Every cloud, they say, has a silver lining, and the Darusman Report was no exception. It gave me a reason, if not exactly a good one, to re-read Enid Blyton, a pleasure that increases in value as one nears one’s sixties. Having discovered that Marzuki Darusman was also called Kiki, I remembered that the only other Kiki I knew was the parrot in the ‘Adventure’ series that Enid Blyton began just as the second world war was ending. It seemed a good idea then to see what light Enid Blyton shed on the character of a Kiki. Though she dealt in broad rather than subtle brush strokes, her characterization is vivid, and particularly in her descriptions of animals, such as the faithful but highly individualistic dogs, Timmy and Buster and Loony.

Kiki was no exception. I thought it would be self-indulgent to study more than one story, so I bowed to the recommendation of my niece, who said ‘The Circus of Adventure’ was her favourite. It was also particularly apposite, since it is all about regime change, the wicked Count Paritolen, and his sister Madame Tatiosa, wanting to replace the good king of Tauri-Hessia with a puppet.

The proposed puppet is a sweetie really, a boy called Gussy with long hair who bursts into tears at the drop of a hat. But Gussy becomes stronger as the book progresses, and I suspect there is hope for Ranil too, if authority is not conferred upon him too soon.

But Gussy pales into insignificance in the book in comparison with Kiki who ‘was intensely interested with this string of words she didn’t understand….and poured out strings of nonsense into which she wove many of the words she knew, mixed up with ones she didn’t’.’

The description fitted Kiki Darusman perfectly , I thought, after my attention was drawn by one of the doctors (whom Michael Roberts said had been described as one of the heroes of Manik Farm) to a particularly slipshod assertion in the Darusman Report. In Para 161 Darusman declares with regard to Manik Farm that ‘Some women were forced to perform sexual acts in exchange for food, shelter or assistance in camps’. He substantiates this claim with a reference to the Secretary General’s 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.” para. 151.’

Enid Blyton’s Kiki regurgitated what she did not understand, which is understandable in a real parrot, but Darusman evidently had not bothered to read the Report he cited so confidently. Para 148 is all about child recruitment by the LTTE, and has nothing to do with sexuality, albeit 147 girls are included in the 2397 cases of child recruitment, by LTTE that ’UNICEF verified and documented…. from 1 January to 19 May 2009.’

Kiki Darusman then gets even more Blyton Kiki-like in his confusion of the words he has absorbed. Para 151 that he cites to substantiate his claim of sexual harassment at Manik Farm refers to what happened in areas under LTTE control. It is true that the particular sentence he quotes does not specify the period, but since the two preceding sentences do, and since the sentence refers to ‘sites’ and promises of ‘marriage’ as an inducement, it is apparent to anyone who reads intelligently that this assertion is not about Sri Lankan soldiers.  Kiki characteristically places his charge immediately after a charge about Sri Lankan soldiers watching women using the toilet or bathing (for which no evidence is provided – there was I believe just one allegation in this regard over seven months in 2009, based on toilets being built near a watch tower, with one other about a soldier following a woman into a toilet and being chased away).

But before we get irritated with this silly mix up, we should remember that ‘It was always comical when Kiki mixed up the things she loved to say’. So in a spirit of indulgence too, we should note that Blyton’s Kiki, like the other one, has no idea about numbers. ‘”One, two, three, six, eight, four, one,” said Kiki, getting her numbers muddled up as usual’.

Of course, unlike the original Kiki, Darusman’s muddling seems to be deliberate. He consistently uses high figures when they can be used to attack the Sri Lankan government, and ignores evidence to the contrary, as for instance the actual figures of wounded during the last three months of the conflict whom the ICRC took to safety in government care.

Of course other people also get numbers wrong, as some of us did during the conflict, though I believe the Commissioner General of Essential Services continued to work to the numbers decided on together with the UN for the Common Humanitarian Action Plan. But Darusman decides that us getting numbers wrong shows malice and premeditation, and declares that we did this against UN advice.

Though he cites some UN statements as to high figures, he ignores occasions on which the UN published figures lower than those for which we tried to supply food. UNICEF for instance, in a publication it issued in March 2009, cited figures obtained from the Office for Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs – ‘Estimates of the civilian population remaining in the strip under LTTE control range from 75,000 to 150,000 at the time of the survey (UN OCHA 2009)’. They were proved wrong in the end but Kiki only refers to us when we were wrong and claims fraudulently that we ignored the UN.

Another similarity between the two Kikis is that they love ‘putting the same sounding words together’. The human Kiki shows a slight difference in that he puts different words together systematically, amongst them ‘systematic’ and ‘Government’ when allegations can be leveled. His performance with regard to rape is also significant, in that the words ‘strong inference’ are repeated with ‘rape’ (as also the word ‘may’), the word ‘reported’ with ‘women’, ‘appear’ with’ dead’ (or nearly dead) women.

It is understandable however that such sensational topics have to be introduced, albeit with some caution. After all Kiki ‘was always ready to talk’ and ‘was delighted at being the centre of attention’. If we can be sure no sinister Count Paritolen and insidious Madame Tatiosa lurk behind this Kiki, we might even thank him for being so preposterous that even Gussy has to agree that such parroting is regrettable.

Island  8 May 2011