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A report and a poll during the holidays

The report to the United Nations on war crimes in Sri Lanka and an online magazine poll on the 100 most influential people kept the buzz alive in a mostly deserted Colombo this past week. Sutirtho Patranobis reports

world Updated: Apr 20, 2011 01:06 IST
Sutirtho Patranobis

The report to the United Nations on war crimes in Sri Lanka and an online magazine poll on the 100 most influential people kept the buzz alive in a mostly deserted Colombo this past week. The city had literally cleared out and traffic became a trickle as the country went in a holiday mode for the Sinhala and Tamil new year.

For many politicians and diplomats, the auspicious holiday spirit was dampened by the very critical nature of the UN report; the experts who wrote it said that they had credible evidence that the government bombed civilians deliberately.

Parts of the report were selectively leaked to an english newspaper. Many suspected that the leak was orchestrated by officials who wanted to whip up a strong and volatile anti-UN sentiments as the agency got ready to make it fully public.

If the report was damning, the TIME magazine online poll that propelled Rajapaksa to the position of the sixth most influential person in the world was a joyous occasion for many. Newspapers splashed it on page one and the President's website put it up for everyone to read and regale. It could have hardly mattered that a brief introduction said Rajapaksa had grabbed control over independent institutions like the election commission.

But in the post-poll celebratory mood, it could be easy to forget the contributions of individuals in pushing Rajapaksa ahead of sundry leaders like Barack Obama, Hu Jintao and Aung Sang Suu Kyi.

Individuals like Vidharshan Fernando, an official at the Board of Investment; the government-approved facilitating point for investors. Or a particular a minister in the government.

Fernando sent more than 2500 emails to friends to canvass votes. "Rajapaksa eradicated terrorism, elected for second term to make Lanka Asian miracle, first President in UN's history to speak in Tamil and the first to take initiative to resolve issues of the Tamil community," the email said.

"If your newspaper could help, please do. The West needs to know Sri Lanka is a very powerful country; only country to eradicate terrorism," Fernando told HT.

The West, of course, knows that. But many in the West also feel that a lot of civilians were killed in the process. How that perception could be influenced remains to be seen.