Sri Lanka's Lies Agreed Upon screened in U.S. Congress
Gathering hosted by Sri Lankan Congressional
Caucus and Embassy of Sri Lanka includes secretary of defense's speech,
panel discussion on reconciliation
Congressman Jack Kingston: "I've never seen a
people who have come so quickly together, and after 26 years of
Ambassador Jaliya Wickramasuriya: What we wish
for is cooperation, friendship and goodwill to take our country
Minister Rajitha Senarathna: Minister Rajitha
Senaratne: "Since Independence, the highest spending for the development
of the North, as well as the South, is under the leadership of President
The Sri Lankan Congressional Caucus and Embassy of Sri
Lanka sponsored Nov. 2 the screening of the video "Lies Agreed Upon," -
a rebuttal of allegations made about the end of Sri Lanka's conflict
against terrorist by a British news program.
The screening included a panel discussion of Sri
Lanka's 26-year conflict against the terrorist group Liberation Tigers
of Tamil Eelam and reconciliation and redevelopment efforts since
government forces defeated the LTTE in May 2009. The event was attended
by a large, representative gathering, including NGOs, human rights
groups, congressional staff members, professionals and members of the
Sri Lankan community.
Kingston, (R-Ga.), discusses post-conflict development and
close U.S.-Sri Lankan strategic ties during a Nov. 2 event
on Sri Lanka in the U.S. Congress.
"This is an important opportunity for both sides to be
heard," said U.S. Congressman Robert Aderholt, (R-Ala.), a co-chair of
the Sri Lankan Congressional Caucus. The caucus' other chairman,
Congressman Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.). Apart from the screening, guests
and Congressional staff members also viewed portions of a speech by
Defense Secretary Mr. Gotabaya Rajapaksa on the release of the Defense
Ministry's report: Humanitarian Operations Factual Analysis July 2006 to
May 2009. Copies of the report and the "Lies Agreed Video" CDs were made
available to all guests.
Congressman Jack Kingston, (R-GA.), who two weeks ago
was one of three members of Congress to visit Sri Lanka, also spoke
during the screening.
"I had a casual conversation with a police officer,"
Congressman Kingston said of his visit. "He said, 'Things are different
now. We are getting back to normal. You can go to the market place
again. We are so happy and pleased.' This was an off the record comment,
and what it did framed up so much of what I walked away with."
Dr. Rajitha Senarathna, Sri Lanka's Minister of
Fisheries & Aquatic Resources Development, also attended the screening.
Minister Senarathna gave a brief talk, describing how redevelopment of
the North has created jobs and aided those who have resettled there, and
how the economy is improving with the fishing industry.Still, Dr.
Senarathna said, the conflict slowed development.
"This was a problem that we had in our country - the
North was neglected and the South was neglected," Minister Senarathna
said. "There was a rebel group in the South, and a rebel group in the
North." "Today this president spends the most money in the North, as
well as in the South."
The discussion panelists included Ambassador
Wickramasuriya, Ru Freeman, a Sri Lankan native, author and activist
whose recent novel, A Disobedient Girl, has won popular acclaim and
Raymond Vickery, a senior director at the Albright-Stonebridge Group, a
Washington-based international relations firm that is headed by former
U.S. Secretary of State Madeleine Albright.
Ambassador Wickramasuriya spoke of the longstanding
relationship and strong trade ties with the U.S., reconciliation and
redevelopment work in Sri Lanka and efforts by the expatriate community
in the U.S. to help relatives back home.
"I look forward to your continued support to enhance
the image of Sri Lanka as a peaceful and reconciled society, which is
governed by democracy, the observance of human rights and the rule of
law," Ambassador Wickramasuriya told the audience. "What we wish for is
cooperation, friendship and goodwill to take our country forward."
Ru Freeman told the audience that until recently she
had not been to Northern Sri Lanka since she was a child, but that a
trip there last year with her children and husband left her hopeful.
"Even among people who spoke no Sinhala or English, I,
who cannot speak Tamil, felt at ease," said Ru Freeman. "We found a way
to communicate...What I felt when I was there in person and what I feel
as an expatriate Sri Lankan is the arrival of the future."
Sri Lanka defeated the LTTE in May 2009, ending a
reign of terrorism in the country that began in 1983. Since the
conflict's end there have been no terrorist incidents.
However, Britain's Channel 4 earlier this year aired a
report using un-sourced video and unattributed allegations that accused
Sri Lankan forces of human rights violations. In reply, Sri Lanka
produced a point-by-point rebuttal, Lies Agreed Upon, which described,
for instance, how one Channel 4 source is actually a longstanding LTTE
militant. Other discrepancies were revealed when doctors and civilians
who were held by the LTTE went on the record to refute claims made in
the Channel 4 report.
Congressman Aderholt, in particular, noted that "both
sides of this story need to be heard," and that "Lies Agreed Upon"
screening represents an effort to fully air the issues involved. "There
needs to be balance."
Rajitha Senarathna (far left), Sri Lanka’s Minister of
Fisheries & Aquatic Resources Development, describes
development projects in Northern Sri Lanka during a meeting
on Sri Lanka in the U.S. Capitol building. Also pictured are
(right to left) Author Ru Freeman, Ambassador Jaliya
Wickramasuriya and Raymond Vickery, a South Asia expert.
Robert Aderholt, (R-Ala.), co-chair of the Sri Lanka
Congressional Caucus, addressing a gathering on
post-conflict Sri Lanka in the U.S. Congress.
of the audience attending the Nov. 2 event on Sri Lanka in
the U.S. Congress.
Courtesy: Embassy of Sri Lanka - Washington,
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