have had an equally interesting evening.

I had failed to notice that he was in a dressing gown and carrying a torch. To my astonishment, for he was generally a good friend, he practically snarled at me and informed me that he would be reporting me to the Dean.

The Dean duly called me up the next day, and asked what had happened. He was an easygoing Dean, and agreed to a walk while we talked. I told him the whole story, which he seemed to much enjoy because he knew many of the characters involved. I granted that the noise may have been excessive, and I was truly sorry that Tony had been disturbed, but I thought that would be the end of the matter – after all, everyone knew it was not easy to quieten Benazir when she was moved.

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Rajiva Wijesinha

May 2010
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