Former Sri Lankan President speaks out on Killing Fields
Former Sri Lankan President Chandrika Bandaranaike Kumaratunga delivered a landmark speech in Colombo on Sunday in which she spoke of the horror her children expressed after viewing Sri Lanka's Killing Fields.
Jon Snow's critically-acclaimed investigation into the final weeks of the quarter-century-long civil war between the government and the secessionist rebels, the Tamil Tigers, featured devastating new video evidence of war crimes and crimes against humanity - some of the most horrific footage Channel 4 has ever broadcast.
Kumaratunga became the world's first female president in1994, governing Sri Lanka until 2005. Both of her parents had formerly held the office of Prime Minister in Sri Lanka.
In her address at the Sri Lanka Foundation Institute entitled ‘Economic Development, Inclusive Societies and Peace' she spoke of the battle for peace in the country and her dismay over the failure of successive governments to resolve the treatment of the Tamil minority which led to the formation of the armed separatist group, the Tiger Tamils LTTE.
Kumaratunga called for Sri Lanka's to have the humility to admit that they have failed as a nation, to accept their mistakes, make amendments and she criticised the, "continued denial of proven facts and abuse of our honest critics will not resolve the problem for anyone." She went on to say: "I shall remember till the end of my days the morning when my 28 year-old son called me, sobbing on the phone to say how ashamed he was to call himself as Sinhalese and a Lankan, after he saw on the UK television a 50 minute documentary called Killing Fields of Sri Lanka which I also had the great misfortune of seeing. My daughter followed suit, saying similar things and expressing shock and horror that our countrymen could indulge in such horrific acts. I was proud of my son and daughter, proud that they cared for the others, proud that they have grown up to be the man and woman their father and mother wanted them to be."
An edited report on the speech is available to be viewed here, on a Colombo-based news website:
Kumaratunga's speech follows other politicians who have spoken out about Sri Lanka's Killing Fields. After it was screened in Australia, former Prime Minister Kevin Rudd described it as, "deeply disturbing" and said: "(The) Human Rights Council can't simply push this to one side. Action needed." When asked about the film at Prime Minister's Questions, David Cameron told MPs that the Sri Lanka government, "does need to be investigated" and, "lessons need to be learned." And in a statement issued after the film aired in the UK, Foreign Office Minister Alistair Burt said he was "shocked by the horrific scenes" in Sri Lanka's Killing Fields, and "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 fulfil its obligations."