Feature Article

Ad Hominem

[TamilNet, Monday, 19 February 2007, 00:28 GMT]
Allan Rock, Special Representative for United Nations Committee on Children and Armed Conflict, came under scathing personal attack in Sri Lanka Government controlled media for his report implicating Colombo for complicity in child recruitment. Ad hominem, a fundamental fallacy much detested in the field of rhetoric, and legal and scientific debate, has become a common tool in Sri Lanka Government's arsenal in confronting bad publicity in matters that have drawn negative international attention.

A party commits the ad hominem fallacy by introducing irrelevant personal premises about the opponent, ie. attacking the person making the argument, rather than the substance of the argument. Ad hominem attacks implicitly expect that such smear tactics may successfully distract the opponent and the audience from the topic of the debate.

Allan Rock
The Sri Lanka defence websites flashed pictures of Allan Rock posing during the December Liberal convention in Montreal for photographs with two Canadian University students alleged to be supporters of Liberation Tigers.

Commenting on Rock's report, Keheliya Rambukwella, spokesperson for Rajapakse Government said: "If Rock is such an expert who could make these comments within hours of visiting the northeast, then he could solve the Raviraj assassination within days. We do not need the Scotland Yard then."

However, the attacks had little impact with Rock, as his final report reinforced his previous allegations of Government complicity in abductions. "..certain elements of the Sri Lankan security forces are complicit in the abduction of children by the Karuna faction, and that at least some elements of the security forces have facilitated and sometimes participated in those abductions," Rock concluded.

Erik Solheim
Erik Solheim
Before Allan Rock, Peace envoy and the Norwegian International Development Minister, Erik Solheim, was the focus of Colombo's ire. Dissatisfied with Solheim's approach to peace process, Sinhala nationalists accused Solheim of bias, and called for his ouster, labelling him as "White Tiger." State-run media accused Solheim of joining LTTE rallies in Norway, of accepting money from Tigers, published innuendos questioning his personal character, and accused Solheim of providing material assistance to Tigers without showing any evidence.

"Of course we can't expect anything better from a nation of salmon-eaters who turned into international busybodies," Mr Samaraweera ex-Foreign Minister said reacting to Norwegian Prime Minister Kjell Magne Bondevik's call for flexibility in negotiating with Tigers.

International community, however, viewed the faltering peace process as due to military-aspirations of Colombo, and expressed stronger support to Solheim and Norway. Unaffected by the ad hominem attacks, Solheim attended LTTE's Anton Balasingham's funeral where he openly praised Balasingham's integrity, to the dismay of Colombo.

Peter Harrold
Peter Harrold
Several key members of the Sri Lanka Monitoring Mission, and World Bank country director for Sri Lanka, Peter Harrold, also suffered similar attacks by Sinhala nationalists with tacit support from Colombo.

The temptation to apply the same ad hominem tactic on local political dissidents appears irresistable to Colombo, political observers watching unfolding political turmoil within Sri Lanka Freedom Party (SLFP) say.
Mangala Samaraweera
Mr. Mangala Samaraweera
Sacked Foreign Minister, Mangala Samaraweera, has been accused by Sri Lanka's President Rajapakse as a Tiger sympathizer after he highlighted Colombo's human rights abuses and faulted Rajapakse brothers for interfering in the administrative machinery of the State.

In February 2006, Colombo invited Harvard Negotiation Project team from US, Thomas Schaub and Elizabeth McClintock, to provide briefings on "bargaining and negotiations" one week ahead of prospective talks in Geneva with the Liberation Tigers.

State-run Sunday observer accused the specialists as "too liberal and possibly too pro-Tiger in their views," and added that "..we run the risk of the Tigers knowing what the Sri Lankan strategy is, even before we reach the negotiating table."

To present a clear and convincing argument, one should state the premises of the argument explicitly, logic theorists say. Adhere to the principle of "audiatur et altera pars," and avoid all flavors of ad hominem attacks, the theorists advise.

Related Articles:
21.12.06   Solheim extols Balasingham's integrity
07.12.06   UN: Karuna denies child recruitment, commits to collaborate ..
28.11.06   HRW: Sri Lanka military complicit in forced child recruitmen..
12.02.06   Harvard experts too pro-Tiger, too liberal, says Govt. paper
07.03.05   JVP demands World Bank Country Director to be removed from S..

External Links:
WS: Rock fights 'smear' tactics
DN: Norway gave money to the LTTE: Karuna
TC: Allan Rock exposes Govt - Karuna group nexus to UN working group
MoD: Sri Lanka Ministry of Defence website displays Allan Rock pictures
RW: Govt. slams Ulf Henricsson's ruling on killing of aid workers in Muttur
Wiki: Ad hominem


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