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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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The day after I wrote about the suspicious nature of the attack on Dr Fox, I found greater reason for worry in the fuel Channel 4 was adding to the fire. Jon Snow had tweeted ‘Amid morass of Fox/Werrity: the Sri Lankan aspect builds’. He claimed too that ‘we shall have more today from the same high up SL source’. The other principal suspect as to undue influence of the Tiger rump on British media, Jonathan Miller, said tweeted ‘Sri Lankan sources tell C4 news Werritty discussed arms deals in Colombo’.

Needless to say Channel 4 itself got in on the act with ‘Channel 4 sources say Adam Werritty’s many Sri Lankan visits were connected with arms deals. Jonathan Miller reports’. Needless to say this was taken up, for instance by a Sinthu Vijayakumar who ‘Commend CH4’s continuing coverage on SL – Liam Fox friend accused over Sri Lanka ‘arms deal’. The comparatively civilized but nevertheless anti Sri Lankan MP Mike Gapes had noted a question ‘to get PM assurance Fox and Werrity did not benefit financially from Sri Lanka Development Trust’.

Liam Fox (centre) with Adam Werritty (right) and Colombo politician Ravi Karunanayake pictured in Sri Lanka in 2009

The next day however all this seemed to have died down, perhaps because Snow did not get what he wanted from his ‘high up’ Sri Lanka source. We did see a picture in the ‘Independent’ of Ravi Karunanayake, described as a diplomat, with Fox and Werrity, and I would presume that had been provided by Ravi himself, since I would be surprised if the ‘Independent’ kept a bank of pictures of him with the several politicians he has been photographed with over the years. But by and large the press seemed to have moved to other matters with regard to Liam Fox, and Sri Lanka did not loom large as Channel 4 had predicted the day before. That does not mean they will abandon their Fox Hunt, and I am sure the Sri Lankan connection will be recycled again before long.

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Liam Fox (centre) with Adam Werritty (right) and Colombo politician Ravi Karunanayake pictured in Sri Lanka in 2009

Liam Fox has been the subject of much criticism, and some of it seems to relate to possible financial benefits to Adam Werrity, his former flat-mate. If indeed it turns out that Werrity has benefited from business deals through Fox’s influence, or that he has been funded by British tax-payers, then I presume such criticism is deserved.

I have been astonished however by other aspects of the hounding of Fox that have to do with Sri Lanka. I was alerted to this by Jason Burke of the Guardian, who called me up from Sri Lanka, where he now is, to ask about Fox. He seemed to assume that I would know about Fox’s visits to Sri Lanka, or perhaps it was only that I tend to answer questions and would provide good copy for a journalist. Unfortunately I could not help him since I met Liam Fox only once, and that four years ago when he came to see me soon after I became head of the Peace Secretariat. This was in the context of his having brokered several years previously what was known as the Liam Fox agreement, between President Chandrika Kumaratunga and Leader of the Opposition Ranil Wickremesinghe.

Though the agreement was no longer a reality, it seemed that Fox was still interested in contributing to peace in Sri Lanka, and I thought his commitment genuine.  However, though I tried once or twice, I was not able to see him when I visited England, and unfortunately I missed his Lakshman Kadirgamar talk earlier this year, since I was abroad.

Jason Burke’s questions however ranged far and wide. He asked me if I knew of a Trust Fund, which he believed Fox had set up soon after the defeat of the LTTE, to assist in rebuilding the North. I had not heard of this, but told Jason that I had not been involved in that programme, but he should talk to the Secretary of the Presidential Task Force, Mr Divaratne. Then the questioning got stranger, since I was asked if I knew about Bell Pottinger, and whether they had any connection with Fox. Since I had worked with Bell Pottinger for about a year, when they were handling public relations with regard to Britain, I knew the firm, but had to tell him that they had not mentioned Fox at all in my presence – nor Adam Werrity, since that was his next question.

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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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The meeting at the House of Commons to screen ‘Lies Agreed Upon’, the refutation of several falsehoods propagated by Channel 4, provided many interesting insights into the manner in which the whole case against Sri Lanka is being built up.

The screening was intended primarily for politicians, so that discussion could be of issues germane to the ongoing political discussion, but the High Commission also realized there was interest in other quarters, and it had intended to have other screenings of the film too. One was being planned for the media on Saturday 15th, while I was still in London, since I too had had an expression of interest from the ‘Guardian’ when they rang me about the Liam Fox issue. They also told us that Tamil groups were upset at not being invited, which seemed strange because the type of person who had complained had not previously attended events that the High Commission had organized. Still, since some Sinhalese who had attended such events were also upset, at the restrictions that had had to be imposed given the limited numbers possible, it obviously made sense to have more events.

We needn’t have worried. Those who wanted to get in to attack the Sri Lankan government did so, which was all to the good because they were told by several Tamils as well as Britishers present that it was necessary now to move forward.

Siobhain McDonagh MP

Amongst the politicians who turned up was one who had come to disrupt, but after one attempt to divert the discussion to British media problems, she left and did not come back. This was Siobhain McDonagh, who it was revealed had been in touch with Channel 4 over the making of their film. She also brought with her two people who she claimed were her researchers. One was a young man who had  signed himself into the meeting as Daran who told me however that he was a freelance journalist called Canaa. He claimed to have been in touch with Dr Shanmugarajah while the latter was in Mullivaikkal, and promised to send me photographs that he claimed he had got from him dating to that period.

When the promised pictures did not come, I called him up, to be told now that he actually worked for the Bank of Scotland, and he would definitely send me the pictures soon. He was a strange boy, obviously deeply commited to the cause the LTTE had upheld, though I suspect that, were it not for people like Siobhain McDonagh who have no scruples whatsoever in their thrust for electoral popularity, his energies could be channeled into support for the Tamil people rather than the rump terrorist movement.

It will be necessary however to persuade him to look at facts rather than to regurgitate falsehoods. When I was discussing the inconsistencies in the Channel 4 film, and in particular the fact that it was finally admitted that it had been edited, by the so-called UN experts, he denied this and said that it had been certified that it had not been edited. When I asked him by whom, he said that Channel 4 had said so. I then quoted to him the extract from the UN expert report that mentioned that the editing had been upside down as it were for three segments, and that the experts noted the fifth segment had been taken at a different time or in a different place, but he thought this could be dismissed in comparison with what Channel 4 had claimed. Later, when I spoke to him outside, where he was engaged in what I assumed was journalistic communication with whoever he worked for, he informed me that it was ‘The American Institute of Technology’ [author note: this is the only institute of that name to be found, clarifications would be welcome] that had asserted the video had not been edited. Read the rest of this entry »

I was deeply shocked by various pronouncements in the recent debate in the House of Commons on what was termed the issue of Human Rights on the Indian Subcontinent. Much of the debate was about Kashmir, and several MPs weighed in against India in what seemed a very unfair and biased fashion. But India is large enough to look after itself, and even to cope with the indignation the Britishers expressed when it was reported that India had reacted strongly to the British parliamentary debate on Kashmir. After all, as a lady called Joan Walley put it so expressively, ‘There are many people in Stoke-on-Trent from Kashmir who feel strongly…’

What shocked me, sympathetic as I am to the feelings of anyone from Stoke-on-Trent, was that these British MPs simply had no regard for truth. They made things up as and how they liked. I had previously been used to Siobhain McDonagh, but what was astonishing was that two Conservatives had jumped on the bandwagon as far as Sri Lanka was concerned.

I will confine myself here only to matters where blunders were egregious. There were several matters about which looking at evidence would suggest these sanctimonious creatures were wrong. But to be totally wrong, with no concern for evidence, struck me as very sad indeed.

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Rajiva Wijesinha

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