I referred last week to the manner in which Chandrika and her cohorts were promoting Reconciliation. In the nineties she and Mangala had embarked on the Sudu Nelum movement, which did not win hearts and minds but at least that functioned in areas which were supposed to have a majority mindset that was to be changed.

In time however the idea of Reconciliation through cultural activity became the preserve of the elite. As I noted when I took over the Peace Secretariat, vast amounts of money were given to those with good connections to produce propaganda supposed to promote peace. I used to call this the Dancing Butterflies syndrome, different coloured youngsters moving together so as, in theory at any rate, to encourage ethnic binding. Not entirely coincidentally, those who governed the funds awarded money to each other, Uyangoda being a principal culprit in this regard through the Social Scientists’ Association, while Young Asia Television was by far the largest beneficiary.  No one bothered to measure the impact of all this work, or rather of all this money for very little work.

Now the practice has begun again, and the elite have produced what is termed ‘A Conversation across Generations’, targeted at ‘bridging a gap between the generations – a gap of comprehension, a gap of empathy, of knowledge or perspective’. The technique employed was, it seems, to interview older people and create monologues from their memoirs.

I was invited to a performance of four monologues, and am very glad I went, since a couple were most entertaining. The most entertaining told us little about the past though, one being a wryly amusing account of an old lady trying to cope with the modern technology through which her children, now living abroad, try to maintain contact. Pia Hatch, daughter of two memorable stage stars of the seventies, Graham and Michelle Leembruggen, was delightful as an old lady not sure what buttons to push or how to deal with a Skype call.

The second lively performance was in fact a dialogue, between a lady who had been great friends with those who plotted the 1962 coup and her devoted manservant. His asides were most amusing, while Ranmali Mirchandani captured superbly the cocooned life of ladies of leisure in those distant days. I suspect nothing much has changed, except that they now have to jostle with those whose wealth is more recent to exercise influence with decision makers.

But obviously it was not so that youngsters could learn about such characters that funds had been liberally bestowed so as to promote the work of the Ministry of National Integration and Reconciliation. The meat rather was in the other two performances, one supposedly based on the musings of Manouri Muttetuwegama with regard to the Commission on Disappearances which she had chaired to look into the suffering caused by the manner in which the JVP insurrection of the eighties had been suppressed, the other about Manik Farm following the defeat of the LTTE.

The first was an anodyne account of a terrible period, perhaps understandably so for it is presented at a remove, through an investigation that happened many years after the events. This was in contrast to the description of Manik Farm, which was supposedly based on ‘the gentle observations of an elderly Tamil lady’. This character was played by Selvi Sachitanandan, who sang beautifully, but then delivered her monologue forcefully, understandably so for it was clearly designed to make a point.

There is no point going into details with regard to the assertions of the monologue, but the writer – whether Ruwanthi de Chickera, or Dr Wimala Ganeshanathan who was reporting the observations of the elderly Tamil lady, or the elderly Tamil lady – gave the game away in claiming that lots of children had drowned in the toilets. The assertion was emotionally charged, and would have done credit to a performance in the Grand Guignol theatre, which specialized in naturalistic horror shows.

I cannot recollect any such claims being made at the time, though we certainly did have problems with toilets. It transpired that some of the NGOs, which had got money to build toilets, had ignored that national standard, and used plywood, perhaps not knowing or caring to know that Sri Lankans use water for cleansing purposes in the toilet. As Secretary at the time to the Ministry of Disaster Management and Human Rights I had to be tough on this, and was the angrier when the Shelter Consultant, hired at an enormous salary by one of the shady branches of the UN, UNOPS, tried to divert the discussion by claiming that there were fire hazards at Manik Farm – this when the rains had started and the atmosphere was excessively humid.

Interestingly we found that, when the LTTE called the shots in the Kilinochchi area, they had insisted that NGOs abide by national standards with regard to toilets, and I was able to show these minutes to the UN and inquire why they had not insisted on what were supposed to be basic principles with regard to the displaced. But now to find that the very real horror of overflowing toilets has been cannibalized into dead babies suggests how desperate those demanding retribution are to denigrate the Sri Lankan government.

But of course all this had begun long ago. The worries about conditions for the displaced began only when the LTTE had decided to use this as a propaganda tool. As I pointed out to UNHCR at the time, they had done nothing about the squalor in which those previously displaced from the North had lived for years. The elite did not care about them because they were Muslims or Indian Tamils.

I have long worried about the manner in which Rishard Bathiudeen was elevated to positions in which he could do maximum damage, largely because he was slavish towards Basil Rajapaksa until he saw better opportunities elsewhere. But I do believe that he achieved much for people who had been grossly neglected by the system, namely the Muslims who had been chased from the North by the LTTE in 1990. This has been the only example of ethnic cleansing in Sri Lanka, and the loathsome Alan Keenan duly trotted it out to explain the use of the term when Gareth Evans asked him why it had been incorporated in the speech he delivered to make waves in Sri Lanka .

The speech had however been written in a way that suggested it was the Sri Lankan government that had engaged in ethnic cleansing, since it was Gareth’s brief to claim that Sri Lanka was ripe for the Responsibility to Protect to be invoked, a situation in which he saw himself playing a proconsular role. Indeed, when we met, he suggested that the Norwegians had outlived their usefulness, obviously trying to insinuate himself here instead.

There were many examples of such sleight of hand in those days. The Guardian carried a report about 14 women found with their throats cut near Manik Farm, a story which its (temporary I should mention in fairness to the paper) correspondent Gethin Chamberlain confessed he later realized was false. He told me he had written it up because he thought he had a reliable source, which he seemed to indicate, though never directly admitting it, was a UN official. He told that he now realized he should not trust that source, but he did not think it an obligation to check on why such an outrageous lie had been downloaded on him.

That elements in the UN were playing games became clear from my discussion with Jeremy Paige of the Times, he claimed that he had UN authority for some of his claims. I told him that the UN had refuted these, but he said there were junior staff in the UN who disagreed with the position of their superiors and were therefore leaking information.

Disgustingly, under American pressure as it now seems, Ban ki Moon too got into the act, and appointed a Commission of Inquiry which by and large ignored senior UN officials and relied instead of individuals who were out to ‘get’ Sri Lanka (the term used by Hillary Clinton’s acolyte at the UN, when Tamara Kunanayakam squashed the attempt to attack us at the Human Rights Council in September 2013).

Senior UN officials were not properly consulted when the Darusman Report was prepared. To make matters worse, when the UN leadership decided to punish the UN officials who had worked on principle while they were here, Charles Petrie, hired to do a knife job on them when the more respectable person originally asked refused the task, practically ignored them. The then UNDP Representative told me that it was only after he had asked that the UNICEF representative at the time, Philippe Duamelle, was questioned by Petrie. Philippe, I should note, tried to maintain standards, unlike his foolish predecessor, Joanna van Gerpen, who gave the LTTE millions for rehabilitation and failed to stop them continuing to recruit underage children, giving me the lame excuse that they needed to amend their laws for that. I am still shocked that the UN did not formally reprimand her for talking about the laws of a terrorist outfit, though she did send me a letter of apology.

It was foolish of the last government not to refute Darusman in detail, but their position was at least consistent in that they wanted to claim that they had ignored it all along (except of course for Mohan Pieris having gone to see Darusman, which the report triumphantly noted). This government however, having accepted the need for an accountability process which is based on that report, should surely now remove from the agenda its more outrageous claims.

Indeed even British officialdom has now put it on record that the Darusman report was ‘unduly dependent on LTTE evidence’. This was the view of a British tribunal which, after much debate, ruled that some at least of the reports of the British Defence Attache at the time could be in the public domain. Government should use the facts at its disposal to make the UN, under a less passive Secretary General, to withdraw at least the wilder parts of the Darusman Report. But in a context in which Chandrika and her acolytes are promoting the idea of dead babies, we will continue to be a sitting duck for our enemies – and those who are still promoting the LTTE agenda.

Ceylon Today 4 July 2017 http://www.ceylontoday.lk/print20170401CT20170630.php?id=24699

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