Published on 26 Jan 2016

The agony of Sri Lanka's carapace of peace

Our return to Sri Lanka’s killing fields has managed to coincide with two major developments – the first is the President’s announcement that there will be no “international component” in any “investigation” of the civil war, or the alleged war crimes committed therein, which seem to be evidenced by the multiple videos sent to this programme in the wake of the war’s aftermath.

The second is that the Prime Minister chose a Hindu Festival in Jaffna last week to state bluntly that if people are missing – and there are still so many thousands of them – then they are dead.

Both statements have caused consternation in the Tamil community and re-opened the old mistrusts.

The change of Government and the arrival of a coalition with a five year remit ordained by the largely Sinhalese Parliament, has firstly seen off the Rajapaksas, even if the President during the end of the civil war does now himself sit as an MP. Secondly it has relaxed the atmosphere in the Tamil North noticeably – people in the streets, shops abundant with produce, and an air of ease.

But in addition the failure, seven years after the war’s end, to establish any formal or credible investigation into the multiple human rights abuses, and allegations of war crimes, first reported by Channel 4 News, during the war rankles hard with the Tamils. They are also angered by the continued failure to do anything at all about “the disappeared.” This continues to cause widespread grief and upset. We have seen too many tears this week.

The army is everywhere, having seized tens of thousands of acres of land. They have also infiltrated the shops, taking over many businesses. The country’s second most important fishing harbour Myliddy, is in the hands of the military. Worse still are the forty houses standing in the fishing village, after the war, that have now been deliberately bulldozed. The inhabitants languish in camps in Jaffna unable to fish. The camp is revolting. Each toilet is used by ten to fifteen families. In central Jaffna alone, at least some 1,700 people are still here in the very camps David Cameron visited two years ago. None of the demands he made then have been acted upon, including the ‘necessity’ for an international element in any war crimes investigation.

The scene at the killing fields, where some were used as human shields by the Tamil Tigers but an even greater number were massacred by the military, having been told it was a safe zone, is unutterably distressing. Nothing has been done to clear the shell craters that still contain rotting saris, shirts, pants and more. Worse, the beach is strewn with single shoes, particularly little children’s shoes.

Tonight on Channel 4 News we shall be telling a story of a degree of return to normality. But defeat of the Tigers has not been marked by action on any of this issues which the Chief Minister in the North warns if unresolved will lead to renewed violence.

Nothing so describes the arrogance of power in the South as the vast and brutal war memorials celebrating the defeat of the Tamil Tigers… boasting of the army’s heroism and patriotism in defeating what they call the “Terrorists”.

Unresolved human rights abuses are matched by continued military occupation – some 120,000 soldiers across the country, a force bigger than the entire British army, in a country with a population of some 20 million people.

Tweets by @jonsnowC4

39 reader comments

  1. Shiva says:

    Successive Sri Lankan Sinhala Buddhist regimes and its forces have been committing crimes against humanity, state terrorism, oppression of the Tamils including war crimes, human rights abuses and genocide with impunity and evade from accountability and Justice. Minorities denied rule of law, justice, human rights, freedom and equality. The new regime has failed to release political prisoners despite all the promises given to date.
    Thanks to the global media, human rights and progressive leaders who demanded for independent international transparent investigation with foreign judges to put an end to the Sinhala Buddhist madness and crimes.
    It is time for all democratic, media, law abiding citizens and rights groups jointly demand for full scale investigation with foreign experts and deliver justice to put an end to over 60 years of state terror, denials, impunity and bring the perpetrators to face the law.

    1. rasike says:

      Re you for real. Tamil Tiger made the Island a living hell for the last 30 years. The amount of human tragedy is un believable. So called you Tamils engage in separatism and narrow Nationalism Tigers busy killing all the moderate voices. TNA has refused to condemn any inhuman act of LTTE by criticising the GOSL. We need to understand the reality. When Sri Lank was colonised by British so called “we Tamils” did not open your mouth utter a single word. The statistics would clearly indicate the numbers. The Jafna Tamils were used to Buffer the uneducated and deprived majority Sinhalese appointing the administration sector over
      80 % from the 10% minority. With the independence One vote for one person reflect the alienation of the majority for two centuries. Sinhala Nationalism is not born yesterday but years of neglect and suppression. I need to move on you need to be sensitive towards the whole issue rather than just focusing on the end of the war by omitting the involvement of the global players and support rendered to the terrorism in Sri Lanka. The people who lives in Sri lanka should decide the fate of the island not the Yankis or Tommys who is responsible for the Majority of bloodshed in the modern world. The best way to live is Live dividing on ethnic of religious lines will create familiar Hells than havens. Should learn by the experience and move on.

  2. P Williams says:

    The Tamil people want reconciliation. But there can be no true reconciliation without accountability for the atrocities committed the during and after the civil war.

    Sir.Emerson James Tennent, British colonial secretary of Ceylon 1845- 1850, wrote, “Indigenous Tamil people have lived for more than 2,500 years in the northern and eastern parts of present-day Sri Lanka (north-east), known as the Tamil hereditary area. In pre-colonial days there was the Tamil Kingdom in the north-east (Jaffna) and two Sinhalese kingdoms in the south, called Kotte and Kandy. Drawings and maps from the time of the Greek explorer Ptolemy, and later from the period when the British came to the island, show how the areas of the Tamils and the Sinhalese were recorded separately from antiquity”. Emerson, Tennent J (1859) Ceylon, Volume 2 (London: Longman Press)

    1. Donald says:

      SL government once again managed to hoodwink international community by promising changes, nothing much happened except weakening Rajapacksa family enterprise after coming to power with Western help. War crime, investigation accountability is a protracted hope given to Tamils with the blessing of the west. SL is a divided country, Sihalese political parties will use Tamil’s political right issue and war crimes investigation as a political tool to win power with Sinhalese majority. SL democracy is an asymmetric political make up without grass roots changes in Sinhalese’s mentally towards accepting Tamil’s equal political rights and self determination ethnic issue can’t be resolved. In contrast the west for its geopolitical interest nullifying Tamils political aspirations by helping SL government to dismantling Tamils nationhood to complete its genocidal policy post May 2009. Rajapacksa still has aspiration to return to power, only tool is for him asserting his genocidal policy of 2009 war with the help of the west and India.

    2. Vijith Pasqual says:

      Yes that is how they execute their infamous divide and control policy. Ha ha

    3. Hemamali says:

      Tamil people must STOP discriminating their own people through the strict caste system they follow and practice reconciliation amongst themselves before pointing fingers at others. The low caste children had to sit on the floor in their school while high caste children sit in chairs and low caste people are prohibited to go inside a Hindu temple or holy places. Low caste Tamils are treated as equals in the Sinhala community.

      Also, no one ever talks about Sinhala grievances as it Sinhala people are not human beings. What about women and children hacked to death including hacking of unborn babies in mothers womb by Tamil terrorists, LTTE? According to a FBI report they were the most ruthless terrorist organisation in the world.

      Tamils and Sinhalas were living in harmony until the British Colonialists came and did “divide and rule” and this Colonialist bullying into submission of small nations is still being carried out with the help of Channel 4 & BBC propaganda.

      It is also alleged that a director of Channel 4 is married to the niece of terror supremo Prabhakaran and that explains the relentless bullying of Sri Lanka by Channel 4.

    4. ravi perera says:

      William

      “Sir.Emerson James Tennent, British colonial secretary of Ceylon 1845- 1850, wrote, “Indigenous Tamil people have lived for more than 2,500 years in the northern and eastern parts of present-day Sri Lanka (north-east), known as the Tamil hereditary area. In pre-colonial days there was the Tamil Kingdom in the north-east (Jaffna) and two Sinhalese kingdoms in the south, called Kotte and Kandy. Drawings and maps from the time of the Greek explorer Ptolemy, and later from the period when the British came to the island, show how the areas of the Tamils and the Sinhalese were recorded separately from antiquity”. Emerson, Tennent J (1859) Ceylon, Volume 2 (London: Longman Press)”

      You are a liar. Jaffna Kingdom never extended to the present day East. Of the 2500 yr history tamils ruled Jaffna kingdom only for about 300 -400 yrs. Being closer to your homeland tamil Nadu it is very likely There would have been tamils in the country even 2000 yrs ago. But it is very likely that these original migrants from Tamil Nadu would have been absorbed into the Sinhala community. You have so much of evidence then you will not have any problems in convincing the UN and getting a separate county. Good luck

  3. Karl says:

    If anyone noticed a drop of sadness in Ranil’s speech, pls point it out! When it comes to Tamils rights, if Rajapakse is a ‘known enemy’ and the present govt is like ‘unknown friend’. And reality is they will just do things to brain wash internal community.

  4. kevin Sanders says:

    Seriously what is this country think having a ARMY like that. Why don’t the citizen of Sri Lanka act before it is too late and turn into another North Korea.

  5. JackS says:

    If you are not aware 400000 people are starving in Syria thanks to Western experiment of democracy there. Iraq, Libya and Afghanistan is no better.
    Thanks to Rajapaksa’s ability to stand up to the West, we managed to avoid such a situation.
    You should be beating your chest for the suffering of people in those middle east countries if you are a genuine human rights campaigner instead of worrying about a country that successfully ended a war and now in peace.

    1. Gayan says:
    2. Bryony says:

      As someone interested in human rights you can try to help all regions of the world and not ignore 1000’s being slaughtered and going missing after surrendering!! Stop being so naive!

  6. MSN says:

    When do you give up man. Just let this country workout her own issues. If you want to be considered a real journalist,be impartial. Write about Mr Rudrakumaran and the LTTE backers who have got away scott free these days and acting like they dont have blood on their hands.

  7. siri muna says:

    What was the strength of the UK army ten year after WWII?. Ch 4 is 3 % responsible for all the misery caused during 30 year war. They are still instigating distrust amoung communities through the media. This is why we need 120,000 troops.

  8. Tungsan Yu says:

    Your opening gambit “Our return to SL’s killing fields” leaves no doubt in any persons mind of your prejudged bias.
    Again you lie quite freely with this baseless statement, “Both statements have caused consternation in the Tamil community and re-opened the old mistrusts”.
    The leader of the opposition Mr Sambanthan of the Tamil national alliance (The largest tamil party in the north & east) has made no such accusations and continues to work quite amiably with the government of SL.
    You greatly exaggerate again with this statement “The army is everywhere, having seized tens of thousands of acres of land.”
    Sri lanka is a small island and the north according to wikapedia has 8,290 km2 (3,200 sq mi)
    of land. So in yr own words “TENS OF THOUSANDS OF ACRES” does not even exist.
    your usage of the words ” rankles hard with the Tamils.” again is misleading and gives the impression that every tamil in the north is dissatisfied. I have first hand knowledge as i too own land in the north , that many tamils are happy that the war is over and just want to get on with their lives. You must understand they went through 30 yrs of civil war and people like you who want to rabble rouse and create more unpleasentness for them are just not welcome.
    Furthermore one paltry visit which probably lasted 2-3 (occupying one of the finer hotels) days would give you no indication of their well being. Why dont you stay in the north for 6 months help them to rebuild their lives and then talk.
    “The scene at the killing fields, where some were used as human shields by the Tamil Tigers but an even greater number were massacred by the military,”
    So only where the military is concerned the word “massacre” is used but where human shields a soft “some”. Who are you trying to fool?
    “Nothing so describes the arrogance of power in the South as the vast and brutal war memorials celebrating the defeat of the Tamil Tigers… boasting of the army’s heroism and patriotism in defeating what they call the “Terrorists”.
    I suppose yr british govt, the US govt and the european govts were all wrong when they labelled them as terrorists.
    Furthermore it was the whole island that celebrated the defeat of that murderous barbarian prabakaran.
    As a member of the minority in SL i am tickled at how strenuously you appear to holler the Tiger program (Not even being a Sri lankan).
    This island has many faults as do other countries but we will find ourselves and in that process people who have committed attrocities against any SLankan will be brought to justice, eventually, but not at yr speed and liking. So give it up, or will yr funding dry up if you do?

    1. Kumar says:

      You are talking rubbish of a UK news organisation which exposes powerful notorious regimes like Rajapakasas’ bullying tactics with white vans abuductions and mass killings to intimidate innocent people. The killers can’t investigate their killings. Where is justice on that? So go for an international warcrime investigation and give justice to victims, as was demaned by the Chief Mininster of Northern Province, Mr CV Wigneswaran. Mr Sampancthan is also asking for the same investigation. The killings in the killing fields was pre-planned (by the then defence secretary) as was evidensed by chasing out all international organisations including the UN from the war zone. The UN secretary general later apologised to the Tamil community for withdrawal which led to the killing of 40,000 civilinians. Tamils and the international community demad international independent war crimes investigation.

    2. jon snow says:

      Tungsen Yu..I’m wondering whether you have ever been to the North. If you had you would have seen the brigade bases dotted along the key roads..you would be aware of the nearly 18kms of coastline that are ‘managed’ by the army. In my interview the Prime Minister fo Sri Lanka himself accepted that the army presence seeded to reduce. As you will have noticed in my report the atmosphere in and around Jaffna has improved very considerably since the new Government came in. But nearly seven years IS too long not to have determined what happened in the killing fields, and who was responsible for it be they Tigers or Raja[ascas. The UN feels it’s too long, many in Sri Lanka feel it’s too long. I’m sorry that you feel so relaxed about ignoring them

      1. Hemamali says:

        Jon, As Er said in his reply instead of trying to bring the two communities together and the make SL a more stable country you are further dividing the communities by adding fuel. You are taking part in your country’s geo political ambitions of dividing communities, destabilising countries and paving the way for more wars so you can benefit by selling more weapons, etc and firmly controlling countries through regime change. Western countries were notorious for helping the LTTE by turning a blind eye to all the billions of fund raising they did through their plethora of front organisations based in UK, USA< Canada, Australia & various European countries, I don't think the world would be shocked by the extent of help given to the Tamil terrorists by Western countries and if as you say 40,000 were killed at the end of the war then Western countries must take direct blame for all the help given to the terrorists and even shamelessly trying to save terror kinpin Prabha by pleading with the SL government to let go of him on the eleventh hour by David Miliband & Kuchner – imagine if the SL government tried to save Daesh or Bin Laden how all hell will be broken loose on Sri Lanka?

        Finally, Channel 4 propagandists, WHY DO YOU NEVER REPORT ON THE GENOCIDE TAKING PLACE IN CHITTA GONG HILL TRACTS OF BANGLADESH OR the current illegal war taking place in Yemen initiated by Saudi Arabia (the most repressive, barbaric country in the world but funnily enough given the head of Human Rights in the UN by Britain) with alleged help from USA & UK?

      2. Srivanamoth says:

        Agree with you fully. The problem of SL is well known and what is needed in the 20th and 21st centuries under the UN Charter to which ALL countries of the world have subscribed to is a UN sponsored investigation into a massive human disaster problem that is being played around like a political football! If this is not possible at least UN involvement is a sine qua non to achieve a lasting settlement. Some of the voices in this column are all too casual and meaningless and smacks of racist bigotry.The UN Charter also provides, in cases of this nature, for a solution based on human rights and the right to self determination. For far too long a solution has dragged on and on and on and seems to have gone mute! The air in SL seems right for an all round solution acceptable to all communities with justice for serious crimes committed. The sore should not be allowed to fester on and on and on.

  9. Prem Kumar says:

    Without international investigation there is no truth.

  10. Kumar says:

    Jon Snow,

    Thank you. I am a Sri lankan. I congratulate you for the news item last night. Channel 4 to my knowledge is the only news channel in the UK that look after the powerless-be it in Sri Lanka, Syria, Libiya or Iraq.

    My fear is that the West is friendly with the new regime in Sri Lanka after the fall of notorious Rajapakas. The US and the UK are now allowing Sri Lanka to get away with murders. Sri Lanka is good at manipulating and pleasing the countries that put pressure on them; the country will not resolve any of its fundamental issues. This will cause repeat of violance and agony again.

    Please keep an eye, as you always do, on Sri Lankan progress and tell the world what is happening. Do not allow the power in Sri Lanka to bully the powerless!

    Thanks.

  11. David says:

    I had no idea of the numbers of disappeared and for the prime minister to suggest up to 15000 people could be dead is unimaginable. I mean how and what happened to them and where are the remains of so many people. It is incredulous that something like this may have taken place. Let the light shine on the government once and for all.

  12. Silva says:

    The moral of the story, if you have powerful friends on your side you can commit any kind of horrendous crime and get away with.

  13. rasanga says:

    Its amazing how this lie is allowed to continue like this as if Sri Lanka only revolves around tamils.If one goes with this 40000 death toll plus the tamil terrorists with uniforms, with civilian cloths and the other civilians who were forcibly working for the terrorists then it would have resulted at least over 150000 injured people which would have flood the hospitals in the entire island and not just the north(amazingly there is no record of such numbers). And with all this looney tune figures and propaganda the truth of close to 400000 people who were saved from the tamil terrorist human shield plus the 12000 terrorists them selves and the 6000 odd govt. soldiers who sacrificed their lives to save them(whom the govt. which could have saved every single one of them, if the govt. din’t think of the civilians) has become a mere irrelevant statistic which never mentioned in these reports since it never fits with their narrative.

  14. vijasan says:

    Thank you for bringing the truth and Voice for the voiceless tamil people genocide by srilanka

  15. Iyanar says:

    The disappeared are not dead. They brutally murdered by the Sri Lankan notorious armed forces. Sinhalese regimes can’t washed off their responsibility to produce the missing to the families who handed over their sons & daughters to the armed forces after the 2009 brutal war.

  16. Jeeva Sanmugam says:

    Thanks Channel 4 & Jon Snow for your latest report on Sri Lanka. Keep up your good work!

  17. alex says:

    This Sri Lankan government, like all Sri Lankan governments since its independence simply lie to the Tamils and now the world. To quote Sri Lanka’s foreign minister at the UN: “don’t judge us by the broken promises, experiences and u-turns of the past.”

    Well as any long-time observer of Sri Lanka could have predicted, they have just ‘u-turned’ again. As David Miliband said during the massacre of Mullivaykal (of over 40,000 men, women and children), they are ‘a bunch of liars’ (in a Wikileaks mail about the last Sri Lankan govt).

    There is no solution within Sri Lanka. The international community needs to act. The UN has already admitted it failed to protect the 40,000 Tamils murdered in 2009. Will it continue to fail today? For all of Cameron’s big words at the Commonwealth summit, little ol’ Sri Lanka is just sticking the middle finger up at him and the rest of the international community.

  18. Sam Mons says:

    Now is the time for Sri Lankans to support Muslims in England to establish Shariah law. Today Sri Lanka has become one of the safest places on earth to visit. Western journalists don’t believe so. They and their politicians who depend on Tamil votes to come to power like the sound of bombs and sight of blood in other countries to turn their people’s attention from the issues menacing them. The Sri Lankan war gave sanguine journalists an opportunity of a life time to make money. Now they are in Tamil diaspora payroll. Not bad!

  19. Indi says:

    Tamils have grievances, so too are the Sinhalese. At the time of independence, thanks to British ‘divide and rule’ largesse, there were more ‘A’ grade schools in Jaffna than rest of the country and Tamils (12%population) have occupied more than half of the civil service, professions and businesses.

    Post independent Sinhala govts tried to limit Tamil influence with discriminatory policies and state sponsored/endorsed mob violence (1956, 77, 83).

    Resultant Tamil push for separate state spearheaded by Tigers, a murderous terror group with global network (which still exists thanks to their political influence in UK, Canada & Europe) went on for 25 years.

    The result – over 200,000 people killed, more than a million Tamils fled the country, a terror group that was so big it was generating annual revenue of over $300m at time of its defeat, and SL armed forces grew from ill equiped with less than 20,000 to over 250,000 well equiped and more battle hardened than most military. The country, once standout performer in every measure in the region, stagnated.

  20. Er says:

    Well done, now let’s write an article about genocides done by Britain , royal family etc , what happened to natives in US , Australia? what happened to afghanistan , iraq , iran , libiya , syria. The war is over in Sri Lanka. Both sides were wrong for what happens in the past not just Sinhalese. Sinhalese are wrong for not sharing power with other ethnic groups. Tamils are wrong for trying to separate the island. If like some comment ors say , if separate Tamil kingdoms existed in the past in Sri Lanka who took them away from Tamils? it’s Britain and their genocidal colony ambition. You are not Sri Lankan , you didn’t live in Sri Lanka during war and for this reason you don’t know what it was like. Ltte had suicide bombers , child soldiers , they attacked civilians all around the country for years regardless of their race , ethnicity etc and during the last phase of the war they used their own people as human shields without surrendering. You are talking about army killing 40 000 , you are not talking about millions of other lives saved by the Sri Lankan army, child soldiers rescued by army , bringing a stop to suicide attacks and bombs on civilians, you are not talking about tamils who lived peacefully in colombo during war. Why??? Because all you want is war , that why you have your job , that’s what pays for you big house, car etc,that’s how the country where you come from earns money selling weapons , ammunitions, creating jobs for your own people in the name of human rights , humanitarian business names. If you are truly concerned about Tamils write something that will unite them not things that will make them hate each other more.

  21. Peabody says:

    There is no doubt in my mind that Channel 4 is deliberately attempting stir up more ethnic issue for Sri Lanka. John Snow for one seems to be revealing in it all. Even to a point of personalising it. A sign of a extremely poor presenter and journalist. One must now ask……Is it because his fellow presenter Krisnan is Sri Lankan Tamil or is it because one of his bosses (one of the director at Channel 4) is married to Sri. Lankan Tamil ? I guess he has to follow his orders like all faithful dogs.!

    1. P Williams says:

      Dear Peabody, ……………..The renowned Channel 4 journalist Jon Snow has declined an offer of an OBE in 2015.
      Jon Snow reportedly said that he did so because he believed that working journalists should not take honours from those about whom they report.
      He said: “I tried to find out why I’d been given it and was unable to get a clear answer or, indeed, to find out who had proposed me.”

  22. Lucy Turnbull says:

    John,

    I was next to you when you came to Jaffna in 2013, in the IDP camp in Chunakaam. I was filming David Cameron as he asked rehtorical questions of the Tamil politician, when he visited the IDP camps at Chunakaam. I was there when that whole staged event took place. I’m glad you have eventually, almost three years later, decided to go back and actually speak to the people dealing with the politicians, and living the situation, all the time. A week before Cameron came local politicians and government officials visited the same camp and gave the people their ‘promise’ that they would be out of there within months. That was three years ago. Nothing has changed.

    There is some truth in the claim that to fly in for a few days, speak to a few brave Tamils, and fly out again, doesn’t give you real insight. And I told all my Tamil friends at the time that this medica circus that came to Jaffna was simply that. It seems the international community doesn’t understand how politics work in Sri Lanka. Sri Lankan politics work in the same way British politics work. Their government framework is an exact copy of the UK Westminster set up. The corruption, the exploitation, the indifference, which is very typical of UK style politics, is also the same. Who are the Brits to tell Sri Lanka how to run their country when the Brits treat their own citizens like nothing more than cattle fodder? The only difference in Sri Lanka is that there are more visible guns.

    I worked for the UN in Jaffna for a year in 2013. I was disappointed at the poverty tourists who came to visit and the war tourists who came to visit.

    I hope your programme actually follows up on some of the things you keep promising these people because, as you know very well, the same amount of people who were living in these terrible IDP camps in 2013 are still living there.

    Keep your promise.

    Lucy

  23. Srivan says:

    Pretence IS not the answer!

  24. nhatrang says:

    Heinous acts;

    History really does repate, lessons are never learnt.; Styria, Ukraines. Iran/Iraq; atomic bombs, napalm; Nobody compromises or admits culpability;

    team work tests will result in epic fails

  25. Desath says:

    Bankrupt channel 4 recoverd form thanks to Sri lanka.
    DI’d channel 4 make any document in
    Iraq, Syria or Palestine. ??????

  26. Sri lanka says:

    good news for Sri lanka.

  27. Chamith says:

    yes, Accountability is needed.
    Shall we start the accountability, from the time british invade peaceful Sri Lanka and colonoize the nation while killing families of who fight against it ?

    how about accountability for people killed in syria, Iraq and list go on. We never see channel 4 being so eager to bring justice to them.

    STOP BULLING SRI LANKA.

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