UK Channel 4 Videos On Sri Lanka: Background Is Essential - By Brian Senewiratne
By Brian Senewiratne, Countercurrents.org, 18 March, 2012 - The Channel 4 News videos on the ethnic conflict in Sri Lanka are about the most important contributions to apprise the world of what has gone on, and is still going on, behind the closed and censored doors of Sri Lanka.
There are now two documentaries, Sri Lanka's Killing Fields released in June 2011, and Sri Lanka 's killing Fields. War Crimes Unpunished released in March 2012. They contain crucial evidence of war crimes and crimes against humanity, if not Genocide of the Tamils.
The world needs to see these, since all that comes out of Sri Lanka is what the Sri Lankan Government wants the world to believe. That is what a Totalitarian does – to shut down the Media, among other repressive measures. It is therefore essential that these dreadful atrocities be seen by as many people as possible.
There is, however, a problem with these Channel 4 videos. There is no background information which is so important to appreciate why these atrocities occurred. If this is not provided, then these videos are nothing but yet another ‘horror movie'. What has gone on in the war waged by the Government of Sri Lanka (GoSL) on the Tamil people (not just the Tamil Tigers), is much more than a horror story.
The dozen dvds I have recorded on the plight of the Tamil people has essential information on this. I do not expect people to wade through this mass of information, but the last of these, “ Sri Lanka , Genocide, Crimes against Humanity, Violation of International Law”, contains all that is needed. For those who want more information, this will be found in my “ Sri Lanka . Humanitarian Crisis in the Tamil areas. An Appeal to stop the slaughter and ensure Peace with Justice” which is in two volumes, an hour each. These are too long for the ‘average' viewer.
What I have done in Brisbane , Australia , when these Channel 4 dvds are shown, is to start the meeting with a powerpoint presentation based on information in my shorter dvd. This takes about 15-20 minutes. It provides the basic information – the ethnoreligous and language set up, Sinhala populist politics to get elected to power by discriminating against the Tamils to get the votes of the Sinhala-Buddhist population (70% of the population), peaceful protests by the Tamils for years at this discrimination, and when they failed, a resort to an armed conflict, essentially a liberation struggle to free the Tamil people from Sinhala domination. These systematic and recurring pogroms against the Tamils and the ‘need' to wipe out the Tamils, by committing Genocide of the Tamils if necessary, was ‘necessary' to make multiethnic, multilingual, multirelgious Sri Lanka, into a Sinhala-Buddhist nation.
It is in this setting and with this agenda, that President Rajapaksa launched his murderous assault, the closing stages of which are seen in the Channel 4 videos. My dvds are not as heinous as the Channel 4 videos, but cover a much wider time-frame, and show that Rajapaksa only completed what a succession of Sinhalese leaders, at least since 1956, have wanted to do but were not barbaric enough attempt. The Rajapaksas had no such problems. If it was ‘necessary' to murder the entire Tamil population in the North and East and/or make them ‘non-people', they were more than happy to do so. All they needed was an Army commander with the same mind-set, and in General Sarath Fonseka, they found the man and his interview with a Canadian newspaper a couple of years ago.
I then go on to show the weapons that the GoSL unleashed on the Tamil people and the human and structural damage done. “Now that you know the background and the agenda of the Sri Lankan government, I will now show you the end stages of this massacre of Tamils in the Channel 4 video - Sri Lanka's Killing Fields - obtained from Sinhalese soldiers who recorded these on their mobile phones as grisly ‘war trophies' I now have the Channel 4 video screened.
I then return to the podium and ask whether there are any points which the audience wants clarified. If so, I do.
I then throw the ball into their court, “ Now that you have seen what has gone on and is still going on behind the closed and censored door of Sri Lanka , what are you going to do about it? If it is simply to express horror and go home, then the whole point of seeing these videos is lost. It is not just a blood bath, it is more, much more. It is Genocide being committed with international observers excluded from the area – Genocide without witnesses, are you going to let that go uninvestigated and unpunished? ”. To counter any ‘patriotic Sinhalese', and those who support the murderous Rajapaksa regime and claim that the Tamil Tigers have been crushed and “terrorism has been wiped out” , I ask the obvious question, “If that is so, and there are happy smiling Tamil people in the Tamil North and East, why is Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch, International Crisis Group and International Media still not allowed to enter the area and speak with these happy people?”
I point out that these are questions that must be raised with “your parliamentarians” asking them what they intend to do about it. If they intend to do nothing, then they will have to be prepared to admit thousands of asylum seekers and refugees, fleeing a barbaric regime in Sri Lanka .
As for the size of the audience, I do not think it matters. I have addressed and shown these videos to 10 or 300. The presentation is what matters, not the number of recipients.
I have been to meetings organized by others where just the Channel 4 video has been shown. After the meeting, non-Sri Lankans have come up to me and asked, “ Are not the Tamils the terrorists?” I tell them that Tamils are citizens of the country who have been in the country probably (on archeological evidence) for many centuries before the Sinhalese ever got there. I tell them that if after what they have seen they ask such questions, it is clear that they have no idea of what has gone on (and is still going on), in Sri Lanka. Since this is clearly the case from the question asked, they should organize another meeting where I will set out the basic facts about Sri Lanka and the complex ethnic problem in that country, which the Sri Lankan government is happy to dismiss as ‘ nothing but Tamil terrorism '. At most of the meetings I organize, I have a copy of the Channel 4 dvd (and now both dvds), and my dvd on ‘ Sri Lanka : Genocide, Crimes against Humanity, Violation of International Law' . These are handed around free, with a request that instead of payment, I would appreciate it if it can be passed on to others, who can contact me if they want me to organize a meeting for them. This is obviously in Australia only. For other countries, someone else (one or, hopefully, many) will have to do this.
I will be more than happy to send the dvds and even the powerpoint presentation I have referred to – at no cost. All I need is a postal address.
To do so in Sri Lanka is a little more difficult with a murderous regime running the country. However, it is crucially important that my people, the Sinhalese, know what their Government has done (and is still doing) in their name.
I do not believe that the majority of Sinhalese are barbarians despite their ‘celebration' of Rajapaksa's 'victory'. I do believe that many, indeed most, of them will be horrified if they see what their Government has done to the Tamil civilians in the North and East. It must be remembered that in 1983 when the J.R.Jayawardene government organized and conducted the 1983 Tamil pogrom in Colombo and the South, it was my people, the Sinhalese, who risked life and limb to save hundreds, if not thousands, of Tamils. Had they not done so, far more than 3,000 Tamils would have been butchered by Jayewardene's hoodlums and the thugs in yellow robes. Just for the record, my mother was a staunch Buddhist and I have gone to Buddhist temples with her for years.
It is also important to get the point across to the Sinhalese that yesterday it was the Tamil people, tomorrow it will be the Sinhalese, since this is what Totalitarian regimes have done for centuries – wipe out all who hold an opposing point of view or protest at, say, the rising cost of living (as is already happening in Sri Lanka. The blueprint is there.
My dvds will not be allowed into Sri Lanka . They will have to be smuggled in – a risky operation. The best I can suggest is that they be uploaded on to the internet. Someone in Sri Lanka might be able to download them. The same hold for the Channel 4 videos. I doubt if these will be freely available in Sri Lanka . However they are on the net – in a dedicated site thanks to Channel 4, and will remain there. The GoSL could well block this access as it has done to Tamilnet.
If we do not do this, the disinformation campaign that a succession of Sri Lankan governments have carried out both abroad and even in the Sri Lankan South, will ‘succeed' and the world will remain ignorant of what goes on in one of the most repressive and brutal countries in the world – masquerading as a ‘Democracy'.
There is, of course, a price to pay. In Sri Lanka , it will be the arrival of a “White Van”, and that is it.
In counties outside Sri Lanka it is intrusion by ‘patriotic' Sinhalese who disrupt meetings (many of mine have been, but I now know how to handle these – get the ‘Security people' to throw them out).
The other problem is telephone abuse. For at least three days after each of my talks or articles, I can look forward to abusive phone calls – “You mother f…..g Tamil Tiger c…t” etc. These come 15 minutes apart, day and night, to disrupt my work, and to make sure that I do not sleep. I respond to these using the Queens English rather than get into the verbal gutter with the caller. I say, “Sir/Madam (some are), I have always treated my mother with the utmost respect. If this is what you do to your mother, then you have a problem. May I suggest that you call my Secretary for an appointment to see me and I will point you in the right direction. I am sorry to disappoint you, but I am not a Tamil, nor a Tiger. As a student of human anatomy, may I also point out that your description of me is anatomically impossible. The organ needed for one act is not present in those who have the other. So you have to make up your mind as to what I have – it cannot be both. Thank you for calling. Feel free to call again but try and keep to the Queens English and not get into the gutter. It does not help. Goodnight Sir/Madam, Thank you for sitting up all night to call me”. Tthis usually works. To lose your cool never works.
Why not take the phone off the hook. I cannot, because I am ‘on-call' to some hospitals, and in any case, must be available for my patients. My letter box is vandalized on a regular basis.
To get back to the Channel 4 videos, it is crucial that they are shown to as many people as possible to counter the disinformation campaign of the GoSL. These videos must be shown but only after the presentation of a basic outline of the ethnic problem in Sri Lanka , emphasizing that what the GoSL is trying to do is to settle a political problem by wiping out a section of the population – the Tamils in the North and East.
Brian Senewiratne is an activist based in Brisbane , Australia