WORLD: A short comment on Sri Lanka Guardian and its Editor Nilantha Ilangamuwa’s campaign against the AHRC:

By Basil Fernando

The story is told in an allegorical form so as to make all the substantial issues clear.

Mr. Nyeahu Nyeahu is a very dangerous enemy that one may be unfortunate enough to have.

He may also be a very dangerous person to deal with if you happen to be in a position where you are forced to decisions against his wrongdoings.

Let’s say, if you happen to be his boss. One day, you are obliged to take actions against him by way of dismissing him from his job.

After that, he can try to make your life very miserable indeed. First of all, he will begin to make false and substance-less allegations against you and send it around with the easy use of modern communication technology, particularly by the emails.

This Mr. Nyeahu Nyeahu knows that the art of having some impact is not merely to circulate some false allegations. The strength of his effort lays in REPETITION OF THE SAME SLANDER OVER AND OVER AGAIN, day after day, weeks after weeks, months after months.

The normal response to the initial receipt of these allegations for the receiver is to ignore them unless there is any substantial allegation in which case the receiver is obliged to inquire from their original contacts by asking for explanations. If the explanation are convincing enough then the matter is closed.

However, Mr. Nyeahu Nyeahu, by the use of method of repetition, ensures that there is no closure. One more of Mr. Nyeahu Nyeahu’s tactics is not merely to send these slanderous material to persons directly concerned but to everyone possible. Suppose, in an organization one person is in charge of dealing with a particular organization; then Mr. Nyeahu Nyeahu would not send his slanderous emails to that person alone but to everyone engaged in the administration from the managing directors to auditors and to everyone else; howsoever long the list may be.

The importance of the last limb of his tactics mentioned above is that most persons will not know the organization that is being slandered against, they may not have even heard about it. As usual, each one may ignore it initially. But then, due to the repeated circulation of the slanderous material, the issue is made into an institutional issue as people usually do- it becomes part of the gossip.

The slanderous material is not only sent within the institution but to the relevant branches of the government- especially the agencies that approve the funds. At the beginning, they may just refer it back to their partners but after a long period of repetition, they may ask why have these people not done something about it.

The aim of this method of repetition is to drag the slander to a point where people may impatiently ask why is this criticism ignored and why is this matter not being settled finally.
Mr. Nyeahu Nyeahu knows that this stage will come one time or the other and all that he has got to do is to do the easy work of just repeating what he has sent by the easy use of modern communication facilities.

And initially a lie created purely from the imagination of Mr. Nyeahu Nyeahu, by way of repeated republishing, becomes an issue of great importance that requires a resolution. THIS IS THE WAY A LIE ACQUIRES AN APPEARANCE OF BEING A POSSIBLE TRUTH.

Mr. Nyeahu Nyeahu did not invent this methodology. This has been used for centuries, the only difference is that in modern times the power of the communication system is so vast and easy to use and thus this kind of activity can be carried out without much effort.

In political propaganda, particularly at the lowest levels, this methodology is often made use of. This is particularly true in developing countries with weak rule of law systems.

Culture and methodology of repetition:

In more developed cultures, a refinement takes place about the manner in which truth is arrived at. On hearing allegations or anything else for that matter the mind will raise the issue whether this could be true or not. Purely by following logical process it is possible to distinguish truth from falsehood. However, where cultures have not gone through that development any and everything is news howsoever true or fake. And this is why in lesser developed cultures this kind of methodology used by Mr. Nyeahu Nyeahu is more prevalent.

When developed country readers are confronted with false information arising from a less developed culture:

A person who grows in the less developed culture from the point of view of emphasis on truth and falsehood is suspicious about everything he comes to know or hear. S/He suspects every information as probably false unless strongly proven otherwise he or she will ignore or be sometimes amused by this kind of silly propaganda.

However, a developed country reader expects the news he hears to be true or nearly true. This is where often conflicts begin when a developed country reader unable to distinguish a vulgar propaganda, a falsehood arising from a backward culture from kind of news that prevail in his own contexts. This cultural gap and conflict is what people like Mr. Nyeahu Nyeahu try to take advantage of.

Part 2.

Now let’s try to compare the above model that people like Mr. Nyeahu Nyeahu rely upon to our real story we faced with the AHRC. The stages are as follows:

1. Mr. Nyeahu Nyeahu was terminated from employment in March 2017. He first cried and pleaded for the job back.

2. When he found that this failed, he found another way to campaign for his job. That was by spreading slanderous material against the Executive Director of the AHRC.
3. For several months, despite of repeating the slanders, he could make hardly any impact. Those who knew Mr. Nyeahu Nyeahu did not take him seriously at all. Others who did not know him also dismissed his efforts as there was no substantial information to go by.

4. It is at this stage that he came to hit upon a new strategy for his effort which was to direct his repetitious campaign to the funding agencies that support the AHRC’s work across Asia. If he could succeed with them he would have thought that he could cause a financial crisis in the organization and thereby destroy its existence.

5. It is this course of action that he followed for many months.

6. Other part of his strategy was to write to the government agencies, particularly to those involved with investigation into fraud and corruption and tried to make out the case against the AHRC by the use of the same methodology. One government agency, after receiving such material for months, decided to look into the matter by way of a preliminary investigation. What is meant by a preliminary investigation is to whether the complaint is credible enough to go ahead. Thus, the preliminary investigation is concerned with the COMPLAINT and whether it is worthwhile to investigate into.

7. After several months of careful interviews particularly with those that were the target of the allegations the experienced investigators came to the conclusion that the every matter that they raised questions on were satisfactorily answered and therefore there was no basis to implicate these persons in the commission of any offence.

8. While For a funding agency this type of prolonged repetition of allegation may be a rather rare occurrence, the government agencies face these kinds of situations all the time. That is why they have been able to develop to deal with such kind of situation and come to a conclusion very quickly- like they did in this case.

Need for a Code Of Conduct for dealing with such slander

In the years to come, dealing with the kind of allegations and sabotage attempts by the likes of Mr. Nyeahu Nyeahu could become a major problem for the civil society organizations. In fact, this has already become a problem in every area of human rights. Already, large numbers of teen agers have committed suicide in United States and elsewhere purely due to misuse of Facebook and other social media causing them embarrassment, especially on sexual matters. The same tactic has also been sued to break thousands of families across the world. Similar damage is being done in the field of businesses and other things.

Pope Francis captured this problem in his famous speech titled “The truth will set you free” delivered as the Message Of His Holiness Pope Francis forI on 24 January 2018. He had compared it to the serpent in the Garden of Eden in the speech and asked for a decisive action against the same. The whole speech of Pope Francis can be read here.

It is time for all and especially civil society organizations to come together in order to jointly condemn and find ways to deal with these modern social menace.

It will also become necessary for the funding agencies to develop a clear code of conduct in dealing with situations like this which would more and more become very common occurrences. Common code of conduct by the funding agencies in dealing with situations like these will be a guide to everyone and adverse consequences of this kind of propaganda could be minimized by having such code of conduct.

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The Asian Legal Resource Centre (ALRC) works towards the radical rethinking & fundamental redesigning of justice institutions in Asia, to ensure relief and redress for victims of human rights violations, as per Common Article 2 of the International Conventions. Sister organisation to the Asian Human Rights Commission, the ALRC is based in Hong Kong & holds general consultative status with the Economic & Social Council of the United Nations.

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