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Encountering ‘Death Counts’ in the Final 

Encountering ‘Death Counts’ in the Final 

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Published by Maria Anderson

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Published by: Maria Anderson on Feb 08, 2014
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War refugees (file photo) by G. H. Peiris-
February 7, 2014, 8:54 pm
 Continued from yesterday3.4. Satellite magery nterpretation !ethod" #ppli$ations%here are se&eral sets of satellite image-based estimates of the 'ar one population that are of rele&an$e to the sube$t of the *+anni $i&ilian death toll,. %he estimates so deri&ed by the  Country %eam (referred to in p. 4/ abo&e) 'ere" 30/312 in P Camps on 5 6ebruary/ and 01/072 in the 68 on 2 6ebruary. #gain/ based e&idently on the same methodology/ the 9CH# pla$ed the total population in the 'ar one ('hether the total in$ludes the $ombatants is not $lear) on !ay 0/ ::; at appro<imately 1:/::: to 2:/:::.=&iden$e gleaned from satellite imagery has been a$$orded an important pla$e in the *arusman >eport, as 'ell/ pro&iding 'hat the readers of the report are e<pe$ted to understand as irrefutable e&iden$e of bombing and artillery shelling by the Sri ?an@a army of lo$alities (mainly hospital premises) in the 'ar one inhabited largely or e<$lusi&ely by $i&ilians. Sin$e the damaged hospitals are named (listed belo')/ and the e<a$t dates of su$h bombardment are gi&en in the report/ it has been possible for me 'ith the guidan$e of Professor P. Wi$@remagamage of the epartment of Geography/ ni&ersity of Peradeniya - the pioneer of Geographi$al nformation Systems (GS) studies at the uni&ersity - to attempt a &erifi$ation of the bombing and shelling and the resultant damage so reported.daiyar@addu Hospital+allipuram HospitalPuthu@udiyirippu HospitalPonnambalam HospitalPuthumathalan Hospital!ullai&ai@@al Hospital
%he method  follo'ed ('hi$h $ould/ in fa$t/ be repli$ated by anyone 'ho has at least an elementary understanding of satellite imagery) 'as to use the sets of satellite images (different sets a&ailable at about fortnightly inter&als) $o&ering the hospital sites referred to/ and to as$ertain 'hether there are &isible differen$es in the *grounds$apes, before and after a spe$ifi$ episode of atta$@ dated in the arusman >eport/ de&oting minute attention to the sites mar@ed 'ith small red or yello' $ir$les in the satellite images presented in the report in order to indi$ate *$raters, on the ground and damaged roofs of buildings attributable to e<ploding  bombs or artillery shells.%here 'ere limitations in this attempt at &erifi$ation su$h as partial $loud and $anopy $o&er in the images do'nloaded by me/ or the diffi$ulty of identifying the e<a$t lo$ation of the Ponnambamam and !ullai&ai@@al hospital premises. Aut sube$t to these limitations/ the images that 'ere e<amined by me did not pro&ide $onfirmation of shell or bomb damage as alleged in the $ase of the o&er'helming maority of sites flagged 'ith $ir$les in the satellite images reprodu$ed in the *arusman >eport, - that it to say/ at the sites indi$ated/ there 'as no dis$ernible differen$e bet'een the image of a date before the alleged bombingBshelling episode and the image of the same site after the alleged atta$@. %here 'ere/ at the daiyar@addu and Puthumathalan hospital premises a fe' spots that sho'ed damaged roofs and 'hat loo@s li@e small $raters and pat$hes of burnt &egetation on the ground 'ithin about :: meters of the hospital buildings 'hi$h might ha&e been $aused by e<plosions. %hat apart/ there is no e&iden$e to substantiate the allegation that the hospital premises referred to or their &i$inity suffered intense damage from barrages of bomb and shell e<plosions. While not $laiming any e<pertise in the field of satellite image interpretation/ the impression  gained from this amateur e<er$ise of &erifi$ation is that there is $redible e&iden$e to 'arrant an impartial inDuiry into the $redibility of the satellite image e&iden$e $ited in the arusman >eport.  am/ of $ourse/ $ons$ious of the possibility that 'ith the reDuired e<pertise a&ailable to the go&ernment of Sri ?an@a/ the e&iden$e $laimed by the SG Panel of =<perts has already been pla$ed under $areful s$rutiny.n the $onte<t of the $laim made by the  Country %eam that *9S#% Eui$@bird, and *World&ie', satellite images 'hi$h sour$ed its population estimates ('hi$h  ha&e $ited earlier) 'ere of suffi$iently high resolution to distinguish e&en a single person on the ground (presumably to the e<tent of fa$ilitating the ma@ing of a distin$tion bet'een $ombatants and non-$ombatants)/  find one aspe$t of the $laimed potential of satellite imagery as re$ords of monitored e&iden$e from the +anni 'ar one some'hat intriguing. amely/ gi&en the fa$t that the area 'ould ha&e been under $onstant satellite &igil/ 'hy is it that these or any other satellite fail to $apture images depi$ting hundreds of rotting $orpses or up to 5:: dead or mortally inured $i&ilians stre'n o&er the open surfa$e of the sea'ard sandbar of andi@adal lagoon rimmed by the shallo' marsh. Was it be$ause there 'ere no su$h appalling s$enes to $aptureF 9r maybe they are yet to be published as illustrations in horror stories from *Channel 4,. %he same pule $omes to mind 'hen one loo@s at the hundreds of photographs of remar@ably high Duality that depi$t s$enes of human suffering in the nd 68 and in the $ourse of the $i&ilian e<odus in #pril and !ay ::;.3.5. Census !ethod" #ppli$ations
%he $ondu$t of Duestionnaire-based field in&estigations intended to generate Duantitati&e information on almost any so$io-e$onomi$ or politi$al phenomenon en$ounter t'o main  problems - one/ referred to as *sampling errors, (those arising from the possibility of the  persons Duestioned by the in&estigators being adeDuately representati&e of the population to 'hi$h they are $onsidered to belong)/ and *non-sampling errors, (a euphemisti$ referen$e to the ina$$ura$ies in the information gi&en by those Duestioned to the in&estigators). n an intensely traumatised $i&ilian population su$h as that of the +anni 'ar one/ there is a high probability of the data generated through the in&estigation being affe$ted by both these $ategories of error. 6or/ 'hile e&en the $o&erage of all e<isting households in su$h as sur&ey (7:: sample) might not $onstitute a representati&e sample of population that has suffered losses through deaths and out-migrations/ there 'ould also be a high propensity of distorted data being furnished by the informant 'hi$h is attributable to $auses su$h as memory lapses/ fury and grief about the losses/ fears about possible $onseDuen$es of being truthful/ politi$al $ompulsions/ e<pe$tations relating to $ompensation/ and ho' the Duestions are posed by the in&estigators/ et$. =&en if these t'o forms of *error, $ould someho' be minimised/ there 'ould also be the una&oidable impa$t of the obe$ti&es of the sur&ey on the manner in 'hi$h the field data are pro$essed and  presented. t is 'ith a $lear understanding of the limitations that are inherent to the *Census !ethod, that the efforts hitherto made to Duantify the +anni 'ar damage through large-s$ale $ensus-type sur&eys should be loo@ed at.3.5.7 Census of War Casualties by the go&ernment of Sri ?an@a#bout  years after the end of the +anni 'ar the go&ernment of Sri ?an@a $ondu$ted a $ensus in the 5 administrati&e distri$ts of the orthern Pro&in$e 'ith the announ$ed obe$ti&e of a$hie&ing an a$$urate enumeration of the dead and the 'ounded in the $ourse of =elam War + (i.e. from the $ommen$ement of military operations to liberate the northern plains of Sri ?an@a from ?%%= $ontrol in !ay ::2 up to the final demise of the ?%%= leadership in !ay ::;). #$$ording to the report of this $ensus (titled/ =numeration of +ital =&ents/ published by the epartment of Census and Statisti$s)/ 'hile there 'as a total of /3; deaths in the 5 distri$ts of the orthern Pro&in$e during the 5 years pre$eding the end of the $onfli$t (i.e. the period often referred to as *=elam War +,)/ about 1/4:: died due to fighting from une 7:th ::2 to !ay 7; :7;. t appears in retrospe$t that the go&ernment itself did not pla$e mu$h signifi$an$e on this enumeration.Sri ?an@an %amil politi$al groups in and outside the $ountry either ignored this $ensus or responded to it 'ith $yni$ism. %he latter 'as refle$ted in the response of the ?ondon-based *%amil nformation Centre, (%C) a$$ording to 'hi$h the go&ernment should e<pand its $ensus ba$@ to the time of the first politi$al @illing of Go&ernment Cleri$al Ser&i$es nion (GCS) !ember and the $leri$al offi$er of the epartment of Health and Sanitary Ser&i$es/ +elupillai Iandasamy (in 7;41)/ adding that/ sin$e then/ thousands of li&es/ %amil/ Sinhalese and !uslim/ ha&e been lost to &iolen$e both in the long-term armed $onfli$t in the $onte<t of %amil national struggle/ in the $onte<t of the +P uprising in the 7;1:s/ and in politi$al assassinations.

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