Sri Lanka’s Permanent Representative to the UN, Dr. Palitha Kohona, addressed a capacity audience at the Dag Hammerskold Theatre of the United Nations yesterday at a screening of the video ‘Lies Agreed Upon,’ which presents a point-by-point rebuttal of the claims alleged in Channel 4 Uk’s production of the highly contentious ‘Sri Lanka’s Killing Fields’ program, which has been making the rounds of late. The following are his introductory comments:
- I wish to welcome you to the screening of the video, “Lies Agreed Upon”, which is a point by point response to the Channel-4 videos, one of which was screened in New York a few weeks ago, and the Darusman Report.
- The Channel-4 video paints a harrowing picture of the final stages of the war, and it all but convicts the Government and the Security Forces of Sri Lanka of waging a deliberate war against the Tamil population.
The LTTE’s Record Airbrushed
- Let us pause for a second. It must not be forgotten that the war was initially brought upon the people of Sri Lanka by the brutal terrorism of the Tamil Tigers, the LTTE. It was after attempting to talk to them over and over again, to find a peaceful resolution to the conflict, that the Government of Sri Lanka launched the military offensive to bring the conflict to an end.
- Let us also not forget that the Tamil Tigers, according to the UNICEF, recruited over 5,700 children as armed combatants. The LTTE invented the suicide jacket and deployed it hundreds of times against civilian targets killing thousands. They massacred hundreds in cold blood; bombed UNESCO protected places of worship and ethnically cleansed the Northern Province.
- The LTTE eliminated almost all moderate Tamil political leaders who did not toe their line.
- The LTTE marched thousands of Tamil civilians forcibly as a human shield and bargaining chip as they retreated from one town to another and one village to another. They ignored calls by the international community, including the Secretary-General, to let these people go.
- The LTTE, you will see very clearly from this video, located its heavy weaponry in the midst of civilians to attract retaliatory fire.
- The LTTE either through coercion or other means collected millions of dollars to fund its brutal separatist campaign.
- The Channel-4 video airbrushes all this and points an accusatory finger at the Government and the current video “Lies Agreed Upon” seeks to counter the material presented as evidence by Channel-4.
Post Conflict Rehabilitation and Reconstruction
- It is also to be remembered that at the end of the conflict there were approximately 300,000 IDPS. Dark allegations of long term concentration camps, hunger, epidemics, abuse etc. were loudly predicted at the time, even by responsible politicians in the West. But none of these occurred.
- Over 70 International and domestic NGOs operated freely in these camps.
- All child combatants have been rehabilitated and returned to their families. Over 7000 former adult combatants have returned to their communities. They are all trained killers and buried caches of weapons are still being recovered. The emergency regulations, that have been in the books since 1971, will be repealed this month.
- The democratic process has been restored – Access to the North is open.
- The country is booming economically and the President and the Government are enjoying unprecedented approval ratings (recent Gallup poll).
- But all this seems to count for nothing to Channel-4.
- Towards the end of the conflict, serious efforts were made by certain Western leaders to arrange a ceasefire. But with the LTTE on its last legs and having the experience of previous ceasefires, exploited by the LTTE to rearm, regroup and attack with greater ferocity, the Government persisted in pushing the LTTE to the end.
- Surrender demands made over the months by the Government were dismissed by the LTTE leadership. Therefore a ceasefire at that late stage would have served only one purpose, it would have thrown a life line to the sinking LTTE.
- One begins to wonder why Sri Lanka, one of the few examples in recent history of a country that has defeated terrorism, continues to be hounded in this manner? Is it because Sri Lanka was not expected to defeat the LTTE, but did? Is it because Sri Lanka did not comply with the ceasefire demands of certain leaders? Is it because the defeated LTTE supporters in Western capitals continue to exert enormous influence?
- There were other factors that may be motivating the Channel-4 line. If you carefully analyze the material presented by the Channel-4 video a critical message comes through. The Sri Lankan security forces deliberately targeted the Tamil civilians and, of course, this is the basis for a charge of war crimes and crimes against humanity.
- Then the Channel-4 video goes on to produce so called evidence to back this claim. Much of the evidence is obtained from the Tamil Net (The LTTE’s official web outlet) and LTTE propaganda material.
- Even though the evidence is flimsy or nonexistent, over the years a lie repeated often enough can gain legitimacy.
- This is something you need to keep in mind.
- Please watch the video and come to your own conclusions.