11 February 2014

Vaporization of corpses


A hitherto unknown outfit (at least in Sri Lanka) that calls itself ‘Public Interest Advocacy Centre’ has made a very serious claim: ‘Mass graves may have been systematically destroyed by Sri Lankan security forces at the end of the island’s separatist conflict to hide evidence of large-scale civilian deaths’.  The key word here is ‘may’.  That’s conjecture through and through.  Media queries regarding sources of information, reliability of sources, substantiation of claims, and of course the kind of corroboration that is basic to any ‘study’ have been responded to by this ‘Centre’ with dead silence.  That’s telling too.

Tamil National Alliance parliamentarian, M. Sumanthiran, in one of his occasional maverick avatars claims that 75,000 to 150,000 lives were lost.  There are multiple ways of ascertaining approximate numbers of the overall missing.  There were many entities, including UN agencies, involved in supplying food and medicine right up to May 2009.  Anyone with basic arithmetic skills can do the relevant subtraction.  The non-cooperation of countries that have offered asylum to Sri Lankan Tamils has not help in the enumeration exercise.  Nevertheless mechanisms to obtain the true dimensions of ‘disappearances’ (a politically charged term that is inconsistent with any academic exercise to obtain truth) have not yielded anything remotely closed to the numbers trotted out by pro-LTTE elements or, as in Sumanthiran’s case, those who have conveniently erased the LTTE out of the bloody story of the war. 

There’s also circumstantial evidence that counters these claims of ‘genocide’.  The US Embassy, hardly Sri Lanka’s best friend, has categorically stated at the time that the security forces could have finished off the LTTE months before had there been no concern for civilians.  Let’s not forget that the Government provided food and medicine, paid salaries, ensured that education and health systems continued to function throughout the war in areas controlled by the LTTE, even though it was known that the Tigers pilfered and routinely inflated ‘need’ to secure more provisions.   

Forget all that.  A ‘curious’ individual has offered a ‘solution’ to explain the vexed numbers problem.  A simple question has been asked: ‘Eta katu ko?’ (where are the bones—read, ‘remains’).  The contention is that if indeed 40,000 were massacred by the troops in Mullivaikkal, the remains, if piled up, would make a tower that puts Pisa to shame.  No bodies have been found there.  Were the remains vaporized, the writer asks. 

Let’s remember that there’s satellite footage available of the LTTE shooting at Tamil civilians fleeing into Government controlled areas.  That place was watched from above.  It is also clear that there are many who want to hang this Government over war crimes.  As of now their ‘best’ has been cleverly edited videos that is good as ‘collage’ but thin if they want to paint ‘systematic’, never mind the fact that the sources of the sources of the sources cited are hardly reliable given their loyalties.  If these people really, really, really, want to get the job done, they’ve had ample time (more than 4 years) to mine the relevant aerial footage.   It is, after all, a thin strip of land that we are talking about. 

The fact remains that getting rid of 150,000 corpses is not easy.  Not in the 21st Century.  Forget 150,000 or even the 40,000 that is being waved these days; ‘disappearing’ even 100 would be messy.  We are told, after all, that soldiers themselves were clicking away on their mobile devices to capture ‘trophy photos’. 

The claims, therefore, Sumanthiran’s included, constitute an affront to general intelligence and common sense.  It is time that it was responded to likewise.  ‘Curious’ has the answer.  

The only possible explanation is that our army has a secret weapon that enables it to VAPORISE corpses! If so, Uncle Sam should purchase this secret weapon from us – to help them erase his victims in poor Third World countries.’

Jokes aside, it seems the discussion has boiled down to a search for ghosts that never grew out of bodies.  That’s a nice pastime for the human rights crusade to indulge in. Nations and peoples have better things to do. 

Malinda Seneviratne is the Editor-in-Chief of 'The Nation' and can be reached at msenevira@gmail.com

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3 comments:

Anonymous said...

"Jokes aside, it seems the discussion has boiled down to a search for ghosts that never grew out of bodies. That’s a nice pastime for the human rights crusade to indulge in. Nations and peoples have better things to do."

- Never seen the whole situation summed up so well in so few lines before. Brilliant.

Anonymous said...

" A simple question has been asked: ‘Eta katu ko?’ (where are the bones—read, ‘remains’). The contention is that if indeed 40,000 were massacred by the troops in Mullivaikkal, the remains, if piled up, would make a tower that puts Pisa to shame. No bodies have been found there."

Did it ever occur to you that bodies can be burned, genius?

Malinda Seneviratne said...

here's something someone said that might answer your questions: 'Incinerating a human body is not an easy task: 2-3 hours of more than 1000 degrees Fahrenheit is needed. And how are you going to hide the smoke? Also it is logistically impossible to setup in a short time (unless the SLA planned in advance).'

multiply by 40,000 or 150,000 as per Sumanthiran-Math and that's quite a bonfire. :)