Hell or High Water – False Program on ABC TV
Posted on February 22nd, 2010

Manjula Wettasinghe

Dear Editor,

Australian ABC TV recently (9th Feb) telecasted an episode in it’s “Forign Correspondent” program. This was called “Hell or High Water” and was on Sri Lanka’s boat people who arrive at Australian shores as refugees. As we all know these are mostly bogus “economic” regugees rather than real refugees. However this episode was totally oriented around false information fabricated by numerous Anti-Sri Lankan elements including Gordon Weis , the former UN office who is an Australian. This episode was included in ABC website also and is currenly on (http://www.abc.net.au/foreign/content/2009/s2814960.htm).

A lot of readers have left comments about this episode and I also sent one which was quite comprehensive and factual. However ABC did not publish it. Reasons are understandable.

However after seeing Mr. Mahindapala’s article about Bashing Sri Lanka with fabrications, I thought I am in the same boat as Mr. Mahindapala and decided to seek help of your publication to expose lies by ABC TV.

My reply to ABC’s program is attached and hope you will be able to expose Australian ABC TV this time.

Many regards,

Manjula Wettasinghe

Hell or High Water “”…” False Program on ABC TV

By Manjula Wettasinghe

(In the “Foreign Correspondent” program telecasted on ABC TV on Tuesday 9th February 2010, it showcased the episode, “Hell or High Water” as colourfully reported by Eric Campbell (http://www.abc.net.au/foreign/content/2009/s2814960.htm). This episode was full of misleading and biased content and was a good indication of how incompetent the reporter and the producer(s) were in terms of extracting “true facts’ rather than mere speculation. This way, in long term, it destroys any trust this program has managed to earn (if any). I replied with the article below, to ABC TV’s website hosting comments and replies to their programs. However, for a reason only best known to ABC TV, they didn’t publish it. Since I have nothing to hide, I am publishing it here to expose the “true nature” of this program and the subject episode. I urge the readers to watch this episode before reading on.)

I was expecting a more professional and unbiased story from ABC but this program couldn’t even come close to that level of expectation. It drives me to think that this must be the standard and nature of rest of the foreign correspondent episodes being telecasted about other foreign countries. Since I don’t know much about many of those countries I always believed the stories in “Foreign Correspondent”. However, I know about Sri Lankan situation myself and therefore now I know this program is more about cheap popularity and false and misleading information. Following are my observations to prove my claim.

1. The retained boat people were at a court and the case said to be heard in Sinhalese (the language of 75% of population) and Eric said the Tamils didn’t understand “a single word” in the hearing. What is the message he is trying to pass to the world. In making such deliberate lies, isn’t Eric trying to be totally biased and cynical about Sri Lankan government. Why I say that is because if the Tamils didn’t know a single word in Sinhalese I wonder how the same guy was put into a navy detention centre where he understood everything what was allegedly said to him by navy officers in Sinhalese, such as “you Australians go to the worst room”, “your dad and uncle was killed because you supported LTTE” etc etc. Above all these false claims, Tamil is an official language in Sri Lanka and all government documents and correspondence are readily available in both Sinhalese and Tamil. Is that the situation even in Australia where you talk highly about minority rights? After all I wonder whether an Australian court would hear a similar case in Tamil. Tamils are a minority in Australia too!

2. The Tamil guy who was the main actor in the episode is supposed to be a “displaced”, “economically drained”, “suffering from hunger”, “poverty stricken (due to race discrimination)”, and “haunted by Sinhalese to kill” him. That is the picture Eric was trying to paint on the sub-conscious viewers. However the conscious viewers well noticed the “well fed” and flourishing nature of the guy from his appearance and the good clothes he and his mother were wearing, the good standard of the house they live in, the good food they were eating and above all how those guys were happily playing cricket with lots of fun and laughter using “proper cricket pads, leather cricket balls, cricket gloves etc on an artificial turf”. I challenge Eric to prove if such expensive cricket accessories are just a normal day-to-day stuff even for the average Sri Lankan, even in non war-ravaged areas! Prove it if you can, rather than trying to deceive innocent viewers who trust you for granted. Eric, you forgot to get your actor to wear rags and get them to show living in a destroyed hut and to get them show to eat rotten food thrown away by others and you certainly forgot to “create” a “real looking” act so that they play cricket using a damaged rubber ball and a piece of rotten wood. Eric, you tried but failed to be a good film director! If not, you believed everything some disgruntled Tamil guy said to you without showing any ability in you for common sense. Well, the so called Tamil guys who are said to “hounded to be arrested and killed just because they are Tamil” are playing cricket in the open with such fun and laughter is something hard to believe.

3. If a suspected (by US or Australian government) al-Qaida supporter tells you that he/she is not involved at all with Al-Qaida you would no doubt believe everything lock-stock and barrel he/she says, because you proved to be so gullible that you can be cheated by even a primary school student. Eric you appear to believe absolutely every word of your main actor in the story, ie, his dad and uncle were killed by Sri Lankan army (you simply assume he is telling truth), he is being hounded by authorities to arrest or kill him like his dad/uncle (you assume he is not speculating to take advantage of your sympathy to jump the queue to Australia), He admitted that he applied through Australian and Swiss embassies in “Colombo” (Oops ! while he didn’t understand a single word in Sinhalese but still did business in Colombo!) and rejected (Oops! is that your admittance that the Australian and Swiss government also discriminate against Tamils).

4. Now about your great guest Gordon Weiss. Well it appears Gordon “Lies” through his skin. Now he has “reliable sources” no one could find before to tell him that 40,000 civilians were killed by armed forces. He likes you also assume here that everybody died were civilians who never had any connection with LTTE terrorists. Nice assumption. I wonder why Gordon didn’t come up with a figure higher than that so he can tarnish Sri Lankan government as a vengeance on the incidents that happened between him and the government. It is natural for such a guy to revenge against anybody who were contributing towards losing his job at UN. This guy was made to resign rather than he happily resigned because of his unnecessary and provocative talks while he was a junior UN officer in Sri Lanka. He didn’t know how to manage his mandate and crossed the lines a few times and reprimanded by UN and made him to resign. So now he is taking revenge from Sri Lankan government and Eric, you became so low to accept him as “neutral and unbiased”. What a shame on your judgement. Even the famous “doctors from the war zone” admitted that the casualty figures were as low as less than a thousand but they were forced to forge the figures to the outside world at gun point by the LTTE. You all trusted these doctors when they told you a casualty figures favourable to a “good story” and now you don’t believe exactly the same guys because they now don’t contribute for an “exciting good story”. Gordon is very reluctant to name or even give a clue of who his reliable sources that made him look so gullible and silly. After all, we the viewers are not so gullible as Eric or Gordon. Gordon is now unemployed and is writing a book about the conflict in Sri Lanka, I can expect a well written “fiction” that will get some bread and butter on his dinner table for a while. After that, this unemployable will easily get a job at the next best place for the unemployables, i.e., Amnesty International or Human Rights Watch. Jobs are guaranteed there for people without common sense.

5. At one place in your program you said the Tamil people’s aspirations, hopes; prospects are nothing but “totally” vanished under “Sinhalese” government. You probably have no idea that Sri Lanka does not have a “Sinhalese government” as such. Just because the president is a Sinhalese the government does not become Sinhalese. This government has Tamil, Muslim ministers in the government. “Karuna” is the best example for you to learn the nature of this so called “Sinhala” government. Tell me in Australia do you have a “Anglo” government (because the prime minister is Anglo) so that all the minorities were purged. Isn’t that the case anyway? Tell me, can a Tamil, Arab, Greek, Turk, Chinese in Australia study at a mainstream school in their mother language rather than English? Tell me what is the situation with the native Aboriginies? Can they study in native Aboriginal language? Can they get a government job interview without being good at English? Can they get admittance to Australian Universities without being good at English? Aren’t your “Anglo” racist government is discriminating against your own minorities? Can the Tamils fill a form or application to the government in Tamil? Do you have court cases heard in Tamil in Australia? If not, why not? Is that because English is the “only” official language in Australia and it is the language of the majority. Why cannot your small brain apply the same rule to another country? Is that due to a physical inability or a deliberate act as a requirement to survive as a journalist?

6. Eric and ABC, you miserably failed to interview a single Sinhalese fellow out of about 15 million Sinhalese in Sri Lanka. Is that the best you could do to show your un-biasness in your job? At the end of the whole episode you said you tried to contact “many” government officers who declined to be interviewed. Yet you failed to mention a single designation (not person names) of a single government office bearer you tried to contact. Isn’t that the good indication that you are trying to hide something? When you try to genuinely contact an Australian minister or a government or Company official for an interview and if declined don’t you show in detail that you tried to contact this minister and that official? How come you all of a sudden failed to do so about Sri Lankan government? You still want me to believe, don’t you?

Finally, in my opinion, journalists need controversy for them to survive and western governments need conflicts to create weapons markets. They successfully did that in Sri Lanka. However now they have a worry that the arms market is being dried down in that region. They will try again to rejuvenate this weapons market in Sri Lanka.

We keep on watching your creative lies to survive you and you keep on lying and deceiving the world for a living. Not only that, the people who lie to you for various political and economic advantages laugh behind your back because to them, you are as gullible as a 2 year old child and can be deceived so easily using very little tricks.

You deceive others and you get deceived, it is a vicious cycle! They all go to Sunday morning church service (Eric and Gordon, you two included) and beg for pardon for their sins (lies) during the week.

5 Responses to “Hell or High Water – False Program on ABC TV”

  1. Claude1045 Says:

    Mr. Wettasinghe, wonderful, excellent and to the point. You have given them what is due. All these so called major country Journalists, as you quite rightly say survive on deceit and controversy. Great work and keep up.

  2. M.S.MUdali Says:

    White medias always depends on SESATIONAL stories. When it comes from a non-white country, they are double happy except a few!

    If you check their immigration quota per year, you can notice those governments dont have enough immigrants as they expected.

    Australia, and Canada are in the same boat. these countries will accept any one who reach their shore! But they never give VISA to the so called suffering people in Colombo!

  3. cassandra Says:

    Soon after Mr Bandaranaike came to power in 1956, a number of foreign reporters rushed to the island to report on the new government but some of the reports they filed gave a totally false picture of what was actually happening. Among these reporters was an American who, after only a couple or so days in the country, filed a piece that was sensational and full of inaccuracies. Naturally, this caused quite a stir and Mr Bandaranaike at first said nothing. But a short time later, when he was invited to open an exhibition run by the US Embassy in Colombo, he took a clever dig at the reporter. Mr B recalled how he had had the pleasure of visiting the US very briefly but, he said, based on such a short visit he would not presume to write a definitive history of the United States of America! Sure, he was being sarcastic but the point was well made.
    I have not forgotten this episode and every time I read some foreign correspondent carrying on about Sri Lanka, I cannot help but recall this story. Having been in the country for just a short time, they nevertheless carry on as if they were experts who had diligently and meaningfully studied the country and its politics. Almost none of them speak either Sinhala or Tamil and depend on their interpreters for what those who are not conversant in English have to say. They also depend for their information on their own embassies, the NGOs and the English speaking cocktail circuit, and have their opinions fashioned accordingly. The rumour mill in Sri Lanka is never still or ever dull. Now, Sri Lankans know only too well how the rumour mill can work overtime and the imagination and creativity that underlie the rumours that are always going around. Alas, for the poor foreigners, they have no idea of this and tend to believe anything and everything they are told.
    The west tends to regard the so called third world countries almost by definition to be abusers of human rights and denying the rights of the minorities. These countries seldom stop to question seriously whether the grievances of the minorities are valid. The reporters and officials who come from these countries come to Sri Lanka with the same disposition.
    So, it is hardly surprising if these chaps give a totally false picture of what is happening in the island. We have also to remember that the western audiences are not sufficiently well informed to question whether what is presented to them is accurate or not. I suppose it gives those living in the west some comfort to believe that third world countries are a terrible lot, because it makes them feel good, in comparison.
    Many foreign reporters are ill informed and largely ignorant of all the relevant factors. I don’t believe they are all mischievous in the way they report but their competence and objectivity are always in question.

  4. Ratanapala Says:

    In March 2004 there was a similar case that was taken up by concerned Sri Lankans against the Broadcasting Authority in New Zealand.

    An item on the current affairs programme, “Sunday”, dealt with the return to Sri Lanka of a 16-year-old woman who was deported from New Zealand after her plea to stay had been turned down. Her supporters claimed that she had been sexually abused by members of her family and she was frightened of returning to them.

    The item, entitled “Return to Sender”, included footage filmed in both New Zealand and Sri Lanka and was screened on TV One at 7.30pm on 22 February 2004. The girl’s grandmother, aunt and grandfather were interviewed in the item, which also featured comment from Sonali Amarasingham, a Sri Lankan born New Zealand television producer, Lianne Dalziel, in her capacity as Immigration Minister at the time, and Dr Rajan Rajansingham, the director of Escape, an organisation concerned with the sexual abuse of children in Sri Lanka.

    Sri Lankans in New Zealand took this case with the New Zealand Broadcasting Authority for denigrating Sri Lankan culture. You may follow the story at the following internet link.

    http://www.bsa.govt.nz/decisions/2004/2004-129.htm

    You too in Australia can take up the current issue with the Australian Authorities and get a similar hearing. The important thing is not to let these journalistic liars go unnoticed and that they are reminded that they too have a code of ethics to follow.

    These countries suffer from what I call a “Feel Good Syndrome”. They love to show the seamy side of life in other mostly fast developing countries such as Sri Lanka and India whom they are envy of, and make their own citizens feel “good and great” by showing the worst side of life in these countries. The journalists, travel on what they call “Intrepid Journeys” spend their time traveling enjoying the best of life, stay in plush hotels and write fantasy stories which include video footage of poverty and squalor denigrating the country they travelled. They are very well looked after by their benefactors and their local representatives.

    I was once at a propaganda meeting organized by the LTTE supporters in New Zealand. There they showed video footage taken by an Award Winning Journalist in New Zealand on a journey from Colombo to Tiger held territory in the North of Sri Lanka. Included in the footage was a meeting addressed by a lady with a shawl over her head. This journalist introduced this lady to the unsuspecting gathering as the most powerful Lady President of Sri Lanka –Chandrika Kumaranatunga . I had to point out to the gathering that she was not the Choura Raegina and President of Sri Lanka but some other Muslim lady addressing a political rally somewhere in Sri Lanka. His labor in this screening was to show ‘ how bad’ the South of Sri Lanka was and ‘how good and disciplined’ the area managed by the Tiger Terrorists’ was. The Award Winning journalist was obviously funded by the terrorists, probably not left Colombo and only showed video footage given to him by his benefactors. Later he apologized for the incorrect footage.

    Ratanapala

    24 Feb 2010

  5. Priyantha Abeywickrama Says:

    Why do we bother too much about English media running amok all over the world? Is it because we are servile enough to trust them and still believe in their concocted stories? When pushed to find a few bucks to stay alive not knowing whether there is going to be a tomorrow, humans tend to lose even the meagre honourable value in them. Anything is ok as long as it returns a few bucks after tax. In such a society, the public is exactly like them and what comes through media serves no body except die-hard extremist client base who can never be changed. What I suggest is to eliminate all our evils that give them a point to create a ruse, and to bite their backs to make sure that they get the message that they are truly much worse off than us. Unless we get into their shoes, we are never going to understand them. The only way to do that is to think of becoming a serial killer while preaching the best of virtues to hide the act. Why not train our minds to be a thief hell bent on grabbing everything belonging to every one including the poor, disadvantaged and the destitute as a starter.

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