Since when was a Colombo-friendly source reliable?

Rupert Murdoch’s Australian continues its jolly regular reliance on “official” sources when reporting “terrorism”. Greg Barns explains:

So some asylum seekers are terrorists are they? Well yes, according to The Australian today. But for a host of reasons we should be very cautious in accepting the veracity of those who make claims that people fleeing conflict are in fact zealous members of terrorist organizations.

According to Sally Neighbour, who writes on terrorism issues for The Australian, “Sri Lankan officials” have told a Defence analyst Sergei DeSilva-Ranasinghe that “between 25 and 50 per cent of Tamils fleeing to Australia have connections to the defeated Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE).”

“DeSilva-Ranasinghe said that during a recent visit to Sri Lanka, two government ministers and several other officials, including Catholic Church staff with deep ties in the Tamil community, told him 25 per cent was at the lower end of their estimates. The people I spoke to constantly said 50 per cent,” he told The Australian,” Neighbour writes in her front page splash.

Mr. DeSilva-Ranasinghe’s views should not necessarily be accepted as gospel. After all he made the extraordinary claim in the same paper on 7 April this year that “there is strong evidence that since the defeat of the Tamil Tigers in May 2009 Sri Lanka has moved towards stability and inter-ethnic reconciliation, rather than widespread or institutionalised persecution of its Tamil population.”

This is certainly not what the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) says in its latest country assessment of Sri Lanka, issued on July 5. While noting that steps are being taken to normalize the country the report also notes that detention without trial, torture of suspects, rape and other forms of sexual abuse of women and children is happening and that there is “severe overcrowding and lack of adequate sanitation, food, water and medical treatment” in prisons. Hardly a rosy picture!

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