NGO reporting season continues with Paikiasothy’s fraud
Posted on May 30th, 2010

Ajit Randeniya

ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ Sri Lankans may need to spare a thought for the various (N)GOs, especially those based in Sri Lanka, who made good business out of the war and then became casualties themselves at the end. The ƒÆ’‚¢ƒ¢-¡‚¬ƒ”¹…”poorƒÆ’‚¢ƒ¢-¡‚¬ƒ¢-¾‚¢ thieves have discovered that no one cares ƒÆ’‚¢ƒ¢-¡‚¬ƒ”¹…”two hootsƒÆ’‚¢ƒ¢-¡‚¬ƒ¢-¾‚¢ about them or their opinions any more. In a bid to stay relevant, they seem to be offering lots of post-conflict high jinks like ƒÆ’‚¢ƒ¢-¡‚¬ƒ”¹…”recommendationsƒÆ’‚¢ƒ¢-¡‚¬ƒ¢-¾‚¢ on reconciliation processes, devolution and the latest, land management in the East.

ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ They are solutions looking for problems! Otherwise, why would Paikiasothy SaravanamuttuƒÆ’‚¢ƒ¢-¡‚¬ƒ¢-¾‚¢s so-called Centre for Policy Alternatives (CPA) write a ƒÆ’‚¢ƒ¢-¡‚¬ƒ”¹…”reportƒÆ’‚¢ƒ¢-¡‚¬ƒ¢-¾‚¢ titled ƒÆ’‚¢ƒ¢-¡‚¬ƒ”¹…”Land in the Eastern Province-Politics, Policy and ConflictƒÆ’‚¢ƒ¢-¡‚¬ƒ¢-¾‚¢?

ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ The report is authored by two minions in PaikiƒÆ’‚¢ƒ¢-¡‚¬ƒ¢-¾‚¢s business, a human rights merchant named Bhavani Fonseka, probably a well-intentioned but gullible Sri Lankan, and a Mirak Raheem. However, the researchers acknowledge up front that they are ƒÆ’‚¢ƒ¢-¡‚¬ƒ”¹…”indebtedƒÆ’‚¢ƒ¢-¡‚¬ƒ¢-¾‚¢ to Paiki ƒÆ’‚¢ƒ¢-¡‚¬ƒ”¹…”for the comments and feedback given during the writing and editing of the reportƒÆ’‚¢ƒ¢-¡‚¬ƒ¢-¾‚¢. Well, they need not have told us; PaikiƒÆ’‚¢ƒ¢-¡‚¬ƒ¢-¾‚¢s grubby finger marks are all over it!

ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ This is the sort of report that causes so much exasperation in the readersƒÆ’‚¢ƒ¢-¡‚¬ƒ¢-¾‚¢ mind that the word ƒÆ’‚¢ƒ¢-¡‚¬ƒ”¹…”extraordinaryƒÆ’‚¢ƒ¢-¡‚¬ƒ¢-¾‚¢ tends to get over used, almost to the extent the British do. We would describe it as outrageous, at the risk of overestimating its significance!

ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ The report is introduced as ƒÆ’‚¢ƒ¢-¡‚¬ƒ”¹…”outlining some of the causes which researchers felt were causes of the land conflict in the East and lists some key challengesƒÆ’‚¢ƒ¢-¡‚¬ƒ¢-¾‚¢. It has been written ƒÆ’‚¢ƒ¢-¡‚¬ƒ”¹…”following visitsƒÆ’‚¢ƒ¢-¡‚¬ƒ¢-¾‚¢ to Trincomalee, Batticaloa and Ampara, and then we are told that the names of the numerous ƒÆ’‚¢ƒ¢-¡‚¬ƒ”¹…”field partnersƒÆ’‚¢ƒ¢-¡‚¬ƒ¢-¾‚¢ and ƒÆ’‚¢ƒ¢-¡‚¬ƒ”¹…”local actorsƒÆ’‚¢ƒ¢-¡‚¬ƒ¢-¾‚¢ in the East ƒÆ’‚¢ƒ¢-¡‚¬ƒ”¹…”and elsewhereƒÆ’‚¢ƒ¢-¡‚¬ƒ¢-¾‚¢, who provided invaluable insight and informatioƒÆ’‚¢ƒ¢-¡‚¬ƒ¢-¾‚¢ not available in the public realm, canƒÆ’‚¢ƒ¢-¡‚¬ƒ¢-¾‚¢t be revealed due to security reasons!

ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ Who are they trying to fool? Paiki, even though he is only a graduate of the dubious LSE factory, should not have expected any credibility for a report based on the particular methodology adopted, if one can call visiting the three towns mentioned ƒÆ’‚¢ƒ¢-¡‚¬ƒ”¹…”methodƒÆ’‚¢ƒ¢-¡‚¬ƒ¢-¾‚¢, and insult on the readerƒÆ’‚¢ƒ¢-¡‚¬ƒ¢-¾‚¢s intelligence by not providing information on the ƒÆ’‚¢ƒ¢-¡‚¬ƒ”¹…”sourcesƒÆ’‚¢ƒ¢-¡‚¬ƒ¢-¾‚¢.

ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ The report is full of generalities that do not have the capacity to form the basis for worthwhile discussion on the legal, ethnic, social, political or economic aspects of any land ƒÆ’‚¢ƒ¢-¡‚¬ƒ”¹…”issueƒÆ’‚¢ƒ¢-¡‚¬ƒ¢-¾‚¢ even if it existed.

ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ The first paragraph of the Executive Summary goes: ƒÆ’‚¢ƒ¢-¡‚¬ƒ…-Most individuals in Sri Lanka will identify land as a fundamental element that defines their life. Ownership and control of land, including the location of and the extent of land owned indicate a personƒÆ’‚¢ƒ¢-¡‚¬ƒ¢-¾‚¢s wealth and social status. The respect that flows from this has a number of other repercussions including access to schools and marriage prospects. Secure land rights imply economic security and provide surety for loans and thereby facilitate income generation and improve livelihoods.ƒÆ’‚¢ƒ¢-¡‚¬ƒ”š‚

ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ The only remarkable thing about this particularly unedifying piece of information is that it will ring true in the case of any country in the world, East or West! What is the issue then? How many informers did Paiki have to talk to discover this ƒÆ’‚¢ƒ¢-¡‚¬ƒ”¹…”vital piece of information, and why would he think that the Sri Lankan government might want to kidnap, torture or imprison his informers who revealed such ƒÆ’‚¢ƒ¢-¡‚¬ƒ”¹…”secretsƒÆ’‚¢ƒ¢-¡‚¬ƒ¢-¾‚¢?

ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ The subject matter of the report is based on ƒÆ’‚¢ƒ¢-¡‚¬ƒ”¹…”perceptionsƒÆ’‚¢ƒ¢-¡‚¬ƒ¢-¾‚¢: apparently the minorities in the Eastern province are ƒÆ’‚¢ƒ¢-¡‚¬ƒ”¹…”afraidƒÆ’‚¢ƒ¢-¡‚¬ƒ¢-¾‚¢ that the government is facilitating and supporting land distribution schemes which have the ƒÆ’‚¢ƒ¢-¡‚¬ƒ”¹…”hidden agendaƒÆ’‚¢ƒ¢-¡‚¬ƒ¢-¾‚¢ of changing demographics (doesnƒÆ’‚¢ƒ¢-¡‚¬ƒ¢-¾‚¢t Paiki like a good conspiracy theory?) In contrast, the Sinhala community ƒÆ’‚¢ƒ¢-¡‚¬ƒ”¹…”feltƒÆ’‚¢ƒ¢-¡‚¬ƒ¢-¾‚¢, Paiki tells us, that they did not have a right to land ownership and the state had an obligation to grant them land.

ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ Both the ƒÆ’‚¢ƒ¢-¡‚¬ƒ”¹…”perceptionƒÆ’‚¢ƒ¢-¡‚¬ƒ¢-¾‚¢ of the minorities and the ƒÆ’‚¢ƒ¢-¡‚¬ƒ”¹…”feelƒÆ’‚¢ƒ¢-¡‚¬ƒ¢-¾‚¢ of the Sinhalese become useless, rubbishy information, plane and simple, due to PaikiƒÆ’‚¢ƒ¢-¡‚¬ƒ¢-¾‚¢s failure to provide us with the information as to the statistical techniques he employed in his ƒÆ’‚¢ƒ¢-¡‚¬ƒ”¹…”surveyƒÆ’‚¢ƒ¢-¡‚¬ƒ¢-¾‚¢, or at least to tell us as to ƒÆ’‚¢ƒ¢-¡‚¬ƒ”¹…”whoƒÆ’‚¢ƒ¢-¡‚¬ƒ¢-¾‚¢ or how many were interviewed and what questions were put to them.

ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ We are being told that there is ƒÆ’‚¢ƒ¢-¡‚¬ƒ”¹…”rising tensionƒÆ’‚¢ƒ¢-¡‚¬ƒ¢-¾‚¢ over land issues, and then he tells us that ƒÆ’‚¢ƒ¢-¡‚¬ƒ”¹…”many disputes related to land are themselves not ƒÆ’‚¢ƒ¢-¡‚¬ƒ…-newƒÆ’‚¢ƒ¢-¡‚¬ƒ”š‚ but have been affected by the dynamics of a post-war situationƒÆ’‚¢ƒ¢-¡‚¬ƒ¢-¾‚¢, with displaced persons returning and owners and users trying to re-establish control of land; get real Paiki!

The phrase ƒÆ’‚¢ƒ¢-¡‚¬ƒ”¹…”post-war contextƒÆ’‚¢ƒ¢-¡‚¬ƒ¢-¾‚¢ is thrown about like confetti through the rubbishy report, ostensibly in an attempt to dress-up a perfectly understandable corollary of communal living as a new ƒÆ’‚¢ƒ¢-¡‚¬ƒ”¹…”problemƒÆ’‚¢ƒ¢-¡‚¬ƒ¢-¾‚¢ requiring NGO intervention, by ƒÆ’‚¢ƒ¢-¡‚¬ƒ”¹…”contextualisingƒÆ’‚¢ƒ¢-¡‚¬ƒ¢-¾‚¢ it.

This is where the sinister objective of the report comes out: without forming a valid basis, it ƒÆ’‚¢ƒ¢-¡‚¬ƒ”¹…”recommendsƒÆ’‚¢ƒ¢-¡‚¬ƒ¢-¾‚¢ that: ƒÆ’‚¢ƒ¢-¡‚¬ƒ”¹…”there must also be a concerted effort to develop mechanisms ƒÆ’‚¢ƒ¢-¡‚¬ƒ”¹…”at the community and divisional levelƒÆ’‚¢ƒ¢-¡‚¬ƒ¢-¾‚¢ in order to address and mediate these issuesƒÆ’‚¢ƒ¢-¡‚¬ƒ¢-¾‚¢ (emphasis added).

ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ For the best part of the last two decades, the so-called NGO movement, backed by western governments, have been honing in on the issue of ƒÆ’‚¢ƒ¢-¡‚¬ƒ”¹…”land ownership in post-conflict societiesƒÆ’‚¢ƒ¢-¡‚¬ƒ¢-¾‚¢ as another means of undermining government control of processes in developing countries. Their attempts to transfer governmentsƒÆ’‚¢ƒ¢-¡‚¬ƒ¢-¾‚¢ power to determine land ownership to minority groups and other groups of their liking are based on the many-fold opportunities it provides.

ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ In situations like Zimbabwe, where the (demonised) Mugabe government is fighting hard to take back the land that belongs to the people of that country, still being farmed by British colonisers after 50 years of so-called Independence, it enables the rich farmers to ƒÆ’‚¢ƒ¢-¡‚¬ƒ”¹…”buyƒÆ’‚¢ƒ¢-¡‚¬ƒ¢-¾‚¢ these farms from the poverty stricken owners at shoe-string prices; in situations like Sri Lanka, it gives them further opportunities to meddle, through governments and through government funded (N)GOs, and it creates business opportunities for their experts, surveyors and others.

ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ Back in February 2008, this writer attended a one-day conference on this subject titled – Uncharted territory: Land, conflict and humanitarian action – organised by ƒÆ’‚¢ƒ¢-¡‚¬ƒ”¹…”The Humanitarian Policy GroupƒÆ’‚¢ƒ¢-¡‚¬ƒ¢-¾‚¢ at the British (N)GO named the Overseas Development Institute (ODI).

ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ It was another opportunity to gain insights in to the thinking of the forces behind these conspiracies from their side of the fence! The ƒÆ’‚¢ƒ¢-¡‚¬ƒ”¹…”conferenceƒÆ’‚¢ƒ¢-¡‚¬ƒ¢-¾‚¢ was remarkable for a number of reasons: there were a number of people with the funniest sounding names one would be ever likely to come across; there was a Jon ƒÆ’‚¢ƒ¢-¡‚¬ƒ”¹…”UnruhƒÆ’‚¢ƒ¢-¡‚¬ƒ¢-¾‚¢, ƒÆ’‚¢ƒ¢-¡‚¬ƒ”¹…”ConorƒÆ’‚¢ƒ¢-¡‚¬ƒ¢-¾‚¢ Foley and Chris ƒÆ’‚¢ƒ¢-¡‚¬ƒ”¹…”HugginsƒÆ’‚¢ƒ¢-¡‚¬ƒ¢-¾‚¢; obviously they were fake names.

ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ But more importantly, the affair was focused entirely on getting the NGOƒÆ’‚¢ƒ¢-¡‚¬ƒ¢-¾‚¢s ƒÆ’‚¢ƒ¢-¡‚¬ƒ”¹…”involvedƒÆ’‚¢ƒ¢-¡‚¬ƒ¢-¾‚¢ on this (non)issue. Here are the action items agreed at the conference:

ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ ƒÆ’‚¢ƒ¢-¡‚¬ƒ”š‚¢ Build up core expertise [by the NGOs, on land issues]

ƒÆ’‚¢ƒ¢-¡‚¬ƒ”š‚¢ Get in early and ensure land is addressed in the peace agreement

ƒÆ’‚¢ƒ¢-¡‚¬ƒ”š‚¢ Use international leverage while it still counts

ƒÆ’‚¢ƒ¢-¡‚¬ƒ”š‚¢ Prepare for the post-conflict city

ƒÆ’‚¢ƒ¢-¡‚¬ƒ”š‚¢ Pay attention to customary tenure and collective norms

ƒÆ’‚¢ƒ¢-¡‚¬ƒ”š‚¢ Focus on ownership of natural resources

ƒÆ’‚¢ƒ¢-¡‚¬ƒ”š‚¢ Consider the governance issue

ƒÆ’‚¢ƒ¢-¡‚¬ƒ”š‚¢ Though there is no magic bullet, there are routes forward

ƒÆ’‚¢ƒ¢-¡‚¬ƒ”š‚¢ Make working with communities a priority

ƒÆ’‚¢ƒ¢-¡‚¬ƒ”š‚¢ Pay attention to the advantages of working with women.

ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ It is quite possible that Paikiasothy has been trained on these strategies by his international ƒÆ’‚¢ƒ¢-¡‚¬ƒ”¹…”friendsƒÆ’‚¢ƒ¢-¡‚¬ƒ¢-¾‚¢. The USAID sponsored ƒÆ’‚¢ƒ¢-¡‚¬ƒ”¹…”trainingƒÆ’‚¢ƒ¢-¡‚¬ƒ¢-¾‚¢ trip recently of some government officials to East Timor, the laboratory where the above agenda was tested, was part of the ongoing effort to impose this germ on unsuspecting governments.

ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ The truth is that conflict or not, land is always important to human beings because it is the ƒÆ’‚¢ƒ¢-¡‚¬ƒ”¹…”ground they stand onƒÆ’‚¢ƒ¢-¡‚¬ƒ¢-¾‚¢. The entire human history is littered with land disputes at communal, regional, national and international levels; the wretched colonial era was all about ƒÆ’‚¢ƒ¢-¡‚¬ƒ”¹…”land grabƒÆ’‚¢ƒ¢-¡‚¬ƒ¢-¾‚¢ including mineral and other resources, leading to dispossession of untold numbers of Indigenous people in Asia, Africa, the Americas, Canada, the Pacific region and Australia. The most recent, mass scale land grab was in a place called Palestine, in the 1940s! No one talks seriously of finding innovative solutions for solving the land issues still festering in these places! Funny that.

ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ The war in Sri Lanka would have obviously disrupted some of the established land settlement patterns due to the war, forced movement of people by the LTTE and fighting in some areas. Defence requirements also become predominant in determining land use.

ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ Paikiasothy SaravanamuttuƒÆ’‚¢ƒ¢-¡‚¬ƒ¢-¾‚¢s half-baked attempt to create a ƒÆ’‚¢ƒ¢-¡‚¬ƒ”¹…”big issueƒÆ’‚¢ƒ¢-¡‚¬ƒ¢-¾‚¢ out of this human problem is mischievous at best, and conspiratorial at worst. Irrespective of his objectives, he will not make a ripple with a third grade report of this nature.

ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ The government needs to continue its activities unswayed, based on the well established legal framework that exists in Sri Lanka, its case law, supplemented with just, common sense policy where needed to devise solutions to any intractable disputes.

ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ Those who printed SaravanamuttuƒÆ’‚¢ƒ¢-¡‚¬ƒ¢-¾‚¢s report need to donate the paper to a Kadala Karaya so as to minimise environmental damage.

One Response to “NGO reporting season continues with Paikiasothy’s fraud”

  1. Weeraya Says:

    Good one Ajit! Pakiya is a real comedian now. He better understand that Sinhalese taking over land in North East of Sri Lanka is perfectly fine as they were chased out by Tamil extremists, which is reiterated by Ben Silva as well today. This clown must know that if Tamils can freely get land anywhere in the country, what on earth is wrong with state sponsored colonizing? We must say that DS Senanayake did the greatest of moves by settling thousands of Sinhalese in the East, which no one else had the guts to do! I wish UNP has people like DS today but sadly they are mere LTTE agents today! I hope MR as promised will make the demographics of the North East as it was before Sinhalese and Muslims were chased out. I hope 100,000 Muslims can be settled in Jaffna asap. Hope you saw this! TNA jokers better go to hell!

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