There has been much publicity recently regarding the killing of 17 ACF workers in Muttur last year. This is particularly worrying to the Secretariat for Monitoring the Peace Process, since it will contribute to a further erosion of confidence amongst stakeholders. While one of our main purposes now is confidence building, as the National Peace Council noted at a recent consultative meeting, it is equally important to deal with the erosion of confidence.
This has been increased by the recent press release of the International Commission of Jurists. In dealing with it however, it is also necessary to go back into the history of the allegations concerning the event, as well as the event itself, in order to get a clearer picture of the use being made of this tragic episode.
The Birnbaum Addendum, the Secretary-General's Letter and the ICJ Press Release
The ICJ release is based on an addendum to his initial report issued by Mr Michael Birnbaum, the observer into the inquest that it appointed. Though there are some procedural points in this report too, as media reports indicate, the main focus is the question of a discrepancy between two descriptions of one bullet found in relation to the killing. Mr Birnbaum's report is based on a report by the Australian Forensic Pathologist, Dr Malcolm Dodd.
Obviously such a discrepancy could have arisen for two reasons, either because two experts reached different conclusions, or because they were looking at two different bullets. Sadly Mr Birnbaum assumes the latter without any reasons.
As he is well aware, Dr Dodd has photographs taken at the examination on October 24/25, at which he observed the work of the Sri Lankan pathologist Dr Waidaratne, whom he commends. The description in Dr Dodd's subsequent report seems to be based on those photographs. It would therefore have been proper to have checked as to whether the bullet on which the subsequent description was made was a different bullet, or the same one as in the photographs.
The identification that is in dispute was by a Sri Lankan ballistics expert, who has no doubt that it is the same bullet. The ICJ insistence that it was a different bullet, which has been substituted, makes no sense when clearly there has been no attempt to inspect the bullet in question and compare it with Dr Dodd's photograph. When he was given Dr Dodd's report, the government expert stood by his description, and sent his reasons to Dr Dodd, and suggested a discussion. There has as yet been no response to this.