Like so many diasporic Sri Lankans I watched it, even staying up late (by my currently low standards that is).
Did I think that the first programme was a good thing? Yes. There’s a line, a quandary, a grey area after any conflictual situation. And it’s about what we should just put behind us and forget or accept and what we need to analyse and dissect in order to learn from to move forward.
There’s probably no one who would suggest that it’s wise to forget and / or accept absolutely everything, on all sides, and there’s probably no one who would think that’s it’s sensible to analyse and dissect every single thing. But the line has to be drawn somewhere and, for me, much of the positioning of the line has to do with the issue of civilian casualties (which sounds so much more PC than “civilians deaths”).
Up until after the showing of the first Killing Fields documentary there were of course no civilian deaths in the final days of the conflict at the hands of the GoSL.I’m not sure that there was a strict and binary tipping point but I’m convinced that the doco was the closest thing to it in getting the GoSL to change its approach. Frankly that was a good thing, only a start but a good thing nonetheless.
I asked a good friend about things and he told me that many people on the GoSL’s side feel that they’re being attacked and that they didn’t do anything wrong in the first place. I asked him how those people could explain then the GoSL’s change in stance from “no civilian casualties” to what it is now.
His response, which actually did astound me, was that “if there had been no accusations in the first place they wouldn’t have said zero casualties”. Of course there’s no way of testing his theory but I just don’t accept it. Chap A commits a crime, gets accused of it and, faced with a large amount of evidence, fesses up to it (a bit). And the theory goes that, had chap A not been accused then he would have admitted to it anyhow. Hmmm….spurious.
Over here the publicity leading up to the showing of KF2 was big in an underground sort of way. From the things I see and have seen on the ‘net I get the impression that people in Sri Lanka think that the whole of the UK observes things in Lanka and spends a lot more time and energy discussing them than is actually the case. It’s weird; the people who have an interest are interested and the rest just don’t give a damn. The Sri Lankans and the Sri Lankan diaspora were all aware of the programme, I’m sure a few who had that interest, maybe people who have holidayed in SL or who do business were interested too.
But, most people aren’t that bothered. It’s the morning after the night before and, as I sit here in my office dwelling on it, not one person here so far has mentioned the programme, asked my opinion or anything similar.
Before KF2 I had hoped that Channel 4, or the programme’s makers at least, wouldn’t make the “mistakes” ( a term I use very loosely) that had been made in the KF1, as those elements were used by some to attack the credibility of the makers and therefore the documentary. It’s the most basic of schoolboy tactics; shooting the messenger, but can be highly effective. And it was. After seeing it I reckon they did a better job in that respect, but time will tell.
*As it happens, about five minutes after I wrote the sentence in which I told you that no one in my office had asked about the programme, someone did. She was horrified.*
For the record though Jon Snow is a highly respected journalist and presenter here and most find it hard to believe that he’s full to the brim with the lack of integrity and hidden agenda many have suggested.
KF2 actually mentioned the GoSL’s counter “documentary” – Lies agreed upon – showing some footage from it and tackling the issue of why the Doctors who had been quoted and filmed in KF1 regarding the shelling of civilian targets and hospitals appeared to totally change their stories. Seriously I ask you, does anyone find it that hard to believe that these people were threatened with imprisonment and told what to say in Lies Agreed Upon?
I suppose, for people who have some knowledge of Sri Lanka anyway, things like KF2 don’t really change anything. They just reinforce opinions, whatever those might be. I didn’t really watch and learn anything I didn’t already think or know and I’d bet that was the case for you too.
The most salient points about the whole thing for me are simple, but often get lost or forgotten in all the rhetoric. As David Miliband said, the expectations of a democratically elected government are higher than that of a terrorist organisation. That doesn’t excuse or justify the actions of the LTTE, but it does say that there should be a higher power, a better standard of behaviour.
And, if the GoSL really has nothing to hide, then why the lack of a proper investigation and inquiry?
Of course the standard answers to the above are pretty much as follows:
- David Miliband, well he’s just evil, everyone knows that.
- Who would do the investigation? The UN is about as corrupt, inefficient and fundamentally flawed as can be and all white people are evil anyhow. Look at how they colonised us.
- The UK invaded Iraq illegally a few years ago, who are they to talk?
Well all these are points, but not very good ones. Shoot the messenger, attack the credibility of anyone who criticises and punish dissent will only last for so long, for a finite amount of levels. Then, somehow things come out. They always do in the end.
But, for those who are still learning, these things are a source of knowledge.
I had my girls with me last night but dropped them back at their mother’s before the programmes started. They’re almost sixteen and almost eighteen now, so I mentioned to them that it was going to be on TV later, without trying to push them to watch it.
I’m not sure about K, but I know A (the eldest) did watch it. They love Sri Lanka and have been going there regularly since they were each about eighteen months old, but don’t know much about its politics.
A texted me late at night and said:
“Is this what the Tamils did?”
I replied and said:
“Well its what both sides did A, really sad.” I missed out the apostrophe in “it’s” but it was a text and I sometimes live dangerously and go a little crazy like that.
“That was horrible. What’s sad is that it kind of makes me sort of not proud to say I’m from there after seeing that programme.”
“I know and I understand”. I said.
And I do know. And I do understand.