Plus - Letters to the Editor

Channel 4 video challenge: Let’s face the facts

Everybody seems to be talking about Channel 4 and the video “Sri Lanka’s Killing Fields”. I have seen it myself and the contents are certainly horrific. The video has had worldwide publicity as a gruesome account of what happened in the last days of the war in Sri Lanka. It has no doubt badly tarnished Sri Lanka’s reputation and dented the image of our heroic Army. At the same time, it has evoked a degree of sympathy for the Tigers. For a moment, the world seems to have forgotten who the Tigers were, and their horrendous criminal record for more than 25 years, and how they came to be known as the most ruthless terrorist outfit in the world.

Most of those who have seen the documentary are convinced it is an authentic piece of video. It cannot be a “doctored film”, as some claim. It is a documentary of video clippings from local media, Tamil sources, as well as mobile phones. The more we deny the authenticity of the footage, the more others will insist that the document is genuine.

The truth cannot be hidden, however, and facts are stubborn. It is obvious that Tamil victims could not have filmed the alleged incidents as they would not have had either the access or the audacity to go near the killers with a camera phone. The surroundings, the uniform, the weapons and above all the soldiers’ lingo leave no doubt in the minds of viewers. These killings were filmed by the soldiers themselves and kept as souvenirs. It is possible these scenes would never have come to light if the government had treated the former Army Commander, General Sarath Fonseka, differently; the unfortunate turn of events that led to the arrest, court martialling and imprisonment of the former Army Commander has generated a deep hatred and rancour in the hearts of some soldiers.

Be that as it may, let us focus on the atrocities of the Tigers over the years. Indeed, the “Killing Fields” started with the Tigers, ruthless killers who gunned down or hacked to death scores of unarmed innocent civilians, including children. The Tigers caused extensive damage to the country’s infrastructure, destroyed public property and killed all who opposed them.

There was a time when people would set out in the morning not sure they would return home safely. The Tigers were setting off bombs all over the country. Let us recall the series of bus and train bomb blasts aimed at innocent civilians, the Pettah bomb blast, the Central Bank bombing, the killing of a busload of Buddhist monks at Arantalawa, worshippers at the Anuradhapura Sri Maha Bodhi, and the mosque in Kattankudi, the killing of 600 policemen in the East who had surrendered, the massacre at Kebittigollawa, to name just a few Tiger atrocities.

That apart, what about the killing of soldiers in surprise attacks on army camps? The Tigers’ kill-o-metre runs into the thousands, counting the debacles at Mullaitivu, Pooneryn, Elephant Pass and other camps in the North and the East. Would the Tigers have kissed goodbye to our soldiers? They captured those who surrendered, and tortured and killed them. The Tigers did not treat their prisoners humanely or honour rules of war. One could not expect them to do so, because they were a terrorist outfit. The Tigers would have had in their possession trophy footage of such killings. They had used such video footage to boost their image, boast to the world of their strength and enlist more cadres. Why not make a dossier of similar “unwatchable videos” by using the Tigers’ own clippings and send it over to Channel 4 for the world to watch?

The Tigers’ criminal record over the years had embittered the Sinhala people against them, and when it was decided to eliminate the killer Tigers once and for all, and to fight to the bitter end, every soldier was motivated to kill as many Tigers as possible to reach the target. It was numbers that mattered in this game. This may have included the Tigers who were either captured or had surrendered. Taking the opportunity, every suspected Tiger would have been eliminated, because this was seen as a way of settling a score.

It is futile for the government to continue to disown the Channel 4 video. Let us face the facts. If the government admits that it could not have possibly exercised control over every single soldier’s actions or stopped them from achieving their avowed mission of exterminating the terrorists, then the world may understand us to some extent. It was the Tigers who used civilians as a human shield and fired at the Army. Retaliation by the Army would have led to civilian casualties. The Army could not have avoided such collateral damage. If our troops had played by the book, the Tigers would still be terrorizing the country and our misery will be continuing.

Extra-judicial killings can happen in any war, and in fact they have happened all over the world. Ours is not a case in isolation. However, we should investigate the alleged incidents and engage the world community, rather than heap scorn on them. It is only by facing the issue squarely that we can expect the world community to understand us. Would that be possible at this stage?

Our President is on record as saying he will never betray a soldier or the motherland. He has even said that he would rather go to the electric chair and die as a hero, rather than betray the soldiers. The UN and the world at large want us to investigate and punish those responsible for the killing of civilians. If not, they will punish the whole country by way of economic sanctions and international isolation.

If we want to remain in the comity of respectable nations, we must come to terms with reality. The President now faces a dilemma. Which way are we going? Will he be the sacrificial lamb or will he “betray” the soldiers? Will he let the country be impoverished and ruined or will he steer clear of all these and move it forward with the league of respectable nations? The coming days will be ominous unless the government acts with wisdom and maturity.

Nihal Fernando, Moratuwa

Pre-natal testing and selective births

Sarah Palin did not separate from Trig Paxson, her Down Syndrome-diagnosed son, during the entire US presidential election campaign. She would kiss him and gaze at him with pride, knowing the results of the election would directly affect their future.

The desire to avoid the birth of human beings diagnosed with genetic disabilities is leading to the progressive employment of “prenatal reports”. If the report turns out unfavourable, an abortion for many is a “solution”. Such a case is presented by The Guardian. The Anglo-Saxon newspaper spread the word on the results of a scientific research study carried out by Cambridge University.

The study examined the conduct of 235 teenagers during a period of eight years, starting from their pregnancy. Some people may perceive that the option to conduct an abortion supports a woman’s independence and freedom of choice. Others may ask if society is using prenatal reports as inquiry tools to prevent the birth of physically and mentally handicapped human beings.

What are the values that are at stake during a pre-birth genetic analysis? Such values are: respect towards human existence (individual and collective), but most of all respect towards the disabled.
However wounding the question may be, we must ask ourselves: Has humanity pushed itself towards searching for the annihilation of minority mortal groups, such as individuals with Down Syndrome or those who suffer from physical and neurological disorders?

For every 800 births, one is diagnosed with Down Syndrome in women of the ages 30-34. What is curiously shocking is that there are hardly any Down Syndrome births today! This may be due to the fact that these cases are “taken care of” by abortions.

“My mother turned to the doctor during her second month of pregnancy. She was ordered to interrupt her pregnancy; however, she went against the doctor’s order. Seven months later, I was born. Today, 1824, at the Kärntnertortheater in Vienna, I debut my ninth symphony: my personal anthem for the joy of living, Ode to Joy,” stated Beethoven. (Translated by Gianna A. Sanchez-Moretti)

Clemente Ferrer, Via e mail

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