Sri Lanka: Recent accusations and some relevant facts
Posted on July 1st, 2011
Published in June 2011 News Letter of New Zealand Society for Peace, UnityÃƒÆ’Ã¢â‚¬Å¡Ãƒâ€šÃ‚Â and Human Rights in Sri Lanka
A much publicized video titled ÃƒÆ’Ã‚Â¢ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â‚¬Å¡Ã‚Â¬Ãƒâ€¦Ã¢â‚¬Å“Sri LankaÃƒÆ’Ã‚Â¢ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â‚¬Å¡Ã‚Â¬ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â‚¬Å¾Ã‚Â¢s Killing FieldsÃƒÆ’Ã‚Â¢ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â‚¬Å¡Ã‚Â¬Ãƒâ€šÃ‚Â, produced by Channel 4 of the UK, was screened on 14 June 2011 followed by rescreening of it by various national TV channels including those in New Zealand. According to the presenter, Jon Snow, the video represented devastating evidence of war crimes and crimes against humanity believing that it supports a powerful case for bringing those guilty of these crimes to justice.
There is no doubt that some of the scenes shown by Channel 4 were most horrific and gruesome. The declared motive of the Director, Callum Macrea, to air this documentary was to insist that Sri Lanka has to be tried for crimes against humanity and of war crimes committed during the final few months of the war against Tamil Tigers (LTTE).
SPURNZ views with concern the notion apparently shared by many western nations that Sri LankaÃƒÆ’Ã‚Â¢ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â‚¬Å¡Ã‚Â¬ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â‚¬Å¾Ã‚Â¢s actions during the closing stages of the long drawn war against the internationally proscribed band of terrorists require scrutiny despite the fact that these terrorists, during a nearly 30-year armed insurrection against a democratically elected government, were responsible of killing using suicide bombers an elected Prime Minister of India, an elected President of Sri Lanka, maiming another elected President of and murdering numerous democratic political leaders of the Tamil community and thousands after thousand s of innocent civilians both belonging to the Sinhala and Tamil community.
It is interesting to note that that a news team of Channel 4, including a producer and a cameraman are known to have been arrested and deported from Sri Lanka on 10 May 2009 for false reporting. Channel 4 did not disclose this fact that would have revealed a conflict of interest. In view of this we consider that it is useful to look into the ÃƒÆ’Ã‚Â¢ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â‚¬Å¡Ã‚Â¬Ãƒâ€¦Ã¢â‚¬Å“real motiveÃƒÆ’Ã‚Â¢ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â‚¬Å¡Ã‚Â¬Ãƒâ€šÃ‚Â behind producing this documentary and to establish whether the apparent conflict of interests caused biased journalism.
The war in Sri Lanka commenced around July 1983 and ended on 18 May 2009. Within this period the Sri Lankan community saw the Tamil Tigers massacre nearly 100,000 innocent un-armed civilian s – men, women, children, pregnant mothers and infants from Sinhalese, Muslim and Tamil communities. For almost 27 years the Tigers virtually controlled the day to day lives of 21 million people who were scared to step out sides their homes for fear of being shot or bombed to smithereens by them. During this period the Tamil Tigers are known to have perfected the art of suicide bombing and carried out nearly 400 suicide bombing missions that included the assassinations of the President Premadasa of Sri Lanka, The Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi of India and maiming of the Sri Lankan President Chandrika Kumaranatunga .
Numerous efforts have been taken by successive governments of Sri Lanka, with the assistance and sponsorship of foreign countries, to arrive at a negotiated settlement, but to no avail. The intransigency of the Tamil Tigers was clearly the stumbling block for any negotiation for a peaceful settlement. In this backdrop, the year 2009 dawned to Sri Lanka amid the signs of series of military setbacks to LTTE prompting almost every Sri Lankans to hope and pray for a military conclusion that not only ensured the right-to-life of 21 million fellow citizens, but also to defend and liberate the sovereign territory freeing its Tamil citizens from the clutches of LTTE renowned as a most ruthless terrorist group in the world rightly acknowledged by USA, Canada, EU and India.
The military defeat of the LTTE on 18 May 2009 paved way for the hopes and aspirations of all Sri Lankans to come true.
Since May 2009, most of the people started enjoying the sense of security. Of course, there may be thousands of issues still to be sorted out. The priority being the settlements of Tamil population in their homes, demining the northern and eastern provinces, supporting the population to restart their livelihoods, rehabilitating the health and education facilities, improving the infrastructure, establish social order and security and withdraw the military back in to the barracks and most importantly providing a political settlement for the legitimate grievances of the Tamil people. At present addressing some of these issues may be progressing but there is indeed a greater part to be initiated and carried out.
One of the key items in the national agenda is the national reconciliation process is progressing slowly despite the reports of the release of LTTE detainees who did not have serious criminal charges against them. It is worth noting here that in the 1971 insurrection in the South; except for very few with some charges laid against them, all others who were arrested for armed uprising against the Government were released in a matter of two years of detention after producing them to a Criminal Justice Commission (CJC) that imposed mostly suspended sentences.
This is the background that one should bear in mind in watching video accounts such as the ÃƒÆ’Ã‚Â¢ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â‚¬Å¡Ã‚Â¬Ãƒâ€¦Ã¢â‚¬Å“Killing Fields in Sri LankaÃƒÆ’Ã‚Â¢ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â‚¬Å¡Ã‚Â¬Ãƒâ€šÃ‚Â.
The Documentary ÃƒÆ’Ã‚Â¢ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â‚¬Å¡Ã‚Â¬Ãƒâ€¦Ã¢â‚¬Å“Killing Fields in Sri LankaÃƒÆ’Ã‚Â¢ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â‚¬Å¡Ã‚Â¬Ãƒâ€šÃ‚Â
The documentary has 4 main areas.
Bombing of civilians
Execution of prisoners
Loading of naked female bodies into a trailer
Exhibiting corpses of a few dead LTTE leaders
The visuals of the video clips are so horrific that every peace loving person would agree that it should not have happened at all anywhere in the world. However, since we donÃƒÆ’Ã‚Â¢ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â‚¬Å¡Ã‚Â¬ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â‚¬Å¾Ã‚Â¢t know the authenticity of any of these video clips, we cannot make any judgment or place the blame on any of the parties at this stage. All sorts of theories are floating around including suggestions that these videos have been filmed else where other than Sri Lanka. Whatever is the truth, it seems that a proper investigation is warranted for the sake of clearing the reputation of Sri Lanka. We hope that the Government of Sri Lanka will consider all facts in hand and take appropriate steps to restore Sri LankaÃƒÆ’Ã‚Â¢ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â‚¬Å¡Ã‚Â¬ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â‚¬Å¾Ã‚Â¢s image as a nation that has valued and maintained parliamentary democracy along with its neighbor India for more than sixty years not succumbing to any dictatorships.
In this backdrop SPURNZ wishes to put before the readers of ÃƒÆ’Ã‚Â¢ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â‚¬Å¡Ã‚Â¬Ãƒâ€¦Ã¢â‚¬Å“WhisperÃƒÆ’Ã‚Â¢ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â‚¬Å¡Ã‚Â¬Ãƒâ€šÃ‚Â – our News Sheet, some of our views on the above listed areas to help further understanding and dialogue.
Bombing of civilians
Civilian people of Sri Lanka were subjected to indiscriminate bombings by LTTE during the last 27 years and tens of thousands of human lives have been lost. Landmines, claymore mines, grenades and time bombs etc have been used against civilian population in cities and towns all over across the country by them to create maximum carnage and mayhem.
LTTE suicide bomb explosions at Sri LankaÃƒÆ’Ã‚Â¢ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â‚¬Å¡Ã‚Â¬ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â‚¬Å¾Ã‚Â¢s Central Bank in the heart of Colombo, the Sacred Temple of the Tooth venerated by the Buddhist world situated in Kandy, The Sacred Bo Tree in Anuradhapura were targeted killing a large numbers of Buddhist pilgrims, Rush-hour passenger trains in an around Colombo were attacked with bombs. Public Road transport buses full of Passengers too were targeted. A Muslim Mosque in Kattankudy at the time of prayers was attacked and a procession of civilians participating in a Muslim Festival in Akuressa was also bombed. Innocent civilian people were killed in thousands during this period of Tiger terrorist violence.
As an organization engaged in supporting peace and human rights we join with all others who express sorrow to family members of all Tamil people who died in the last few months of the war due to aerial bombings. However we note with consternation that media organizations such as Channel 4 had no time or space to express sympathy for those directly affected by the massacres committed by the LTTE over the years.
The irony is that some of the LTTE leaders like Karuna Amman, KP, Daya Master etc who were directly responsible for such crimes are still living in Sri Lanka , while some other colleagues of theirs are organizing protests and law suits in the name of human rights while residing overseas. Are they not perpetrators of Crimes against Humanity? The so called western humanitarian organizations maintain an eerie silence about those crimes.
By 2009 the LTTE deployed the strategy of taking a vast number of people variously estimated as two hundred to three hundred thousand mainly as a ÃƒÆ’Ã‚Â¢ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â‚¬Å¡Ã‚Â¬Ãƒâ€¦Ã¢â‚¬Å“human-shieldÃƒÆ’Ã‚Â¢ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â‚¬Å¡Ã‚Â¬Ãƒâ€šÃ‚Â for their protection and also as a bargaining chip and herded them on a small strip of land surrounded by a lagoon. The historian Michel Roberts commented that ÃƒÆ’Ã‚Â¢ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â‚¬Å¡Ã‚Â¬Ãƒâ€¦Ã¢â‚¬Å“ÃƒÆ’Ã‚Â¢ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â‚¬Å¡Ã‚Â¬Ãƒâ€šÃ‚Â¦..this monstrous act was, as far as I am aware, unprecedented in the history of the world. It could match 9/11 in the scale and implication, especially if it becomes part of the armoury utilized in the future by states or pseudo-states in extremis. As such, it remains remarkable that this outstanding act/event has received limited emphasis then and nowÃƒÆ’Ã‚Â¢ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â‚¬Å¡Ã‚Â¬Ãƒâ€šÃ‚Â (Emphasis ours)
Channel 4 is highlighting the plight of these civilians who were hoarded by the LTTE to be utilized as human shields. But it has turned the blind eye to the Tamil population that managed to escape from LTTE and gain entry to the Government controlled area.
All of them were reported to have been accommodated by the Government at various camps in Vanni and Mannar region and provided with basic facilities to live until the end of war. A significantly large number of humanitarian Organizations were allowed by the Sri Lankan Government to provide them with relief assistance.
We, the SPUR NZ on our part collected funds from the New Zealand based Sri Lankan Community and provided milk powder to the children living in those camps. These people were no different to the thousands who were forced by the LTTE to accompany them to be used as human shields. The ones who got into the Government side had the opportunity to save their lives while their relatives who were forced by LTTE to go with them may not have been so lucky and probably got caught in the cross fire in the battle that ensued.
It is interesting to raise the question why the Sri Lankan Government cared for and provided security for these people if it was hell bent to kill Tamil civilians and commit war crimes? The historical irony is that the very Government that provided facilities to look after the war ravaged civilians is put on the dock when the LTTE that exposed the lives of those innocents to the danger is working through its expatriate rump to discredit Sri Lanka.
The Channel 4 that gave no respect to the truth no doubt is guilty of biased reporting.
Execution of prisoners
We certainly do not wish to attempt white wash anyone who is a party to committing the crime of killing the prisoners. If Channel 4 reports are true those responsible for these terrible crimes should be brought to book and maximum punishment should dispensed to the offenders.
For this a very thorough investigation need to be undertaken before rushing into conclusions.
We are providing a link below to view a video clip broadcast by the Boston Lanka TV in June 2010, when the Channel 4 published the video clip for the first time. The same execution scene is shown there with the sound track in Sinhalese as well as in Tamil. Which is the original? With the access to advanced technology today any thing seems possible.
Four Sri Lankan technical experts who carried out an in-depth investigations have come to the conclusion that the video clip, that shows an execution of a bound prisoner, have been doctored with the ulterior motive of tarnishing the image of Sri Lanka.
These experts are: Siri Hewawitharana, (an Australian Digital Video Developer who was the former head of Cisco’s global broadcast and digital video practice and Executive Director at IPTV System), Dr Chathura Ranjan de Silva, (the Senior Lecturer of the Department of Computer Science and Engineering and the Director for the Centre of Instructional Technology of the University of Moratuwa, Sri Lanka), Brigadier Prasad Samarasinghe (the Chief Signal Officer of the Sri Lanka Army Signal Corps) and Major P. A. Bandara (the Media Centre for National Security). They have concluded:
Firstly. That this footage was not videoed using a mobile phone camera as was stated in the Broadcast but rather by a device such as a digital camcorder,
Secondly, that the audio track was clearly dubbed, and Thirdly, the sound of the gun shots were coming over a long distance rather than that of a gun fired from a point blank range as shown in the video.
When the ÃƒÆ’Ã‚Â¢ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â‚¬Å¡Ã‚Â¬Ãƒâ€¦Ã¢â‚¬Å“Channel 4ÃƒÆ’Ã‚Â¢ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â‚¬Å¡Ã‚Â¬Ãƒâ€šÃ‚Â showed this video in mid 2010, the Sri Lankan Government facilitated a presentation at the Presidential Secretariat, to show that the Channel 4 video clip was doctored. One of the presentations which were published in the Sri Lanka Defense Web site is reproduced here.
Loading of naked female bodies to a trailer
We agree that in this instance due respect neither has not being paid to dead human beings.
As civilians we have never experienced the mental conditions and feelings of combatants who has fought risking their lives and seeing colleagues falling wounded and dead beside them and their mindset. Certainly it would be over-ridden with viciousness and cruelty. That is why the wars and violence are evil and should be avoided at any cost.
The World has not heard of any humane wars anywhere. It is a human failing that the victorious party expresses their anger in many ways. These soldiers may have enraged to see how the LTTE has treated the dead bodies of the comrades in arms in battles won by LTTE. We provide below one such video clip in ÃƒÆ’Ã‚Â¢ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â‚¬Å¡Ã‚Â¬Ãƒâ€¦Ã¢â‚¬Å“You TubeÃƒÆ’Ã‚Â¢ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â‚¬Å¡Ã‚Â¬Ãƒâ€šÃ‚Â which shows the way LTTE is inhumanely treating the dead Sri Lankan soldiers.
You may see that the both sides were treating the dead bodies of the other side in a similar way that cannot be condoned.
Exhibiting corpses of a few dead LTTE leaders
Pulidevan and Nadeshan were never been arrested and there are no proof so far about the way they died in the final battle. Merely showing a video clip which shows Ramesh speaking, followed by another visual of his dead body does not mean any thing to the viewer. We have heard of reports that many people have died while in detention not only in Sri Lanka but abroad as well. These are actions that have to be universally deplored. It is strange that the media organizations taking up the issues when they showed conspicuous silence when In 1990, the LTTE killed 600 Sri Lankan policemen who were asked to surrender to them by the then Sri Lankan Government. All of them were massacred in cold blood by the LTTE. Although this happened more than 30 years ago, no attempt has been made to-date by any media outlet to condemn the horrific crime. The LTTE leaders who supposed to have ordered such barbaric acts are still living in Sri Lanka. Would Channel 4 take steps to capture them and bring them to justice?
Channel 4ÃƒÆ’Ã‚Â¢ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â‚¬Å¡Ã‚Â¬ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â‚¬Å¾Ã‚Â¢s Callum Macrea who directed this video when challenged about its authenticity by independent experts admitted that it was put together with the aid of photographic stills, LTTE websites and video clippings, from official Sri Lankan Army video footage and satellite imagery etc.
No established evidence is available to prove the authenticity of any of the original clips that were used from LTTE sourcesl.
Screening this documentary with horrifying images that raises the issues of dignity of dead persons and hurts the feelings of their families, without any guarantee of the authenticity of the original film footage requires highest contempt.
Sri Lanka after three decades of a civil war is now trying to heal the wounds suffered by its two main ethnic communities. The screening of this video by Channel 4 seems to have timed to coincide with the healing process by inflicting lacerations to the healing wounds that would ncite hatred among the two communities.
If that was the e objective of this documentary, we could very well say that Channel 4 has achieved it.