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Russell, Foucault on Truth, Lies in Sri Lanka context

[TamilNet, Sunday, 07 August 2011, 13:49 GMT]
"While the LTTE’s propaganda machine continues to spin its lies, and such lax standards of journalism continue to prevail in the west, the narrative on Sri Lanka may continue to be obscured by vicious falsehoods," says Sri Lanka's Defense Secretary in a media briefing convened in Colombo in a frontal assault on confronting the damage inflicted on Sri Lanka by the Channel-4 video, UN war-crimes report, and the Rights NGOs calling for International Investigations into war-crimes. The underlying moral question in discerning the truth of what happened in the final months of the war is laid by British philosopher Bertrand Russell in his advice to the future generations: "...never let yourself be diverted either by what you would wish to believe or by what you think would have beneficent social effects if it were believed, but look only and solely at what are the facts...."

Both the adversarial parties, the Government of Sri Lanka and the Liberation Tigers, have been accused of committing war crimes.

Bertrand Russell's advice
to future Generations
What the international NGOs, civilized governments of the West, and the active Tamil diaspora which Colombo is keen labeling as "LTTE rump," is what Russell appeals to the intellectual integrity of living and future generations: "Establish the facts, and let the facts bear out the truth."

Sri Lanka has been allegedly involved in erasing any evidence of mass killings. However, with the technology available, Russell's facts will unlikely to be completely erased, and even if, the full extent of the facts of the war cannot be ascertained, future generations will have to continue to seek to expose the truth.

Bertrand Russell, British philosopher (1872-1970)
Bertrand Russell, British philosopher (1872-1970)
Michel Foucault, French philosopher (1926-1984)
Michel Foucault, French philosopher (1926-1984)
Lessons Learnt and Reconciliation Commission (LLRC), established by the Sri Lanka Government, and touted by Colombo as the appropriate mechanism to establish the "truth" without external infringement of its sovereignty, has been rejected as lacking independence and will not satisfy international standards to "establish the facts," NGOs and Governments calling for independent investigations have said.

Here, Foucault's analysis on "truth" is also relevant. Foucault while asserting that "each society creates a "regime of truth" according to its beliefs, values, and mores, cautions that individuals would do well to recognize that ultimate truth, "Truth," is the construct of the political and economic forces that command the majority of the power within the societal web, and explains:
    'Truth' is to be understood as a system of ordered procedures for the production, regulation, distribution, circulation and operation of statements.

    'Truth' is linked in a circular relation with systems of power which produce and sustain it, and to effects of power which it induces and which extend it. A 'regime' of truth.
With uncontested supreme power in the hands of the ruling Rajapakse family, Foucault's explanation of tight linkage of production and establishment of "truth" with the systems of power appear to explain the dynamics of the Rajapakses' attempts at "producing and sustaining" of "truth" such as "zero civilian casualty" in the last phases of war, not withstanding the presence of imagery, videos, UN internal reports, and other emerging testimony that close to 40,000 Tamil civilians were killed.

The Foucaultian regime of truth developed by Rajapakses to insulate themselves from the consequences of violating international laws, during and after the war, is most visible in Sri Lanka media community. State use of violence and the culture of impunity, through attacks by State agents on dissident voices, shape the climate of censorship and self-censorship in the media community which in turn define the contours of "regime of truth" in the trilingual media.

Rajapakse regime also epitomizes the "Ministry of Truth" and "Newspeak" in George Orwell's "1984."

The endgame appears to be to monopolize control of what version of events are to be publicized, and to erase, suppress "facts" that can expose damaging "truths" on possible war crimes.

Related Articles:
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External Links:
Wiki: Bertrand Russell
CPJ: Failure to investigate
CPJ: Death threats sent to paper of slain editor in Sri Lanka
Wiki: Michel Foucault
CPJ: Attacks on the Press in 2008: Sri Lanka
CPJ: Sri Lanka’s war on journalists
CPJ: Sri Lankan Embassy denies press freedom crisis
wdog: Michel Foucault: Truth and Power
CPJ:  CPJ responds to Sri Lankan defense secretary
Wiki: Nineteen Eighty-Four by George Orwell


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