News Features  


Getting the act together is key to blur Channel 4 video

Expecting to win such a bloody war without shedding blood could easily be compared to one of the tales of Shakespeare where in the story of ‘Merchant of Venice’ Shylock is being asked to cut off a pound of flesh of Antonio without shedding a drop of blood
By Wilson Gnanadass
The controversial Channel 4 video that was aired during the UNHRC session and later in Britain continues to hound Sri Lanka.
On the one hand the film appears to be one of the worst forms of propaganda of the West, seeking to demonise one side while lacking any balance whatsoever.
On the other hand Sri Lanka’s failure to adequately counter its claim that the video is spurious appears as if the country is guilty of all the allegations.
A top United Nations envoy responsible for investigating extra-legal executions around the world has added his voice to those believing the tape to be genuine.

After commissioning three experts on forensic pathology, video analysis and firearms to review the tape, the envoy, Philip Alston, has told the BBC, “You cannot fake the precise sort of reaction which the human body makes when shot at close range by such a weapon.”
This is an indication that the propaganda against Sri Lanka is becoming stronger by the day.
The question is whether the counter mechanism devised by the government is adequate to silence the adversaries.
The entire world knew that Tigers were not just secessionists, but terrorists.
On that basis, fighting a fierce battle against such ruthless terrorists could not have been the easiest thing for the Sri Lankan soldiers.

Expecting to win such a bloody war without shedding blood could easily be compared to one of the tales of Shakespeare where in the story of ‘Merchant of Venice’ Shylock is being asked to cut off a pound of flesh of Antonio without shedding a drop of blood.
It is only common sense that in a war both fighters as well as innocent lives are sacrificed. It happened during the world war I, world war II and it continues to happen in the wars that are executed all over the world at present.
However unfortunately, the defence mechanism adopted by the present government to silence its foes has been so weak that it has given ample opportunities for those forces hounding Sri Lanka to continue their chase.
The only defence mechanism the government has devised so far against allegations of war crimes by the West is letting a university professor qualified in video technology to comment about the authenticity of the video. The details of this too are not in the public domain.
The professor who went before the Lessons Learnt and Reconciliation Committee (LLRC) only made his remarks in camera. This is making his statement regarding the video only to the commissioners of LLRC in private.

Besides, politicians who are not qualified to talk about a technical issue are making unnecessary noise.
Mere rhetoric, lambasting the UN and the West in some of the remote villages in Sri Lanka by handpicked politicians is not going to make any impact to the counter mechanism the government is trying put forward.
Even those politicians who do not wish to be quoted believe that there is no proper plan to get the world power behind Sri Lanka to nullify the argument put forward by some of the western countries that go against Sri Lanka. They still believe the country lacks proper strategy in dealing with this situation.
Some argue that if Channel 4 is only talking about war crimes during the last stages of the war, it should also examine how Sri Lanka, largely an agrarian and fishing based region was able to prosecute a war and managed to find the necessary funds to purchase vast amounts of weapons to conduct the three decade old war.
They also further observe that if the Channel 4 is only focusing on the crimes allegedly committed by the Sri Lankan soldiers then it should also examine the amazing feat of the same soldiers who evacuated nearly 400,000 people from the grip of the LTTE.

Call for unity
Leader of the United National Party (UNP) and opposition leader Ranil Wickremesinghe’s statement to the press condemning the West for its alleged plot to tarnish the image of Sri Lanka and further calling for unity at this crucial juncture was noteworthy.
Wickremesinghe, given his political maturity perhaps may have understood the gravity of the issue in sending out a statement of that nature.
If the Sri Lankan government continues to believe that aggressive denial is the best policy to this problem, it must be said that the price it pays in lost credibility is rising.
In this backdrop, The Nation interviewed a few senior parliamentarians for their reactions regarding the Channel 4 issue.
Almost all of them in unison have agreed that the propaganda carried out by the West is a smear campaign to tarnish the image of the country.
Strong indications are that the West is more annoyed with the ‘Rajapaksa brothers’ who they say defied all orders and requests for a ceasefire during the last stages of the war.
However when asked as to why the government consistently claimed the video is fake without providing adequate evidence that the gruesome scene was staged or the footage tampered with, none of them could provide The Nation proper responses.

Nothing will happen - DEW
Senior minister DEW Gunesekara feels the western campaign will ultimately not hold water and he believes it will lead to a natural death.
His contention is that when the world is gripped on a daily basis with loads of problems, issues, catastrophes and so on, this matter will soon be dropped like a hot brick sooner or later.
He says when the world situation is changing faster than ever before and the economic plus the political powers are also changing, this issue will be insignificant.
He said the super powers including the EU have their own shares of problems and they may not find time to focus on Sri Lanka. “This is just another campaign. That is all,” he said.
However he said that the mistake the government made was not to publicise what it has done after the war. He further said the government also could have expedited the reconciliation process immediately after the war.
He said when UN Secretary General visited Sri Lanka he was the one who accompanied him to the airport and added the UNSG was rather impressed with the government’s effort to win the war.
“In fact he told the CNN the same thing. But it is after this that he was also brainwashed,” he said.
He said this is an internal problem and should be dealt with internally. He also said this is what Sri Lanka had to expect from her adversaries.

We must woo world power - Vitharana
According to senior minister Prof. Tissa Vitharana the campaign is clearly designed to discredit President Mahinda Rajapaksa and also to sling mud at his two brothers.
He said it is a targeted video which has been prepared to throw mud on the Rajapaksas. “I think the mug shot what is put in the film is fabricated and untrue,” he said.
He said whether this was done as a revenge against the Rajapaksas or not, it was grossly unfair.
The minister said firstly it was necessary to logically expose the contents that are found in the video. Then he said secondly, the government must win the public opinion on to the government side which he added is a huge task that is before the government at present.
Thirdly he said, the government must garner the support of the world power to support Sri Lanka.
Prof. Vitharana welcoming Ranil Wickremesinghe’s statement said he was personally happy that the main opposition has not so far tried to betray the country but is willing to support the government.
“I personally feel that the Ban Ki-moon inspired panel report and the Channel 4 video are directed towards one objective – to get a regime change. It is very clear from these campaigns. The west is trying to build a case against the President to try him at the international court of justice,” he said.
Having said this, the experienced politician said that Sri Lanka should never underestimate the forces that are against the country.
“We must appreciate the power the west has over media and act accordingly. We are a small country. We can’t behave as if we are a big country. We must get the world power behind us and nullify the argument put forward by countries with vested interests. We have to tackle with a clear plan”.
“At present we are only responding on an issue by issue basis but we need to consider the overall campaign and do something. We have to meet each and every issue and have a total approach that will convince people.”
“We should set up a suitably impartial body of our own within the country that would be respected to look into those charges and see whether there is any substance. And if there is we have to take action,” he added.

Govt. should disprove it – Kiriella
UNP parliamentarian Lakshman Kiriella who supported his leader’s statement, while calling for unity among parties to fight against this campaign said it was now up to the government to disprove what is said by the west.
He said the UNP was very concerned about the country’s image being tarnished and added he was more worried that the country’s image was being marred because of the present government.
He blamed the government for not taking adequate steps to devise a process of counter mechanism two years ago when the video was shown.
Citing examples from the Gaza strip he said when there were serious allegations of war crimes against Israel in the Gaza strip attack the UN produced a similar report like the Darusman report. But added Israel did not totally reject the report but instead carried out an internal investigation into the allegations and produced a stronger report to the UN
“Then there were two reports. One report of the UN and the other of Israel. This is what the UPFA government should have done without rejecting the report outright. It is only proper to disprove an allegation. Even if a false case is filed against somebody in the court, he/she has to go to courts to disprove it. Simple as that,” he said.
He said there was no point in the government trying to clarify the report and deny the video inside the country. “The government should do it outside,’ he added.
He also said the government has in the recent past lost its strength to negotiate with whom it felt were its opponents like the trade unions, the media, and the opposition parties. “This is not a good sign,” he added.
However he said that the UNP will do anything to safeguard the integrity of the country.
“Though we say that we have not violated human rights, is any other country then saying that we are safeguarding human rights. This shows there is something wrong and all what we say is for the government to clear its name and the name of the country,” he added.

Nothing but double standard – Gammanpilla
Jathika Hela Urumaya (JHU) legal advisor and western province minister Udaya Gammanpilla pointed out that Sri Lanka has earned the wrath of the west simply because President Rajapaksa defied its orders to declare a ceasefire during the last stages of the war.
“This is the only anger the west has against us. When Bin Laden and his wife were murdered by the US when the duo did not possess any weapons was there any question raised?
“When the US invaded Afghanistan to capture Bin Laden and killed nearly 800,000 civilians there was no question. After killing nearly 800,000 only the US realised Bin Laden was not in Afghanistan but in Pakistan. Did anybody question the US? Why is that? This is double standard. This shows the international community is ready to single out Sri Lanka to punish us,” he said.
However he said if the video is proved to be authentic and if that is confirmed by the government then those responsible should be severely punished.
He said during the 1971 JVP insurrection one Premavathi Manamperi was raped and killed by some soldiers but upon finding out the culprits the then government took immediate action to prosecute and punish them.
Then, he said during the second insurrection of JVP from 1987 to 89 there were several allegations of civilian killings and the then President Chandrika Kumaratunga took stern action to punish them.
He also cited Suriyakanda and Hokandara murder cases and said in both cases the culprits were severely punished by the state.
He said even in the recent FTZ incident the police chief was asked to leave and several policemen transferred due to the death of a youngster.
“So Sri Lanka has a history of punishing the military whenever they abused their powers. So in the similar manner, I say that if the video is proved authentic we have to punish the culprits if they are found guilty,” he said.

Not even the country’s best soothsayer could predict the fate of Sri Lanka in the days to come following the war crimes allegations.
This issue could resurface in September this year at the UN. As assumed by some the issue could go underground or could be taken seriously depending on the reactions of the government.
As indications of further trying to fix Sri Lanka by the west are lucid, it is only proper for the government to put its acts together and formulate a strategy that would permanently put the lid on the allegations of the west.
For this, the government must garner the support of all the parties and not try it alone.