Sri Lanka's cynical technique of rebuttal - Aussie Don

[TamilNet, Tuesday, 01 September 2009, 04:24 GMT]
Commenting on the recently exposed execution video, Professor Jake Lynch, Director, Centre for Peace and Conflict at Sydney University writes: "the Sri Lankan authorities assiduously kept journalists from international media away from the conflict zone, having, in the previous few years, terrorised local editors and reporters with arbitrary arrests, imprisonment and beatings, while many were mysteriously killed amid persistent rumours of official complicity. Now, the same authorities who have treated journalism with such contempt are seeking to keep information in the realm of contestability, through the cynical technique of rebuttal."

Prof. Jake Lynch, University of Sydney
Prof. Jake Lynch, University of Sydney
"It’s a rare image of the brutality of the assault, by Sri Lankan armed forces, on the north-east of the country in their final offensive against the Tamil Tigers in the early months of this year," Lynch says.

On the response to the video by the Sri Lanka High Commission in London, Lynch says, the Sri Lanka office "declined to supply anyone to be interviewed by Channel Four News, since a spokesperson could not very well avoid giving further ‘legs’ to the story in response, offering other media new ‘lines’ to report. Instead, it issued a statement, “categorically denying” that the armed forces were responsible for “atrocities”. The rules of journalism oblige reporters, from that point on, to refer to the killings as something that “apparently” happened, but that these are allegations Sri Lanka “rejects”, even though it has provided no evidence to back its version of events. To rebut a story does not require it to be refuted."

Commenting on Sri Lanka's internment camps in Vavuniyaa, Lynch adds, "[a] similar syndrome is underway with regard to the massive Internal Displacement Camps in which as many as 300,000 Tamils are now incarcerated. The Sri Lankan government portrays this as a benign situation, drawing attention to periodic releases of batches of detainees – such as a group of six hundred-odd Hindu priests – in an attempt to distract attention from the substantive issue, that these people are being held illegally and – in the words of the US State Department – “against their will”. Judge Navi Pillay, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, released a statement at the end of the hostilities back in May, calling for “full access to independent monitors”, as a safeguard “crucial to ensure due process and humane treatment for detainees”, and for “freedom of movement for the very large majority of displaced people who do not pose security threats” to be “granted as soon as possible.""

"If the Hindu priests can be allowed to return to their homes (or their families, if their homes were destroyed) the obvious question is, how come the rest can’t? Especially as conditions in the camps are now dramatically deteriorating because of monsoon rains.... Since [Pat Walsh of Channel-4 was ejected] then, in the absence of independent monitors, there can be no confidence that abuses are not continuing unchecked. Claims have trickled out, for instance, in recent days, that individuals are being spirited away in so-called Dolphin Vans, never to be seen again," Lynch says of Sri Lanka's violations of international norms at the camps.

Exposing the thinking behind Sri Lanka's promises of “military investigation," Lynch says, "that’s clearly another form of rebuttal – hold open official ‘doubt’ pending its results and hope the fuss dies down in the meantime. The hundreds of millions of eyes and ears provide evidence: raw, but worthy of proper follow-up by trained professional observers, from both humanitarian organizations and the media. Only then will we be able to get an account we can regard as reliable, and until that time, relations with Sri Lanka must be made conditional on proper investigation," Lynch concludes.

External Links:
usyd: Professor Jake Lynch
AU: Sri Lanka: Reliable Accounts


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