Getting the Truth Out: Creating a Sinhala version of 'Sri Lanka's Killing Fields'

Sri Lanka is preparing for an election which could change the political landscape of the country  - yet fail to confront the most central issue the island faces.

Now it is more important than ever that those who care about justice and democracy for all the peoples of the island are able to get to the truth about what happened – and is still happening – in the North and East of the island

But with a judiciary whose independence has been crushed and a media which is craven in its servitude - or intimidated and threatened when it is independent -  that information is kept from the people of the island.  In particular it is kept from the Sinhala majority.  Instead, (to the discomfort of increasing numbers of them), they are subjected to a relentless diet of government propaganda, backed by the strident – and all too often violent and racist - ultra-nationalism of the BBS and its fellow-travellers.

Nonetheless it cannot be denied that something significant is happening.  The monolith which was the Rajapaksa regime is under threat.  And as people begin to question the corruption and lies of the regime, they may begin to question other things too. 

It is a matter of regret to many that they will not be encouraged in that questioning by the opposition, which has entirely failed to address the vital questions of truth and justice over the end of the war and the need to find genuine political solutions to long-standing and continuing grievances of the Tamils of the North and East.  Nonetheless this is a time when people are asking questions.  That is why we think it is vitally important to get our film, No Fire Zone, to a new audience in Sri Lanka.

I am pleased to announce that we are currently working on an updated Sinhala language version of the film which we plan to release in mid-January.  I am also pleased to make the announcement on the website of Journalists for Democracy in Sri Lanka as it too launches a Sinhala service.  JDS has been a consistent, brave and independent voice for truth and justice in Sri Lanka – and has played a vital role in telling the world about what is going on there. Its journalists, many of whom have been forced into exile and are drawn from all the communities of the island, have gathered vital evidence and provided essential analysis which has been of enormous help to us in our work.

When I was last in Sri Lanka, during the Commonwealth Heads of Government meeting last November, there was one particular event which seemed to me to sum up the approach of the Rajapaksa regime to the evidence of the terrible crimes committed by government forces at the end of the war.

Rajapaksa proclaimed to the world that journalists would be free to travel wherever they wanted in the country.  But when we attempted to travel north to find out what life is like today for the Tamils in the former war zone, our train was stopped in its tracks by a hurriedly organized, government orchestrated,  demonstration of several hundred people.     

They shouted angrily demanding that I – and the Channel 4 News team – stop spreading “lies” about Sri Lanka.  But when we asked who had actually seen the film – not a single person said they had. 

We know that the regime will do its best to ensure that situation continues.  We know they will continue to try and prevent people seeing the film and its devastating evidence – and we know that while they are doing that,  the repression, the land-grabs and the other attacks on the Tamils of the North and East  will continue. 

We hope, by releasing the latest version of the film in Sinhala, that we can help in the process of getting the truth out – a vital stage in the search for justice, reconciliation and political solutions.

© JDS 

Callum Macrae is a journalist and filmmaker who has filmed and directed many award-winning television documentaries for Channel 4 and the BBC. His works include Iraq's "Mission Billions" - a 'Dispatches' investigation filmed in the US and Iraq, into Coalition misuse of billions of dollars of Iraqi funds. He is the Director of "Sri Lanka’s Killing Fields", an investigatory documentary about the final weeks of the Sri Lankan Civil War.


Journalists for Democracy in Sri Lanka

  • JDS is the Sri Lankan partner organization of international media rights group, Reporters Without Borders (RSF). The launching of this website was made possible by the EU’s European Instrument for Democracy and Human Rights (EIDHR), of which Reporters Without Borders is a beneficiary.