Channel 4 tampering with Tamil civilian statements – Ambassador Amza
Expose of distortion in translation
Channel-4 has made serious mistakes by misinterpreting what the witnesses have said in Tamil, to suit the Channel-4 agenda, Head of Mission of Sri Lanka to the EU, Ambassador P.M. Amza said.
During his intervention at the end of a panel discussion that followed the screening of the film “No Fire Zone: The Killing Fields of Sri Lanka”, held at the premises of the European Parliament on May 14 which was jointly organized by Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch and International Crisis Group, Ambassador Amza stated that the pointed that in the “Killing Fields” documentary, the civilians who spoke in Tamil at no stage stated that the attacks were carried out specifically by the Sri Lankan Army, rather they always mentioned that “they attacked”, leaving it ambiguous.
Ambassador Amza further elaborated that when a question was posed in English to an unidentified victim regarding an alleged attack on a hospital by asking “do you think this was an accident?”, the answer from the victim in Tamil was, “Athavathu aspaththirikku aim panniththan adichchiruppinam” which literally means “they may have aimed and attacked the hospital”. The Ambassador contended the Channel-4 of translating it as “the hospital was targeted”, giving implication to the viewers that it was done by the Sri Lanka Army. In this context, the Ambassador questioned the Director/Producer, Callum Macrae who was present as one of the Panellists, on what basis he gave an interpretation to what the witness referred to as “they”, to indicate that it was the Sri Lanka Army.
Pointing out to a similar mistake in the subsequent Channel-4 Documentary, “Sri Lanka Killing Fields: War Crime Unpunished”, during which an unidentified witness makes a statement in Tamil saying “Enkalidamirunthu 150 meeter irukkum 15 perukku melai kayakkarnkal ippadi bankarukkulliruntha ellorayum veliyil iluththu iluthu pottu suttukkondu waran” which provides literal translation as “the distance may be about 150 meters from us. More than 15 injured civilians were inside the bunker when they pulled them out one by one and fired”. The Channel-4 took the liberty of translating it to mean “as I got up from the bunker, about 150 meters away from where I saw a group of Army soldiers pulling out over 15 civilians staying in a bunker and spraying bullets on them at close range”. The Ambassador emphasized that at no stage, the witness stated that it was Sri Lankan Army that was pulling the civilians out from the bunkers and killing them. The Ambassador also pointed out that anyone with a sound knowledge of the Tamil language would identify them as serious mistakes and misinterpretations and manipulations done to suit the Channel-4 agenda. As the civilians’ statements constitute important evidence in any conflict, tampering them to give a completely false view, is a matter of serious concern, he said.
The Ambassador also refuted allegations on the killing of a 12 year old boy identified as the son of the LTTE leader. The Ambassador, while casting doubts on Channel-4 making sweeping conclusions based on few pictures depicting a man clad in a uniform similar to Sri Lanka Army personnel, a clean and neat bunker, a man in slippers, and an ‘expert opinion’ based on the pictures given to him that the boy was captured by the Army who then fed him a snack then killed him at point blank range, questioned as to why the ‘expert opinion’ disregarded the possibility of him being killed by his own bodyguards, to avoid being captured by the Sri Lankan Armed forces.
The Ambassador reminded that the LTTE was not an ordinary group of terrorists, but was one in which all its cadres mandatorily carried cyanide capsules to kill themselves if captured by the Army. It was also a ruthless terrorist group which never hesitated to use even disabled and pregnant women as suicide bombers in order to achieve its objectives.
Referring to a similar allegation where just by showing a 20 second footage of a group of females suspected as LTTE cadres, been taken away in a tractor, and giving an interpretation that their destiny was not know thereafter, he used the opportunity to remind the gathering about the comprehensive efforts taken by the Government in rehabilitating over 12,000 former LTTE cadres including 594 child soldiers after the end of the conflict, who have now been successfully integrated into the society and are leading peaceful and dignified lives.
Ambassador Amza stated that irrespective of Sri Lanka’s categorical rejection of the Channel-4 footage and its authenticity, Sri Lanka nevertheless, is in the process of investigating the allegations. In this context, he reiterated Sri Lanka’s request to Channel-4 to provide original materials available with them to help thei nvestigation process rather than pleading for Pounds through projects such as the ‘Kick-starter’, in order to go on a globe-trotting venture with the film.
The Ambassador added that, as a native Tamil speaker, he could provide ample evidence to prove that Channe-4 indeed had a sinister motive to discredit Sri Lanka with the connivance of the pro-LTTE diaspora organizations, and further alluded that it was ironical to see how one time arden supporters of the LTTE and its killing spree through funding and other propaganda activities are now projecting themselves as independent human rights activists, having been oblivious to the countless human rights violations carried out by the LTTE.
Intervention by the Ambassador P.M. Amza, Head of Mission to the European Union, at the Screening of the “No Fire Zone: The Killing Fields of Sri Lanka” at the Premises of the European Parliament on 14 May 2013
1. The Government of Sri Lanka strongly protests the use of the premises of the European Parliament for screening of this film today. My presence here is to reject the contents of this film and to make a brief statement. I would like to stress that my presence is in no way meant to give credence to either the event or the documentary.
2. I am a native Tamil Speaker. I personally have seen to my own eyes how the conflict began, how the innocent people from South to North and from West to East in Sri Lanka suffered during the last 30 years. I also witnessed how the LTTE led Diaspora manipulated matters, in this part of the world taking advantage of some of the generous national policies. Hence, I can speak with confidence and authority on what is happening in my country, especially to those who make empty slogans while having not done anything for the Tamils in the country. Much of what is shown are part of a sinister effort to make Government of Sri Lanka look guilty. For that, the truth has been ignored or suppressed.
3. Sri Lanka Armed Forces have never targeted its own civilians deliberately as alleged. The fact that over 290,000 civilians fled the LTTE towards the Army during the last stage of fighting is a clear testimony to this. Even the critics of Sri Lanka acknowledge this fact and appreciate the efforts of the Sri Lanka Armed Forces to rescue the civilians from the clutches of the LTTE which used them as human shields. In his Hard Talk interview, on 10 April 2013, Sir John Holms, the Former United Nations Under-Secretary General for Humanitarian Affairs & Emergency Relief Coordinator, Office for Coordinating Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), said that the basic problem to the casualties is that the LTTE was not releasing the civilians.
4. This disputed series of Channel -4 films contain materials which are discredited, uncorroborated and unsubstantiated. It comes out as a routine pattern, aiming at intergovernmental fora and events. However, the material is largely rehashed and recycled to suite to the story. The Channel-4 Documentaries often talked about the shelling of civilians targets. In the “Killing Fields” Documentary the Channel-4 had shown the LTTE carrying mortars and using artilleries. Sir John Holms during his Hard Talk interview also confirmed that the LTTE were firing shells. In the “Killing Fields” documentary, the civilians at no stage stated that the attacks were carried out specifically by the Sri Lankan Army, rather they always mentioned “they attacked”. When a question was posed in English, to an unidentified victim, regarding an alleged attack on a hospital asking “Do you think this was an accident?”, The answer come from the “victim” in Tamil was “Athavathu aspaththirikku aim panniththan adichchiruppinam” which literally mean, “they might have attacked aiming the hospital only”. The Channel-4 however translated it as “the hospital was targeted” giving implication to the viewers that it was done by the Sri Lanka Army. In this context, I recall my question to the Director/Producer of the film, which I raised in London in June 2011, during a live debate that was broadcasted by BBC Asia Network in London, as I am yet to hear his reply. On what basis did you interpret that the “witness” referred to the “Sri Lanka Army” when he said “they”? The Channel-4 did the same mistake once again. In its subsequent documentary, “Sri Lanka Killing Fields : War Crime Unpunished” the Channel-4 repeated this mistake. At the 28th minute of the programme the Channel-4 telecasted statement of an unidentified witness. He said in Tamil ” “Enkalidamirunthu 150 meeter irukkum 15 perukku melai kayakkarnkal ippadi bankarukkulliruntha ellorayum veliyil iluththu iluthu pottu suttukkondu waran”. The literal meaning of this “the distance may be about 150 meters far from us. More than 15 injured civilians were inside the bunker when they pulled them one by one and were firing”. The Channel-4 had taken the liberty to translate it as “As I got up from the bunker, about 150 meters away from where I was, I saw a group of Army soldiers pulling out over 15 civilians staying in a bunker and spraying bullets on them at close range. Here again one would notice the witness at no stage said that it was the Sri Lankan Army that was pulling out the civilians from the bunkers and killing them. Those who understand Tamil would know these are serious mistakes on the part of the Channel-4. A misinterpretations and manipulations done to suit its agenda. As the civilians’ statements constitute important evidence in any conflict, tampering with them in my belief is a serious matter.
5. Take the credentials of the main actress in the Channel-4 Documentaries – Damilvani. Who is she? How reliable is what she claims? A person with three different aliases in different locations, namely, Damilvany Kumar, Vany Kumar, Damilvany Gananakumar. She was indeed from the Tamil Youth Organization (TYO) of the LTTE and brought to Sri Lanka by Castro, former Head of the LTTE Foreign Division. What she uttered about direct infusion of blood, amputation of legs without anaesthesia, are all exaggerated stories that a genuine bio-medical student would think twice. The doctor, who appears in the Channel-4’s latest releases along with Damilvany, lately stated that they made comments under pressure from LTTE regarding the humanitarian situation in the un-cleared areas during the last stages of the humanitarian operation and also contended the baseless allegations of Vany Kumar on alleged amputations without anaesthesia and re-administering blood wasted from dead and wounded etc.
6. It is a known fact that the demonstration by civilians outside the UN Office shown in the film was orchestrated by the LTTE. Further, there were several humanitarian agencies including ICRC and the local staff of UN that remained till the last stretch of the conflict. One could not rule out the possibility that the LTTE would harm the international workers and put the blame on the GoSL, had they stayed.
7. Many of the allegations in the films are based on similar assertions. The most hyped up event in the latest episode is the killing of a 12 year old boy identified as the son of the LTTE leader. The video shows several pictures depicting a man clad in a uniform similar to the SL Army, a clean and neat bunker, a man in slippers, and an “expert opinion” based on the pictures given to him stating that he has examined the pictures and that it was a close range shoot. These un connected material allows the producer to make a sweeping conclusion that the boy was captured by the Army, who fed him with a snack, then killed him at point blank. Why has he disregard the following possibilities?,
That he was killed by his own bodyguards. Remember we are talking about no ordinary group of terrorists, but those who wore cyanide capsules to kill themselves if captured by the Army, those who even used disabled women as suicide bombers. There were even suicide attacks when the stream of tens of thousands of people were moving into government areas at the end of the final battle. As history has proved many times, what excludes the perception that the battle hardened carders cannot shoot the son of the leader rather than letting him to be captured by the enemy?.
The “expert” has only examined the pictures given to him and not the real body, so, how can one confirm without an iota of doubt that the bullets came from a gun used by the Military and not the LTTE?
Had the Army wanted to deliberately kill a 12 year old boy, why did the Government rehabilitate 594 child soldiers who surrendered and the UN Security Council came to the decision that Sri Lanka should be removed from the Annex II to the Resolution 1612, as it has cooperated with the UN on the aspects of implementing the 1612 Resolution on Children and Armed Conflict.
8. Casting doubt does not mean the truth is being told. Showing a visual of a group of girls suspected to be Tamil Tigers loaded to trailers, taken away, the narrator says “we only have these 20 second footage. No idea what happen to them”? If one is to claim that casting doubt is professional journalism, we only challenge them to tell the world how and why, over 12,000 Ex-LTTE cadres, including core LTTE leaders and their families have been saved, cared for and rehabilitated by the Government?
9. It is a similar sweeping conclusion that the military presence in North is correlated to the number of rapes reported. Had there been any perpetrators, as done in the past, they should be brought to justice. That is why, irrespective of our categorical rejection of the Channel 4 footage and its authenticity, the Government, and the Military, going by the recommendations of the LLRC has launched a Court of Inquiry. This is the first thing that any professional military in the world would do. I would like to reiterate our request to the Channel-4 to provide the original materials used by them to help the investigation process, which to date has not been acceded to.
10. As a democratic country, Sri Lanka has done much to recover from the deadly effects of the 30 long years of the terrorist conflict that has devastated every aspect of life in the country. It is a painful and delicate reconciliation process. We are mindful of the challenges ahead and once more I wish to reiterate that repetitive bashing of Sri Lanka with vested agenda would not be of any help in bringing justice or reconciliation but it will only keep the wounds open for ever.
11. My next point is even more worrisome. Why reputed NGOs are letting their name and prestige to be used for promoting this kind of cynical activities. When the money of LTTE comes through its front organizations under the guise of charity, even some of the reputed NGOs present here have become gullible to LTTE propaganda. It appears they have forgotten, the crimes of the LTTE, when accepting the donations in dollars. I am saying this with authority and proof at hand.
12. Though the LTTE, a banned Terrorist Organization in 32 countries including the EU has been defeated in Sri Lanka completely and comprehensively, the remaining LTTE rumps are still active outside of Sri Lanka, particularly in Europe. Being a Tamil speaker myself, I can provide enough and more evidence to prove that the Channel-4 has a sinister motive to discredit Sri Lanka with the connivance of the Pro-LTTE Diaspora Organizations; The screening of the selected version of the documentary during the 3rd Anniversary of the Global Tamil Forum (GTF) is a clear indication to this. It is in one hand ironical to see how the one time ardent supporters of LTTE and its killing spree, through funding and other propaganda, are now reborn as independent human rights activists.
13. Further, the objective of the producer is very clear now with his kick-starter project coming into light pleading pounds to make a globe-rotting venture with the film. Can he with conscious tell this audience that he is satisfied that the money he collects now, are not from the same people who once supported killing of innocent Tamil people in my country. If he cannot, we have to assume that he does not care as long as it fulfils the 20,000 pound target to help him roam around the globe with his product.
14. In conclusion I must say that No fire Zone is doing an injustice to the ordinary Sri Lankan people who are yearning for nothing but peace, dignity and normalcy in life. If the supporters of this venture believe that by cooking up stories like the “No Fire Zone” can bring them peace and dignity, it is nothing but a grave mistake. Please do not seek globe-rotting their plight; my Sri Lankan Tamil brothers and sisters living in the country do not deserve such treatment.