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LLRC in the Vanni

by K. Godage

(September 30, Colombo, Sri Lanka Guardian) Many Journalist friends have inquired of me as to whether I knew why the LLRC did not allow the foreign media to cover the sitting of the LLRC in the Vanni. From all reports the LLRC appears to have missed out on a great opportunity to tell the world the whole truth and nothing but the truth by being defensive. I am reminded of a previous instance when we stupidly sought to cover-up and shield the men responsible for the killing of five boys in Trincomalee and the workers in the French NGO. We were concerned about the adverse fall out —- yes there has been an adverse fallout but nothing compared to what would have happened had we brought the culprits to justice and apologised for what had taken place, if any government agency was at all involved. By appointing a Commission to investigate a Police matter and indulging in a cover-up, those responsible brought the whole Human Rights watch-dogs down on us and our country’s image was tarnished. Those responsible had no experience in dealing with such situations, they blundered and the whole country is still suffering and paying for their sins.

Why has the LLRC refused permission to foreign journalists to cover the sitting of the LLRC in the Vanni ? They would have done so with the best of intentions because the country has been facing a hostile press since this government came into office. They would no doubt have thought that damaging statement could be made and the hostile foreign press would have added their journalistic spin on what was said and damaged the image of the country.

Reliable sources that had followed the proceeding state that the Tamil citizens who came before the Commission had related a horrendous tale of suffering at the hands of the LTTE; of the forced recruitment of children, of they the people being used as a human shield and the numerous cruelties visited on them by their so-called ‘saviours’ who were ever prepared to use them as canon fodder. The foreign journalists in particular would no doubt have been surprised to hear of what they had to say about their seeking refuge for they had no other option. They have said that they feared the worst but in the circumstances that prevailed at the time they had no other option. They had been told that the Sinhalese soldiers were monsters. They had stated that they could not even now believe or come to terms with the kindness and understanding that was shown to them. We are reliably informed that they came willingly and of their own accord to without out any duress to relate their stories

We appear to have missed a golden opportunity to tell the world from the ‘horse’s mouth’ as it were, what actually happened. It was indeed a pity that even the local press did not cover the sittings (was it a protest to support their foreign colleagues?) for we have not seen any reports by that respected senior journalist Shamindra Ferdinando who has been ‘compulsory reading’. We do hope the latter would obtain from the Commission the transcripts of the evidence led and share the same with us the people; this would of course be no substitute for hearing from the ‘horse’s mouth, particularly for the foreign journalists for what has been stated by those who gave evidence; I would urge the Commission to release the text of their testimony to the information of the public. I would also urge that a ‘Peoples’ Commission’ be established by a non-government group comprising of well known and eminent persons who have been working with people on both sides of the divide, to inquire and report to the government the ‘story’ as told to them —— I would suggest that such Commission comprise only of women and include such eminent and dedicated persons such as Indrani Iriyagolle, Dr. Anula Wijesundera. Hiranthi Wijemanne, Mrs. Kailasapillai and Jeseema Ismail. I have no doubt that they would be able to elicit valuable information which would help with the reconciliation process.
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