Sinhala  Tamil    Seperate    
Governtment of Sri Lanka

The Schizophrenic double act of Alston and Hayes

I have now had a chance to go through the report presented to the United Nations Human Rights Council by Mr Christoff Heyns who has taken over the mantle of Philip Alston.  He clearly sees himself as Alston Mark 2 for he actually says that ‘some further evidence was obtained and considered by the current me’ (doubtless as opposed to the ‘earlier me’, Philip Alston).


However, the Current Me’s effrontery is even more brilliant than that of his predecessor, beginning with his choice of experts to back up his case. First of all he appointed precisely those whom Alston had appointed, namely the trio of Spitz and Spivacak and Diaczuk, all Americans.


He notes that the Earlier Me had objected to the experts Sri Lanka had cited previously, on the grounds that they were all Sri Lankans and were in the army or ‘had previously acted as advisers to the Government.’ This is completely untrue, since Mr Siri Hewa is not Sri Lankan and had not previously advised the Government but simply wrote out of the blue when he noticed the absurdities of the Channel Video.


But, having blithely, like the Earlier Me, dismissed all Sri Lankans, Heyns then proceeded to hire, hey presto, precisely three Americans who had acted as advisers to that Earlier Me.


The Current Me then goes one better. He notes that the government had suggested that someone who was not part of the Earlier Me team would have been more persuasive, so he hires – none other than Mr Grant Fredericks, who had been commissioned by (none other than) the Times of London to investigate the video. The Earlier Me was well aware of this and indeed referred in his Technical Note to the article in the Times in which Fredericks had opined that the first video was authentic.


So, to make it quite clear whose side he is on, the Current Me hires the Earlier Me’s three experts whom he says worked ‘free of charge, as a form of public service.’ He does not say whether Mr Fredericks also worked free of charge, nor presumably did he bother to consider whether Mr Fredericks had worked free of charge for the Times.


The Current Me does not provide the correspondence in which the Government had indicates its worries about the first three experts, nor does he mention the Government expressing any worries about Mr Fredericks. I would be sorry if Government had not indicated its concerns in writing, but I suppose this makes clear that our problems are more to do with carelessness and inconsistency than the carefully concerted and consistent double dealing in which the Two Mes have engaged. I should note too that further correspondence suggests a number of other concerns on the part of the Government, though typically these are not clearly nor promptly put, which it seems allowed the Current Me to get away with unclear faxes and omissions in the material he supplied.


Anyway, having begun by breathtakingly asserting the independence of the experts he selected, with a startling disregard for the principle he had approvingly cited with regard to his previous incarnation, of repudiating those who had previously advised, the Current Me goes on to assert that the video is genuine, albeit he grants that it has been edited, and indeed put together upside down.


He claims categorically that ‘The outstanding issues identified during the investigation of the first video have now been resolved’. However, to guard his back as it were (and presumably that of the Earlier Me who had not bothered to solve those issues but still claimed the video was authentic) the Current Me declares that ‘the question could be asked how material that issue was in the first place’.


Tellingly, the resolution of one problem depends on the admission that editing has taken place, which was glossed over previously. Previously the experts had theorized that the wrong date which was on the film had been inserted deliberately by someone who wanted to conceal his identity. This preposterous assertion has now been changed to the claim that the date that is on record is the date on which the editing was done.


So we are now to believe that someone turned the sequence of events upside down a couple of months after the filming had been done. No explanation is offered of the fact that Channel 4 had initially claimed that the incidents took place in January, whereas now it is claimed that the incidents happened in May.


It is also claimed that the mysterious letter ‘A’ that appears in the record is the result of this editing. But then, to make clear his determination to protest too much, the Current Me disposes of the possibility that the video was manufactured by declaring that “If someone had manufactured a false video of the events during the final stages of the war, with the malicious intent of portraying the Government’s conduct during the war in a negative light, the last thing one would expect such a person to do is to provide the video with a date that falls months after the completion of the war. Likewise, it appears highly unlikely that a person who wants to create the impression that a cell phone was used would be so careless as to leave an ‘A’ on the frames if that can only be done on a high quality video camera.”


I presume the Current Me is an academic of sorts, but he obviously does not understand that in the real world people do make mistakes, sometimes out of ignorance, sometimes because they know that there will be ruthless crusaders like the Current and Earlier Mes who will say that such anomalies are not relevant.


If the problems could not be resolved, no weight would have been accorded them, and the combined weight of the system represented by the Two Mes would have crushed them. But, happily, a hypothetical resolution has been found, giving a precise date not for the incidents but for the editing, now that it has been decided finally to admit that editing has taken place.


It should be noted however that, so as to shore up the decision that the video is absolutely authentic, it is forcefully asserted that the editing was minimal. This is despite the fact that it has to be admitted that Segments 1 and 2 and 3 are in the wrong order. But I suppose order does not matter, given the wonderful congruence between the Earlier and the Current Mes, their experts, the Times and the relentless critics of the Sri Lankan government. The order in which these several segments pronounce does not matter, since they simply say the same thing over and over again, occasionally having to adjust to reality as when they admit that a film straight from a mobile phone recording events in January is in fact a set of films, edited in July, recording what happened in May even though one segment may well have been filmed at a different time.

Daily News 6 June 2011



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