Mass graves, mass media and mass consciousness


The Mannar mass grave which is now being excavated by experts seems to be the biggest of several mass graves discovered during the last few years. Already 300 skeletal remains were identified and the process is not yet complete. The courage and endurance of those taking part in the excavations deserve special commendation, in view of several legal and other obstacles placed against their efforts.

Even an excavation of a single grave of an unidentified person is enough to unnerve civil society. Hence, the excavation of a mass grave, such as the one in Mannar town, is bound to have a deep impact on mass consciousness. However, except for the parents of missing persons who may fear that the skeletons in the mass grave may be those of their beloved ones, not much concern is expressed by civil society at large.

The mass media has been careful not to show any special interest excepting mere reporting of news of the excavation. Excluding few social media outlets, the mass media has remained silent without comment or analysis. Why is this self-restraint or self-censorship? Is it fear of the authorities or racist indifference or hatred towards the victims? It was only an expatriate Sri Lankan, former JVP General Secretary Lionel Bopage that had dwelt at length on the issue. Yet he writes from abroad.

It is only the international media that has tried to fill the vacuum left by the silence of the local media. For example, The Hindu newspaper ran a commentary. Sri Lankan media, which would go to town with news and unending comment on an innocuous statement or a comical theatrical performance of a mediocre politician, thought such a newsworthy and social issue such as the phenomenon of mass graves not worth comment. So much for the independence and integrity of our media!

The Mannar mass grave is not a solitary phenomenon. There have been many more mass graves including those at Sooriyakanda in Embilipitiya, Muttur, Chenmani, Ankumbura, Mirusovil, Kalawanchikudy and elsewhere. All these cases need investigating. Preventing such investigations or placing hurdles for such investigations is a crime against humanity and betrays the culpability of the State in extra-judicial killings. All governments that delayed or abandoned such investigations are responsible for creating a bad precedent.


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