Mass graves, mass media and mass consciousness

 People’s Opinion (Island) 


The Mannar mass grave which is now being excavated by experts seems to be the biggest of several mass graves discovered during the last few years. Already 300 skeletal remains were identified and the process is not yet complete. The courage and endurance of those taking part in the excavations deserve special commendation, in view of several legal and other obstacles placed against their efforts.

Even an excavation of a single grave of an unidentified person is enough to unnerve civil society. Hence, the excavation of a mass grave, such as the one in Mannar town, is bound to have a deep impact on mass consciousness. However, except for the parents of missing persons who may fear that the skeletons in the mass grave may be those of their beloved ones, not much concern is expressed by civil society at large.

The mass media has been careful not to show any special interest excepting mere reporting of news of the excavation. Excluding few social media outlets, the mass media has remained silent without comment or analysis. Why is this self-restraint or self-censorship? Is it fear of the authorities or racist indifference or hatred towards the victims? It was only an expatriate Sri Lankan, former JVP General Secretary Lionel Bopage that had dwelt at length on the issue. Yet he writes from abroad.

It is only the international media that has tried to fill the vacuum left by the silence of the local media. For example, The Hindu newspaper ran a commentary. Sri Lankan media, which would go to town with news and unending comment on an innocuous statement or a comical theatrical performance of a mediocre politician, thought such a newsworthy and social issue such as the phenomenon of mass graves not worth comment. So much for the independence and integrity of our media!

The Mannar mass grave is not a solitary phenomenon. There have been many more mass graves including those at Sooriyakanda in Embilipitiya, Muttur, Chenmani, Ankumbura, Mirusovil, Kalawanchikudy and elsewhere. All these cases need investigating. Preventing such investigations or placing hurdles for such investigations is a crime against humanity and betrays the culpability of the State in extra-judicial killings. All governments that delayed or abandoned such investigations are responsible for creating a bad precedent. JAYATILLEKE DE SILVA


Seeking an answer to an unasked question

There is regular mention of “The National question, Tamil aspirations, Minority Rights, the Language Question, The Ethnic Question, Devolution, Autonomy” and so on. This may be the answer – but what is the question?

I have agonized over this matter – seeking answers but, apart from feeling tantalizingly close, I have to sink back to feelings of hopelessness.

When asked for clarity, many ardent promoters look at me with wonderment – as if to suggest “You look like a prize fool. Where have you been all these years?”

I wish somebody would break down the “problem”, preferably into a bulleted form. Perhaps something like:

No person may communicate with another who is not from his own race.

No person shall acquire property outside his/her Region.

No school is permitted to teach Sinhala or Tamil outside their designated regions.

“Designated” here means regions decided by their relevant political authorities.

No registration or recognition be provided for “mixed” marriages.

There will be an annual fee to be paid to the relevant local authority along with a certified statement by an acceptable legal authority of its continuance.

No burials/cremations will be permitted outside their allotted regions.

No Buddhist temples, Christian churches, Hindu kovils, Muslim mosques, or Liquor outlets be located within 500 metres of each other.

This is not a comprehensive list and needs to be added on to and revised into a legally valid form; but I am sure that readers will recognize the general drift! We cannot allow the present situation to remain unresolved. Any person who makes mention of “The Ethnic Problem etc.” should be instantly asked to precisely explain the terminology so employed – otherwise it will remain a puzzle no different from The Lochness Monster, Unicorns and Santa Claus.

I remain puzzled. (Author’s name missing)