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May-18-2012 04:24printcomments

Sri Lanka's Frontline Denial

It isn't rocket science to see that Sri Lanka needs outside monitoring.

Sri Lanka meeting illustration

(LONDON) - The room was packed. The panel, consisting of journalists, activists and relatives of the victims, were speaking to an audience made up mainly of Sri Lankans. I was there too, partly because I admire the work of the film maker Callum Macrae and partly because this kind of bunfight is worth watching, however painful.

The representative of the Government of Sri Lanka, Rajiva Wijesinha, in fine pudding-basin style haircut, was fighting the corner for the ruling party. In a long and rambling discourse, part stream of consciousness, part shaggy-dog story, he unravelled the contents of his mind. Well some of it, at least.

Sitting next to him was a Sri Lankan victim of the LTTE whose testament of horror from the reign of Tiger terror (he was abducted and tortured at the age of thirteen before his parents were killed) was being shamelessly mis-used by Our Man From Sri Lanka for its own ends.

There was also Jan Jananayagam, spokesperson for Tamils Against Genocide, Callum Macrae of course, Yolander Foster, Amnesty International's excellent Sri Lankan researcher and the Chair, Stephen Sackur from the BBC's programme Hardtalk.

Pudding Basin had brought a few books for which he wanted one pound. The reason for this nominal sum, he informed the audience, was because he knew British fellows respected anything they paid for. The title of one of them.
The Road to Reconciliation & its Enemies [Documented Evidence & Logical Arguments against Emotional Exaggeration & Soundbites.]

The Road To Urbino

Roma Tearne is currently working on a short film Letter from Urbino to be shown at the National Gallery, London, on June 15th. The film is based on an idea taken from her latest novel The Road To Urbino that was then developed into an independent narrative. Shot in an unusual location in Italy to give the appearance of a hand-tinted postcard it combines a personal view of the paintings of Piero della Francesca with the Italian landscape.

Further details will be posted shortly.


What with his slender grasp of anything much, his denial of the authenticity of Callum Macrea's Sri Lanka's Killing Field and his generally vague logorrhea, Pudding Basin was giving the Chair a hard time of it. I thought he did rather well, considering. The Chair, I mean, not PB, whose deathless oratory lulled me into gentle slumber only to find myself woken up with a start when the gushing, 1940's pre-Empire prose, finally stopped. This man was a member of the Sri Lankan government?

The audience, those one removed from the sorrow and the pity of Sri Lanka's genocide, tittered. What else could they do in the face of such stupidity? At one point I marvelled at the way in which the other panelist, victim of the Tamil terrorist group, was being so shamelessly used for government propaganda. Why was it that this man's terrible loss could not be treated with objective understanding? And then, because there was nothing else I could do, because the discussion had reached its most formless stage, I opened my sketchbook and began to draw instead.

I noticed one or two murderous looks, coming from the Singhala side of the audience, present undoubtedly to defend their assets in their homeland.

Finally the woman lost it and began to shout. And had to be told to sit down. Grief, it was. Her voice was that of Grief held in check for years and years.

I noticed too for the first time how some younger, middle class Singhala and Tamil were uniting now in their desire (at least) for a kind of peace. Don't talk about the war, seemed to be the slogan. Move on, use the word peace, rebuild. Fine words, great sentiments. I agree.

But what of those who cannot move on, who do not have closure for their grief, whose loved ones are dead, disappeared, without a grave or in one with masses?

A lone woman stood up; beautiful, elderly, small. I had heard her say earlier that she would not cry tonight as she had spent the whole day crying. In a voice that rose like the waters of a tsunami she talked about the underlying causes of the civil war, the discrimination, the loss of life that had gone on for years. Since British Crown Rule had ended in fact. Brava, I wanted to shout. For hadn't I myself, in 1958 aged only four, seen a Tamil man burnt to death?

So what of this voice? Who will treat her grief as a sacred thing, give it dignity, rock it to sleep? Pudding Head closed his eyes and tilted his head back. The audience rumbled, agreeing and disagreeing, If grief and denial and greed and violence could coexist so seamlessly in an upstairs room in London imagine what it must be like, unchecked, in Sri Lanka itself.

It isn't rocket science to see that the country needs outside monitoring and that both victims and perpetrators need help in order to stop this terrible cycle.

The comedian Eddie Izzard once joked that the international community was happy to turn a blind eye on those countries engaged in killing their own people. It is only when they go next door, as Hitler did with Poland, do they intervene. If that is indeed still the case, Pudding Head and his henchmen will be just fine for the foreseeable future. Helped by those young middle class Sri Lankans who simply want to move on, whatever that means.

Roma Tearne: Contributing Writer / Author

Roma Tearne is a Sri Lankan born artist and writer. Her first novel, Mosquito, has been shortlisted for the 2007 Costa Book Awards first Novel prize.

Currently a Fellow at Oxford Brookes University, she has had many exhibitions including "Nel Corpo delle cittá" at the prestigious MLAC ( Museo Laboratorio Arte Contemporanea ) in Rome.

She became the artist in residence at the Ashmolean Museum Oxford in 2002 and while there, worked on "Happenings in a Museum" is extremely pleased to work with this esteemed author, and to be able to utilize her approach in communicating stories about war and ethnic strife that cross all boundaries; those things that make the very soul of our earth bleed needlessly.

Order Here

Order here

Order here

Order here

Roma Tearne's Writing Collection

Mosquito (ISBN 0007233655) was published on March 5, 2007 by Harper Collins.
Bone China (ISBN 0007240732), was published in 2008 by the same publisher.
Brixton Beach (ISBN 9780007301560), was published 2009 by HarperPress.
The Swimmer (ISBN 9780007301591), published in 2010, was long-listed for the Orange Prize 2011.

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Nelunika May 20, 2012 2:25 pm (Pacific time)

Rajiva Wijesinha on Roma Tearne, puddings and attributions of greed

Lanka Lier May 19, 2012 2:06 am (Pacific time)

DonkyMuthu was not intelecctually equal to the others in the panelist. If 20 years of British education cannot provide him the nuts what will. A potential Mervin in the making. May be shall we call him MervinMuthu

Shun May 18, 2012 5:14 pm (Pacific time)

Very Good Summary on what has happened , Keep the good works

sen May 18, 2012 3:12 pm (Pacific time)

pudding-basin is a fantastic name for the con man Rajiva Wijesinha, who was the secretariat for war mongering

Srivan May 18, 2012 12:24 pm (Pacific time)

Well said, Roma Tearne. One could not agree with you more that Sri Lanka urgently needs outside monitoring urgently. The UNHCR had set the ball rolling but close monitoring, and not succumb to the viles of people like PB who come all the way to lie through all 32 teeth!The same is happening on the part of the country's External Affairs Minister Pieris who is presently in the US to do likewise to Secretary Clinton and con his way through and think that they are very smart by spinnig yarns and cock and bull stories to the West.
If SL Leaders can get away with mass murder and gross crimes against humanity why was Charles Taylor of Liberia taken to the ICC and why indeed is Slobodan Mladic of Serbia (the "butcher of Srebrenica") being prosecuted at the ICC for butchering 7000 Muslim boys and men back in 1990s in a cruel attempt to perform ethnic cleansing and murder and rape and all sorts of vile acts. By any standard the SL regime should be also held to account by the same due process of international human rights and humanitrian laws for murdering at elast 40,000 innocent Tamil men, women and children in just 5 months from Jan. to May 2009 and wounding many tens of thousands more in so-called no-fire zones using even WMDs by aerial and land bombardments.

Surely the UNSG himself overflew the area the day after the massacre and described it as the most appalling scene he had ever seen anywhere in the world. Surely what has he done since then other than appointing the Panel which confirmed that worst crimes had been acommitted and recommending an independent UN investigation.

SL own LLRC was a half hearted attempt to exculpate itself from the worst crimes committed.Even those minimal recommendations are not implemented!

The Channel 4 videos are excellent evidence of a vile genocidal state in action. To deny its existence is part of the psychotic genocidal state in action. It is even more shameful that very qualified people like PB and many Sinhala people deny even the obvious reflecting the despicable and sadistic state of the country's governance mode from indepedencne to this day.

To know about Sri Lnak's fisrt race riot in 1958 one should read Tarzie Vittachi's book Emergency '58(Deutsche publication).Thngs have gotten far far worse since justice is non-existent and accountability is nil under the PTA which has been in vogue for the last 4 decades.

Thillai May 18, 2012 6:44 am (Pacific time)

Thanks Roma Tearne for Article here, in one of the fearless defenders of Human Rights, the Salem News, their dedicated staff, Tim King and in Colombo Telegraph website about the Cluster Bombs
The Cluster Bombs In Sri Lanka’s Paradise

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Sean Flynn was a photojournalist in Vietnam, taken captive in 1970 in Cambodia and never seen again.

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