UN-der wraps: secret report on last days of Sri Lanka civil war

I saw a film this week. It was a tragedy (you’re not the only one who can spoil the endings Niluccio) and has haunted me since. It was a film about a father. A father who used to play his son at tennis.  A father who has got a mantle piece rammed with sports trophies and photographs of his son. A father who won’t stop talking about his boy. A father who witnessed his son’s murder on a beach in the last days of the Sri Lankan civil war.  

It won’t be playing at a cinema near you. There is a trailer that you can watch here and you can watch the full film, here. No awards for script, costumes, or soundtrack, this story is painfully real and is one of many from the last days of the conflict. 

Dr Manoharan is 70 years old. His son, Ragihar was near the beach with some student friends in Trincomalee in 2006, when a grenade was thrown at them. On hearing it, his father rushed down to the shore, where he was held back by Navy guards, who quickly sealed off the area, switching off the streetlights and ordering everyone inside the cordon to kneel or sit.  

Moments later, a jeep arrived carrying masked, uniformed Special Task Force (STF) troops. Dr. Manoharan was trying to get through the security cordon when he heard the young men pleading for their lives. He saw the muzzle flashes breaking the darkness and heard the sound of the shots. Many others did, too. 

Yet the “other” witnesses, are not now with Dr Manoharan on his crusade around the world appealing to the UN and other governments to demand an independent and full investigation into the atrocities committed in the last days of the war.   

Subramaniyam Sugridharajan, a Tamil journalist who took photos showing the students’ gunshot wounds, was gunned down on his way to work two weeks later. And Balachandran, a rickshaw driver who helped identify the rickshaw used in the attack, was also abducted and killed.

 More threats, intimidation and attempted bribes followed. Stones were thrown at the Manoharan family’s house and their movements monitored. As the threats intensified, he and his wife were forced to suspend their medical practice. Their children stopped attending school. The family finally had to flee Sri Lanka and are now living abroad.

 Dr Manoharan’s film is featuring on the Channel Four news website, today. It is hard to watch, but important.  Speaking toward the end of the film, he says through a laboured smile: “many times when I played my son at tennis, I am losing. Now I am happy. I am happy that my son won me.” 

Amnesty is requesting that the report from the UN panel  convened by Ban Ki Moon, is made public, and that this is just the start of a process of investigation. Then Dr Manoharan would have secured a big win for his son. That would be a fitting sequel.  

 

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