Saturday, September 12, 2009

Campaigners defend Lanka video - JDS Responds to the minister

By Tony Cross - Was a video showing Sri Lankan soldiers a fake? A government minister says yes and one reader agrees but the group that distributed the clip answers its critics.

Sri Lanka’s International Trade Minister GL Peiris this week told RFI that a controversial video of soldiers apparently shooting prisoners is a fake and rejected calls for an international inquiry into the alleged incident. Journalists for Democracy in Sri Lanka (JDS) which made the clip public has replied to the minister.

“Since the government of Sri Lanka has started a vicious campaign against JDS, we are compelled to find ways to counter their reactions without exposing any of our sources on the ground,” a representative, who prefers to remain anonymous for fear of reprisals, writes.

In reply to Peiris’s argument that an international inquiry would be a breach of Sri Lanka’s sovereignty, he says:

“The war in Sri Lanka has a history. Sri Lankan state would not have been able fight such a massive war without the external support they had. It was funded by external powers. The weapons, training, expertise came from outside. Foreign militaries got involved. But no one said that the whole issue is being excessively internationalized, and that will affect the sovereignty of Sri Lanka as long as everyone backed the military option. But now, when some international bodies started to raise human rights concerns, the government of Sri Lanka seems to be very much interested in raising the sovereignty argument.”

JDs argues that sovereignty “does not mean a state should be given an unconditional right to killl its own citizens” and cites accusations made against several countries, including Guatemala, El Salvador, Cambodia, Chili, South Africa and Rwanda.

“When the present leaders of the Sri Lankan government - specially President [Mahinda] Rajapaksa - kept on attending the UN human rights council meetings in the late '80s as an opposition parliamentarian to appeal to the world to intervene and stop the state sponsored killings in the South of Sri Lanka, where were all these "sovereign state" arguments?” JDS asks. “Regardless the fact that there had been requests made by many international bodies, Sri Lanka has never carried out a single independent inquiry to investigate the crimes that were committed under the banner of ‘sovereignty’. Just one example: Since April 2004, at least 34 media workers have been killed. We, the JDS, has listed all the names with relevant details. Mr.Peries should reveal how many perpetrators have been brought to justice? So here the logic seems to be ‘No justice = Full sovereignty’.

Peiris said that an analysis had shown that the video is fake.

JDS replies:

"Mr.Peries is talking about a piece of video evidence, where anyone can clearly see some unarmed men were been killed in cold blood by some armed men who appeared to be wearing the uniforms which are very much identical to that of the Sri Lankan army. That is a crime that should be investigated not by "somebody in Sri Lankan media", but by an transparent institutional body that is independent and internationally recognized. When you are being accused of committing a crime and seen as the perpetrator, you cannot be the judge as well. If it is to be independent and accepted, the Sri Lankan government and its military should stay out of the way completely and let an independent invesitigating body to do the job, without any interference. Unless it is done, what is fake is not the video clip, but the so called ‘technical analysis’ done by ‘somebody’, whose name doesn't seem to be remembered even by the minister himself.”

Another correspondent, Bully Sammy, takes the minister’s side and sends a link to an analysis of the video.

© Radio France International

Related Links:
No to shootings video inquiry, says Lanka minister - Radio France International

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