January 2009 – a snapshot

In response to Groundviews, the respected Sri Lankan citizen’s journal, I am posting this single image taken by Colonel Harun Khan, of the deaths of civilians as a result of shelling. For those who don’t know, Khan, who features in Chapter 5 of my book “The Cage”, is a Bangladeshi Colonel and UN officer who came under bombardment courtesy of the Sri Lankan Army in late January 2009. He witnessed the resulting deaths and injuries to civilians – “nothing short of intentional murder” as he said – and extensively photographed the carnage. His presence was unfortunate because at the same time the Government of Sri Lanka was denying that its operations were killing civilians at all. There are many other images of the wounded and dead from these days in late January 2009, as well as close-ups of splash marks on trees, vehicles, and shell craters. I will not post other images of the dead, mostly because I think that it is rightly up to a credible and properly constituted judicial authority to weigh the evidence. Khan provided these images to me, as he did his testimony, with the specific intention that this wrongdoing should be known, not merely conveniently buried.

My prediction is that this image of a dead mother and children (as well as others in the deep background and to the right side) will quickly be taken up by various loons as evidence of the set-design and pantomime skills of Tamil Tiger Productions Inc. Good luck to them. May they exhaust themselves in fantasies of international conspiracies that are directed at Sri Lanka for the purposes of… ah, well – oil? No. Perhaps dividing the island in order to prevent China’s toehold? Bit late. Umm. Cornering the tea market? Well, genetic engineering is rather spoiling that. Racism? Oh but then there’s that Tamil thing… Neocolonialism? Big Powerism? Lording-it-over-us-ism? Envy? Paranoia? Take your pick, any will do.

POST SCRIPT: Oh dear. SADLY (as some like to preempt when they’re not very sad at all), the denunciations come from those you would least expect to depart from rational balance. UNFORTUNATELY (but, I must admit, predictably in much debate from certain quarters), this is laced with disdain, a curious will to disbelieve the bleeding (shabby pun) obvious, as well as… ahem… a premature rush to judgment. I did warn that one should not rely on the the date settings (as a reader has so gently explained in the comments section of the piece). I will repeat once more for the cloth-eared that there is in fact a whole series of photographs – same settings showing the identical incorrect date – showing plenty of further bloodshed and dead children and women, as well as number-plated UN vehicles with shrapnel damage; UN vehicles scattered with blood, clothing, shredded foliage, and dirt; the two UN officers in situ, building the bunkers as described in my book; an obviously (well, to me at least) terrified UN officer cowering in the bunker surrounded by civilians; photos of shell craters outside the same bunkers with ‘splash’ marks from various angles, surrounded by bodies and body parts; and… well, most people will get the picture, as it were, whilst others will just hear the hammering of Tamil Tiger Production Inc., as they erect their film sets…

I suggest that to a measured mind, the mere fact of an unmanipulated photo showing incorrect date settings might have been some indication of authenticity, rather than the contrary. At least it should not have been presented as proof of inauthenticity. I say this because even careless types like me know that metadata can be altered by a one-armed infant with a crayon. This is why evidence needs to be assessed by independent judicial mechanisms, and not by bloggers. Not even blogged by amateur bloggers like me. But I do suggest that in the fraught circumstances of Sri Lanka, even ordinary people are inclined to see dark forces at work, to believe the unbelievable, and to disbelieve that which is rather straightforward (as authentically evidenced by the blog post below)…

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