The Italian Job
- Sivaram Srikandath
Story Dated: Wednesday, February 29, 2012 16:53 hrs IST
Last weekend, I was having cocktails and dinner with a few friends. A typical boys-out night when a bunch of buddies get together to kick back, shoot the breeze and relax. It was a balmy evening and we were sitting on the lawns of a club by the backwaters.The drinks were perfectly chilled; the snacks savoury and crisp; the ambience very pleasant, and the company convivial. One of those nights, when you felt as the poet Robert Browning did when he wrote, "God's in his Heaven and all is right with the world.."
The conversation was mostly desultory and eddied around in ripples. As a group, we shared a few common interests that we always talked about - the deplorable civic infrastructure in the city, the forthcoming Biennale, when and if the Metro would become a reality, and the dreams we all had for turning our state into truly Gods Own Country - when one of my friends, casually turned to me and asked. "as a media person, what is your take on the controversy over Cardinal Mar George Alencherry's reported statement on the killing of two Indian fishermen by Italian marines."
I replied that I had not paid much attention to the controversy; and added that frankly I did not expect someone as responsible as a Cardinal to allow himself to get embroiled in such a fracas. "Surely, he must have been misquoted, " I concluded. " Don't be so sure," my friend riposted. "I suggest that you search a bit more for the truth. You maybe surprised"
His reply piqued my interest, and for the past two days, I have been patiently trolling through media reports trying to get a fix on the truth. It is still not clear what the truth is. But the facts are clear and self evident.
a. On February 15th, two Indian fishermen were allegedly shot dead by two Italian marines aboard the merchant vessel Enrica Lexie.
b. On Wednesday, February 22nd, the news agency Agenzia Fides, which describes itself on its website as the information service of the pontifical mission societies since 1927, quoted Cardinal Alencherry as stating that, "I learned of the Catholic fishermen killed; it is very sad. I immediately contacted the Catholic ministers of Kerala, urging the Government not to act precipitously. In the episode however, there were errors, sine the fishermen were mistaken for pirates. But the point is another, it seems that the opposition party wants to take advantage of the situation and exploit the case for electoral reasons....."
This report was widely carried by all news agencies in India.
c. This naturally created a furore back in Kerala, and on Thursday, the 23rd February, the Cardinal released the following statement to Agenzie Fides: "I would like to precise my views reported by the news agency Fides regarding the incident in which two fishermen were killed at sea. The event has to be investigated and if there is a culpable action it has to be dealt with legally and culprits have to be punished. Truth and justice have to be established. What I said the other day parenthetically was that this event shall not become a cause for conflicts and enmity in the communities and between nations. I have no intention of taking a mediatory role in the settling of this matter." The prelate also stated that the agency had since apologized to him.
d. On going through the website of Agenzie Fides, it was interesting to see that what they had done was to simply remove the news report dated 22nd February, and replace it with the new statement attributed to the Cardinal on 23rd February. No apologies were tendered, nor any explanations given, as is the normal practice by any news agency when there is a correction or clarification to an earlier story. It was as though the news report of February 22nd, just did not exist. However, since the report was put out in the public domain in the first place, it is impossible to refute it.
Hmmmm.......... Things were getting curiouser and curiouser, as Alice would have put it. Certainly someone was trying to put a spin on the truth !
Now that the investigation is in full swing, and all the necessary forensic evidence has been collected and culpable guilt established, justice will of course, be served. Courts and and due judicial processes will ensure that the two Italian marines will be tried either as per the laws of our land, or according to the provisions of International Maritime Law.
However, there is the vexing matter of establishing the truth of what really happened at the Vatican. For it is evidently clear that between the Cardinal and the Vatican's news agency, Fides, truth has been a casualty. The chain of events lead to the unfortunate conclusion that someone has been messing with the truth. Surely, when Mar George Alencherry accepted the scarlet red biretta and gold ring from Pope Benedict XVI, and was anointed as a new "Prince of the Church", on Saturday, February 18th, he may not have expected that the first challenge he would face would not be that of a theological nature; but rather, one of the delicate matter of obfuscation of truth.
Perhaps, it would behove well for all concerned to remember that "Lying lips are abomination to the Lord; but they that deal truly are his delight." Proverbs 12: 22.