BBC sobs for elephants as NGOs for children pack their bags

by Pearl Thevanayagam

(March 06, London, Sri Lanka Guardian) Two recent reports show the contradictions that beset our island nation. Charles Havilland of the BBC bemoans that elephants and wild boars are being killed inhumanely. Amnesty International is calling the international community to bring the government to account for war crimes. The Colombo Correspondent of the BBC should be well aware of fox hunting where hapless foxes are hounded out and killed by a pack of dogs for the mere pleasure of the aristocracy in the UK. And Prince Charles loves this sport.

The hundreds of children killed in the last throes of war pales into insignificance compared to endangered elephants to our BBC man from UK all because Britain loves animals more than human beings. Supermarket shelves allot more space to pet foods than any other aisle. He takes umbrage that given Sri Lanka’s Buddhist and Hindu heritage the cruelty to animals belies its beliefs.

It is indeed sad Sri Lanka wants to forget the war and forge ahead with development. Any concerns the international community raises over war crimes is pooh-poohed by the majority including editors of national newspapers. The argument is that terrorism has been wiped out and now we must look towards the future. Harping back on past misdemeanours would only be a setback to progress is the argument meted out by mainstream politicians and majority Sinhalese.

As this piece is being written international NGOs working with war-torn civilians including children are packing their bags to go or have already left. The future is bleak for these children most of them war orphans as they are vulnerable to child traffickers masquerading as adoption agencies or relegated to orphanages where are vulnerable to abuses by those in charge as we have seen in recent news.

The war and the Tsunami catastrophe has left thousands of children orphans and foreign aid has but dwindled all because the war is over for all intents and purposes. It is not only children from the North and East who suffer. There are also children of soldiers killed in the war. In this light it is rather callous and short-sighted that the BBC correspondent chose to highlight the plight of an elephant killed inhumanely. He could have been manipulated by animal charities who are gunning for foreign aid.

The LLRC (Lessons Learnt and Reconciliation Commission) has heard many witnesses but some editors believe that many witnesses have exaggerated the casualties of war. The LLRC for the most part heard evidence of historians rather than witnesses from Mullivaikkal. That communication between the war zone and the rest of the island have been severed during the last pitch battle does not seem to sink into the mainstream media.

The intervention of foreign media was scorned as interfering with the sovereignty and territorial integrity of the nation. Any call either by the UN, US, UK or Norway is eyed with suspicion they are interfering in internal affairs and that the Tamil diaspora is making a mountain out of a molehill.

The war was real. The fact that Thousands of Tamils died and many thousands made homeless is not fiction. Channel 4 videos were not doctored. The barbaric execution of suspected LTTEers in the hands of the soldiers have been verified beyond reasonable doubt.

There was no need for the government to bar media to the war zone if it had nothing to hide. There was no urgent need to despatch disinformation counsellors to Sri Lankan diplomatic missions abroad at great expense while the country’s economy comes crashing down with every passing day.

Elephant population is certainly on the decline but the lives lost during the war too have changed the demography of the North and East.

The media hype about our wildlife particularly from a responsible news organisation like the BBC call into question its priority and how its correspondents cover the country’s news. Correspondents often take a break from the busy reporting schedule in the city and they are also required to despatch features so as to account for the handsome pay they receive from their media organisations. But it is incumbent on them to be sensitive to the emotions of the people who are still reeling from a horrendous war and trying to rebuild their lives.

It is ironic that while Prince Philip is the patron for WWF ( World Wildlife Fund) he also participates in fox hunting where a pack of hounds chase the frightened and powerless foxes and kill them; a cruel sport by any standards.

Around this time of the year I watch the foxes and their young ones frolicking in my back garden and they present a splendid show with their rich orange furs and thick bushy tails.

The ordinary Sri Lankan cherishes animals be they domesticated or otherwise. Elephants and cattle are treated with reverence and cared for without the aid of animal charities. Poachers are everywhere and they do not represent the attitude of the average Sri Lankan’s treatment of its animal population.

The role of the international media is to look at the bigger picture rather than nitpick on juicy bits of news touted by vested interests such as animal charities seeking funds. The war may be over but the reparation of the damage it caused will take a long time to rectify. The media should not take its fingers off the keyboards to highlight the plight of post war trauma on children, women and the elderly.

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