|Response to AHRC|
|Monday, 05 May 2008|
The Asian Human Rights Commission has now decided that it must spend much of its energy on attacking the Sri Lankan Peace Secretariat. This would be amusing were it not that both the AHRC and SCOPP should be working on much more important matters.
Gratuitously Basil Fernando began today by devoting a whole paragraph to SCOPP in an article regarding suggestions for change within the JVP. It is sad that personal animosity should reach such depths, but this may not be good for the Asian Human Rights Commission, which should consider whether it is not time now to rein in Basil's irrelevant attacks, and ask him to confine himself to promoting Human Rights in a more dignified fashion. Basil Fernando’s assaults on the Peace Secretariat began last October when he suddenly decided to compare us to Squealer.
The response must have upset him, since he has subsequently got more and more hysterical in his references to the Secretariat, apparently determined to claim that we are warmongers. This seems a bit selective, since there has been no criticism by the AHRC of the LTTE Peace Secretariat's glorification of suicide bombers - and while the AHRC certainly cannot be expected to monitor everything, the failure to see the Sri Lankan situation in context is worrying. It also raises questions about the motives of those who pronounce so aggressively but assume that anyone who uses language forcefully, except themselves, is a warmonger.
The AHRC should certainly consider why argument backed by evidence has prompted an almost hysterical reaction, trying to equate words with war. Sadly, this approach of an individual who doubtless sees himself as a Prince of Peace seems of a piece with propaganda from self-confessed sympathizers with the LTTE who claim that defending the government verbally involve complicity in any action by any agent of government. The danger is that such critiques by those who claim to oppose terrorism could be used to justify terrorist activity against anybody who does not subscribe to LTTE propaganda. And anxious as he seems to insist on our flaws, Basil Fernando on the same day devotes a whole article to the Peace Secretariat, confusing several issues and avoiding the salient point.
This is that he had made an issue of the failure to reproduce Justice Bhagwati’s letter in which he retracted much criticism attributed to the IIGEP. Now that the letter has been reproduced, Basil Fernando dodges that issue and instead claims that the IIGEP stands by its criticism, ignoring first that his initial outburst was about Justice Bhagwati, second that our release which provoked his crude outburst was about Sir Nigel Rodley’s skepticism about the letter, not the letter itself. Basil Fernando, as a former Instructor of English at a university, is doubtless able to read with understanding, but his propensity to confuse issues has led him here to forgetting what set him off in the first place.
Finally, in this respect, he now on the basis of a newspaper report claims that the IIGEP stands by its initial claims, without bothering to check on who has made that assertion. He then raises issues in the IIGEP reports, many of which have been responded to elsewhere. With regard to one of the most important of these issues, he ignores evidence of our efforts to promote witness protection while pointing out how assistants to the IIGEP tried to stymie this. Finally Basil Fernando engages in a personal diatribe, first by introducing some literary confusion and suggesting that I think Chaucer’s work is crude. Of course Chaucer is not crude, nor is ‘The Summoner’s Tale’, but using selectively the scatological aspects of that tale is crude.
This type of approach to such great texts is of a piece with those who read Chaucer for the dirty bits – except that Basil Fernando’s appreciation of dirty bits relates to the muck rather than the sex. Then Basil Fernando claims that I think he should be grateful to me, which is the very opposite of what I said, since my objection was to his gratuitous attack.
He concludes, as usual, by raising the caste issue, forgetting that I have done what I could to propagate his earlier exposition of caste discrimination. That was illuminating, as opposed to this current habit of crying wolf and claiming that criticism of his diatribes must be related to caste. In short, Basil Fernando skims over the original reason for his attack on the Peace Secretariat, and introduces all sorts of side issues which are not relevant to either his initial critique nor our response, whilst singlemindedly insulting his interlocutor and evincing extreme sensitivity to any perceived insult himself. Debate and discussion with such is impossible, so this will be sent to the AHRC to post on its website and distribute, along with the last word that doubtless Basil Fernando will insist on having.
Prof Rajiva Wijesinha
Secretariat for Coordinating the Peace Process
|Last Updated ( Tuesday, 24 June 2008 )|
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