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Thursday, June 16, 2011

Killing Fields: Why Are We Not Talking About It?

Last night, I sat and watched the Channel 4 documentary "Sri Lanka's Killing Fields".

If you haven't seen it yet (and there's a strong chance that you haven't) I urge that you click on the link above and set aside 40 minutes of your time.

I've had a good 12 hours for this information to digest before writing this post, so I'm trying my best to weigh my words as best as possible. As soon as I had finished the documentary I was filled with outrage; outrage that such inhumanity could exist so close to home, outrage at the very acts shown in the film, and outrage that no one was talking about it.

For those who are still clueless, the documentary shows the final few days and months of the civil war in Sri Lanka that ended two years ago when the Sri Lankan army stormed and wiped out the remaining LTTE resistance with one fell swoop. It was a great military victory, one that we were quick to portray as "the only military victory over terrorism in the world" and such, but one that nonetheless ended 30 years of a bloody, painful civil war. However, the documentary also shows the horrific conditions in which the fleeing Tamil civilians endured as they were shelled out of their homes, herded into supposed 'No Fire Zones' which were quickly shelled as well, while watching their injured loved ones being blown to pieces while being attended to in makeshift hospitals. The documentary also shows clips taken by Sri Lankan Army soldiers, on small cameras and mobile phones; clips showing Army personnel executing naked Tamil soldiers, laughing at dead bodies, jokingly calling them 'properties of the state' before shooting them in the head.

The images are much too disturbing to describe; you have to see it to understand.

The documentary goes on, detailing what it calls as grounds for war crimes, as well as detailing the inaction of the United Nations (especially Ban Ki-Moon, who apparently visited after the war by doing a fly-by, getting garlanded and leaving). It is a horrific documentary, not for the faint of heart, and something that just gripped me.

So, what now?

The reaction to these videos has been startling to say the least. Let's document them:

1) "The videos are doctored and fake".

Ridiculous. Anyone with moderate knowledge of technology can tell that these videos are real. The soldiers are clearly speaking Sinhala as they laugh, insult and mock the dead (or soon to be dead) Tamils. The idea that someone has digitally edited something to make it look like a Sri Lankan soldier is executing Tamils is mindless, idiotic thinking, and a train of thought that is apparently being held by the government. Yet, perhaps this is the only option for some, unlikely as it may seem. For the alternative is even more unthinkable; our so-called 'heroes' commited vile acts in our names.

2) "It's over, so what?"

Apathy seems to be the most common reaction. Many people, including some anonymous commentors on Youtube posts, blog posts etc, seem to think this is all irrelevant now that the war is over. They feel that this will just 'add fuel to the fire', so to speak, and that we should simply ignore this documentary as no good can come from it. I find this the most disturbing reaction of them all, because what kind of human being can be indifferent to the sort of senseless killing that is shown in this film? How can we, a supposedly 'Sinhala Buddhist Nation', allow these acts to go unpunished, and that too by our own troops? If after all this time, all this bloodshed, all this loss of life, we are still so unmoved by this, then the end of the war has achieved nothing.

3) "The LTTE has commited much worse, they've killed so many innocent Sinhalese people!"

According to this line of thinking, the soldiers in the videos are justified in commiting these atrocities because the Tigers commited much worse over the last 30 years. This includes using child soldiers, human shields, and suicide bombers. Yes, the Tigers did commit atrocious crimes, but how in the world does that give the army (who are NOT a rebel guerilla faction) the right to behave in the same way?? What kind of bizarre "He did it so I'm doing it" playground thinking is that?

Last night, I sat and watched the Channel 4 documentary "Sri Lanka's Killing Fields".

This morning I realised that it doesn't matter, and no one really cares. We're all free after all, and that's all that matters, right?

Have a nice day.


Scrumps said...

And there is the brunt of it - nobody really cares - because the war is over. Who cares who died?!

PP said...

i don't know if people are not talking about it. i think it's more the lack of any tangible action.

the opposition to this inquiry into alleged war crimes, at least from the common man, seems to stem from the double standard in the UN; why is SL being asked to submit to an investigation when countries like the US, UK and coalition forces continue to kill civilians in afghanistan, or after the admissions of water-boarding by the US or after the abu ghraib incident.

i think maybe a possible way forward is to stop yelling about war crimes and holding the whole country and the whole army accountable, which seems a bit silly, is to admit that there is a possibility that a group of army soldiers, who don't represent the entire army, could have carried out these extra-judicial killings, and investigate those.

i agree that we need to put these things behind us, but i don't think we can do that successfully by sweeping it under the carpet.

Patta Pal said...

I agree it happened and I agree the govt. is in denial, or at least pretends to the outside world thinking it will go away. It will not until there is some accountability and at the moment those outside Sri Lanka against the country have the upper hand due to the stupidity of the country's leadership

realskullzero said...

Well..if any crimes did in fact take place those who are held accountable must be punished.

But we have to understand this whole effort in pursue of war crimes is not done for pure justice, there were so much blood shed in 83 against tamils and again in late 80s through violence in south, but the government at that time was not held accountable for ruthlessly crushing a revolution nor any firm actions taken about the extra judicial killings happened those days?

makes you wonder doesn't it?

Anonymous said...

War is over? Who says so?

Every month the Emergency regulations are extended. They are talking of relaxing it, entirely due to foreign pressure, but are trying to keep them on for as long as possible. The PTA is still very much on the books.

Why do you need this? Because there are enemies. Like these:


Or these:


In fact I believe the two stories may be connected. I have a feeling (anf this is conjecture) that the students are suspected of being involved the FTZ protests.

So war is still on until enemies of the state are eliminated. Two boys were killed in Angulana as part of this war and a madman sent to drown in Bambalapitiya.

There were still more enemies as evinced by the protests in the FTZ.

There are still some who oppose. All who oppose are traitors. War will continue until traitors are eliminated.

T said...

For me, I think it's sad that we have to wait for the international community to react and call for inquiries when that call should come from us, shouldn't it? We, living here, whose tax money funds these violent acts, why are we not asking those responsible to be brought to justice? Every disaster creates a stream of reactions on social media, the recent tsunami in Japan being the first that comes to mind, but local social media are relatively silent on these events. Our silence implies tacit approval and support of what has happened.

Anon's comment above reminded me of that hackneyed statement "first they came for the Communists, and I didn't speak out..."

Think Why Not said...

To add one more point to your article...
4. Channel 4 has been bribed by LTTE.

Think Why Not said...

OK lets leave the war crimes for a while... lets think with a free unbiased mind...

"The Country is completely free of terrorism.." words from you know who...

I guess I might only ignorant human who doesnt understand then why the hell
1. the people are still restricted inside the camps...
2. Why cant they live like any citizen in Sri Lanka..?
3. Why are innocent family women, children who are there still cant go to there native places and lead a normal life...?
4. Why could not any neutral man / organization / media cant go to camps(except for one or two) to see plot of their lifes and living conditions..? Not even relatives.. (May be noone is neutral, not even the citizens of Sri Lanka.. I guess thats how gov thinks..)

Please enlighten this poor ignorant your fellow human being...

Anonymous said...

Why don't you talk about "Maha weera"
families, who gave support to spread terrorism all over the country. You said that, free them and allow to them start their mission(terrorism) again.

Anonymous said...

Friends, Think Why not has just made my point.

The country never defeated terrorism, it has simply been consumed by it.

Think Why Not said...

So Mr. Anonymous, regular disappearance of people and young girls being raped inside camps can be justified because of that... This is what Lord Buddha taught us.. :P

Anonymous said...

My apologies, the previous comment was directed at Anon, not Think Why Not.

Also is GR admitting to the facts here:


And is RW doing the same here:

rajwa wijesighe al jazeera

Anonymous said...

First they came for the communists,
and I didn't speak out because I wasn't a communist.
Then they came for the trade unionists,
and I didn't speak out because I wasn't a trade unionist.
Then they came for the Jews,
and I didn't speak out because I wasn't a Jew.
Then they came for me
and there was no one left to speak out for me

lets wait and see

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