You could be forgiven for missing Channel 4’s late showing of Sri Lanka’s Killing Fields last night. Despite being a flagship news programme, featuring narration by John Snow and being publicised heavily in advance, the doc contained footage that was deemed too extreme to show any time before 11pm, presumably in an bid to shock the public with a full account of the atrocities committed by the Sri Lankan Government.
Showing videos and eyewitness testimony of events leading up to the brutal end to the 25 year civil war involving the Tamil Tigers, the programme gave viewers an insight into how the determined government went about finally exterminating the independence fighters from their soil, intentionally targeting civilians by bombing hospitals and no-fire zones.
Often disturbing to watch, listening to various witnesses discuss the events in question wasn’t easy, especially when every account was backed up by substantial and independently verified footage captured on mobile phones and amateur video cameras. Viewers were shown evidence of the murder, rape and pillage of Tamil civilians in the North-Eastern regions of Sri Lanka, which in many respects was tantamount to ethnic cleansing.
Following the emergence of these videos, along with photos and eyewitness accounts from international organisations like Amnesty International and the Red Cross, the UN published a report into the Sri Lankan Government’s actions earlier this year, finding that there was substantial evidence of war crimes, crimes against humanity and enough concern to warrant a proper investigation. However, UN leader Ban Ki Mon has incredibly rejected these findings – I urge him to watch the footage shown last night and say the same.
In comparison, the international reaction to the actions of the Libyan doctor Gadhafi have been encouraging, showing a shining example of how countries banding together can stop international atrocities in their tracks. It’s therefore saddening and bemusing as to why on Earth the same action was not taken in Sri Lanka – the fact that the country has nothing to do with the price of oil may have something to do with it though.
The Tamil Tiger soldiers were no saints by any means, using child soldiers and civilians as protection against military strikes, but even these actions still do not excuse the government’s actions. Reading other reviews across the press, some critics have complained about Channel 4’s decision to show us such extreme footage even at such a late hour, despite the programme being littered with advanced warnings from John Snow. Yet it’s hard not to feel that the only way that people will truly wake up to the actions of this brutal regime is by seeing these grotesque and vile images, as tourists continue to support and travel to this country, oblivious to the atrocious actions of it’s military regime four years before.
The international community need to wake up, watch the footage and act upon the evidence. If we are truly a nation that believes in the values of justice, democracy and fairness, let us stand up and show this by raising the issue at the UN. It’s shameful that it has taken the actions of a late night TV programme to explain to me exactly what happened and does makes me wonder how impartial and in depth the press coverage was at the time.