Erasing The Eelam Victory

BBC Channel 4 produced several documentary films on the subject of the Killing fields in Sri Lanka. The first Channel Four Sri Lanka killing fields” documentary was broadcast on 14.6.2011 second on 14.3.2012 during the 19th session of the UNHRC in Geneva.  The producer of these two films, Callum Macrae was present in Geneva during the 19 session.

 The third film,” No fire Zone” was shown as a side event  by its director, Callum Macrae, at the 22nd session of the United Nations Human Rights Council in Geneva in March 2013. Ravinatha Aryasinha representing Sri Lanka wrote to President, UNHRC protesting and was told that NGOs have the right to organize side events. Sri Lanka should organize an event of its own.

The third and final film, No Fire Zone” was a full length film. ”In March 2013, the documentary was screened by its director, Callum Macrae, at the 22nd session of the United Nations Human Rights Council in Geneva. It eclipsed the other two in audience response. In November 2014 the producers released an updated version of the film containing new items.

These films obtained the desired impact from the countries which were loyal to the US. Those countries pretended to believe what they saw and ignored the fact that today, no one believes what you see on film.

After he saw the first Killing fields  film, British Foreign Office Minister Alistair Burt issued a statement on 15 June 2011 in which he expressed shock at horrific scenes in the documentary. Burt stated that the documentary, along with other evidence, constituted “convincing evidence of violations of international humanitarian and human rights law” and urged the Sri Lankan government “to give a serious and full response”.

In the United States, Congressman Jim McGovern, co-chair of the Tom Lantos Human Rights Commission, described the contents of the documentary as “a gruesome example of humans at their worst”. He went on to say “These scenes provide much more than simply shock value, however: They also are powerful evidence of the need for an independent investigation to hold those responsible accountable for the crimes..If the Sri Lankan government is unable or unwilling to act, then the international community must respond in its place”.

Australian Foreign Minister Kevin Rudd stated that “No-one watching this program could emerge from that undisturbed and we don’t either”. He called on the United Nations Human Rights Council to re-investigate alleged war crimes The Australian Senate passed motion number 323 on 7 July 2011 which, amongst other things, noted that the documentary was “further shocking evidence supporting allegations of war crimes committed during the 2009 civil conflict in Sri Lanka” and called for “allegations of war crimes to be investigated and verified”.

No Fire Zone  was considered not as just an investigation, but as a stunning film in its own right. It was described as “beautifully crafted and heart wrenching” by the Pulitzer Center for Crisis Reporting in Washington. The film won many awards. No Fire Zone (TV version) was nominated for Best Documentary at the 2014 International Emmy Awards and was awarded the Britdoc Impact Award  as well as being shortlisted for a Grierson award.

Here is a list of the awards and screenings.

  1. Festival des Libertes 2013 – Winner of FIDH Best Film Award.
  2. CPH:DOX Copenhagen 2013 – FACT Award Jury Special Mention
  3. Nuremberg Film Festival 2013 – Winner of Audience Award
  4. Film South Asia 2013 – Special Jury Mention
  5. WatchDocs Poland 2014 – Winner of Audience Award
  6. One World Film Festival Prague 2014 – Winner Václav Havel Jury Special Mention
  7. Docudays UA – Kiev 2014 – Winner of Jury Special Mention.
  8. Festival international de Cine y Video de Derochos Humanos Buenos Aires 2013 – Winner Jury Special Mention.
  9. Oslo International film festival 2013.
  10. Movies That Matter 2013
  11. FIFDH Geneva 2013[
  12. Tri-continental Human Right Film Festival 2013.
  13. Freedom Film Festival Malaysia 2013
  14. Addis International film Festival 2013.
  15. Sheffield Documentary Festival 2013

No Fire Zone is a different kind of film, said Callum Macrae.  It is  a feature length unlike the other two, so we were able to provide much more detail. It gives the viewer much more of a real understanding of what actually happened in the No Fire Zones during the final months of the war. We are trying to show the sheer awfulness of what happened. We are depicting things that should never be shown in a movie, but it is helping to get the real truth out there.

The footage comes from a variety of sources. Much of it was taken by Tamils trapped in the war zone – but much has also been taken by Sri Lankan army personnel. This material was eventually passed along to us by a group called Journalists for Democracy in Sri Lanka”. It is an extremely brave organization that has been at the forefront of getting evidence. Callum Macrae  said that no person resident in Sri Lanka   helped  with the film. No one was paid for any evidence or interview .

Those who opposed Eelam saw  these films in a different light. The government of Sri Lanka Sri Lanka dismissed the films  as fake  and  said that it would not investigate the   so called crimes shown in them.

 The High Commission of Sri Lanka said it  categorically denies that the Channel 4 News TV video shown in 2010 was authentic. When Channel 4 News telecast a similar video in 2009 the Government of Sri Lanka clearly established, by looking at it technically, that it was a  fake. The present video is nothing more than an elongated version of the same video.

Sri Lanka government   tried  sporadically, to control  Channel Four activity. Three journalists from Channel four were deported  from Sri Lanka in May 2009 . They had come to report on  the poor conditions and sexual abuse in a Sri Lanka rehabilitation camp. Defence Secretary Gotabaya Rajapaksa  told them bluntly, you have been accusing my soldiers of raping civilians,  your visas are cancelled, and you will be deported. You can report what you like from your own country, not from here.

In June 2012 Channel 4’s Director of Diversity ,the well-known British journalist Stuart Cosgrove,  was asked to leave Sri Lanka and his wife was turned back at the airport. In 2010 Stuart Cosgrove voted for the creation of Eelam at a referendum organized by expatriate Tamils. Stuart Cosgrove is married to a Sri Lankan born Tamil, Shirani Sabaratnam from Vaddukoddai, Jaffna.

These documentary films totally distorted the truth and were largely responsible for misleading the international community with regard to the war on terror in Sri Lanka, said Lt Col Anil Ameresekera..

 The allegations contained in the Channel 4 programmes and the photographic images that have surfaced have given rise to considerable adverse publicity as regards the conduct of the Sri Lanka Army, observed the Paranagama commission. 

The films  were given legitimacy when they were used by  investigating committees. The Darusman Report endorsed ‘Sri Lanka’s Killing Fields’. The panel referred to ‘Sri Lanka’s Killing Fields’ on more than one instance, thereby giving credence to both Channel 4 News as well as its work, observed Shamindra Ferdinando.

The Channel Four films were repeatedly criticsed as  fake. The Centre for the study of Interventionism has done a report on Channel 4 films calling it a media beat up. The Centre calls the  Channel 4 films on Sri Lanka  interventionist.” This is a case of a western main stream media picking on a particular foreign country, often a small one or a third world one but never a large member of the western alliance, and portraying its government in a bad light, said the Centre.

Rajiva Wijesinha  also looked at these films. We have conclusively proved  that the Channel 4 video,  was doctored, he said. Beginning with the original claim that the scene was filmed in January 2009, there has been fraud and sleight of hand. One of the independent witnesses was a member of ‘Journalists for Democracy’ which had  supplied the video.

In the second film, the zooming suggests it was done by a video camera, rather than the mobile phone that was claimed was used, continued Rajiva . Also  the film  displayed a date and some other filming data. Rajiva found that the bodies seem to diminish as the film went on, he thought this odd and was told that this was it was because the editing has been done in reverse. The order of recording had been segment 3, 2, 1, 4.

Rajiva pointed out  that one of the people doing the torturing was in rubber slippers, suggesting that this was an LTTE effort. Subsequently the slippers have been cut out when the picture is shown, but I do still have that original version, said Rajiva .

Channel Four has refused to hand over the original films. They have refused to provide this even to the UN, which was given a different version from Journalists for Democracy” for its  investigations, added Rajiva .

The producers of the Channel Four films unleashed yet another film in 2019. The 33-minute documentary Sri Lanka and the Search for Justice, ten years on” was shown at the 40th session of UNHRC in March 2019. The film openly supports Eelam. It said that the 2002 Ceasefire brought peace and stability.  The link for this film is https://eelam.tv/watch/sri-lanka-and-the-search-for-justice-ten-years-on-mature-video-warning_ezI6ndaoZhhqfhL.html

Credits say it was made by the same producers who made No Fire Zone. They thanked Tamil Guardian, Journalists for Democracy in Sri Lanka (JDS), Sri Lanka Campaign for Peace and Justice and Sacha Walker for backing their latest initiative.

The documentary began with a scene at the UN Compound, in Kilinochchi, in Sept 2008. Benjamin Dix, a former UN staffer, was shown recalling how the government directed the UN to vacate Kilinochchi. Dix asserted that it was supposed to be a war without witness. This scene had been taken from the original ‘No Fire Zone: The Killing Fields of Sri Lanka, observed Shamindra’

Dix was followed by Gordon Weiss, a former UN spokesman in Sri Lanka (2005-2009). Weiss alleged Sri Lanka removed UN personnel as it felt international presence hindered offensive action. Sri Lanka was accused of removing independent witnesses. Weiss’s scene, too, had been taken from the original documentary.

This documentary showed that two UN officers had stayed back in the war zone, in late 2009. How did foreign UN personnel remain in the Vanni front five months after the government ordered them out, asked Shamindra.

Peter Mackay was one of these two UN persons.  He was  stuck in No Fire Zone No1. Government forces deliberately targeted those taking refuge in the first No Fire zone. The army had carried out a very strong attack one night. Mackay went out in the morning and saw  a devastating scene which he seems to have slept through. Mackay realized that he was     seeing a very serious potential war crime. , he had directed his staff to take photographs of the scene.  (Continued)

KAMALIKA PIERIS



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