SL responds to UK ultimatum
‘C4 engaged in move to push SL back to war’
By Sujeeva Nivunhella in London
The External Affairs Ministry of Sri Lanka says that the UK based Channel 4 is backing a campaign by a small section of international media at the behest of certain vested interests living outside Sri Lanka to push Sri Lanka back to war by way of lacerating the wounded the country was attempting to heal.
The External Affairs Ministry has said so in response to Tuesday’s telecast of Channel 4 documentary "Sri Lanka’s Killing Fields" and a statement attributed to British Foreign Minister for South Asia Alistair Burt giving an ultimatum to the government of Sri Lanka until the end of this year (2011) to carry out an independent, thorough and credible investigation into the allegations that war crimes were committed during the hostilities or face the consequences.
Speaking immediately after the Channel 4 documentary Alistair Burt was quoted by the Foreign Office as having said: "Channel 4 footage, constitutes convincing evidence of violations of international humanitarian and human rights law and if the Sri Lankan government does not respond they would support the international community in revisiting all options available to press the Sri Lankan Government to fulfill its obligations.
The documentary, presented by newscaster John Snow, accused the Sri Lanka Government of executions, atrocities and shelling of civilians during the war. The programme also blamed the Tamil Tigers for using the civilians as human shields.
The following the Sri Lankan External Affairs Ministry statement issued through the Sri Lankan High Commission in London: "The Government of Sri Lanka, having being fully cognizant of the plight of all civilians in Sri Lanka, including children and women, launched a humanitarian operation in 2008 to rescue its own people from the clutches of an unlawful group of terrorists, which was undoubtedly the largest hostage taking incident in the world. Sri Lankan citizens are only too well aware of a past of bloodshed and mayhem, during which they lived in fear and suspicion. They now enjoy peace and cherish that no civilian has been affected in any manner due to any act of terrorism in the country since the defeat of the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) in 2009.
"There is a domestic mechanism appointed by the government, the Lessons Learnt and Reconciliation Commission (LLRC), which is similar to such mechanisms, set up elsewhere at the end of conflict. "Mindful of comparative experiences elsewhere and local sensitivities both, this Commission, which reflects the pluralistic nature of Sri Lankan polity in its own composition, has held more than 200 public sittings covering former conflict areas as well. If the allegations levelled by ‘Channel 4’ or any other party are found to be genuine, the LLRC will take due note of all such cases and remedial measures will be taken by way of legal sanctions. This process will also take into consideration all matters that are important to the Sri Lankans living in Sri Lanka, and therefore, it should be allowed to continue without any hindrance or prejudice. It is recalled that reports of some well known Commissions in countries with much richer resources have taken decades to see daylight.
"The Government of Sri Lanka is concerned about the distress the images in the ‘Channel 4’ film, aired without any guarantee of their authenticity, might have caused to the viewers, particularly to those belonging to different communities in Sri Lanka. This is an exercise which is carried out by a small section of international media at the behest of certain parties with vested interests and it caters only to the interests of separatist forces living outside Sri Lanka, the final objective of which is to push Sri Lanka back to war, by way of lacerating the wounds that the country is attempting to heal. The ‘Channel 4’ film has the potential to incite hatred amongst different communities in Sri Lanka, including future generations, and thereby, adversely affect the ongoing national reconciliation process. The malicious allegations in the film regarding the conduct of the Sri Lankan Army are in striking contrast to the standards maintained by the Sri Lankan Army.
"As the ‘Channel 4’ has continuously depended on footage already publicized by the LTTE websites and media bodies and also those claimed to have been supplied by the pro-LTTE lobby, the viewers may use caution in drawing any conclusions on the basis of this film. Channel 4’s gross simplification of sensitive matters, on face value, insinuates only a sinister motive driven by a political agenda against Sri Lanka.
"The Government of Sri Lanka continues to remain engaged with UN agencies, INGOs and people’s representatives on improving the conditions and the rehabilitation and resettlement of the affected people."
‘Sri Lanka’s Killing Fields’ will be shown to MPs and parliamentary officials at a special showing in the House of Commons next week."
Alistair Burt’s response to ‘Channel 4’ documentary – ‘Sri Lanka’s Killing Fields’, released by the British Foreign Office:
Speaking after the transmission of ‘Channel 4’s documentary ‘Sri Lanka’s Killing Fields’, FCO Minister for South Asia Alistair Burt said: "I was shocked by the horrific scenes I saw in the documentary that was broadcast on 14 June.
The recent UN Panel of Experts’ report, this documentary and previously authenticated ‘Channel 4’ footage constitutes convincing evidence of violations of international humanitarian and human rights law. The whole of the international community will expect the Sri Lankans to give a serious and full response to this evidence.
Since the end of the conflict the UK has called for an independent, thorough and credible investigation of the allegations that war crimes were committed during the hostilities and the UK Government expects to see progress by the end of the year. I reiterated this message to the Sri Lankan Foreign Minister on 14 June.
If the Sri Lankan government does not respond we will support the international community in revisiting all options available to press the Sri Lankan Government to fulfill its obligations.
Unless this is done, Sri Lanka will not be able to move on, and the prospects for reconciliation between Sri Lanka’s communities will be curtailed. It is of the greatest importance that this does not happen."
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