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At the Frontline Club discussion on Sri Lanka, I finally came across Frances Harrison. The name had been familiar, for in recent years, whenever I went to England, she used to tweet madly about me, in what seemed to me desperate hysteria, though I soon enough found out that many journalists tweet in that mad fashion. This time round, her fascination with me continued, in that she saw the discussion as ‘Ch 4 vs prof rajiva debate’ as she tweeted an hour before the discussion.

It is possible however that the lady is cunning rather than obsessional, because this was also a way of cutting out the contribution of Arun Tambimuttu to the discussion. Initially it had indeed been meant to be me and the High Commissioner debating Jon Snow and Callum McRae, but Snow dropped out. I thought it was because he was nervous since previously, when the High Commission had asked Channel 4 to invite me for a discussion, they had dodged, except once when we managed to corner them with the help of the BBC Today programme. However it is possible that, as one of his loyal fellow employees said before the discussion, in explaining his absence, he simply says ‘Yes’ to everything, and then changes his mind.

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The following remarks had been prepared in the belief that speakers would have about 10 minutes each. However, speakers were only given a few minutes for a few introductory remarks, the rest of the 45 minutes for the opening section being devoted to answering questions from the Moderator. 

Unfortunately I had no chance to make my introductory remarks since I was asked to respond to what Callum McRae said. I thought this required some analysis, in the time he had taken, but it seemed I was expected to respond only briefly, and then make my introductory remarks. This was made clear only after I had responded, but I suppose Stephen Sackur was doing his best to have debate from the start and could not then give me another chance to put forward some points for response myself. 

So here they are now –

I am grateful to the Frontline Club for this opportunity to engage with at least half the Channel 4 team responsible for such effective attacks on Sri Lanka. I am sorry that Jon Snow dropped out after he heard that I would be attending this event, but I am used to that by now, given the manner in which Channel 4 has consistently refused to engage with me, except when the BBC kindly allowed me to highlight their pusillanimity on the Breakfast Show. The interview that followed I think made clear the sleight of hand in which Channel 4 had indulged, which explains why repeated requests for further live discussion have been turned down.

… the motivations of Channel 4, given the Mutual Friendships that in a more just world would have been identified as conflicts of interests.

What should have been a lively discussion then on media manipulation and media ethics, or the absence of them, has now been transformed. We have only the commercial side of Channel 4, the Golden Dustman adept at turning rubbish into lucre. Interestingly enough, Dickens provides yet another clue to the motivations of Channel 4, given the Mutual Friendships that in a more just world would have been identified as conflicts of interests.

Siobhain Mcdonagh’s Researcher

I am not talking only of the political motivations of Shirani Sabaratnam and Stuart Cosgrove, who actually voted in a preposterous LTTE rump election in this country. I am talking also of the researcher for Siobhain McDonagh who claimed to have supplied Channel 4 with video evidence, who changed his mind about sending me this evidence, doubtless because it would have been obvious that it was tainted. Instead he sent me another video that is so clearly manipulated that he was roundly scolded for engaging with me by his mentors. Much of the information about this is available on http://www.youtube.com/reconcilesrilanka and on my blog www.rajivawijesinha.wordpress.com at the time of the meetings covered in those videos[Part 1, Part 2, Part 3].

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Mr. Tom Whipple (Journalist): I am reporting from The Times, I’ve got two very good questions, the first is, thank you for inviting us to come and visit Sri Lanka  because as you yourself know you have not granted any visas to journalists from The Times and to me personally and you say this after a year where you personally refused my visa to visit Sri Lanka to write of all things a travel piece about visiting newly opened hotels My second question is, I watched the Channel 4 documentary this morning in preparation for this. I got slightly confused. The key allegation from gathered evidence was as far as I can tell the video footage of assassinations and Tamils being tortured. I think after your video showed happy people doing basket weaving, you seemed to imply that that was video footage taken by LTTE soldiers pretending to be Sri Lankan soldiers speaking in colloquial Sinhalese shooting LTTE soldiers. Is that the correct interpretation of your position, and the key allegation in the film?

H.E. the High Commissioner: I’d like to hand that question over to Professor Wijesinha but first just one point, I did not personally refuse any visas because I was not here until the first of September (Mr Whipple subsequently apologized for his mistake)……

Professor Rajiva Wijesinha: There has been a lot of discussion about media access, some of us were very strong advocates of letting all the media in in 2009, and I’m glad we did so because a lot of the papers there reported extremely accurately and I think it helped us a lot because of the Indian situation. There were some politicians in India and some here in Britain who were up for elections and wanted to take political advantage, but we were able to refute some of the allegations because of the Indian papers, which reported very fairly. Immediately after the operation some Indian reporters were up there with the troops to report.

But the flip side for instance is a chap called Jeremy Page of the Times who I think deliberately twisted things. He called me to my office, and there was an Indian journalist there, and he stayed since they were similar questions. You should have read the two articles, the Times and I think the Deccan Standard, the same interview, and one glass was half empty and the other half full.

I went to India a few months after the war and the High Commission in Delhi was issuing visas but they did not issue visas to the Times and the Guardian. The latter had a man called Gethin Chaimberlain. I asked Jeremy Page, why do you tell lies, about supposed UN claims which the UN had specifically reported, and he said that he was told by some people in the UN that their bosses were too close to the Sri Lankan government and they told us these things.

I told him then what he should write is that certain people will disagree with their superiors and make certain revelations which the Times thinks are true, but it is not the UN that says these. One claim was specifically refuted by I think John Holmes, the British head of the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Assistance.

Gethin Chamberlain wrote in The Guardian – there were about four instances in which The Guardian corrected what he said subsequently – that 13 women  were found with their throats cut near the Manik Farm Welfare Centre. I asked the UN protection agency what is the basis of this? They said nothing, no basis at all, not even one such incident. Gethin said he realized the story was not true, and that he could not rely on the source he got it from, but he would not correct the story.

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Siobhain Mcdonagh's Researcher

I seem to have struck a raw nerve in making public my account of what Siobhain McDonagh’s researcher was up to, in publishing false stories and possibly making up false videos too. He finally got in touch with me again, not to send me the clips he had promised of attacks on hospitals, the evidence he had second thoughts about sharing, but rather to upbraid me and tell me about his prominent friends.

Amongst them it seems it the British Defence Secretary. This seems to me highly unlikely, since Philip Hammond is not the sort to consort with terrorists, even if they might bring him a few extra votes. Perhaps Daran is counting on those who have recently, ever since they realized David Miliband was not going to bring home the bacon, been contributing massive amounts to Conservative Party coffers. But I cannot see Hammond succumbing to such blandishments.

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Siobhain McDonagh’s researcher

After the meeting held recently in the House of Commons, a young man who claimed to be Siobhain McDonagh’s researcher (and also to work for the Bank of Scotland, during a later conversation) agreed to send me video footage of attacks on hospitals. He claimed he had a lot, and this substantiated a clip he had prepared of Dr Shanmugarajah saying that the Sri Lankan forces were attacking the hospital at which he was working.

Predictably he did not send me that footage. That decision was, he said, after careful consideration, which I could understand. I suspect that footage was what had been supplied to Channel 4. We know from that meeting that Siobhain McDonagh had been in touch with Channel 4 over the making of its film. It would certainly have been very telling if material for that film had been supplied to Channel 4 by her researcher, after which she claimed that the film was an objective account on which she based her allegations against Sri Lanka.

Fortunately her researcher, Canaa as he told me his name was, or Daran as he signed himself in and then emailed me, could not let well alone. In addition to sending me the clip of Dr Shanmugarajah talking, he sent me two more clips. One was gruesome, and seemed to be of the dead body of a soldier being carried by fellow soldiers talking in Sinhalese. It dwelt horrendously on his mutilated face. I could see no reason for this except triumphalism, to be used perhaps as propaganda, to show how effective LTTE terrorism was.

Daran however told me, when I asked him, that he had obtained the clip from a site selling film clips made by Sinhalese soldiers. When I asked him how much he had paid for this, he said he had got it free, as a sample. I think the story most unlikely, because it is extremely unlikely that fellow soldiers, even if filming the bringing back of a dead body, would have dwelt quite so ostentatiously on a mutilated face.

Even more suspicious was the second video, that of what seemed to be an aerial attack. The first part had planes flying and smoke rising, but the main substance was the footage of wailing over dead bodies. Some of the wailing also seemed exaggerated and false, but that is of course a subjective view. Clear was the fact that nothing actually connected the latter pictures to the former, and it seemed clear to even an amateur eye like mine that there had been a great deal of editing.

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They show their hand openly here in highlighting their animosity and fear regarding Mrs Rajeswary, who has been fearless in combating terrorism.

The Sri Lanka Guardian has now jumped into the fray with an article on the meeting held in the House of Commons on October 12th to screen ‘Lies Agreed Upon’, the rebuttal of the latest Channel 4 film on Sri Lanka. This was an unexpected bonus, because it makes even more obvious the networking between those opposed to the Sri Lankan government and Tamils  who do not support  the rump Tiger terrorists.

They show their hand openly here in highlighting their animosity and fear regarding Mrs Rajeswary, who has been fearless in combating terrorism. The headline of the Sri Lanka Guardian article was ‘Famous Tamil ‘Drama Queen’ defends Sri Lanka war crimes’. It is claimed that this was by their ‘Correspondent in London’, but it is in fact mainly a doctored regurgitation of what appeared in Tamil on what they term the ‘Swiss based Athirvu website that intruded the event’

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Siobhain McDonagh’s researching journalist

A very strange article about the meeting at the House of Commons to screen ‘Lies Agreed Upon’ appeared on the Athirvu.com website on 13th October 2011. I believe it was written by the young man called Daran whom I had befriended at the event, who told me that he was a freelance journalist called Canaa, but who turned out to have entered the event as a researcher for the Labour MP Siobhain McDonagh.

The article was intended to suggest that the event had been a failure, that the organizers had tried to keep out Tamils but three intrepid ones had gained entrance, and that they had dominated the event. That this is not correct will be apparent to anyone who watches the video of the event, salient extracts from which are available on my YouTube Channel, www.youtube.com/rajivawijesinha [Part 1, Part 2, Part 3]

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Rajiva Wijesinha

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