By Roma Tearne –
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.]
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.
Reconciliation And Justice: Frontline Club, London 16 May 2012 by Rajiva Wijesinha