(September 15, 2009 - Lanka Polity) A video aired by UK's Channel-4 has caused lots of chaos in Sri Lanka's local and international political arenas.
The relevant video, said to be recorded in January this year was given to Channel-4 by a new media group called Journalists for Democracy in Sri Lanka (JDS). JDS was formed in July this year by a group of media persons exiled in various countries. The group said in a press release that more than 50 Sri Lankan journalists are in exile. A large number of them are the majority Sinhalese journalists that were sympathetic towards the right of self-determination of the Tamils. The group did not declare the names of the leaders but the government says that a Sinhalese newspaper editor that is in exile in Germany is the leader of this organization. The government also links JDS to the Tamil rebel Liberation Tigers of Tamil Ealam (LTTE) international wing.
The video shows Sinhala speaking personnel clad in Sri Lanka Army uniforms execute persons suspected to be ethnic Tamils. Channel-4 said that it could not verify the authenticity of the video while the JDS later said that it was given to them by an Army official.
The government says the video is doctored and the state troops has never engaged in executing people. The Foreign Ministry summoned the Colombo diplomats to clarify that the video is fake. Indicating the reports of the volunteer and hired experts the officials said that the video was not recorded in a mobile phone. It further said that the sound track in which Sinhala utterances can be heard was dubbed to the video separately. The gunshot was heard extraordinarily late and the way the deceased fall, the blood marks and a number of other movements are not genuine, they pointed out.
Several childish arguments set forth by the state officials were proved false by JDS in a later programme of Channel-4. They showed pictures of Army officials wearing white T-shirts under their uniforms although the government said the soldiers wore only the green color T-shirts. The government also said that the Army officers did not sport grown hair but the JDS pointed to the pictures the President Mahinda Rajapakse himself was flanked by Special Forces personnel sporting grown hair and beard. Another comic argument of the government is that the victims shown in the video were fairer than the Tamils in north. Sinhalese and Tamils are mostly alike in physical appearance although the Sinhalese are in an illusion that they are fairer than the Tamils. Fair skin is venerated in this former colony of white Britishes.
However, JDS remained silent without attempting to counter the government that was going the extra mile to prove that the video is fake. Sri Lanka government has vowed to sue Channel-4 for discrediting the image of the country.
The video came in a bad time as the European Union was considering whether they would extend the GSP Plus tariff concessions for Sri Lanka's exports. The island's industries including the biggest income generator garment industry will affect if the tariff concession is revoked. The exports from Sri Lanka will be bare to severe competition from China despite the communist world power is the new ally of the Indian Ocean island which is rapidly drifting away from its traditional allies in West.
JDS is also campaigning for the release of Tamil journalist J.S. Tissainayagam who was jailed for a sentence of 20 years rigorous imprisonment by a Sri Lankan High Court on terrorism charges framed under draconian Prevention of Terrorism Act based on his writings in a pro-Tamil English magazine namely North Eastern Monthly. However, they released the controversial video to Channel-4 a week before the judgment was delivered in August. It is not clear why they released the video that was said to be recorded in January in a time the judgment of Tissainayagam case was to be delivered in few days. However, we cannot find any direct link between the incident and sentence given to the Tamil journalist.
Meanwhile, the same video is now circulated in Facebook with faked Tamil sound track with the title LTTE torturing & killing Sinhala Prisoners of War.