The ACF issue

Shanie’s modesty is touching, but I assume she writes and you publish because you both feel her words of wisdom deserve an audience instead of just being cooped up in her notebook. Her decision to bring what she terms my "tendentious statements" to so many of her columns may be purely altruistic, but I hope she will cut this out and make any points she considers invaluable without critical generalizations about others. Taking me to task with regard to particular points relevant to her theses is of course quite acceptable, though I fear that she still does not know the difference between the particular and the general.

Thus, the article to which I responded criticized one of my releases in which I had specifically drawn attention to the need to investigate the murder of the 17 aid workers. I mentioned this so prominently precisely because I knew from responses to my earlier articles that those who do not read carefully ignore the distinction I made between the responsibility of ACF for what happened and the responsibility for the murder. Finding out the truth about the latter should not preclude investigating the former, and I remain bemused as to why ACF has not been transparent about the internal investigation it is claimed it conducted.

Incidentally I did not blame Shanie for not reading the second part of my article, I specifically noted that this might explain her failure to notice the point I made not just at the beginning but also at the end. I should add that, since she knew from reading the first part that you had the article in full, she might have asked to read the whole before commenting on it. But I suppose that is the sort of professional concern that can be demanded only of a professional journalist, not somebody who so charmingly excuses herself on the grounds of being a ‘nobody’.

Shanie also claims that I ‘disingenuously’ mention the UTHR (J) report, ‘implying it took the same stance as his statement. This is simply a falsehood’. Such language is intemperate, and totally unwarranted. In the first place, UTHR (J) has produced several reports on the subject. My point was that ACF, which laid such stress on a recent report, had conveniently ignores the questions raised in earlier UTHR (J) reports from which I quoted. I don’t suppose Shanie’s use of the definite article is disingenuous, it is typical of a carelessness that cannot be excused with the claim that she is simply a ‘nobody’.

What she describes as the thrust of the UTHR (J) report is clear, as was the thrust of Gen Henricsson, and the ICJ, and now ACF. It is because that thrust alone is so commonly considered the whole story that I have indicated that other things too need to be considered. Meanwhile Shanie might notice that, whilst I might disagree with some of the points made by UTHR (J) and note inconsistencies, I have never dreamed of suggesting that they are disingenuous or have a particular agenda, because I have always admired and continue to admire their willingness to criticize from standpoints they try to keep objective. The ‘thrusts’ of the others are not in that league at all, and I see no reason, when they cite UTHR (J), not to remind them that they should also look at other aspects of the UTHR (J) statements.

Dr Nesiah

Again, Shanie misses the point. Dr Nesiah did have a contract, which is why the matter of a potential conflict of interest was raised. If Shanie thinks that the problem has been solved because the contract has now expired, she must explain, as Dr Nesiah could have done, why he felt there was no conflict of interest even before the contract expired. Instead, Dr Nesiah chose to resign, a matter that was entirely his decision. Such a decision may suit others but, while I appreciate Shanie giving me another of her certificates, in saying that I ‘was not a party to all this skullduggery’, I do not think the term skullduggery is appropriate, since the criticisms of Dr Nesiah were public and reasoned out, even if you might disagree with their reasoning.

Pararajasingham’s death

Shanie is at her best here. She originally claimed that "there were several eye-witnesses who identified the killer but the Police have chosen to release this suspect". I pointed out what actually happened, and then asked who these eye-witnesses were and who the particular ‘killer’ (presumably she meant suspect) she referred to was. Far from answering my question, she now declares ‘There certainly was no shortage of eye-witnesses’ but ‘there must be an obvious reason why none of the eye-witnesses would come forward’ – ie, Shanie was not telling the truth earlier in saying categorically that ‘there were several eye-witnesses who identified (my stress) the killer’. Admitting now that what you said earlier is a lie, while changing your terms of reference, is conduct unbecoming even of a ‘nobody’.

Let me say that, following Shanie’s assertions, I checked on the original information I received, and found that one eye-witness had indeed come forward (an eye-witness of the killing as opposed to the death, in that he said he had seen the person who did the shooting) but at the identification parade he said that the suspects the police produced were not those he had seen. I believe Shanie owes the police an apology in this instance, and I hope she will be decent enough to grant this.

Bishop Lakshman Wickremesinghe

I am glad we agree on the Bishop’s qualities, but I am sorry that Shanie thinks it necessary to use his example to belittle me. In this case her idealism is understandable, but it should be accompanied by serious study of the role model she proposes. Certainly it is odd that he should be mentioned in connection with liberalism because, whilst we shared many views, his approach was socialist, understandably so in view of the problems he recognized in his youth – whereas when I was growing up, it seemed that the statist turn an initially idealistic socialism had taken was part of the problem.

In that respect Shanie may find that Dr Dayan Jayatilleka’s views are more consonant with Bishop Wickremesinghe’s intellectual approach. With regard to the moral one, I believe that all three of us share the same perspectives. You will thus find in his writings with regard to human rights a similar awareness of the difficulties governments faced in dealing with rights in the context of terror, though in the end we all three believe that standards must be held and any aberrations dealt with firmly but with understanding to ensure that problems do not become systemic.

I should note that all three of us delight in afflicting the comfortable, which explains our unpopularity amongst the local equivalent of what Britain would term ‘Daily Telegraph’ leaders. Certainly Dr Jayatilleka and I have to do more to rival the Bishop in his ability to comfort the afflicted, but I think you will find that way back in July 1983 we also tried, unlike many of those who seem now to have emerged as heroes of the causes they then stamped upon, a factor Shanie suggests she is aware of in her characterization of the Bishop in this column. The conspiracy of silence of the chattering classes with regard to what really happened in July 1983 continues marked however, and I can only hope that Shanie, and the ‘Island’ at least will endeavour to breach it in fleshing out what she hints at.

Martin McGuinness

Whilst obviously what Martin McGuinness has to say should be listened to, I find it astonishing that Shanie seems to think his pronouncements should be treated as gospel. Any proper study of the Northen Ireland Peace Process will make clear the various factors that led finally to Mr McGuinness agreeing to the decommissioning of arms, without which the progress we now see would not have been possible. Shanie might also wish to study the impact of what I have been told was a not entirely unfortunate helicopter accident, which I believe removed from the scene some of the more intransigent elements in the equation.

Martin McGuinness, like many others who now pronounce on the Sri Lankan Peace Process, came on the scene when it was assumed that this was a conflict between two parties, the Sri Lankan government and the Tigers. The political problem that needs to be settled is between the government and the Tamil people, many of whom would have had no truck with the Tigers had democratic forces been encouraged, instead of being driven out of Parliament after July 1983. This government has succeeded in giving them a role again, through democratic means as well as its firm stand against terrorism, and it does not need pronouncements from those who are unaware of the other parties to the original conflict.

Indeed, as I have mentioned before, I was astonished that the previous Norwegian ambassador had to ask who the moderate Tamils were. His successor moved to correct that anomaly as soon as he arrived in Sri Lanka. I do not blame the earlier man, who I think advised his successor suitably, for at the time he came here moderate Tamils had no recognition. That has changed, and we have no intention of going down the path of Northern Ireland, where there was continuing intransigence over forty wasted years. By the time the extremists agreed, after the decommissioning of weapons, to come together, the moderates such as David Trimble and John Hume and John Alderdice were negligible quantities.

We intend to do better than that.

Prof. Rajiva Wijesinha
Secretariat for Coordinating the Peace Process

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