17 May 2012

‘Fixing’ can define dimensions of entertainment, health, sovereignty and existence

For years certain NGO personalities, academics, politicians, diplomats, journalists, political commentators and even heads of state argued that the LTTE could never be militarily defeated.  Today we know that these predictions were part conviction, part hope and part psychological operation to dent opposing view and military strategy. 

Kumar David, a well-known commentator, insisted, for instance, that the LTTE will never be crushed.  He said, at the time, that it was imperative for Marxists to hold and express this view. Many, like Paikiasothy Saravanamuttu (Centre for Policy Alternatives) and Jehan Perera (National Peace Council), launched well funded campaigns to convince people that the LTTE’s demands would have to be accommodated in some way ‘because Prabhakaran can never be defeated’.  Sudarshana Gunawardena (Rights Now) screamed ‘The government’s war balloon will burst in Killinochchi!’  Today we know who these people were batting for and why they had to read the game in a particular kind of way. 

It is hard to predict the when and how of conclusion in the case of a war that has dragged on for decades. As such, I doubt that the bookies were giving odds on outcome.  Perhaps there were bets being placed about specific things. For example, someone could have posted 4:1 odds on the Army capturing Killinochchi on or before January 2, 2009.  People betting on the matter might have considered the fact that well-known defence columnist Iqbal Athas had written on December 28, 2008 that it was virtually a toss up, that either party could emerge victorious.  The bookie would have made a killing because the said journalist has a reputation and is expected to know more about these things than the average person on the street.  It was no ‘toss-up’. It was a rout.  In the process, some balloons did burst -- those of people like David, Gunawardena, Jehan and Paikiasothy. 

People gamble all the time.  It is not a clean game. It is not ‘cricket’ (or maybe it is!).  This is why there is ‘fixing’.  For example, it is well known that the share market is negatively influenced by a terrorist attack. So, if someone had prior information of an impending terrorist attack, he/she could save a lot of bucks by selling off large chunks of his/her portfolio.  The late Dharmeratnam Sivaram (who wrote as ‘Taraki’) often knew of an LTTE attack a few hours ahead.  That knowledge could easily have been transformed into bucks if he tipped off someone who speculated in the share market.  I need not elaborate on the buck-making potential of information, especially ‘inside knowledge’ except to say that it is a short step from this place to that of getting the LTTE to set off a bomb.  Yes, we could call it ‘spot fixing’. 

It’s an old game.  Gambling artifacts have been recovered from ancient China (2300 BC), India, Egypt and Rome.  The Mahabharatha tells us that Prince Yudisthara gambled away the kingdom and much else in a game of dice.  Someone could very well have made a bunch by betting that he would stake Draupadi (the common wife of the 5 Pandava princes) if there was whispering that did not go unheard.  That would be called ‘spot fixing’ too. 

It is of course easy to speculate about these things after the fact.  Especially in cricket. There’s been so much talk about match-fixing and spot-fixing, after all.  India beat Pakistan in the second semi-final of World Cup 2011.  Did Pakistan throw the game? Was Umar Gul paid to deliver an uninspiring and indeed match-throwing spell?  Was Tendulkar paid to offer catches at 27, 45, 70 and 81?  Was he dropped because the entire Pakistan team was paid to lose (Tendulkar getting a good score would enhance the possibility of an Indian win, everyone knows)?  Did Younis, Misbah, Kamran and Umar get a bonus for dropping him?   Was Afridi in the plot, after all he persisted with Gul when he was being clobbered and didn’t show concern when one or two of his star batsmen were happily plodding away the overs?  Or was his innocence proven beyond all shadow of doubt because he left Shoaib Akhtar out of the team?  Unless someone rats, we wouldn’t know. Better to assume innocence. 

What is more important is learning from error and learning to predict events.  In other words, use science; state a hypothesis up front and put it to the test.  In cricket, for instance, given what we know and the patterns that have emerged, we could predict something like the following.

So and so will bowl Sehwag juicy, hittable leg side balls and two wides in his first three overs. So and so will produce only 10 runs in the first 30 balls he faces. So and so will bowl in a particular way in three overs at such and such a stage of the game.
 Now, if this actually happens, we should flag the person and monitor his performance, the ups and downs.  If there is shady stuff happening, the lines of the pattern will get more pronounced and we then learn to predict the kind of contracts that may be given to susceptible players.

The same principle can be applied to identify people who are in the pay of corrupt corporates. We can, again based on observation over a period of time, that so and so in the Health Ministry will do or say such and such and/or support such and such a move.
 We can predict that this cabinet minister will push that policy or that this senior administrator will get subtly smeared in the private 'free' media so that he is vulnerable to being removed or stops being too honest for the liking of the corrupt. This particular IGP, DIG or minister will be portrayed in this way by this particular TV station or media group, we can predict.

After watching the events in the 'Middle East' (by the way, what is ‘East’ and what is Bahrain in the middle of?) we need to see who are the agents ready to be given arms to 'rise against' any nationally oriented government in a given country. Or which party is paid to be hostile to which neighbouring country so that tension can always be maintained - ready to use when needed.

Let’s take nothing for granted.
  That seems to be a good rule of thumb for the honest, responsible and patriotic citizen in these days clouded by gambling, match-fixing, spot-fixing and nation-selling

[First published in the Daily News, April 1, 2011]


Rory Winter said...

//Today we know who these people were batting for and why they had to read the game in a particular kind of way.//

Do we really know? To have voiced such opinions does not automatically mean that these people were out-an-out supporters of the LTTE. Maybe they genuinely believed what they were saying? Or am I wrong, do you have convincing evidence that they were supporters of the LTTE?

And even if they had been fully paid up card carrying members it seems to me that having been in the LTTE does not carry that much of a stigma when there are several ex-LTTE leaders in the Rajapaksa regime...

Walter Rajaratne said...

Yes, not only ex LTTE bigwigs but also those who were the architects of 1987 Parippu business, surrender of sovereignty to India, 2002 bifurcation foundation laying CFA favourites and even the parties to the UDI of Varaharaja Perumal are beneficiaries by way of juicy perks in this coalition.

Interestingly it was the Sinhala Buddhist vote base that brought the Rajapaksa clan elevated to the royalty today.

Though Fonseka’s post retirement action call for explanation he had been out and out soldier who stood on the ground that terrorism can definitely be eliminated militarily and dedicated his life for the cause.

Gota is walking away with glory but release of Fonseka will open a new chapter in the annals of future SL.

Only option the far sighted Sri Lankans need to focus on is to be vigilant of the front line shakers and movers of the so called ethnic and 13A and ++ in different guises so that their schemes could be nipped in the bud.

SANDIKA said...

how many TV channels currently operating here in SL? just forget the foreign ones who have dominated the 'viewers of SL'

i have a feeling that they are forgetting the core 'objectives' or the values of their institutions ( private and go channels)

i know nothing about media or about journalism i am just a viewer and a reader 'things have changed unbelievably'

i get the side of the person or the group i like that is natural because i am just a civilian but how can an 'institution' that work for the benefit of the public can change or get a side of their choice' is that really possible?
NO! that is what i believe.

we expect something more than that from all those people who handles these institutions'

'reality programs' interesting but i think it is good to think of 'real lives' of people and the things that they can do for the benefit of the public. 'take a side of public not particularly the side of an individual or a particular group' that is my request.......

the police earlier was known as the most 'corrupted' of all departments things changed a little i guess it is so good to maintain the 'positon' they have earned thanks to the ' good hearted police personalities' in the department. otherwise i don't think that it is wiser to call them 'personalities' it is people who give people, individuals all these tags it is not possible just for an institution to name or tag people as they will.

'people' or 'citizens' this word and its meaning so much bigger than a single institution.

i have heard of officers that did not work for money bribe etc, and some do not really care about the orders of the ill wills of the higher authorities.


i am amazed with the internal changs of the programs and the way that most of the instituions are addressing the public using their so called media abilities and power, money.

all the best to all of you and thanking you for getting sides and supporting 'the war lovers and the war mongers'

don't forget that the people are 'watching' you.
the day that people stop watching' you what will happen? letting the people 'watching' you is your business right?
'reading' is different, hearing is something totally different to this 'watching' things.
what is the most powerful thing compared to all these 'three' powerful medias' the words', the voice' or the 'visuals' have you ever thought of that you provide people an images with 'voices' and 'words'

what is your responsibility here? i like to know. i have a very limited knowledge on this that is why i am asking you all.

Malinda Seneviratne said...

@ Rory:

Yes, we really know. Even Prabhakaran must have believed what he said. That's fine. Doesn't justify what he did. These guys knew what the LTTE did. AND they talked 'peace', 'tolerance' 'democracy' etc etc., whitewashed the LTTE's acts of terrorism, downplayed that violence, tried to trip the forces taking on the LTTE and even demanded parity of status for the LTTE (vis-a-vis the Govt). As for ex-LTTE members being with the regime....that is certainly an issue, except there is a difference that they are not blowing people up or championing terrorism or terrorists.

Rory Winter said...

@Malinda, without in any way wishing to justify the behaviour of the individuals concerned it is important to note that when one is in the midst of a war --be it one of an asymmetrical kind with terrorists-- there will be those who will want to talk peace with the enemy, even on a parity. Their motive may not necessarily be one of out-and-out support for the enemy but simply an approach which they believe to be pragmatic.

Don't forget, this is how the war in Ulster was ended. Finally the UK government (with the aid of the US) had to speak with IRA leaders on a parity. And two of their leaders now play a significant part in the Ulster parliament.

Such parity treatment may understandably be felt to be obnoxious but at the end of the day only such even-handedness can provide any hope when matters are polarized and apparently beyond resolution.

Anonymous said...

Well, these 'experts' may still be working for other interested parties who would like to have instability in the region, sell arms/ammunition or merely earn a very comfortable living (plus publicity and the occasional 'award') writing reports and making films.

Anonymous said...

I think Rory has a point.Talking peace with an enemy is possible. Without in any way justifying the actions of the LTTE or those who seemed to support them-I think that quite a few who wanted peace were thinking of the country and not only of themselves. Maligning them serves no purpose now.
But Rory the IRA was fighting for a different 'occupied' country. A distinctly different land. Sri Lanka is a very small island-no genuine Sri Lankan would want it carved up into tiny pieces!
Anon 2

Rory Winter said...

Anonymous, I would wholeheartedly agree with you that no genuine Sri Lankan would want our little island carved up into tiny pieces. In hindsight, neither the separatist movement nor the LTTE and similar organisations need have happened if Mr Bandaranaike had been allowed to honour his pact with Mr Chelvankayakam.

It was the extremist nationalists that put an end to that pact and it was their pernicious ideology that led to the race riots of 1958. 1958, as that great journalist Tarzie Vittachi, observed in his booklet, Emergency '58, was the watershed moment when the Tamils and the Sinhalese went their separate ways. The events which followed up to Black July in 1983 stemmed from that time. It was after Black July that separatism and Tamil liberationism really took off with the LTTE predominating.

Sure, the IRA felt they were fighting for a different country but this belief was not shared by the Protestant section of the Ulster population who wished to remain part of the UK --and therein lay the problem. One section of Ulster saw itself as part of the UK and the other as part of the Republic.

The comparison is not exact with the problem in Sri Lanka but my point was to illustrate that governments can talk with insurgents and, indeed, they have to if a peaceful conclusion is to be arrived at. Parity between both sides is therefore a necessary condition.

Malinda Seneviratne said...

the argument was 'LTTE cannot be defeated'. It came with 'they are the sole representatives of the Tamils' (and these Tamil-Tiger conflaters accuse others of conflation!). Parity of status (and with it legitimacy for terrorism and the argument 'terrorist and you get what you want') was demanded. In the end, they spared no pains to save the LTTE leadership in the classic 'get them to live to fight another day!'. They knew that the CFA was not about peace (read the document, the breath-of-life is pretty obvious) and went along with it even when there was no doubt whatsoever that the LTTE was using it to rearm, recuperate, recruit etc. That's not 'innocent' Rory. As for talk...the LTTE, by admission saw 'talks', 'negotiations', 'ceasefires' through a MILITARY lens. There was a lot of 'talk'....and it was always scuttled violently by the LTTE (blowing up ships, slaughtering 600 unarmed policemen who had been forced to surrender etc). That path was a dead-end.

Malinda Seneviratne said...

Those who remember 'Banda' and 1956, forget Ramanathan in the twenties, and GG Ponnambalam's 'TAMIL STATE PARTY' that came before 1956, or Chelva's 'A little now, more later!'

Anonymous said...

Malinda, you repeat the same arguments over and over re the so-called peace negotiations and the so-called LTTE supporters. What you say is probably true- I would be the first to admit that. But your mindset has to change if we are to think of peace in the future. We cant forget the past, but we cant live in the past.
Re Ramanathan in the '20s, dont forget that the same Sinhala leaders chose him (and not Dr Marcus Fernando) to carry their petitions to London; they were as caste-ridden as were the Tamils. GG Ponnambalam's Tamil Congress was purely selfish Tamil political rivalry against SJV's Fedral Party. And Chelva's 'little now, more later' came after discrimination against Tamils had started. anon2

Malinda Seneviratne said...

you are correct, anon, we can't live in the past, we have to live in the present and look to the future. but the subject here is history and of course historiography. that's not all that i write about, obviously. to the extent that history and its deliberate corruption bears upon the present, it cannot be ignored, though. GG's machinations regardless of what provoked them, did impact tamil consciousness and political activism thereafter. banda was a demagogue, through and through, but he was quick to recognize that even the sinhalese were not gung-ho about 'sinhala only', hence the insertion 'reasonable use of tamil'....the language issue has been sorted out since, and in ways that the usa, for example, has been unable to do in the case of Spanish.

Padraig Colman said...


"Don't forget, this is how the war in Ulster was ended. Finally the UK government (with the aid of the US) had to speak with IRA leaders on a parity. And two of their leaders now play a significant part in the Ulster parliament."

Who are those two people?

Rory Winter said...

//Those who remember 'Banda' and 1956, forget Ramanathan in the twenties, and GG Ponnambalam's 'TAMIL STATE PARTY' that came before 1956, or Chelva's 'A little now, more later!// Let's also remember that it was 'Solly' himself (aka Banda) that originally proposed, in the 1920's, a federation of Ceylon with India. And it was also in the 'twenties that Kandyans were calling for their own separate state.

So it wasn't always the Tamils who were asking for federation!

Rory Winter said...

//Padraig Colman said...

Who are those two people?//

Well, Martin McGuinness is certainly one...

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