Film premiere: The Truth That Wasn’t There

This film was not a labour of love. This film was hard. Damn hard, to put together and to persevere with. The reasons why it has come this far has a great deal to do with the burden placed upon us by what we did, where we went and what we captured. Many of the people we met along the way instilled in us a responsibility. After staring at us with disbelief upon hearing of our ‘great coup’, of how we as students somehow managed to gain access to areas no ‘real’ journalist could, how we visited the infamous IDP camps, walked among the ruins of Kilinochchi, and drove through the rubble of Mullaitivu and Chalai and all this barely a month after the last bullet was fired or the last soldier fell – upon hearing our story many within the country responded not with laurels or platitudes but with sober direction. Go. Do something with this. You must. You have the tapes. You have the images. Tell your story. No-one else will. And please…do it quickly.

This new post-war Sri Lanka ensured that we had no time to pat backs or pop corks or settle into an awaiting job in the industry here in London – there was an impatience and an eagerness to establish a new base of understanding and discourse. A sense of mission that in the next few days those such as Groundviews will no doubt help to form with the likes of this special edition. So when we came back from Sri Lanka and passed that strange phase of settling back into the usual routine of friends, family and facebook we decided to see this through and contribute to the debate. We wanted to take part in the discourse and perhaps spark a few ourselves.

This is our story. Wholly subjective, entirely contradictory. Each of us without exception changed, like all of you, since last May. Our story has moved us in ways we couldn’t grasp at the time, and that is what this film tries its best to encapsulate is that journey. Through our experience we hope to tell a wider one. One that captures a moment of a country at a crossroads. I always described coming to Sri Lanka that June when celebrations had faded into scattered placards and novelty flags as having arrived a day after a Tsunami had hit. Where people were staggering around trying to realign paradigms and shift focus. But for us as outsiders looking in we were shocked at how people who, after the war was won, had little concern about how they got there. Heidi especially for whom notions of human rights, civil liberties and accountability were fixed, fundamental and unquestioned. Not so we found among the people in Colombo and the rest – security trumped them all. The ability to send children to school without worry, that was what they would barter for freedom of expression. It was an unsettling trade-off for us to get our heads around but an end of bombs, destruction and killing was an end to perpetual fear. So who were we young foreign upstarts to question how they got there? Good point.

All through our journey from Colombo to Chalai we were looking for something it seemed that no-one had any interest in finding. We termed it ‘the blank page’ and we were determined to fill it whether anyone cared or not. The reporting on the war had shifted focus to journalism itself. The headlines read how British journalists were deported while the war itself went unreported on the ground. There also seemed to be an apparent lack of compassion when talking numbers good and bad. The human costs of the war were being disputed alongside arguments about how many dead bodies it takes to constitute a genocide.

When arriving in Sri Lanka we were guilty of it too. Having been afforded an opportunity of a lifetime we were all terrified of dropping the ball on this. Be detached they say, be professional. It is a story to be gotten, nothing more nothing less. This is the training they give you when you want to be a war correspondent back home. Go for the human angle – get some tears. Tears sell papers. Tears and barbed wire. This is what is deemed valuable footage back home. So we looked and searched, intruded and zoomed in closer when our consciences tugged otherwise. This is what is asked of you as a journalist. But it is when you are there among the debris breathing the acrid scent you realise the absurdity of such a notion as detachment. It is when you have a lens trained on a man who out of simple politeness and civility steps aside for you to go ahead and intrude upon his meagre possessions, his family and his little life – it is then that you get it. It is only then that you understand. This is war. Aside from the killing and the waste, there is a loss of dignity and humanity that as green, wet-behind-the-ears, under-qualified students would see where veteran professionals would not. It was the stark naked truth of discarded humanity. This above all the ruins and the rubble we walked through was what we are left with a year on. Those faces, those eyes trying their level best to maintain solemnity among such squalor. When we returned to London all three of us cited that moment as the moment where it all changed for us and it is through our collective story that we hope to provide it as a context. It is this moment that is produced for you in the clip below.

Phil: An indelible image
When getting back to London I found myself sifting through the photos I took in those three weeks. 4,000 individual pictures in all. I wanted to capture an image that might in some way help build a clearer picture of those final months of the war. We became the first independent visitors to those areas and for us it was important to try and salvage some truth albeit from the aftermath. But going through those pictures all I am left with is an overwhelming sense of loss. For me this film represents the realisation that what was really worth capturing was lost forever among those ruins. The images that really counted went undocumented and how ever many photos taken after the fact can never come close to uncovering the truth.

Heidi: International dialogue
During filming there was an overriding sense of jingoism Beyond the ever easy smiles there were always those who used the opportunity to vent their frustrations out on me as a ‘representative’ of the colonial international community. My Finnish descent would always be questioned – so just how close are Norway and Finland? I struggled with the accusations leveled at my home region, the idea that western countries and INGO’s as a whole had only malicious and selfish motives behind their involvement and had little concern with keeping the peace. It is that generalized notion that perhaps with this film I can help dispel. A year on, my experiences in Sri Lanka led to an MA in Human Rights. I for one, won’t stop believing that some of us from the outside looking in aren’t out to make Sri Lanka weaker and that some of us would like to contribute meaningfully and help heal the rift internationally.

Guy: The Diaspora question
Personally speaking I am eager for this documentary to help shift focus here at home in London and elsewhere among the Diaspora communities. On May 19th 2009 the streets of London were ablaze with red and yellow. A humanitarian plea at Parliament Square had morphed into a mass of hurt, screaming people flying the flags of the vanquished LTTE. The disarticulation of the Tamil and Sinhalese diaspora communities is an often cited issue on these pages. For me, as a second generation Sinhalese, I found it puzzling when witnessing kids younger than me donning specially made Eelam hoodies and LTTE coloured bracelets on the streets of Wembley, Tooting and Central London. Even more disconcerting was the manner at which protests on the Sinhalese side were reduced to little more than a numbers game between the two parties. Every week it seemed I was asked to join the Sinhala protests. I kept asking what the cause was and the bewildered response almost always came back that it was because the Tamils did it a week before. Come back when you got a better reason, I had said. For refusing to take part others like myself were deemed un-Sri Lankan at a time when unabashed patriotism was the order of the day. Moderate voices back then were lost amidst the din. If nothing else, I hope this film will help steer a fresher kind of contestation, one where we in the ‘cold countries’ will, for the lack of a better term, grow up a bit. Learn lessons and seek a fuller participation however we choose to do so, through words, action, images or film.

Together.

By Guy Gunaratne, Heidi Lindvall and Phil Panchenko

[Editors note: The Facebook page for this up-coming movie can be accessed here.]

End of War Special Edition

  • http://Nowebsite Ananda Ariyarathne

    Having seen the clips I could not gather much as It was so common before the war came to an end.What those clips had missing were the scenes of heaps of human flesh, decapitated heads the so called freedom fighters who anyway did not use their heads before becoming feeling-less robots who could blindly go into the middle of unsuspecting , innocent and ordinary Non Tamils who had nothing against Tamil people, and blow themselves up into smithereens, while a fanatic hiding in a forest or inside a human shield planning such destruction of life.

    I have all the respect for the young observers who had visited Sri Lanka, as all kept on mentioning,looking for the truth that was not seen so far.The truth has to be told.

    But, where did it all begin ? It was both the Singhalese and Tamil politicians who called themselves leaders,misled the innocent people who were one kind but , divided by two languages and cultures however existed peacefully together,came into power and took wrong decisions creating the fertile grounds gradually to build a gap between them,ultimately resulting in the creation of a smooth smiling and immaculately dressed monster like Prabhakaran and another group who had tried to defend themselves under confusing directives of stupid leaders.

    If the young observers ventured into scene where a variety of arms and armaments were found in the thick jungles and showed how innocent young children were conscripted for for a future built in dreams wading through blood pain and death and decay, it would have looked more balanced.

    When LTTE used a human bomb to kill some unsuspecting commuters in a peaceful area where Tamil people also lived protected by those ‘monstrous’ Singhalese it was Freedom Fighting and when when Security Forces retaliated in trying to destroy the destroyers it was identified as Genocide.

    No body talks about the lives sacrificed by the soldiers and Singhalese civilians in trying to save Tamil people.

    In a world countries come into alliances to give their people a better standard of living , all of us live today.

    In a melting pot like London how many kinds of people live ?All have fair and equal opportunities.That is what people need.

    Sri Lanka is big enough for all and small enough to know each other.People should be taught to respect each other and they already know that and had been practising.Out of Tamil people only those who lived in Government Controlled areas lived normal lives,with a very small exception of a few fanatics who were plotting destruction.

    Let the wounds be healed.

    Bring laws to punish all racial elements whether Tamils or Singhalese regardless their official positions be imprisoned for life.

    Sri Lankans can live without them.

    Now,the young enthusiasts,judge for yourself whether you have told the complete truth.

    Making a film is not just a technical achievement.

    You may think I have gone out of point.If you think like that how best can be the other part of the truth can be told ?

    Keep up the good spirit.,because the truth has tobe told and not just a part of it.

    Ananda Ariyarathne

  • http://www.facebook.com/pages/The-Truth-That-Wasnt-There/359874725510 Guy Gunaratne

    Dear Ananda,

    Thank you for your thoughts, valuable as they are for us hoping to engage with people like yourself with this film. Your concern about painting a balanced picture is one that I assure you was at the heart of our story. The brutality that the LTTE delivered upon their own people is one that we have explored within the film. Over here in London, yes people do live lives of relatively better standards – but this adds to the frustration of those moderates for whom the LTTE were anathema yet read that those in Sri Lanka and elsewhere, for lack of an apparent alternative, believe that the entire Diaspora as wholly being in support of them. This is not true and with this film we hope we gave them a chance to speak out.

    “What those clips had missing were the scenes of heaps of human flesh, decapitated heads the so called freedom fighters who anyway did not use their heads”

    – To this I would urge that those seeking gory scenes like the above will not find it here. We found only remnants of what went on during battle, everything was cleaned up, the dust had settled – but that to me is just as horrifying. Beyond the obvious titilation of such images that very well might appeal – none of that was left barely a month after hostilities ended. I know the spirit in which you meant to articulate with this was that you wanted to see the other side of the violence represented. It is – but the method in which we portrayed it in the film is, as is through the entire story, via the people, through their testimony and through their own stories. We have interviews with ordinary people in the East and here in London whose lives were ruined by the LTTE. In equal measure however, as you have seen in the above clip, we hoped to give a commentary on the destructive nature of war for those ordinary men and women in the middle.

    I also would like to note that our access was very much, and indeed could not have been posible, without the government and army’s open engagement and interest in us and what we wanted to do. Access is impossible without a signature. For this we owe a debt of gratitude and respect to those who allowed us in. Which is also apparent in the final film.

  • RTD

    Thank you Guy, Heidi and Phil for being brave enough on physical, mental and emotional levels to taken on the aftermath of the defeat of the LTTE as your subject matter. You’re right – it is something most Sri Lankans, both Tamil and Sinhalese, both in Sri Lanka and abroad, have tried to put behind them as quickly as possible without looking too closely for the truth about what really happened in those final few months of war and what has happened at Manik farm in the year that has passed since.

    It is hard to tell from these two clips how much you actually managed to record of people’s testimonies and their own stories, but this is what I hope the film focuses on most. In documentary journalism, the easiest thing to capture once you’ve been given access is the visual story. As you mention in the clips, there is a deep sense of shame at violating someone else’s personal space when you capture the visual without giving them the chance to speak their story. I think this is why you felt like you were objectifying the man whose shack you entered and filmed – because he didn’t speak English, and because you had a military officer outside, you could not ask him about his situation, but felt you were forcibly taking his story through the film and photographic recording of his living quarters and his family. I sympathize with you and I have felt the same way many times when taking photos of people whose stories I didn’t ask for (as a photographer, rather than a film documentarian, the narrative is much harder to collect). But I do hope you managed to explore the stories of other people in the film through their voices, even if you could not get this particular man’s narrative, and I look forward to watching all ten chapters!

  • Vino Gamage

    Guy, Heidi and Phil

    Best wishes in your careers.

    1. We are lucky. Because you have been ”privileged” – aid agents couldn’t take their mobile phones into the detention camps and couldn’t even speak to the IDPs – I cannot believe how you gained admission and you don’t even get any harassment from the army while filming. What’s the magic spell? Look ar Sara Sidner arguing with the President:
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pzGj2hYoymo&feature=youtube_gdata
    2-minute excerpt from CNN video on ‘Witness to Survival” by Ms. Sara Sidner on her visit soon after the Presidential elections

    2. Journalists have been barred from the Northeast not only in the last 3/4 years, there have been several episodes of press censure on the Northeast at crucial times in the last six decades.

    3.You won’t believe how lucky you are: In 1958 Tarzi Vittachi had to smuggle the manuscript of ”Emergency 1958” to the UK to publish it:
    ”When a government, however popular, begins to pander to racial or religious emotionalism merely because it is the loudest of the raucous demands made on it, and then meddles in the administration and enforcement of law and order for the benefit of its favourites or to win the plaudits of a crowd, however hysterical it may be, catastrophe is certain.”

  • Pearl Thevanayagam

    Way to go budding Spielbergs. Can’t wait to see the finished docu.

    On a serious note, there are numerous first hand account of life in the warfront emerging from non-journalists such as Guy Gunaratne and Deshan Tennakoon and I am sure there are some precious film and photo images we have yet to see.

    I know guy lives in the UK but would it not be possible to gather round these budding talents and organise an exhibition.

    Of course funding would be a big issue but you have to start somewhere.

    Let us encourage our own talents instead of letting big media organisations take the credit.

  • Davidson Panabokke

    Heidi
    ”… the accusations leveled at my home region, the idea that western countries and INGO’s as a whole had only malicious and selfish motives behind their involvement and had little concern with keeping the peace. ….”

    This is distilled malice hurled at the international community and INGOs to stop them from speaking about the continuing oppression of Tamils. If you wish to glimpse into it, please read the reports by AI, HRW, ICJ, IBA, MRG, etc. on Sri Lanka in the last 5 decades.

    The oopressed have no representation at intergovernmental bodies and the international community believe what the oppressors say. Hence the intergovernmental bodies like the UN and the Commonwealth have been violating their human rights obligations towards the oppressed.

    What has been happening in the last 12 months alone shows how cruel the government is towards the Tamils: denying aid to the IDPs(still detained or ”released”) who have been bombed, shelled, displaced around for three decades and brutalised by the draconian PTA/ER, continuing to let the occupation army destroy the social fabric of Northeast, ……

    The truth is not only in the camps but spread out all over the Northeast.

    Please report the truth if you wish to help the oppressed.

    That is sure to bring peace to Sri Lanka too.

    Successive governments have been hiding the truth and blocking the path to peace.

  • Mary Tony

    Guy, Heidi and Phil,

    Truth is not confined to the camps but distributed in
    Time: (most crucially) post-independence to date
    Space: mostly in the Northeast but affected very much by all what has been happening outside the region.

  • http://www.facebook.com/pages/The-Truth-That-Wasnt-There/359874725510 Guy Gunaratne

    RTD:

    I’m glad we’ve expressed it in a way that can evoke a response like yours. It was something we did not expect to feel. For myself because coming from a pretty prestigious Journalism course it is instilled in you fromt eh get-go that all this is nonsense and the journalistic creed is to expose and hold to account. Hold to account yes, but exposing whilst undermining a persons dignity is something I could not reconcile. None of us could.

    Vino:

    The Sara Snider clip is particularly indicative of what it was like for foreign journalists during those final months. A lot of frustration and anger – from both sides. But thing is what we found was that it was a catch-22 situation. There was absolutely no trust between the journalists who were seeking access and the government who were ultimately needed by them to grant thema ccess to the palces they wanted to go.

    I would argue that the thumping of fists on the part of the journalists and INGO’s did not help their cases much and neither did the government’s almost nonchalant dismissal of their demands help theirs. Of course I would err toward the idea that there is an obligation on the part of the government to let journalists into the frontlines but its the manner in which journalists also go about getting it that also need to addressed.

    We were very lucky yes – but we also had an almost naive sense of priority to the truth and it was a lot of hard work!

    Pearl:

    thanks for commenting. Spielberg’s not so much – I’d have preferred budding Broomfields or Errol Morris’s but okay! I am certain there are images and video that have yet to come to light but there is always a concern over security and sources. Part of the message of this film is an invitation to those who may have valuable missing pieces to come forward.

    We’re also very partial to the idea of any kind of exhibition, here or in Sri Lanka.

    All ears!

    Guy

  • http://www.facebook.com/pages/The-Truth-That-Wasnt-There/359874725510 Guy Gunaratne

    Mary Tony –

    Truth is distributed as you say but I would us the term scattered instead. Our journey took us up to the north east and whilst trying to scavenge snatches of what happened all we found were missing pieces that never quite formed a whole. As Phil wrote, the most important images and truths that should have been documented were not. It’s also among the people who survived through all of this that are of real value for continuing narrative.

  • http://www.facebook.com/pages/The-Truth-That-Wasnt-There/359874725510?ref=ts Heidi Lindvall

    Davidson,

    I completely agree that the abuse hurled at the international community was perhaps whipped up to keep wider concerns at bay and discredit the organizations that were trying to bring issues to light. From our viewpoint we have seen a shift from Sri Lanka in terms of their Western alliances to the ‘other side’ as some might put it – China, Iran et al so I’d suppose the need to assure the West is seen as less important.

    My biggest concern is that this ill feeling would spread among the ordinary people I found so friendly. There is an energy among everyone that I found impossible not to find engaging. I just hope that won’t be marred by all that has gone on.

  • Pearl Thevanayagam

    Guy’s team and Deshan,

    I don’t know why but this idea of an exhibition keeps nagging me. Rory Peck Trust holds an annual photography awards sponsored by Cannon and Sony here in London in memory of freelance photographer Rory Peck who was killed while on duty in?

    Anyhow, Once our generation disappear these images are what our future generation will have and it is important to record these events.

    Now Frontline Club in London hosts quite a number of events for war correspondents and news photographers including exhibitions and it is a pretty famous venue.

    There are obstacles such funding but if Guy’s team shops around you could find some organisation to sponsor this exhibition.

    Frontline has given considerable publicity to Sri Lanka’s war.

    Also, there are other venues. The main thing to promote war photography is that it is balanced and not propaganda material. To this effect I would suggest that we get cameramen from all communities for this proposed exhibition.

    And we need to time this; perhaps on the anniversary of July 24, 1983 or thereabouts.

  • http://www.facebook.com/pages/The-Truth-That-Wasnt-There/359874725510 Guy Gunaratne

    Pearl –

    I’m eager to have a Frontline Club session. I was at the previous one where you were a speaker actually and I was dismayed by how it digressed into a shouting match between certain members of the audience and all the abuse thrown at the speaker from Human Rights Watch. Another reason why I hope any screening and Q & A session we have with this film will result in a rather more grown-up affair.

    Timing is a problem as all three of us will be heading off to Uganda for he whole of July to make another film on the rehabilitation efforts of child soldiers there. But I hope to work something out once the film is finalized.

    An general exhibition would be wonderful. I’m a new fan of Deshan’s work so we’d be more than happy to contribute.

  • Punitham

    The three eager beavers(you are much younger than my children),
    Thank you for all your efforts. Your writing and the way you respond to the comments is simply brimming with eagerness to tell the story to the outside world.
    ”….how we as students somehow managed to gain access to areas no ‘real’ journalist could ….”

    Instead of a Gunaratne, had there been a Gunaratnam, what would have happened?
    In June/July a group of doctors from another country went to help in the camps. One in the team was a Tamil doctor who had never been to Sri Lanka but he was held back by the Defence Ministry for a few days while others had gone to Vavuniya.

    Heidi
    ”…the need to assure the West is seen as less important …”
    YES, yet refusing the much-needed hand to get up on their feet is more than distilled malice towards Tamils who have been not only battered by the 30 years of ‘military war’ but also battered by the politico-economic oppression(I ‘m itching to give an example but that would do injustice to the extent of oppression) that began within months of independence. Prof Rajiva explained it as not letting the Tamils ”depend” on UN aid. What can be more venomous than this?

    Guy
    ”…thumping of fists on the part of the journalists and INGO’s did not help…”
    If you went in there in June, you haven’t heard much of the denial of access to INGOs including MSF and all the horrible things that went on in the camps. Journalists going later on may have ”thumped”.

    Best wishes

  • http://www.facebook.com/pages/The-Truth-That-Wasnt-There/359874725510?ref=ts Guy Gunaratne

    Dear Punitham,

    ‘Instead of a Gunaratne, had there been a Gunaratnam, what would have happened?’

    No. I very much doubt it. It was hard enough to get anyone to talk to us in the first place let alone get past the ‘foreign’ barrier and the ‘…but you don’t speak Sinhala’ one (I don’t).

    “..you haven’t heard much of the denial of access to INGO’s”

    Sure, yes. Good point. In fact when we got hold of a contact from MSF they declined to be filmed – the reasons they gave were frank. They simply did not want to do anything that would disrupt they’re valuable work in the field. Which we completely understood, of course. I guess I was thinking more of the likes of CNN et al. I believe the BBC/C4 were more subtle going in but less so going out.

    Eager – very much so. It has been the plan all along that we use this film not as the end point of our journey but the start of the next chapter. We would like to build a discourse around film and I think the months ahead we will try and follow the film as it makes the rounds – Q & A’s that sort of thing. Groundviews, of course was the perfect choice to begin from.

  • http://www.facebook.com/pages/The-Truth-That-Wasnt-There/359874725510?ref=ts Guy Gunaratne

    Wow. Please everyone excuse my apparent dyslexia!

  • Rohan Cooray

    This is the most ridiculous film preview I have ever seen. It concentrates on all the suffering of the innocent tamils … that is the only time you hear any dialog ..then there are corpse being taken around and you are allowed to assume and dont know if its a civilian or LTTE??

    You are looking for the truth and you didnt find it cos you didnt get your facts right. Making a film is not about getting access to some restricted place and then filming everything you see. If you want to communicate a message to the public make sure you communicate an accurate one. Where are the scenes of the innocent civilians who died on their way to school? the buses that were just heaps of ash? The bombs in Colombo schools. Why has this now become a big moan about the tamils in camps, the whole country lived in fear in their houses which were like concentration camps.

    Sri Lanka has had enough problems without some attention Seeking students running to Jaffna and talking endlessly about their shocking experience of mosquito bites. Even Colombo is shocking and horrifying if you go to the right places instead of to the beach resorts you settle in when on holiday.

    We don’t need more immature, inaccurate films going around about things you know nothing about.

    Carry out your reaserch and find out the truth .. its is your job to do it. Not visit the exciting restricted part and come back moaning that the truth is not there just so that you can have a big lie to say.

    Yes many suffered during the few months when the army crushed the LTTE and the ‘many’ were tamil civilians but the rest of SL suffered more than 30 years …and though they are not in camps they still suffer the mental / physical wounds this war has caused.

    You live in UK among the majority of the tamil people who are desperately seeking asylum. They will go to any cost to be able to remain in the UK including risking their relatives / grandparents/ childrens lives for it bcos they are hungry for money.

    I am not saying the government did what was right but they did what they had to do and sometimes that is not always right… the reason you were able to go their seeking the truth was bcos they did what they did.

    Just absurd!

  • http://www.facebook.com/pages/The-Truth-That-Wasnt-There/359874725510?ref=ts Guy Gunaratne

    Hi Rohan,

    Thanks for coming over to Groundviews, I hope now that you are here you’ll quit spamming our youtube channel and we can address your concerns fully.

    So firstly,

    ‘…then there are corpse being taken around and you are allowed to assume and dont know if its a civilian or LTTE??’

    – My friend I believe it is quite obvious if you listen carefully, that the body is of slain editor Lasantha Wickremetunge.

    “…Where are the scenes of the innocent civilians who died on their way to school? the buses that were just heaps of ash? The bombs in Colombo schools.”

    – We know that. That is why we address it in a good proportion of the film.

    “Sri Lanka has had enough problems without some attention Seeking students running to Jaffna and talking endlessly about their shocking experience of mosquito bites.”

    – We would love to go to Jaffna, but haven’t. Attention seeking perhaps and to be fair I have moaned about the mosquito bites in the past. But not in the film.

    “Yes many suffered during the few months when the army crushed the LTTE and the ‘many’ were tamil civilians but the rest of SL suffered more than 30 years …and though they are not in camps they still suffer the mental / physical wounds this war has caused.”

    – Again, this is very much in the – completed – film. And a large part is dedicated to it.

    “You live in UK among the majority of the tamil people who are desperately seeking asylum. They will go to any cost to be able to remain in the UK including risking their relatives / grandparents/ childrens lives for it bcos they are hungry for money.”

    – Your opinion. It ain’t ours.

    “I am not saying the government did what was right but they did what they had to do and sometimes that is not always right… the reason you were able to go their seeking the truth was bcos they did what they did.”

    – It seems we are in agreement finally. The journey up north is a journey many Sri Lankans have been dreaming of for quite some time. Now for the most part they can.

    Rohan, it seems you have confirmed many of the concerns we had as to the reception of this film. That it would be an anti-government – pro-Tamil film about the horrors the government had committed and not what the LTTE had. It is not. It addresses the horrors of war, the scarring nature it has mentally, physically and the problems that arise when journalists try and cover it.

    And to address a concern you mentioned on our youtube channel but failed to reproduce here – why are we in the film so much? Because this is our story. We tell it through our collective experiences and we hope give others a voice through ours as illustrated in the clip above.

    Yes, we are in the film. A lot. And if you dislike us for some reason then I’d suggest you stay clear – but then you would lose the legitimacy of your opinion on what the film may or may not be trying to say.

    I hope this goes some way to allaying your fears but I stress again, please wait until you see the final film. I hope my patience with you here assures you that we are not trying to polarize others with similar concerns but openly invite them.

    Best,

    Guy

  • wijayapala

    Dear Heidi,

    I’d suppose the need to assure the West is seen as less important.

    And pray tell us why is there any need to assure the West? How is the West more important than the countries that actually contributed something positive to bring this 25+ year war to an end?

  • Punitham

    Guy
    When I mentioned Gunaratnam,
    I meant you wouldn’t have been allowed in in the first place.
    I didn’t mean anything about the ”Sinhala” or ”foreign” barrier when you are inside.
    OK.
    I’ve just two minutes ago bumped into:
    http://thesamosa.co.uk/index.php/sri-lanka-special-report/49-news-and-features/358-sri-lanka-fear-and-trauma-one-year-on.html
    Sri Lanka – fear and trauma, one year on, Nina de la Preugne, 19 May 2010

    Hope you have a ‘fruitful’ time in Uganda.
    Best wishes to all the three beavers

  • http://www.facebook.com/pages/The-Truth-That-Wasnt-There/359874725510 Guy Gunaratne

    Pintham,

    No yeah I understood, that is actually what I meant. I meant it was barrier to get anyone to talk to us before we got access. People did look at us with suspicion because we were foreign and spoke no Sinhala – the officials etc. I very much doubt we would have got even close if I was a Gunaratnam.

    Thanks for the link.

    Found it intriguing that you put ‘fruitful’ in quotation marks. Perhaps you are aware of the quite startling news we found out – because of the areas we traveling to has been ravaged by war – absolutely nothing grows. Not even fruit.

    Best,

  • http://www.facebook.com/pages/The-Truth-That-Wasnt-There/359874725510 Heidi Lindvall

    Dear Wijayapala,

    Whether or not there is a need to placate the West is completely up to your government to decide, certainly not me. I’m simply stating that there has been a shift in focus geo-politically, not that there shouldn’t be one or one is less or more important. And as I have said I just hope this shift does not bring with it ill-feeling toward those in the West who do want to help. That’s all.

    Heidi

  • Punitham

    Comments here and elsewhere in the groundviews and around the world is about the effect of LTTE terrorism on Sinhalese. They don’t give a damn about the state terrorism on Tamils before, during and after the LTTE, ie from Day1 of independence that continues to date and no abatement on plan for the future.
    If 2500 years of Buddhism hasn’t penetrated the heart, please try humanism.

  • Pearl Thevanayagam

    Let us give peace a chance as the old cliche goes. Guy and his generation cannot be criticised their forefathers in their blind nationalism chose to divide the island on ethnic ratio.

    We need to encourage people like Guy because unlike us they have travelled wide and far and they understand humanism better than our generation.

    It is incumbent on us to promote their efforts towards peace-building.

    Let us admit they are an innovative lot.

  • http://www.facebook.com/pages/The-Truth-That-Wasnt-There/359874725510 Guy Gunaratne

    Hmm I have a lot of views on the previous generation. I personally believe that our generation are far more a hopeful a bunch than the previous. Probably as we don’t carry the global mental scarring of two world wars, the subsequent ripples it led to among smaller nations like Sri Lanka and the divisions it sparked among socio-political spheres. We tend to opt for hope rather than caution since we no no better – broadly speaking.

    Though I have seen many among my own generation blaming a whole heap of mess on the previous. Some, of course is merited. But I don’t see much in the way of progress coming out of playing the blame game. Some young people I got the chance to discuss this with the documentary in Sri Lanka are trying – unity is a key concern, and education. But unless the responsibility is taken up by us, the generation after uss are just going to end up lambasting us for missing the opportunity. I’d suggest the first thing we need to do is talk about difficult things, together, honestly and with maturity. We probably can’t deliver a perfect world but perhaps a less messy one.

  • Punitham

    Beavers
    Everytime someone questions denial of access to the Northeast, the government has been saying ”mines”, ”mines”, …..
    You escaped all those mines!!!!

    OK, make Uganda fruitful.

  • Mansab

    http://www.thesamosa.co.uk/index.php/sri-lanka-special-report/49-news-and-features/358-sri-lanka-fear-and-trauma-one-year-on.html

    ”Ministry of Defence officials told the reporter that clearance is required in order to prevent journalists from “reporting bad things on what is happening in Jaffna and Vanni”.”

  • http://www.facebook.com/pages/The-Truth-That-Wasnt-There/359874725510 Guy Gunaratne

    Punitham –

    We did escape all those mines. (Just). Phil and Heidi nearly got blown up by a field of them. We drove through another field of them at midnight and we did, in fact see the arbitrary scattering of these things on the beaches of Chalai. All in all, we did come away thinking there was a lot of work to be done in de-mining the area.

    Guy

  • http://www.facebook.com/pages/The-Truth-That-Wasnt-There/359874725510 Guy Gunaratne

    Mansab,

    Saw this Mansab thanks, just goes to show the lack of obligation felt upon the ministry toward those they feel might slant what they see. As we found out it is indeed a factor, we too came in with tinted eyes at what we saw and slowly came to the realization that we would be doing a disservice if we were to simply follow our expectations.. It would have been very easy at the time to crouch down, get a shot of some barbed wire, have a child walk behind it and have it sent to one of the papers back home. The reality was far more complex than that. That moral issue is one that has predominance in our story. It points to a far larger issue which is how in the world anyone is meant to believe anything when the truth is so contrived at both ends.

    Guy

  • wijayapala

    Dear Heidi,

    Thank you for your response.

    And as I have said I just hope this shift does not bring with it ill-feeling toward those in the West who do want to help.

    I wasn’t aware that there are Westerners who want to help Sri Lanka, and I suspect that most Sri Lankans would share in my confusion! We’ve seen a lot of Westerners offering advice on our own country, even though they could not even pronounce our names properly, but not a lot of actual help.

    Could you tell us who would like to help, and what they would like to offer? I’m sure this would go a long way towards restoring a level of faith in the West.

  • wijayapala

    Guy,

    All in all, we did come away thinking there was a lot of work to be done in de-mining the area.

    Did you mention in your documentary what would happen if Tamil refugees were forced to return to areas that had not been de-mined?

  • http://www.facebook.com/pages/The-Truth-That-Wasnt-There/359874725510 Guy Gunaratne

    Wijayapala,

    Yes, we do show that there were mines spread around the areas we were shown. And very arbitrarily scattered over large areas – these we felt were the two things that most needed to be shown. And yes we have shown that. These mines are not a myth – as far as we saw.

    Guy

  • http://www.facebook.com/pages/The-Truth-That-Wasnt-There/359874725510 Heidi Lindvall

    Wijayapala,

    ‘Could you tell us who would like to help, and what they would like to offer? I’m sure this would go a long way towards restoring a level of faith in the West.’

    The truth is we are not all the product of Amnesty International, Ban-Ki-Moon, Channel 4 or whoever is deemed as ‘the West’ who has so wronged Sri Lanka. We – that is myself and other individuals like Guy and Phil are all ‘from the West’ and are trying to help. We come with no ulterior motive – we are not funded via the backdoor and have no interest in Sri Lanka other than to help. In our particular case we would like to clarify a period of the country’s history where we were privileged enough to get closer to than many others at the time.

    If you have no faith in organizations – political or non-governmental – do you at least have faith in humanism or the simple idea that individuals can mean well?

    If the onus is on us to restore the level of faith in our intentions – its on you to be open minded enough to accept that we do exist.

  • wijayapala

    Guy,

    These mines are not a myth – as far as we saw.

    Yes, but did you take the time to explain that Tamils will get blown up if they try to return to their homes in areas with these mines? Remember your audience consists of Westerners who probably would not be able to locate SL on a map. They need everything to be explained slowly, patiently, and comprehensively.

  • wijayapala

    Heidi,

    The truth is we are not all the product of Amnesty International, Ban-Ki-Moon, Channel 4 or whoever is deemed as ‘the West’ who has so wronged Sri Lanka.

    Sounds good, but I’m a bit confused. Earlier you seemed to suggest that the above were being maligned because they were “trying to bring issues to light,” and that you wanted to dispel notions that these groups have selfish/malicious motives. So why are you now appearing to distance yourself from them?

    Perhaps I misunderstood…I’m not trying to catch you in a contradiction or something like that.

    In our particular case we would like to clarify a period of the country’s history where we were privileged enough to get closer to than many others at the time.

    Again sounds good. To whom exactly would you like to clarify this period?

  • wijayapala

    One more comment, Guy,

    it seems you have confirmed many of the concerns we had as to the reception of this film. That it would be an anti-government – pro-Tamil film about the horrors the government had committed and not what the LTTE had.

    My apologies but I got the exact same impression after viewing the above clip. Maybe your full documentary is more even-handed but the clip appeared to rehash what you can read in The Guardian or watch on Channel 4 (which undoubtedly is airing your film… haha just kidding!).

  • http://www.facebook.com/pages/The-Truth-That-Wasnt-There/359874725510?ref=ts Guy Gunaratne

    Wijayapala,

    I rather have more faith in our audiences intelligence than that. I don’t believe in spoon-feeding people information but our job is to get them emotionally engaged and have then come to their own conclusions. Having said that I do believe you will be satisfied with how we tackle of the mines issue with the caveat that it is not the only issue in a short 1,1/2 hour film.

    As for your second comment – perhaps that is down to our choice of clip. But we expected any clip to be picked apart by Groundviews readership and for us to be asked to clarify, and we are happy to do so.

    I’m going to ask all of you a question now:

    Given the specific time period we cover (May – June) and the stylistic nature of the film – what is most important thing you hope to see and hear? Many of you, including yourself Wijayapala, seem very eager to see a film like this but have your own views on what issues the film should take on – so I ask all of you – what is the most important message you wish to take away? And what is of most concern now as we head toward an uncertain future, and what do you feel we should try and highlight?

    We’re listening…

  • http://www.facebook.com/pages/The-Truth-That-Wasnt-There/359874725510?ref=ts Heidi Lindvall

    Wijayapala,

    I think you misunderstood. Never at any point did I say I wanted to dispel notions that groups like Amnesty, HRW etc had malicious intentions – personally I don’t believe they do at all – but that’s certainly not what we are trying to do with our film or a stance I wish to be representative of. What I said was that I wanted to challenge anyone who would go so far as to paint everyone with the same brush. That ‘the West’ – another term I have great difficulty with and am open for any suggestion as to who ‘the West’ refers to – are all the same and are out to ‘get’ Sri Lanka.

    I’m talking about the individuals here Wijayapala, those like myself, Guy and Phil who are trying in their own little way to help but who might find it hard to get past this whole idea that because we are from ‘the West’ we must have some ulterior motive. That is what I want to dispel.

    I get that you are skeptical and given how you perceive foreign people ‘offering advice’ as you say – I understand where you are coming from – but again I ask that if you do not have any faith in in organizations – political or non-governmental – do you at least have faith that individuals can mean well?

    “Again sounds good. To whom exactly would you like to clarify this period?”

    We encountered lots of opinions and voices on our journey and I think it would be of value both in Sri Lanka and abroad among the Diaspora – so that is where we will primarily focus our film and hope to spark discussion within.

  • wijayapala

    Dear Heidi,

    I think it would be of value both in Sri Lanka

    If it’s in English, or doesn’t at least have Sinhala and/or Tamil subtitles, then it may not have much value because very few people will understand what you’re saying. And you’ll probably be sending a message that you’re not interested in communicating with this majority.

    As for the diaspora- whether Sinhala or Tamil- from my experience they’re a waste of time. Most of them have forgotten about Sri Lanka, and a chunk of them are far more racist than anyone you’ll find in SL. I wonder why “Western civilization” hasn’t yet rubbed off on them.

  • wijayapala

    Sorry, one last comment Heidi,

    If the onus is on us to restore the level of faith in our intentions

    If you can understand why Sri Lankans have a negative view of Westerners (including many of those who may have appeared to be friendly to you), that would help a great deal. This negative view wasn’t simply “whipped up” by the regime. Rather, the regime is exploiting a sentiment that is already there.

  • wijayapala

    Guy,

    what is most important thing you hope to see and hear?

    Instead of a film about Sri Lankans, why not a film about Westerners who travel to SL? If there is such a big concern how Sri Lankans view Westerners, then perhaps you can use such an opportunity to set the record straight, instead of showing things that most of us already know.

  • http://www.facebook.com/pages/The-Truth-That-Wasnt-There/359874725510?ref=ts Guy Gunaratne

    Wijayapala,

    ‘Instead of a film about Sri Lankans, why not a film about Westerners who travel to SL..use such an opportunity to set the record straight?’

    I doubt that would contribute to the wider discussion from our point of view. And may I repeat what Heidi has already mentioned a number of times – we do not represent ‘the West’. We represent ourselves.

    ‘As for the diaspora- whether Sinhala or Tamil- from my experience they’re a waste of time. Most of them have forgotten about Sri Lanka, and a chunk of them are far more racist than anyone you’ll find in SL. I wonder why “Western civilization” hasn’t yet rubbed off on them.’

    Wijayapala, if I was sensitive to such comments, I would find this quite offensive. However I’m not – so I will just assume that your contact with ‘the Diaspora’ is limited at best. Friend – I am myself of the Sinhala Diaspora. And I believe with this film, my patience with commentators such as yourself and my replies, I hope that I’ve shown that I have certainly not ‘forgotten about Sri Lanka’.

    However, there is a disconnect between the Diaspora and Sri Lanka sure – both in terms of information and realities – and its one of the concerns we wish to address with the film. And its generalized comments like that – on both sides – since I am sure you are aware the same things are said by some quarters of the Diaspora about people back home – same words actually i.e racist, waste of time – this is something we hope can be quelled by bridging of the two communities both within the Diaspora and between the Diaspora and you guys back home.

    Guy

  • wijayapala

    Guy,

    I doubt that would contribute to the wider discussion from our point of view.

    And how will your film contribute to the “wider discussion” (and what is the “wider discussion” you’re talking about?)? What does your film have that we cannot find elsewhere?

    And may I repeat what Heidi has already mentioned a number of times – we do not represent ‘the West’.

    Yet your friend Heidi’s statements on this forum largely concerned our perceptions of Westerners. Why would she be so concerned if she doesn’t consider herself a representative of “the West?”

    I hope that I’ve shown that I have certainly not ‘forgotten about Sri Lanka’.

    Obviously I was not talking about you. I was talking about the majority of the Sri Lankan diaspora. Darini Rajasingham-Senanayake appears to echo my position when she stated:

    “It is well known, as with the Palestine/Israel conflict that Diasporas often tend to be far more intransigent and unwilling to compromise than those who remained at home…Tamil and Sinhala ultra-nationalism and extremism is most visible at this time from the respective diasporas, but there is also an emerging disconnect between the diaspora leadership and those in-country who wish to compromise, co-exist, and work with “other” communities to build back better.”

    I am sure you are aware the same things are said by some quarters of the Diaspora about people back home – same words actually i.e racist, waste of time – this is something we hope can be quelled by bridging of the two communities both within the Diaspora and between the Diaspora and you guys back home.

    But why should anyone in SL care about what the diaspora thinks? (sorry if this un-Sri Lankan bluntness offends you, but hey I’m trying to communicate in a more Western-style to reach out to you!)

  • http://www.facebook.com/pages/The-Truth-That-Wasnt-There/359874725510?ref=ts Heidi Lindvall

    Dear Wijayapala,

    ‘If it’s in English, or doesn’t at least have Sinhala and/or Tamil subtitles, then it may not have much value because very few people will understand what you’re saying.’

    Good idea. We’ll work on it.

    ‘If you can understand why Sri Lankans have a negative view of Westerners (including many of those who may have appeared to be friendly to you), that would help a great deal.’

    Can you first start by defining who you refer to as “Westerners” and who you have a negative view of and what exactly you think I should understand?

    I come from a minority of Swedish speaking people in Finland. If you can tell me what exactly Finland or better yet my minority group of Swedish speakings Finns have done to harm you or your country that justifies your resentment toward me, then I am listening. If not, I believe this is quite unjustified.

    ‘Yet your friend Heidi’s statements on this forum largely concerned our perceptions of Westerners. Why would she be so concerned if she doesn’t consider herself a representative of “the West?’

    I have tried various times to explain that I was seen as a “representative” of “westerners” by many Sri Lankans but by no means do I think it was justified or do I wish to carry that title. As has been said before, I represent myself and no one else – to be honest if you even asked me represent the whole of Finland – I couldn’t – but then could you in all fairness be asked to represent all Sri Lankans, or Asians, South Asians or ‘the East’?

    Generalizing in this manner is frankly rather ignorant and as has been said before, I hope that other people can be more open minded and at least believe that some individuals who do not originate from Sri Lanka, can still mean well.

    Heidi

  • Punitham
  • Punitham

    http://www.peace-srilanka.org/index.php?option=com_content&view=category&id=1&Itemid=121

    1 WINNING HEARTS AND MINDS IN JAFFNA Monday, 31 May 2010 Dr. Jehan Perera
    2 INDIGENOUS REALITY AND THE PROSPECT OF RECONCILIATION WITHOUT DEVOLUTION Tuesday, 18 May 2010 Dr. Jehan Perera
    3 STRENGTHENING THE CULTURE OF FEAR OR DEMOCRATIC PROBLEM SOLVING Monday, 10 May 2010 Dr. Jehan Perera

  • wijayapala

    Dear Heidi,

    Can you first start by defining who you refer to as “Westerners” and who you have a negative view of and what exactly you think I should understand?

    To clarify, I do not have a sweeping negative view against all westerners. Actually I know quite a number of westerners who demonstrated a strong commitment to helping Sri Lanka, such as Fr. Henry Miller who lived and worked in Batticaloa for six decades and became an integral part of the local community. The key indication of anybody’s good intentions is *commitment*. Conversely, without commitment any professed intent of good will is meaningless.

    Regardless, whatever I think is insignificant compared to what the bulk of the population believes. Therefore rather than telling you my perceptions of westerners, I would rather encourage you to think more about why most Sri Lankans think the way they do- specifically what you believe westerners do or do not do to create these perceptions- instead of explaining them as the result of government propaganda.

    If you can tell me what exactly Finland or better yet my minority group of Swedish speakings Finns have done to harm you or your country that justifies your resentment toward me, then I am listening.

    I don’t believe that I harbor any personal resentment toward you. I don’t even know you. I’m only responding to your statements.

    For most Sri Lankans, there isn’t much of a difference between Sweden and Finland, at least no differences that matter to them. Their impression was largely formed by the conduct of the Scandinavian SLMM during the ceasefire years. Do you know what the SLMM was?

    could you in all fairness be asked to represent all Sri Lankans, or Asians, South Asians or ‘the East’?

    Unfortunately this is how the world works. I didn’t make up the rules. I’m reminded of that whenever I go through Heathrow International and get a “special treatment” based on the way I look, or when I traveled through Europe by train. Whenever I interact with non-Sri Lankans, I *always* assume that they will treat me as a representative whether I want to be or not.

  • Heidi Lndvall

    Dear Wijayapala,

    I do understand what you mean by someone being seen as a ‘representative’ based on their ethnicity whether they like it or not. However, I do think there is a big difference in stereotyping someone based on their appearances while for example traveling opposed to holding a grudge against individuals and automatically questioning their intentions based on their skin colour. I know it happens, but that does not make it right. And it is precisely this kind of prejudice that we are open to confronting in conversations like these.

    I have also heard about the SLMM and many Sri Lankans told me about it during my stay there. Upon my return I have done more research and realised I was severly misinformed by many. There are always two sides of a story and people should me more sceptical to believe what they are being told. As far as I know, Finland and Sweden, for example ceased to support the mission as LTTE opposed any EU countries participating as they were not believed to be impartial due to LTTE being seen as a terrorist organisation. I might, however, be mistaken.

    If you do, however, want to tell me actual facts of how Norway (who was leading the SLMM program) wronged Sri Lanka then I am listening. I am extremely open minded to facts and am not taking any sides in this matter. I am however not interested in hearing peoples sceptical assupmtions and misinformed opinions that are not based on anything valid.

    Heidi

  • wijayapala

    Dear Heidi,

    I know it happens, but that does not make it right.

    I’m afraid it’s not as simple as you’re trying to make it. Let me illustrate by giving you a scenario. I’m a Sinhala who has “good intentions” and wants to help Tamils, and I volunteer to travel to the northeast to work. When I get there, I’m surprised to find that the locals are not quite as friendly or agreeable as I expected them to be. Should I:

    a) get offended, because they have no right to judge me simply because I’m a Sinhala who can’t speak a word of Tamil (but I have “good intentions”) or

    b) shut my mouth and try to listen and understand why the people do not trust me, as that would actually prove that I have good intentions?

    Upon my return I have done more research and realised I was severly misinformed by many. There are always two sides of a story and people should me more sceptical to believe what they are being told.

    It’s nice to hear that you know more than us ignorant Sri Lankans. Here’s an article by the University Teachers for Human Rights (Jaffna), a Tamil human rights organisation:

    Impunity in the Name of Peace: Norway’s Appeasement Strategy Claims Another Victim
    http://www.uthr.org/Statements/ImpunityinthenameofPeace.htm

    Norway’s Role
    Since the beginning UTHR(J) has expressed concern over major flaws in the peace process that reward impunity, encourage the LTTE to violate the Cease-fire Agreement (CFA) and provide no meaningful checks on abuse.

    We have also consistently raised questions about Norway’s positioning, which has often been both politically charged and **extremely soft on human rights.** Norway began the peace process in 2002 by quite openly sidelining President Kumaratunge in favour of her long-time political adversary, Prime Minister Ranil Wickremasinghe. It showed its readiness to further interfere politically when it threatened to withdraw from the peace process over the President’s takeover of ministries dealing with security in November 2003.

    At the same time, Norway has virtually ignored the LTTE’s political killings and its scandalous conscription of children. The Norwegian government even facilitated LTTE efforts to strengthen its worldwide propaganda network (and thus its control over Tamil populations) by for example, helping them to acquire transmitting equipment. Norway has facilitated travel abroad for so-called LTTE fact-finding missions, including coaxing European representatives to meet them. Norwegian lobbying of the international community has encouraged tacit support for the LTTE’s methods, and diluted or obstructed many initiatives aimed at holding it to account.

    It is time for Norway to reassess its role in the process and have the courage to admit that they made wrong assessments of the ground realities and to openly declare that it is not only the CFA that needs reappraisal, but also that the SLMM is not an adequate mechanism for the task at hand.

    The Murder of T. Subathiran : Sri Lanka’s End Game
    http://www.uthr.org/Statements/Subathiran.htm

    Amidst murder and the abduction of children for use as combatants, the Government and Norway got the rest of the world to praise the peace process. When confronted with violations by the LTTE, they simply said that there was no evidence – evidence for which they never looked. Members of non-LTTE groups who tried to draw the attention of Norwegian or SLMM officials to their plight, found themselves effectively rebuffed, sometimes the annoyance of the officials reaching the point of rudeness. To the Norwegians, those insisting on building and preserving democratic norms were a nuisance.

    If you’re interested in hearing Finland’s role:

    Sri Lanka attack was Tigers’ revenge: Finnish observers
    http://reliefweb.int/rw/rwb.nsf/eacea085bacc7974c1256ec40042c62b/0db8f2d41b2d74b78525718e0055ffc7?OpenDocument (might take awhile to load)

    In case you do not understand the significance of the article, a Tamil colleague of mine virtually screamed that the Finnish monitor should have been fired on the spot because by giving a “causal” explanation he justified the attack and essentially gave the green light for more reprisal killings. If the SLMM had been more professional, it would have condemned the killings individually as not only ceasefire violations but breaches of human rights.

  • http://www.facebook.com/pages/The-Truth-That-Wasnt-There/359874725510?ref=ts Heidi Lindvall

    Dear Wijayapala,

    I certainly do not think that Sri Lankans are ignorant or that I know better. Not at all. You know a lot more about your country and I am happy to admit that, I am purely trying to challenge these notions and question just how credible one sided reporting can be, from both sides. What I heard in the country and what I have heard from the outside have been very different stories which highlights how difficult it is to trust any sources and claims in a conflict that has been conducted without any impartial, independent reporting.

    I don’t have much time at the minute but I assure you that we will get back to you on your comments on Norway, the SLMM and Finlands involvement.

  • vino gamage

    http://transcurrents.com/tc/2010/06/vanni_northern_sri_lanka_where.html#more
    Vanni, northern Sri Lanka, where war has never ended, 1 June 2010:
    ”The area is still actually in the hands of the military, which allowed the return of the population but force them to live in absolute poverty. The military blocks any attempts to improve their lives, but does not stop abuse and violence.”

  • vino gamage

    http://transcurrents.com/tc/2010/05/president_approves_tna_visit_t.html
    President approves TNA visit to Menik Farm IDP camp but Defence Secretary disallows It, 23 May 2010:

  • wijayapala

    Well it’s been 2 weeks since we last heard from Ms. Lindvall. Looks like her assurances to return to the discussion were typical of what we came to expect from the SLMM!

  • http://www.relevantruth.wordpress.com Guy Gunaratne

    Hi Wijayapala,

    Heidi has been busy with our next project in Uganda at the minute sorting out intricacies. Please don’t take it personally as her assurances are not disingenuous. But what is with the goading? I hardly think it is fair to use her to vent your own frustrations of the SLMM. So please desist.

    The wider discussion I alluded to earlier is exactly this. A discussion, a discourse and a debate on issues that are relevant to the topics raised in our film. To promote a discussion between those of us who would like to contribute positively. But that does count on you listening as well as taking your turn to vent if that is what you wish to do.

    I as well as Heidi have repeatedly stated that we do not represent the SLMM, the West or have any affiliations with any organizations that you feel have had destructive influences within Sri Lanka. I personally find it incredibly disheartening that someone like yourself who I would think may have quite a constructive take on these things cannot rise above the pettiness as evidenced in your posts.

    Wijayapala, listen. I apologize myself for taking a while to reply. But at least I and Heidi are trying to fit this in and will do as long as we can, I personally assure you of that. We do run a company however and we do have other projects like our documentary on former child soldiers in Uganda. This is a worthy distraction from this threadboard I’m sure you’d agree but this stuff does take a lot of our time. So please be patient with us and we will – as evidenced here – with you.

    But again, there absolutely is no need for goading.

    “Obviously I was not talking about you. I was talking about the majority of the Sri Lankan diaspora.”

    With the above you seem to concede that you might be in error by generalizing and have shown that you are willing to give me the benefit of the doubt, so again why not Heidi?

    You asked why you should care what the Diaspora thinks. You don’t have to care about what anybody ever thinks Wijayapala. You certainly don’t have to care what I think, but that doesn’t stop me expressing my opinion or respecting yours.

    Finally,

    “The key indication of anybody’s good intentions is *commitment*. Conversely, without commitment any professed intent of good will is meaningless.”

    Buddy, you are talking to a couple of people from London who have spent the last 12 months making a documentary on Sri Lanka without funding, stuck with it, turned down other work and are still here talking to you about it. There is nothing to question here.

    I get that you are impatient but commitment is impossible without a modicum of patience.

    Guy

  • Heidi Lndvall

    Wijayapala,

    I’m sorry I have been very busy and will be away for the next months working on another project wihout any internet connection so I apologise in advance for not being able to respond to you.

    Unfortunatley it is very hard for me to comment on Norways role as I don’t have much knowledge of what actually went on there. What is obvious to me is that your information will inevitably be one sided and unbalanced but no, I cannot know what actually happened and neither can you.

    The article you claim to show ‘Finland’s failings’ as part of the SLMM demonstrates nothing except the fact that one man said something that was perceived to be a poor choice in words and I agree it might not have been very professional and said with much foresight as to how his words would be percieved – but that is a matter of perception. This happens. However, I don’t think this was a blanket statement or that he had meant what you claim – but that is the way you have read into it. It was a statement, but by no means in my mind was he trying to justify anything. There was no ‘green-light’ and I think it would be false to even presume that given the context is unknown. But again, its all in how you read into it.

    Perhaps this is yet another example of where wider access to the conflict zones might have helped clarify things.

    Heidi

  • wijayapala

    The article you claim to show ‘Finland’s failings’ as part of the SLMM demonstrates nothing except the fact that one man said something that was perceived to be a poor choice in words and I agree it might not have been very professional

    As my above-mentioned (Tamil) friend said, the SLMM should have fired that individual on the spot for making such an extremely irresponsible statement- one of many made by various SLMM officials that contributed to the end of the ceasefire. As it was, that particular statement was entirely in line with the SLMM’s agenda, so of course no action would be taken.

  • wijayapala

    But what is with the goading?

    How else should I respond when I am rather arrogantly told, “What is obvious to me is that your information will inevitably be one sided and unbalanced,” after I cited a very respected human rights organization in SL on the gross negligence of Norway and the SLMM?

    Buddy, you are talking to a couple of people from London who have spent the last 12 months making a documentary on Sri Lanka

    Buddy, if the SLMM told me that they were angels of peace because they spent over six years in the island, what do you think my answer to that would be?

  • http://www.relevantruth.wordpress.com Guy Gunaratne

    Wijayapala,

    ‘How else should I respond when I am rather arrogantly told, “What is obvious to me is that your information will inevitably be one sided and unbalanced,”’

    Well, you weren’t responding to that at all. I believe the quote above appeared after you began goading.

    I would much rather bring things back to the pressing discussion; will you not consider that the overriding issue here is that because access to these areas were so restricted, transparency and communication was at such a minimum that it exacerbated concerns at a time when it was most important to define and clarify at all levels. In my belief it bred a climate where misinformation ran unchecked and propaganda was presented as fact. Narratives diverged and the truth was lost among the din of triumphalism at home and talk of revenge among some quarters abroad. These things could have been avoided if critical thinking was allowed to penetrate discourse – as it happened, it was subdued by forces at the time and the run up to the war and is now dismissed as an irrelevance.

    To confound it all we are still talking about some international conspiracy that hedge those that otherwise might have been open to constructive engagement against any kind of international/diaspora co-operation. Your own views on this subject would be greatly valued here since it seems like you might be an example of what we are up against.

    Guy

  • wijayapala

    We do run a company however and we do have other projects like our documentary on former child soldiers in Uganda.

    Ever hear the story about the lifeguard who would throw flotation devices to someone drowning, but would neglect to hold the rope on the other end because he was running off to save other drowning people?

    will you not consider that the overriding issue here is that because access to these areas were so restricted, transparency and communication was at such a minimum

    For many Sri Lankans, the “overriding issue” is not the restricted access but rather why you are so concerned about something that your own governments already do.

  • wijayapala

    I believe the quote above appeared after you began goading.

    If you are referring to my post on 12 June, I did not intend to “goad” anyone as I assumed that you were not even reading this thread at that point.

    But it did ultimately produce a response from you, didn’t it (albeit a less-than-enlightening response)? ;-)

  • http://www.facebook.com/pages/The-Truth-That-Wasnt-There/359874725510?ref=ts Guy Gunaratne

    Here is an interview we did for widely read journo website journalism.co.uk:
    http://www.journalism.co.uk/5/articles/539465.php
    Guy