Gordon Weiss, former UN spokesperson in Colombo, who claimed that 40,000 died in the last stages of the Vadukoddai War between January 2009 and May 18, 2009, has revised his figures again.
When he was in Sri Lanka he put the figure at 7,000. After he left his UN job and went to Australia he jacked it up to 40,000 to sensationalize his book, The Cage. At a book launch held in Melbourne last week, he changed his figure again and came down to 10,000 under questioning by Chanaka Bandarage, a lawyer.
Bandarage then asked why the brochure had mentioned 40,000. Weiss had disowned responsibility and passed the buck to the Deakin University which produced the brochure. Rohan Bastin, a Sri Lankan-born academic, organized this book launch. Bastin who was relying on Weiss’s figures was shame-faced and had nothing to say about the discrepancy in the Deakin University figures and the revised figures quoted by Weiss.
This denial by Weiss blows up the fictitious figure of 40,000 mentioned in the report of the Advisory Panel of Experts (APEs) appointed by Ban Ki-Moon, the UN Secretary General. It also blasts the myths of the anti-Sri Lankan NGOs and pundits who went to the town with Weiss’s figure of 40,000.
The local pundits in NGOs (example: Sanjana Hattotuwa of the Centre for Peace Alternative) also concluded that the book was an indictment of the war conducted by the Security Forces. But the accusers are not agreed on the critical issue of the number of casualties. Loud-mouth Hattotuwa in his review too avoided the discrepancies in the number of casualties. Obviously, it does not fit with his condemnation of the conduct of the war by the government.
In addition to the rubbery figures of Weiss, the Tamil lobby claims that the figures quoted by all sources are conservative. Prof. Francis Boyle, the most vociferous propagandist for the Jaffna Tamils, claims 50,000 died. The Tamil spokesperson in Australia, Dr. Victor Kulendran, told an Australian Broadcasting Corporation (ABC) program, in reply to my questioning these figures, that all the figures quoted are conservative and that the figure is around 120,000. The UN, however, is on record saying that it has distanced itself from Gordon Weiss and also that there was no way of counting the casualties.
Embarrassed by his claims under questioning, Weiss even pleaded at one stage not to spoil his book launch with questions. His book has come under fire from several critical quarters. The book is teeming with inaccuracies.
But the shady part is that he refuses to meet his critics face-to-face. When Prof. Rajiva Wijesinghe was going on air to comment on the latest developments in Sri Lanka he refused to face him. When I appeared on ABC – once on Lateline and once on Phillip Adam’s program – I too requested that he should appear and defend his book. But he refused.
He also engaged in an e-mail correspondence with me promising to reply the series of questions I forwarded. After sometime he played dead and automated messages kept coming from his end.
Meanwhile, ABC has decided to air “The Killing Fields of Sri Lanka” video tomorrow despite the London Sunday Times dismissing it as a shoddy piece of journalism. ABC has also refused to give an opportunity for the critics to present their point of view.
The Tamil lobby, of course, is running around Western capitals thinking that Weiss’s book, the report of the APEs and the fictions in the Channel 4 video are going to win them their elusive Eelam.