Prejudiced and Infantile Readings of Sri Lanka at Chatham House in 2019

Introductory Note from Michael Roberts

 The public event organised by Chatham House to discuss recent events in Sri Lanka on 17th January was chaired by a University Lecturer at University College London whose specialty is “human rights,” rather than any one of the Sri Lankan specialists teaching at British Universities (for e.g. Rajesh Venugopal, Asanga Welikala, Sujit Suvisundaram, Zoltan Beidermann and Alan Strathern).  The combination of ignorance, distortion and prejudice that guided the organisation and direction of the debate was exposed in the opening lines of this Chairperson, one Kate Cronin-Furman. “[We are meeting today some ten years after the “final push” of the Sri Lankan Army in a war that ended in May 2009 – “a final phase where the UN estimates said that more than 40,000 civilians were killed by that military [action].”

aaa -kate cronin

The reference here is to the “UN Panel of Experts” (PoE) appointed by Ban Ki-Moon whose investigation was conducted without a visit to the island and who presented the figure of 40,000 civilian dead as a “credible allegation.” This tentative claim was promptly converted into a definitive figure of 40,000 dead in media reportage as well as official statements and the campaigns mounted by Amnesty International and other HR activists. Here, then, we see duplicity that is then compounded by reiterations down the line and over the years.

The PoE’s review was also grounded in colossal ignorance – ignorance rooted in their armchair positions and lack of battlefield experience. Though informed that the LTTE fighters were mostly fighting in civilian clothes, their appraisal of the death toll seems to have by-passed the implications of this pertinent fact. But what is mind-boggling is their failure to attend to the fact that in virtually all wars with (mostly) delimited battlefields the number of wounded soldiers out number the soldiers killed – sometimes by much as ten- to-one. During the Korean War the ratio for USA was over three: 103,284 WIA against 33,651 KIA (Killed-In-Action). Thus, during the Gallipoli campaign in 2015 the Australian dead amounted to 8,709 Australians, while 19,441 were wounded, so that the ratio of WIA to KIA was 2.23.

  Aussies burying their dad a Gallipoli

Kate Cronin-Furman, it seems, does not have the nous to take note of her shortcomings in this arena. We can conjecture that her moral fervour superseded any such self-examination of herself and the complex issues she was tackling.

My note, here, is a preliminary one without further study of the panel discussion at Chatham House because this item must go to press. But I do have a report from a Sinhalese friend who brought the event to my attention – a friend whose education has been wholly British. He must remain anonymous for reasons of familial safety


Report from a Sri Lankan Briton present at the Meeting

I attended the Sri Lanka event at Chatham House on Thursday. it was extremely unbalanced, I managed to record the discussion and you should be able to hear & view the whole event here:

The event’s title, “A Divided Island: Sri Lanka’s Constitutional Crisis” tended to suggest that the audience would hear a discussion about the developments following Pres Sirisena’s decision to appoint Mahinda Rajapaksa as PM on Oct 26th, and an analysis of the subsequent events that finally led to Ranil Wickremesinghe being re-appointed PM in mid-December. However, the main focus was on Sri Lanka’s progress towards its commitments towards its own UNHRC Resolution. Sri Lanka was particularly criticised about the recent appointment of Shavendra De Silva as new Chief Of Staff of SL’s Army against the backdrop of war time allegations of human rights violations in the international media.

The 3 people on the panel were:

Stephen Rapp, Former United States Ambassador-at-Large for War Crimes Issues, Office of Global Criminal Justice

Dharsha Jegatheeswaran, Research Director, Adayaalam Centre for Policy Research

Chair: Dr Kate Cronin-Furman, Lecturer in Human Rights, Department of Political Science, UCL (see ….

All three are North Americans (Cronin-Furman is from Somerville, Massachusetts & Jegatheeswaran is from Toronto) and it showed, not only in their accents, but in the context with which they spoke about events in Sri Lanka. Jegatheeswaran was the only one who has recently spent some time in SL and is part of a Tamil think-tank, Adayaalam Centre for Policy Research, that is purportedly based in Jaffna.

The only person of some gravitas on the panel was Stephen Rapp, but since Obama left office and he lost his position as US Ambassador-at-Large for War Crimes Issues, Rapp seems not to be directly involved in SL developments.Rapp did seem to indicate that one of the consequences of Sri Lanka’s slow progress towards its UNHRC Resolution commitments is that the Human Rights Council may consider it necessary to appoint a Special Rapporteur for Sri Lanka, with some domestic role, to further monitor the country’s progress towards its Resolution commitments.

The others in the audience who raised questions included Frances Harrison (from the ITJP-SL, Yasmin Sooka’s International Truth & Justice Project – SL) and an official from Freedom FromTorture, which has been consistently claiming that even since 2015, SL’s Security Forces have been targeting Tamils with torture.

A brown-skinned gentleman with a British accent raised a question at the end & stated that the discussion was unbalanced & that they hardly mentioned the positive developments in recent years such as the strengthening of media freedoms, the rolling back of the authoritarian powers of the presidency & the robustness of independent institutions which was shown by how the “constitutional crisis” was brought to an end because of the independence of SL’s Judiciary. He also wanted to know why Rapp didn’t mention the work of Sir Desmond de Silva (and also Prof Crane, Sir Geoffrey Nice and others) who were part of the Paranagama Commission and why that Commission’s report could not be tabled before the UN as a possible framework through which SL and the international community can address justice and reconciliation issues in future? Rapp was very vague in his response, giving the impression that he was not familiar with the Paranagama Commission report, although he admitted that he knew Desmond well & that he felt that Desmond’s work may serve as a legal defence for the Rajapaksas.

NB: Brett Hauff“Kate Cronin-Furman: Holding Mass Atrocity Offenders Accountable,” Spring 2017,

**** ****


De Silva-Ranasinghe, Sergei 2009b “The Battle for the Vanni Pocket,” Asia-Pacific Defence Reporter, March 2009, Vol. 35/2, pp. 17-19. … and 2009157395/156554.html

De Silva-Ranasinghe, Sergei 2010b “Information Warfare and the Endgame of the Civil War,” Asia-Pacific Defence Reporter, May 2010 30/4: 35-37. …. and articles/40/Sri-Lanka.

Harshula 2011a “When allegations become evidence,” 6 June 2011,

Harrison, Frances 2012 Still Counting the Dead, London: Portobello.

Hodge, Amanda 2015 “Sri Lankan poll loser Rajapaksa may quit to dodge prosecution,” The Australian, 20 August 2015,

IDAG [i.e. Citizen Silva] 2013 “The Numbers Game: Politics of Retributive Justice,” OR

Jeyaraj, DBS 2009 “Wretched of the Wanni Earth break Free of Bondage,” Daily Mirror, 25 April 2009.

Mango 2014 “Sri Lanka’s War In Its Last Phase: Where WIA Figures Defeat The Gross KIA Estimates,” 14 February 2014,

Marga 2011 An Analysis and Evaluation of The Report of the Advisory Panel to the UNSG nn the Final Stages of the War in Sri Lanka,

Marga 2014 Issues of Truth and Accountability. The Last Stages of the War in Sri Lanka,

Roberts, Michael 2011 “Amnesty International reveals its Flawed Tunnel-Vision in Sri Lanka in 2009,” 10 Aug. 2011,

Roberts, M. 2013 “BBC-Blind: Misreading the Tamil Tiger Strategy of International Blackmail, 2008-13,

Roberts, M. 2013 “Congestion in the “Vanni Pocket” January-May 2009: Appendix IV for “BBC Blind,” appendix-iv-for-bbc-blind/

Roberts, Michael 2014 “Generating Calamity, 2008-2014: An Overview of Tamil Nationalist Operations and Their Marvels,” 10 April 2014,

Roberts, Michael 2015 “A Drama in Four Acts: Dishonest Reportage by Amnesty International and Aussie Journalists remains Unmasked,” 2 September 2015,

Narendran, Rajasingham 2014 Harsh Ground Realities in War: Decomposing Bodies and Missing Persons and Soldiers,” 28 January 2014,

Noble, Kath 2013 “Numbers Game reviewed by Kath Noble: The Full Monty,” 14 July 2013,

UN PoE 2011 Report of the Secretary General’s Panel of Experts report on Accountability in Sri Lanka, March 2011…. POE_Report_Full.pdf.

Vidura 2009 “The Great Escapes,” Sunday Leader, 17 May 2009.

 Yatawara, Dhaneshi 2009 “Entrapped Civilians seek salvation in Force,” Sunday Observer, 17 May 2009,

You Tube 2009b “BBC Interview with Charu Lata Hogg,” Vakthaa TV you tube, uploaded by fuck2slaramy, 17 May 2009,



Filed under accountability, atrocities, British imperialism, centre-periphery relations, disparagement, doctoring evidence, governance, heritage, historical interpretation, human rights, Indian Ocean politics, law of armed conflict, legal issues, life stories, LTTE, military strategy, nationalism, politIcal discourse, power politics, propaganda, Rajapaksa regime, refugees, self-reflexivity, Sinhala-Tamil Relations, slanted reportage, sri lankan society, Tamil civilians, Tamil Tiger fighters, truth as casualty of war, UN reports, war crimes, war reportage, world events & processes

3 responses to “Prejudiced and Infantile Readings of Sri Lanka at Chatham House in 2019

  1. “Sri Lankan Briton” makes me laugh uncontrollably!!

    • please elaborate for the benefit of us dunces. … and , by the way the name DUGALD does raise my eyebrows uncontrollably.

      NB; I am a “Sri Lankan Australian” here in OZ. In SRi LANKA I am a Thuppahi Lankan.. There are “Burgher Sri Lankans”….. “Malay Sri Lankans” … Sinhala Sri Lankans” etc in SRI LANKA I only wish our bloody fool governments in Sri Lanka would amend the laws and have NIC cards that permit these choices for those who wish to stress their heritage [without patrilineal bias] …WHILE leaving it open for each individual to choose “SRI LANKAN” without any prefix

  2. Pingback: Arrogance, Ignorance, Deceit: The Many Faces of Taylor Dibbert | Thuppahi's Blog

Leave a Reply