Friday, February 20, 2009

Genocide, Witness, Memory

21 February 2009

When widespread atrocities occurs in an era that we boast of as characterized by information revolution, actors engaged in genocidal acts, war crimes and crimes against humanity make strategic and tactical choices of how to control the flow of information, its verification, interpretation of events and actions. So for people who have taken moral responsibility to stand as witness or become agents of change the most elementary task is to defy political acts of controlling public knowledge and manufacturing of consent through manipulation of information. It is also important to defy the different denial techniques adopted by the actors, both at home and abroad. Challenging established narratives through independent verification is a fundamental element to ascertain what actually is happening or happened. People who care about justice around the world have engaged in such actions in areas such as Palestine, Afghanistan, Iraq and such other places. It is only through independent verification that many facts emerge causing much embarrassment to the actors whether they are state or non-state.

However in Sri Lanka it has become very difficult to do independent verification of facts. Yet many people defy the propaganda, repression and intimidation and do bear witness to the most recent genocidal acts carried out by the Government of Sri Lanka on the Tamils in the name of "War Against Terrorism." And when they do defy, counter-measures are taken to silence, discredit or terrorize them. When this happens it is usual to expect the "international community" to put pressure on the actors to adhere to globally agreed upon norms to put an end to atrocities, genocide, crimes against humanity and de-escalate the situation and move towards a negotiated agreement. In cases where history stands witness to serious rights violations, denials, discrimination, repression of dissent and attempts at demographic engineering aimed at perverting democracy, it is quite natural to expect international pressure to have more teeth.

The Government of Sri Lanka has been using the Official Secrets Act, a colonial instrument as yet another means to prevent certain facts from getting to people within the island and internationally. I expect many Tamils and Sinhalese (as well as others living in that tragedy filled island) to bear witness to what happened and is happening and send information to the outside world whether it is done through the internet or just a message in a bottle. For many, existence itself has become an act of resistance in this island. And a word to those who pick up the bottle, please do not destroy the message. Let it be, or let it be shared with others who can act or heed the call.

Here i would like to share one such message i got. Please follow the link to read it.

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