‘See No Good, Hear No Good, Speak No Good: the perversions of the Darusman Panel'

I have dealt at some length with the serious allegations made by the Darusman Panel, and my detailed responses have now been collected into a book. This will be available later this week at International Book House, 151 A Dharmapala Mawata Colombo 7. It is entitled ‘See No Good, Hear No Good, Speak No Good: the perversions of the Darusman Panel’.  However there still remains much to be said. I have rarely come across such a slipshod and vulgar piece of work. The manner in which all rules of language as well as evidence are traduced to put the Sri Lankan government in the dock is positively disgusting. Though in the end what happens will depend, not on facts or justice, but on the political predilections of more powerful nations, I hope anyone studying this exercise will realize that the Panelists should not be taken seriously. It will be a travesty of academic standards and integrity if they are used again for the lucrative political jobs that the international community throws up with predictable regularity.

A startling example of the manner in which prejudice trumps decency was apparent in the footnote to Para 98 of the report, which is all about the manner in which the LTTE tormented civilians during the last days. It records that the LTTE ‘continued to prevent civilians from leaving the area, ensuring their continued presence as a human buffer. It forced civilians to help build military installations and fortifications or undertake other forced labour. It also intensified its practice of forced recruitment, including of children, to swell their dwindling ranks. As LTTE recruitment increased, parents actively resisted, and families took increasingly desperate measures to protect their children from recruitment. They hid their children in secret locations or forced them into early arranged marriages.52 LTTE cadre would beat relatives or parents, sometimes severely, if they tried to resist the recruitment.’

But after that the Panel cannot resist sniping at government too, in a manner that seems to take away from the outrageous behavior of the LTTE. I believe this is termed ‘holding the balance’, which several ruffians pretended to do, so as to equate terrorists with a democratic government. Footnote 52 declares that  ‘Early marriage was perceived to protect girls and boys from LTTE recruitment, as the LTTE preferred to recruit unmarried youth. Early marriage is a threat to the health and development of young women. Later, in the IDP camps, parents also hoped that marriage would protect girls who had reached puberty from sexual violence by Government forces.’  This last statement is quite bizarre. No evidence is provided. It is part of a relentless attempt to accuse forces of sexual violence in the camps, when absolutely no suggestion was made of any serious problem at the time by UNHCR, which was constantly being asked to substantiate vague rumours.

In one week, following what seemed harsh general accusations by some proven liars working for UNHCR, after I asked for specifics, I was given three, by Elizabeth Tan, who was in charge of Protection and was basically honest. One was an instance in which a soldier was supposed to have followed a woman IDP into a toilet but ‘the girl screamed’ and a camp volunteer came to her rescue. Another incident was of an uncle abusing a girl while the army encouraged him by giving him liquor and turning off the lights. The third was of reports of prostitution at Pompaimadu.

This was the substance of the allegations. It was also mentioned that incidents of sexual and gender based violence near the river had been discussed. What appeared in the report however was of deaths, which were later transformed by a journalist into 14 women found with their throats cut. The journalist later confessed that his source, which in response to my questioning he seemed to indicate was working for the UN, was unreliable, and he would not use it again.

 

The three incidents and a general discussion about the situation near the river was all Elizabeth could cite. The more lurid description in the report that had been issued was false, as was the claim made by the head of UNHCR that the report had been issued after discussion with government. This was not true, and I proved it by cross-questioning the girls who had provided the information in front of the army official they claimed they had informed. 

 

However the Head of UNHCR was nervous of these girls, one of whom was called Pelosi, and whom he told me was important because she was related to Nancy Pelosi, then Speaker of the US House. I have no idea whether this was true, or whether the girl got her job through such connections and then abused them to lie to her superiors. But it was clear that accuracy was not her strong suit.

 

It is such rumours that the Panel seems to have decided to present as gospel in its Report. It makes no reference to the reports which UNHCR presented to us, in response to our request, having held them close to its chest earlier, contrary to the manner in which the UN is supposed to function. The purpose of spending large amounts on what is termed protection is to ensure remedial action, and there is certainly much recorded of discussion with government officials. But it now seems that they hoarded the very serious cases to trot out two years later to promote charges of war crimes.

 Daily News 12 May 2011

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