Era of warped logic
Posted on April 20th, 2018

By Dr Upul Wijayawardhana Courtesy The Island

Warped logic seems to be the order of the day; be it local, to justify errant politicians; or international, to teach lessons to ‘non-compliant’ states, where the dictum seems to be ‘Punish first and then investigate’. Lynn Ockersz, in his well-reasoned ‘World Scan’ calls it ‘World Disorder’ (The Island, 19 April) and analyses the international scene but there is hardly any doubt that events in Sri Lanka, too, were manoeuvred internationally. Going through the interesting correspondence following the unsuccessful no-confidence motion on our dearly-loved Prime Minister, it is pretty obvious that those who still support him and Yahapalanaya, strive hard to establish a new logic: in spite of the undeniable attempted cover-up of the bond-scam, as I pointed out in my piece ‘Ranil’s Watergate?’ (The Island, 2 April), he is better than the one who may replace him. Why? Because that person is alleged, not proved, to be more corrupt. Is this simply a compromise? No, to my mind it is warped logic.

Bond Scams

Having had the opportunity to discuss with some ‘legal-eagles’, I can add a few more points to highlight that the Prime Minister’s responsibility goes far beyond a ‘cover-up’. When the bond-scams took place, the Central Bank was under his purview and, therefore, he should take responsibility; which is the democratic norm. His supporters will claim that the Presidential Commission did not find him guilty which raises an issue of greater concern. Till his appearance, the manner in which the assigned State Counsel conducted proceedings was exemplary. When the PM appeared, the Attorney General springs up on the excuse that it is only the AG that can question the PM and proceeds to question him, not cross-examine, based on a list of questions provided in advance! When I put this question, my ‘legal-eagle’ laughed aloud and asked me ‘Has a PM being questioned ever, before a commission or courts either as a suspect or a witness?’ Looks as if the AG’s was a lame excuse, nay, more of warped logic! Whither Justicia!

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Syria

No-confidence motion

The TNA, which leads the opposition officially, can proudly claim that it saved the PM from his own party and government. As far as I can gather, the TNA had decided to abstain but changed its mind, at the last moment, to please our international benefactors who are of the firm view that Ranil is our best leader. After all, weaklings like our country should have leaders that please them, not ones who look after its’ citizenry. Well, these are the little details of ‘World Disorder’! When TNA changed mind, President Sirisena changed his mind too but his followers understood his directions in different ways! Those in the UNP, burning with the desire of ousting Ranil withdrew to their shells, waiting for another day!

The reason given for celebrating Ranil’s victory is that had he lost, Mahinda will stage a comeback. If that is what the voters want, is that not democracy? Or, is democracy having elections till you get the result the ‘international community’ wants, like what happened in Egypt? Mahinda paid for his political misdeeds by his humiliating defeat. The alleged corruption against him remains unproved. If the Yahapalanaya could not prove it for three years, who is at fault?

Salisbury poisoning incident and Russia

As indicated in my article ‘Russia may have done it but…’ (The Island, 27 March), Russia was punished for an incident where an ex-double agent and his daughter were poisoned with a nerve agent on 4th March. Facts were beyond doubt, the acting HC for UK in Sri Lanka took the unusual step of writing a piece to warn us that it could happen anywhere (The Island, 24 March). The turn of events since, has been very perplexing. British Foreign Secretary claimed during an interview on German television that the head of the Defence Science and Technology Laboratory (DSTL) at Porton Down has assured him that the identified the nerve agent, Novichok, definitely came from Russia. But, Gary Aitkenhead, chief executive of DSTL denied this and said that the source was not identified.

Experts from the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) arrived in the UK on 19 March to confirm the results but their report is contested by the Russians, who claim that Skripals were poisoned by BZ substance, which Russia has never produced but USA and UK have done. OPCW claims that it was a contaminant and the substance that was found on Skripal’s door-handle was pure Novichok. Russian Foreign Minister Lavrov has countered, that it would be impossible to identify pure Novichok on a door-handle as it degrades fast. They should know! None of these was reported by BBC though international media like Reuters did, which raises the issue of not giving two sides of a story.

One morning, it was announced that Skripals were desperately ill and, even if they did recover, they will have permanent neurological damage but the same evening the daughter woke up, to be discharged two days later! Interestingly, this story went into oblivion, when Trump decided to bomb Damascus though some commentators contend that this contributed to the Damascus bombing, at least Theresa May’s decision to support.

Douma chemical gas incident

President Obama, in his wisdom, introduced his ‘red-line’ for the Syrian war, when in August 2012, he gave the understanding that he would intervene if there occurred chemical attacks. A few months later, it did happen and, as expected, Assad regime was blamed. However, Obama opted not to intervene, the excuse being that he would not be able to get congressional support. May be there is an alternate explanation, that it was a staged attack by the armed opposition to get USA involved.

Earlier this month, as Douma was being taken over by the government forces, another chemical attack occurred. What purpose this serves the Assad government, is anybody’s guess. Even before OPCW could visit Douma to establish facts, Trump decided to bomb some sites in Baghdad, with the support of President Macron of France and Prime Minister Theresa May of UK. Warning Russians when and where the attack would occur; an attack that did not result in any casualties, seems more like a gesture, which Trump excels in.

The most interesting article on this was by Robert Fisk, an award-winning journalist who specialises in Middle Eastern affairs and is based in Beirut. His article, in the British newspaper ‘Independent’, titled “The search for truth in the rubble of Douma – and one doctor’s doubts over the chemical attack” (https://www.independent.co.uk/voices/syria-chemical-attack-gas-douma-robert-fisk-ghouta-damascus-a8307726.html) is fascinating reading. He starts the piece by stating:

“This is the story of a town called Douma, a ravaged, stinking place of smashed apartment blocks – and of an underground clinic whose images of suffering allowed three of the Western world’s most powerful nations to bomb Syria last week. There’s even a friendly doctor in a green coat who, when I track him down in the very same clinic, cheerfully tells me that the “gas” videotape which horrified the world – despite all the doubters – is perfectly genuine.” But, then he adds:

“War stories, however, have a habit of growing darker. For the same 58-year old senior Syrian doctor then adds something profoundly uncomfortable: the patients, he says, were overcome not by gas but by oxygen starvation in the rubbish-filled tunnels and basements in which they lived, on a night of wind and heavy shelling that stirred up a dust storm. ”

He continues by saying that this doctor may be an Assad supporter but, interestingly, he could not find any witnesses for a gas attack nor anyone who was concerned about it, unlike the international community. He poses the question: “How could it be that Douma refugees who had reached camps in Turkey were already describing a gas attack which no-one in Douma today seemed to recall?”

What I found most interesting was his reference to White Helmets, medical first responders whose efforts are always witnessed by TV crews, so much so that they were nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize:

“The White Helmets – the medical first responders already legendary in the West but with some interesting corners to their own story – played a familiar role during the battles. They are partly funded by the Foreign Office and most of the local offices were staffed by Douma men. I found their wrecked offices not far from Dr Rahaibani’s clinic. A gas mask had been left outside a food container with one eye-piece pierced and a pile of dirty military camouflage uniforms lay inside one room. Planted, I asked myself? I doubt it. The place was heaped with capsules, broken medical equipment and files, bedding and mattresses.” “Of course, we must hear their side of the story, but it will not happen here: a woman told us that every member of the White Helmets in Douma abandoned their main headquarters and chose to take the government-organised and Russian-protected buses to the rebel province of Idlib with the armed groups when the final truce was agreed.”

Sounds familiar?

In an era of social media where everyone is trying to be a journalist, often peddling falsehoods than the truth, it is reassuring that there still are journalists of the calibre of Fisk, going in search of truth, risking life and limb. Will ‘warped logic’ win, still?

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