The Sri Lanka High Commission in London organised the screening of Sri Lanka’s documentary titled Lies Agreed Upon, which directly challenges the assertions contained in the Channel 4 video, at the Attlee Suite, Portcullis House, at the British Parliament on 12 October.
|From left: Prof. (MP) Rajiva Wijesinha, . Dr. Chris Nonis, High Commissioner for Sri Lanka in the UK and Sir Peter Heap KCMG, Chairman Friends of Sri Lanka.
The screening of the documentary proved extremely popular and was followed by a dialogue with Prof. (MP) Rajiva Wijesinha, Sir Peter Heap KCMG, Chairman Friends of Sri Lanka. H.E. Dr. Chris Nonis, High Commissioner for Sri Lanka in the UK introduced the documentary and chaired the panel discussion. This was the first time the government’s response to Channel 4 film Sri Lanka’s Killing Fields was screened in the UK to an audience consisting of British Parliamentarians, representatives from Academia, some media representatives including from Channel 4, and a cross-section of the Sri Lankan Diaspora.
Welcoming the participants, Dr. Nonis said it was a particular imperative to have this screening at the British Parliament at a time when Sri Lanka in the post-conflict era was firmly embarked on the process on reconciliation and reintegration following a near 30 year conflict. Of paramount importance is that the reconciliation and healing process should progress unimpeded, while evolving a framework of mutual respect and understanding between all our communities. In that context it was essential to have objective, fair and impartial reporting that will create unity and not divisions, help to heal the wounds of conflict, and assist all our communities to join together in building a pluralistic and inclusive society, to make peace durable.
The extensive dialogue that followed the screening focused on the bias and partiality of the Channel 4 documentary and its lack of objectivity, with several participants stressing the need to move forward. The inaccuracy of the allegations and innuendos of the Channel 4 documentary was noted, with evidence from the UN panel that indicated editing, whereas an aide to one of the Members of the Parliament who had been critical of Sri Lanka declared that Channel 4 had claimed that there had been no editing. The Channel 4 reporter remarked that, not being on the Panel, she would not clarify the matter, but it had been noted that it would not be correct to embarrass her by requesting this.
This seemed to substantiate the assertion that, prompted by purveyors of selective evidence, the unsubstantiated criticisms advanced by Channel 4 were impediments to the country’s potential for a robust socio-economic revival since its liberation from the clutches of a three decade long campaign of terror. In indicating how a concerted effort was necessary to put forward the facts clearly, Minister Wijesinha, Adviser on Reconciliation to the President, said moderate British and Sri Lankan friends needed to realise the nature of the current threat to peace. He pointed out that, in the absence of any major publicity tool for Sri Lanka to present the true story, as against the LTTE rump, which enjoys such privilege in the UK, only frequent interactions with attention to documented evidence will help lawmakers separate facts from fiction.
It was also important for lawmakers not to be carried away by perceived electoral gain, to act in a manner that might lend strength to efforts to renew terrorist threats. A query about the need to make clear that those who had contributed to funding to buy weapons were also terrorists in effect prompted the assertion that there was need for transparency with regard to funding on the part of both parliamentarians and media that influenced public opinion. There should be care about seeming to satisfy pressure groups in ways that might seem to contribute to a terrorist agenda, given the manner in which the successors to the LTTE were now using the funds they had collected to buy weapons earlier.
The High Commissioner thanked all those present and reaffirmed his country’s willingness to engage in discussion with all those committed to the welfare of the Sri Lankan people. He further noted that what was needed amongst us all to rebuild the nation was an attitude of mind and an aptitude of heart.
Copies of the report of Humanitarian Operation Factual Analysis July 2006 – May 2009 and the CD containing the documentary Lies Agreed Upon published by the Ministry of Defence were distributed among all participants, in addition to Prof. Wijesinha’s detailed analysis of concerns that have been expressed, sincerely and otherwise, The Road to Reconciliation and its Enemies.