The Sunday Leader

Sunanda Saga, States Of Denial And NGO Accountability

By Uvindu Kurukulasuriya

Sunanda Deshapriya

One common thread runs through the many different stories of denial: people, organisations or whole societies are presented with information that is too disturbing, threatening or anomalous to be fully absorbed or openly acknowledged. The information is therefore somehow represented, disavowed, pushed aside or reinterpreted. Or else the information ‘registers’ well enough, but its implications – cognitive, emotional or moral – are evaded, neutralised or rationalised away.

Consider these common expressions and phrases:

Turning a blind eye.
Burying your head in the sand.
She saw what she wanted.
He only heard what she wanted to see.
Ignorance is bliss.
Living a lie.
Conspiracy of silence.
Economical with the truth.
It has got nothing to do with me.
Do not make waves.
They were typical passive bystanders.
There is nothing I can do about it.
Being like an ostrich.
I cannot believe that this is happening.
I do not want to know/hear/see any more.
The whole society was in deep denial.
It cannot happen to people like us.
The plan called for maximum deniability.
Averting your gaze.
Wearing blinkers.
He could not take in the news.
Wilful ignorance.
She looked the other way.
He did not admit it, even to himself.
Do not wash your dirty linen in public.
It did not happen on my watch.
I must have known all along.

These common expressions and phrases are from “States of denial: Knowing about atrocities and suffering” by Stanley Cohen. Stanley Cohen is the Professor of Sociology at the London School of Economics and Political Science.
Cohen says; Statements of denial are assertions that something did not happen, does not exist, is not true or is not known about. There are obviously many occasions on which individuals, organisations or governments are perfectly justified in claiming that an event did not happen at all, or not as it was alleged to have happened, or that it might have happened, but without their knowledge. Now consider the following item;
“FMM has not made any statement that I have misappropriated any amount of money from the movement. FMM has not even asked me to explain any such misdeed. This is an allegation by some media. On the contrary I have worked voluntarily for years for the FMM and spent my own resources for its activities. On several occasions I have challenged anyone to prove if I have taken a cent from FMM for my personal use. I am still an active member of the movement.”  On February 9, 2012 Sunanda Deshapriya wrote this on the Groundviews website.
I posed a question under that asking, “Sunanda, Can you explain why you were sacked by CPA? Sunanda has not answered yet.
On December 28, 2008, talking to Namini Wijedasa at Lakbima News, Sunanda cleverly misled the reading public. I would like you read it again.
What is your response to the allegation that you swindled money while you were attached to the Centre for Policy Alternatives?
I have already accepted that I spent some money without going through due process but it was done with the consent of the groups we were working with. Not a cent was taken for personal use. We used that money for some other activity we were doing. Even the person who exposed this story knew what was happening. He was part of it. We discussed it among ourselves.
What was that activity?
We used it to pay the airfare of an international expert. There is no allegation from CPA or from anyone at CPA that I had used this money personally.
Who is that expert?
I have not discussed this so far. I only want to say that we used the money for some other activity. There is still an investigation in progress by FMM.
Why did you not follow due process?
There was no other alternative to do that. At the end of the project, we found that something was missing. So we discussed among ourselves and decided to do it the way we did, without cheating the money but by using the excess money for something else. Ninety per cent of NGOs work is like this. I know that other NGOs have had much bigger issues and there has been internal disciplinary action. But Sara (Saravanamuttu) and some others have gone to the press. I accept their right to go to the media.
But you fight on the side of honesty, don’t you?
I accept that this was not the right way to do it. I paid the penalty. I paid the whole amount, 180,000 rupees, to CPA out of my personal funds.
On January 19, 2009 talking to Frederica Jansz, at The Sunday Leader,  Sunanda Deshapriya said;  “I admit I did something wrong by taking those funds from the CPA budget – but I have paid the price for that. I only did so to buy Jacqueline Park her air ticket to attend the 2007 Public Service Media Prize-Giving. No sooner funds were reimbursed from the IFJ, I intended to return these monies to the CPA. I did not do this on my own – I had the FMM Committee’s approval for it.”
So he says five things; Not a cent was taken for personal use, used the money for some other activity, ninety per cent of NGOs work like this, he paid back the whole amount, he had the FMM Committee’s approval for this. According to Deshapriya he had FMM approval to rob the money!!
On 19 December 2008, the Executive Director, Centre for Policy Alternatives Dr. Paikiasothy Saravanamuttu issued a press statement. “The Centre for Policy Alternatives (CPA) accepted today the resignation of Mr. Sunanda Deshapriya, former Director and former Head of the Media Unit, with immediate effect. Mr. Deshapriya was associated with CPA since 2002. 
Mr. Deshapriya has personally returned in full money owed to the organisation after an investigation into financial anomalies of a project he was responsible for. 
The Board of CPA will meet on Monday, 22nd December 2008, to consider the issues arising from the resignation of Mr. Deshapriya.”
On December 20, 2008 Malinda Seneviratne wrote to Lakbima News; Dr. Paikiasothy Saravanamuttu stated that Deshapriya was involved in a transaction that ‘lacked clarity’. Now this is a gentlemanly way of saying, ‘he is a swindler’.
So far I did not write corruption issues involved with Sunanda. So why am I writing about this issue after three years? I thought it is unethical to go public since I was the complainant and the person who did all the preliminary investigations and handed them over to Free Media Movement, Sri Lanka Press Institute and the Centre for Policy Alternatives.
CPA had taken a decision and sacked Sunanda Deshapriya. SLPI had taken a decision and suspended the “Safety Fund” project. But FMM has not taken any action. Talking to BBC Sandeshaya on January 12 this year FMM Convenor Sunil Jayasekara said, “the FMM has decided not to carry the investigations further”.  So now I have no ethical issue with writing about this subject. I will write next week about what happened. The day Sunanda was sacked Dr. Saravanamuttu said to me, “Tell Sunanda not to come to any public event, I will expose him calling a press conference” . The next day he came with a theory called ‘lacked clarity’. How did this happen? How did Sunanda Deshapriya rob the money? How Deshapriya, International Federation of Journalists and some other NGO tycoons manipulated the investigation. Until next week I must say this; Sunanda did not use robbed money to buy an air ticket for Jacqueline Park and the FMM Committee never approved a decision with regard to “robbing money”.
Deshapriya wrote an article to the Ravaya on January 8, 2012 about Anna Hazare’s campaign against corruption. In that article he says; “There are multiple allegations against Anna Hazare, one  among them is inevitably financial malpractices.” Wow!!! See how Deshapriya is trying to use Anna Hazare to white wash himself! “Being like an ostrich in a State of denial !”
To be continued next week
uvindu@journalist.com

13 Comments for “Sunanda Saga, States Of Denial And NGO Accountability”

  1. Stnaley

    Gentleman and Editor FJ; please forgive Sunanda.

    This is not a good timing!

    Sunanda will be active in the 19th session of the UN HRC and you all are sliming mud at the wrong time.

    I personally appeal to you all to forget and forgive him for ever.

    He may be corrupt, he may be a thief but he is undergoing various difficulties in his life.

  2. ranjit de mel

    this so called journalist former terrorist leader is a humbug.in germany he makes money thats all he has learned. ranjit demel berlin

  3. Eddy

    This are the journalist who was pulling our Govt: by the leg in the last phases of the separatist war, writing blatant lies in the media about our heroic troops,He was the most vociferous of the bogus HR protectors, This type of maggots who feed on NGO dollars and working against the best interest of their Mother land should be treated as absolute Traitors!! God has given him his dues, he had to run like a rat out of the country, save his hide!!

    • Roshan

      These are the LOOSers who seems to have formed the infamous JDS and continue their “good work” unabated to earn the NGO dollars! You said it absolutely perfectly these are traitors!!
      I always wonder what rights do other people have against such worms and their pathetic work/behavior!

  4. Roshan

    What on earth you are blabbering about?? We all knew PCA , MMFs, ABCs all have one similarity, they all have “big time Crooks” posing as Dr.s , Journalists etc etc
    Now since the defeat of the Thug Pig n his gang they are all in hiding… still earning the NGO bucks by writing rubbish against the country.. We know we know!

    • manuri-toronto

      well said my friend..I am gald that there are right thinking ppl still left in the mass of wonderworld who think that Sunanda is some kind of “somebody’who fight for human right bullshit…..

      thiefs always hang around with thieves…..

  5. Highly ungreatfull Sri Lankan journalist who posed as a genuine fighter for corruoption free countrty,has explisitely exposed what a robber he was and is.Having swindled NGO funds, he suddenly vanished to Geneva and behaves like a HRDCORE TERRORIST AT UN.

  6. dagobert

    Humbug of the highest order.

    For NGOs such as CPA any rogue is good enough if they tow their line & hidden agenda.

    Whether Sunanda writes blatant lies or CPA’s Pakayasothy writes, they are just one and same.
    Pakayasothy & Sunanda share same status.

  7. Siva

    Well done Uvidu.
    People who are working for the protection of democracy and freedom have to be honest and transparent. Sunanda is well known journalist and having good track record previously. If he want to continue to work for the well being of the down trodden masses, then transparency is paramount but denial and twisting is not acceptable.

  8. Sam

    Uvindu, are you feeling all right mate? So if someone makes a statement such as “lack of clarity”, you CONCLUDE it as “swindled money”? And Sara, the fine gentleman he is, tells a chap like you to inform Deshapriya not to come to an event? Do you have any proof to show us that Sara actually said that? For starters, does Sara even know you, who has hitherto been a fly-by-night, wanna be journo? I find it hard to believe Sara has time for an insignificant chap like you, (no offense intended)

    Uruvu, Deshapriya is not an angel and I think he is a traitor who claimed threats to his life and made bogus refugee application. You making wild allegations, making useless arguements based on heresay does not make you look like a real guy either.

    Stop name dropping mate, and see some other way of gaining recognition rather than posting useless allegations. How about doing some proper journalistic work for a change?

    • Rosh

      I dont think he is capable…as a very populer sinhalese proverb goes..he is “Palu ge wallan bidinna” personified!

  9. dnh

    this FXXXX huld change his surname it is disgrace

  10. chawchaw

    frend be cerfull.

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