Saturday, November 2, 2013

Foreign Journalists in Sri Lanka – please have a sense of proportion in your coverage and try not to take sides or come with pre-conceived prejudices.

Following on from my earlier blog post, where it appears that the coverage has already begun (biased I might add) taking an angle most pronounced in the UK of only seeing and hearing what the Tamil lobby, Diaspora, call it what you will as only they have a monopoly in the debate overseas.

Lets go back to a little bit of history. The British established the Police force as we know it now, 150 years ago I think. Their principles of policing then (long since abandoned in the UK) are still used.

As the police could not cover protection of property everywhere and prevention of crime, they used the classic alternative of informants. Knowing the envy of others, they encouraged informants by giving them some form of recognition, even sometimes as the village headman. In this way control was established.

The second related action from this was that as lying was part of the national culture, no matter what race within Sri Lanka, when a suspect was brought in for questioning, they were beaten up black and blue in order to get a confession. In this sometimes, innocent people also confessed due to the beatings, and to this day we have people killed in custody, because they did not confess, as they were innocent, and the police brutality became just too much in the zest for a confession.

Arising out of this, the penchant for exaggeration also became part of folklore. As Sri Lankans love to exaggerate to make a point. So when soldiers from the war brought mobile phone film clips back to their villagers of how they beat the enemy, they exaggerated some of their crimes to become heroes. When they showed a couple of dead bodies, some stripped of clothes as an act of superiority victors over vanquished, the numbers were also exaggerated of their crimes.

In the same vein, the Diaspora and even people taken in for questioning by the police in the North, exaggerate the interrogation. Questioning by the police or armed forces, be it in the north or south is no different, it is brutal. They begin with the accusation, true or not, and when one denies, it starts with verbal abuse and ends with physical abuse, the proportion depends on the perversion of the abuser. It bears no relation to the ethnicity of the abused, just the severity of the suspected crime, and the stature of the accuser.    
It will take some years and training for this HR abuse to stop in the SL Police, as old habits inherited from British Rule die hard! However, sadly, with the pathological lying part of the national trait, it takes a lot of beatings to extract a confession, and innocents get caught up in the quagmire.

I particularly note and I referred to it in the earlier blog, how people accused innocents of being part of the JVP, because they either had a personal grudge against them, or their family, and were taken away by the Army, never to be seen of or heard from again. They remain the bulk of the disappeared in Sri Lanka, NOT the ones being listed out arising from the recent LTTE wars.

It is therefore unfortunate that this lying has been exported by the Diaspora also engaging in this, especially exaggeration to make a point. I know I lived in the UK for 19 years, and you expect people to be honest. So I understand you, I am lied to all the time in Sri Lanka, and have a devil of a time trying to distinguish between fact and fiction. It is hard, as we take people at face value and do not imagine that everyone with an agenda engages in bold face lying. 

The irony is liars, also believe lies!!! So that is how this Govt. lies daily in the media and gets away with it, as people believe what the media report even if it is lies. The Media is hardly objective in Sri Lanka, where they try and explain that the statement attributed to a politician is just too far-fetched to be true. 

One has therefore to read between the lines. So when people apply for asylum in the UK, they stretch the truth to benefit themselves, and as lying is in the national psyche is not considered wrong. It is up to you the journalist to investigate the likelihood of that being true, bearing in mind the background and not take anything at face value.

After all don’t believe a word I write. You do your own investigations. On the point of we being a Nation of pathological liars or exaggerators, if you have not already come to that conclusion after 48 hours in the island, then you are not a good journalist!!  

The level of empty boasts of the rulers is beyond funny, but the populace embrace it hook line and sinker and so they get away with blue murder!! It is your job to see the wood from the trees as our local journalists are complicit in the deception, coming from the same stock. Lies are believable the truth isn’t and so the Opposition has a devil of a time convincing the electorate of the Pied Pipers who are leading this nation to their Waterloo!       

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I liked this post for both the main point which often goes unarticulated -- that contemporary Sri Lankan culture is one of envy, compulsive lying, and exaggeration -- and the historical context that you provided which is interesting and so important to understand in order to better diagnose the problem and develop solutions.

the point where you lost me, and some of the readers probably, is the effort to argue that this culture only exists in Sri Lankan society and amongst the government leadership, and is somehow non-existent in the Sri Lankan opposition! Is the opposition not comprised of Sri Lankans? There are plenty of rogues that are both politicians and business associates of the politicians in the opposition as well. just look at the 80s and early 90s to see who got rich during those years and how they did so.