The government’s propagandhi response to Channel 4. Now can we change the channel?
People have said that war should have no civilian casualties. Rather than change the frame, the Sri Lanka government responded and said ‘there were no civilian casualties’. This was dumb. They’re only now starting to admit that civilians did die. That’s a start.
I was watching the government’s response to Channel 4’s Killing Fields, Lies Agreed Upon. It sucks just as much, only in the opposite direction.
What’s striking is that the poor people of the Wanni are just a political football, tossed between both sides. The LTTE used them tactically, as a human shield. The British media continues to feed on that war porn. In the government video, however, they’re used as government spokesmen, repeating that everything is fine. It’s like they have no purpose beyond dying or being given food packets. They’re pawns.
Throughout the world, human rights is an issue used by an opposition when they want something else – in this case, vengeance and a separate, racially based state. Even Mahinda used to be a human rights lawyer – when he was in opposition. The actual intention isn’t to further human rights, its to further ones own ends.
My point is that we shouldn’t play this stupid game anymore, it just hurts the people who have lives and kids on the board. The war was bad. Let’s stop fighting it. Sri Lanka is not going to be partitioned and there will be no Tamil Pakistan. Let’s be more like India and try to live together as something more than the sum of our parts.
This reconciliation has to begin with recognition. The government’s propaganda blind spot here has been played upon by cynical members of the LTTE and well-meaning people the world over. They need to see. People died in the war. Yes, they did good by ending the war, but they have to see that people did suffer and die.
At the Lady Ridgeway Hospital, I saw kids who were double, triple amputees. In Vavuniya I saw the same – many injured women and children, few men. To Sri Lanka’s shame, Mahinda said there were no civilian casualties. This was dumb. It was only yesterday that:
A defense ministry report released Monday said although the military followed a “zero civilian casualty policy,” it was impossible to avoid such casualties given the magnitude of the fighting and the “ruthlessness” of the opponent. (VOA)
This is obvious, but it’s taken years to come out. At least its come. The bigger issue is to move the debate away from the vicious cycle of violence to a virtuous one of reconciliation. Here, still, the government is failing. Their ‘Factual Analysis’ of the ‘Humanitarian Operation’ and ‘Lies Agreed Upon’ video have points, but they mess it up by rebutting Channel 4 point by point, with crappier production values. What the government should do is change the frame entirely.
The bigger task, the one that redefines the frame, is reconciliation and the push for an inclusive Sri Lanka. A Sri Lanka with equality for all and just governance that serves and protects all races, genders, creeds, whatever.
The fight wasn’t against terrorism or Tamils, it was against separation. It began because Sinhalese excluded Tamils from education, opportunities, dignity and life. Some Tamils had the idea of physical separation, but that didn’t and wouldn’t work (re: Pakistan). While elements of the LTTE (and others) are trying to continue that tactical battle, we should refocus on the broader issue.
How do we fight separation? How do we fight the divisions within ourselves? The government can provide security, but they can’t provide reconciliation. That’s something Sri Lankans have to do. Organizations like Sri Lanka Unites and Trail SL are helping in their own way. Economic integration also helps. Local government elections in the north are also a good thing, and those bodies [the Provincial Councils, specifically] should be supported to get the land and police powers promised them under the Constitution. This stuff all helps fight separation more than videos or media battles, and that I think is the point.
Living together. In peace. Being different but not being dicks to each other.