Anil Perera at https://lankanvoice.blogspot.com/ & whose preferred title is “Michael Naseby’s Paradise Lost Paradise Regained – Memoirs of a True Friend of Sri Lanka”
Having been barraged with unfair criticism, lectured on with unsolicited advice, and abused by some British politicians for defeating their beloved Tamil Tigers, Sri Lankans can take solace in the existence of at least some British politicians who are sensible enough to digest facts and come to logical conclusions. While most Western politicians swallow the Tamil narrative hook, line, and sinker, there are few like Lord Naseby, who keeps an ear to the ground and finds out what happened during the terrorist war in Sri Lanka. Lord Naseby’s experience in living in Sri Lanka in the 1960s and his continuous association with the country would have certainly helped him to find out the truth of what happened during the last stages of the Sri Lankan conflict.
Lord Naseby’s book is well written. It starts with the nostalgic experience of his stint as the Marketing Manager of Reckitt & Colman, Ceylon in the 1960s and then goes on to examine different decisive eras in the post-1978 Sri Lanka. Having met some top Sri Lankan politicians, he has formed opinions about them, which I consider to be pragmatic. He covers the failed peace talks and the Indian intrusion well in his book. The readers learn about Lord Naseby’s and a few other Britons’ contributions to help Sri Lanka recover after the 2004 tsunami.
The second half of the book is about the decisive war and the aftermath. He exposes the hypocrisy of the then UK Prime Minister David Cameron who, while visiting an IDP camp during a visit to Jaffna, complained that it was terrible to see it with his own eyes, but failed to offer any help to alleviate what he thought as the suffering of the internally displaced. He is critical of arrogant British politicians such as David Miliband who reportedly adopted a colonial master attitude when addressing the President of Sri Lanka. He complains about the complete lack of understanding of Sri Lanka’s plight by British politicians.
Lord Naseby describes the action of Tamil diaspora who has no interest or desire to help their brethren in Sri Lanka, but would work hard and spend money to try and prosecute Sri Lanka for defeating Tamil Tigers. He explains the shameful way Channel 4 brought journalism to disrepute with their now-discredited films on Sri Lanka. He also covers the work of the Paranagama Commission and the international legal and military opinion the Commission received. Lord Naseby dissects the often-quoted figures of civilian casualties during the last stages of the war and believes that the figure is in the range of 5,000 and nowhere near the figure of 40,000 quoted by some interested parties.
Perhaps the most important revelation in Lord Naseby’s book is that the UK Government knew by 19 May 2009, through the despatches of the UK Defence Attaché in Colombo Lt Col Gash, that 40,000 civilian deaths were a gross exaggeration, but never said so. He also points out the folly of Ranil Wickramasinghe’s government accepting at UNHCR ‘Violations of Human Rights law’ despite the applicable law being ‘International Humanitarian Law’. It proves the tragedy of having ignorant morons in the Foreign Ministry at that time.
A friend in need is a friend indeed. If not for Lord Naseby, we would have never known about the despatches from the UK Defence Attaché in Colombo in 2008/9 with important facts about the casualties. The UK foreign office had tried very hard not to release the despatches which Lord Naseby requested under the Freedom of Information Act. After several battles and after even going to courts to get them, finally he was provided with copies of the despatches, some of them were heavily censored.
In the Appendices of the book there are copies of some of the despatches. It is interesting to note that nearly 70% of the despatch on PTK Hospital has been redacted. Did Lt Col Gash report that the SL Army did not shell the hospital, as some human rights busybodies claim? Was it the reason for censuring that document?
It is heartening to read about one man’s lonely battle to help a country he is emotionally attached to. Paradise Lost and Paradise Regained is a book worth reading by anyone interested in Sri Lankan affairs.
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