The noose tightens on the President

Ofcom clears Killing Fields

| by Pearl Thevanayagam

(October 30, London, Sri Lanka Guardian) Ofcom, the independent regulatory body of broadcasting and communications UK, has cleared Channel 4 of wrongdoings which aired Sri Lanka’s Killing Fields, a documentary recording the last moments of war crimes.

Ofcom headquarters. Photograph: David Levene for the Guardian
Ofcom is no partisan to politics as was seen by the verdict meted out to Andrew Gilligan whose expose that Iraq was invaded on false assumption it had weapons of mass destruction. The BBC top chiefs resigned as a result. Although Gilligan was found to have exaggerated his claims with his interview with Dr David Kelly who is purported to have admitted that Iraq had no weapons of mass destruction, the BBC hierarchy stood by him and as a result forfeited their careers by resigning in the name of standing up for freedom of expression.

Dr Kelly was found dead soon after he went on a stroll in the hills following Gilligan’s expose. His death remains a mystery to this date.

The war against the Sri Lankan Tamil Tigers was fought without witnesses. The media was shut out. Humanitarian aid groups including UN aid workers were ordered to leave the war zone. Yet Channel 4 managed to obtain raw video footages of the government’s military operations and war atrocities such as close range shootings of those captured, indiscriminate bombings of hospitals and protected zones where civilians were ordered to converge, stripping women naked before point-blank shootings and other atrocities.

Lasantha Wickrematunga, chief editor and founder of the independent weekly, Sunday Leader, was gunned down in broad daylight in a high security zone by armed men believed to be government’s hit squad on January 09, 2009 as the war against the Tamil rebels was intensifying. Since no one was brought to book his murder becomes another casualty which the government wants to pooh pooh. His crime was exposing the President’s brother and Defence Secretary Gotabhaya Rajapakse of engaging in unscrupulous arms deal with US arms traders Hicorp.

Gotabhaya banned BBC’s Chris Morris from entering Sri Lanka ever again since he attempted to enter the war zone. His hatred of the media is not lost on the international community.

The telecast of Sri Lanka’s Killing Fields by Channel 4 brought international attention to the plight of the displaced civilians who were time and again fleeing their homes in their hundreds of thousands and by May 2009 were sardine-packed into a narrow patch of beach strip the size of Harrow.

Sri Lanka’s Killing Fields dared to investigate, expose and verify UN claims that the government’s security forces wilfully massacred tens of thousands of civilians in the name of wiping out the LTTE.

The documentary was aired after the watershed mark late at night in June 2011 due to disturbing and horrendous images unfit for younger audience. Sri Lankan Government was outraged and sent out its own analysis of the video claiming it was a fake and was indeed funded by the LTTE (Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam) to bring discredit to the country and its effort to eradicate terrorism on its own soil.

The footage was the culmination of an unknown source who recorded live on a mobile phone the atrocities committed on Tamil civilians and LTTE cadres as they surrendered with white flags. The army commander, General Sarath Fonseka who led the offensive is now incarcerated in jail pending trial for daring to contest the Presidency which followed his victory over the vanquished Tamil rebels thus ending a three decade old terror.

The video was telecast first to the British viewers and subsequently to the rest of the world and the euphoria of the government’s victory over the LTTE brought upon its own head that it fared no better than the rebel outfit in cleansing out a sizeable proportion of the ethnic Tamils.

During the last 18 months of intensified military offensive against the Sri Lankan Tamil Tigers who had been waging a bloody war to liberate the ethnic Tamils the government managed to annihilate at least 40,000 Tamil civilians along with the rebels.

What is at stake here is the probe into war crimes against the Sri Lankan Government. Wikileaks, Darusman Report which is an authentic UN report against Sri Lanka and last but least Sri Lanka’s Killing Fields documentary by Channel 4 cannot wash away the damning indictment on the government’s direct complicity in eugenics; a purported attempt to ethnic cleanse ethnic Tamils.

Colonel Qaddafi appeared to be a saint compared to President Mahinda Rajapaksa and how he would extricate himself from the mess he embroiled himself into, only time will tell.

(The writer is Asia Pacific Journalism Fellow at UC Berkeley Graduate School of Journalism, California and a print journalist for 21 years. She can be reached at