New war crimes campaign backed by some British MPs gets underway

Sinhala version of No Fire Zone to be launched today at UK Parliament

From Shamindra Ferdinando in London

A new campaign meant to pressure Sri Lanka over accountability issues will get underway today (March 10) with the launch of a new Sinhala version of feature documentary No Fire Zone: The Killing Fields of Sri Lanka, at the House of Commons. The launch will take place at 10.00 am.

Among those scheduled to attend the launch are Director Callum Macrae, Labour MP Siobhain McDonagh, Conservative MP Lee Scott. The meeting will also be addressed by a Sri Lankan in exile, Bashana Abeywardana.

The House of Commons event will coincide with British Prime Minister David Cameron meeting visiting Sri Lankan President Maithripala Sirisena at No 10, Downing Street.

The organisers said that the new Sinhala version of the documentary would be a challenge to the new administration in Sri Lanka.

Sri Lanka LandslideMacrae launched the original documentary in June 2011, over two years after the conclusion of the war on the banks of the Nanthikadal lagoon.

The organizers said that No Fire Zone team would discuss ways and means of utilizing the latest initiative to maximize the political impact in Sri Lanka. The existing restrictions imposed on the documentary by India, Malaysia and Nepal, too, would be discussed, the organizers said.

Sri Lankan officials pointed out that unsubstantiated allegations had been the basis for both Darusman report released on March 31, 201 as well as No Fire Zone telecast in June 2011. Both estimated the number of civilians perished during the final offensive in January-May 2009 at 40,000.

However, Labour MP McDonagh, who is scheduled to participate at the House of Commons launch of new documentary today had raised many an eyebrow by declaring in Sept 2011 also in House of Commons that the Sri Lankan military killed 100,000 Tamils, including LTTE cadres during the final assault, they pointed out. The Amnesty International accused the Sri Lankan military of killing about 10,000 civilians during the same period. But, a legitimate UN report that dealt with the situation in the Vanni from August 2008 to May 2009 remained still classified with a UN panel refusing to accept it, they said. The UN report placed the number of dead (both civilians and LTTE) during this period (Aug 2008 to May 13, 2009) at less than 8,000, they pointed out. The war was brought to a successful conclusion on May 19, 2009.

The previous government never challenged the UN and others propagating war crime allegations to explain why they couldn’t reach an agreement on the number of persons who perished during the conflict, sources said.