Campaign to tarnish image: Sri Lanka

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B. Muralidhar Reddy

Mahinda Samarasinghe meets U.N. chief in Geneva

Five de-mining machines imported from Slovakia

COLOMBO: Sri Lanka’s Minister for Disaster Management and Human Rights Mahinda Samarasinghe on Saturday said the unverified video telecast by Britain’s Channel 4 on August 25 of an alleged extra judicial killing in January was part of a campaign to tarnish the country and shift attention from recovery back to the conflict period.

“The highly suspicious Channel 4 said they could not be given any authenticity to a video allegedly shot back in January this year and broadcast eight months later,” the Defence Ministry website quoted Mr. Samarasinghe as saying in Geneva after discussions with U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon.

He likened the video to the constant statements issued by four doctors in the war-torn Wanni region and publicised by the international media but who later confessed they were compelled to make those statements under pressure from the LTTE.

“This kind of things happened during the last stages of the conflict. Four doctors in the Wanni were used regularly by the international media to say there were massive human rights violations including bombing of hospitals and civilians by the Sri Lanka army. However, after May 19, the end of the conflict, the doctors publicly admitted that what they said at the time was a result of extreme pressure brought on them by the LTTE. But unfortunately by then, despite denial, the damage had already been done”.

“We also knew then there were certain video footage at that time smuggled out, according to sources, which turned out to be video footage shot by the LTTE stage managing or dramatisation of the videoed incidents. One such incident was exposed on the Defence website clearly showing a LTTE operative stage managing one.”

Mr. Samarasinghe said this was a repetition of those incidents. He added: “But in any case a comprehensive investigation is underway in respect of the Channel 4 video footage.”

The Minister said that during his discussion Mr. Ban he expressed grave concern about the video and promised the U.N. chief a thorough investigation into the authenticity of the footage and to keep him informed about the results.

Meanwhile, the government said five de-mining machines had been imported to Sri Lanka from Slovakia to expedite the de-mining process in the North.

“The LTTE terrorists have heavily mined these areas while fleeing at the final stages of the war. The de-mining has been paid priority in order to ensure that civilians are safe and secured after resettlement”.

“The five Bosena type machines — operated automatically — purchased from Slovakia were brought to Sri Lanka in a special cargo airplane on Saturday,” said the Ministry of Defence.

Secretary to the National Building Ministry W.K.K. Kumarasiri said the Army and eight other organisations were engaged in the de-mining process and the work was getting delayed as it was done manually.

Coordinator of the Sri Lanka Humanity De-Mining Project D.M.D. Alwis said only 10 square metres could be de-mined daily manually but these machines could clear 5,000 square metres.

De-mining is an expensive and time consuming process. The average cost of de-mining per square kilometre is estimated at $10,000. In his first interaction with select local and foreign media personnel on August 20, Army chief Jagat Jayasuriya said an area of about 8,000, including Mannar, Kilinochchi, Mullaithivu and parts of Jaffna districts, must be de-mined before it would be safe enough for the nearly 3 lakh war displaced to return to their original places of residence.



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