ICT for Peacebuilding

Unique perspectives on the end of war in Sri Lanka

Groundviews Special Edition

“I am an Indian pediatrician who served with the Indian Medical Team at Menik Farm IDP center. The point I am trying to raise is this – we were managing scores of infants with bullet / shell blast injuries (some festering, mostly healed). It gives an idea of the extent of collateral damage suffered by the civilians caught in the last days of the conflict. If an infant could not be protected, imagine the plight of older children and adults. The so-called “Sri Lankan Solution” being touted as the panacea for dealing with terrorism worldwide needs a thorough relook.”” by Tathagata Bose

Groundviews was set up to bear witness, contest the status quo and document inconvenient truths. This comment by Dr. Bose, from over 300 published to date in response to the Special Edition on the end of war, is a cogent example of the site’s raison d’être. Over the previous weekend alone, over 6,500 readers read the content on the site. With over 22,000 readers to date, and three more days of compelling content looking at the end of war yet to be published, Groundviews is a unique platform for perspectives, opinions and a defiant remembrance that mainstream print and broadcast media in Sri Lanka, even post-war, will not feature.

The Special Edition includes content – in prose, verse, photography and video – from the well known political commentators, award winning poets, photographers, senior civil servants, erstwhile high-ranking diplomats, senior academics, leading feminists, researchers, film-makers, novelists, leading voices from the Tamil diaspora, senior journalists, youth activists and bloggers.

As I noted in an Editorial to the Special Edition, Groundviews strongly encourage your responses complementing and contesting this content. I also noted that that it is only through vibrant and civil debate, without fear of violent physical or verbal reprisals, that a just peace and a timbre of democracy we so richly deserve after war’s end can be engendered.

A full list of the content published to date in chronological order:

You simply won’t find this content anywhere else. And remember, the Special Edition runs till the 26th – expect more compelling content and discussions!

###

Groundviews

Groundviews – http://www.groundviews.org – Sri Lanka’s first and international award-winning citizens journalism website uses a range of genres and media to highlight alternative perspectives on governance, human rights, the arts and literature, peacebuilding and other issues. The site has won two international awards for the quality of its journalism, including the prestigious Manthan Award South Asia in 2009. The grand jury’s evaluation of the site noted, “What no media dares to report, Groundviews publicly exposes. It’s a new age media for a new Sri Lanka… Free media at it’s very best!”

Join over 1,400 other readers to get updates and comment via Facebook – http://www.facebook/groundviews

Our Twitter feed is updated frequently every day and gives editorially vetted pointers to breaking news and incisive writing online on Sri Lanka. Follow us along with over 550 others here –http://www.twitter.com/groundviews

Groundviews was the first and currently one of just two sites in Sri Lanka that renders content for mobiles. On your iPhone, Blackberry, Symbian, Android phone or on any other mobile browser, simply go tohttp://www.groundviews.org to access site content automatically rendered to best suit your screen and device.

Uncategorized

War and war games

Image courtesy IGN.
Image courtesy IGN.

Great article on More Intelligent Life on why war games based on (recent) history foster so much of controversy. As I noted in response to the post,

I would not be surprised if the identical game, with some new ahistorical maps based loosely on the Iraqi war theatre goes into production. The mistake seems to have been made in marketing the game as a re-enactment of a complex, violent chapter in the Iraq conflict. If one were to have called this something else, the controversy would be non-existent.

War games, much like Summer blockbusters, are films to escape from, not engaging with war. One aspect you’ve not dealt with are the so-called Serious Games and how they are being used to help promote conflict resolution.

For an article published about two years ago in the media on how serious games are helping conflict transformation, click here.

ICT for Peacebuilding

Negotiating ethnic hatred in Sri Lanka

Groundviews
Groundviews

Can we End this Cycle of Hatred? an article published on Groundviews, a citizen journalism site I edit in Sri Lanka, elicited this comment from someone called Ramanan:

Nice article. I see a lot of parents infesting the young minds in western world. I am a Tamil, living in the US for a long time. I went for a birthday party recently. The birthday was for a kid, whose dad is a friend of mine. I met another kid there, who is of Sinhalese origin, born and raised in the US. The kid asked me whether I am from India and I told him that I am from Sri Lanka. Next question was, “Are you Sinhalse”? When I said, “No. I am Tamil”, he told me that his parents have told him not to talk to tiger supporters. See the hatred here.

Actually, I should be the one who shouldn’t be talking to Sinhalese. My dad was burnt alive by Government backed Sinhalese thugs during 1983 riots. I should have vengance. However, I don’t think these few guys who did that don’t represent the community as whole.

The point is, both sides are putting hatred in their kids minds. If I hate you, you made me hate you. In my case, Sinhalese made me hate them. Still, I don’t.

How does one engage with and respond to such stories? How can we use these stories to help us heal?

Read the original article and leave your thoughts here.

ICTs in general

Turning to the web for news on the war

Associated Press has an interesting story on how news, information and analysis of the on-going war in Sri Lanka for those in the diaspora is served by various websites and the Internet.

As the report notes,

The Web posts accuse the government of shelling populated areas and blocking the delivery of food and medicine. They rarely mention accusations by human rights groups that the rebels are holding the civilians as human shields and shooting those who try to flee.

Read the article in full here.

ICTs in general

Poetry, Prose and Satire: Exploring violence, war, religion and peace in Sri Lanka

In light of a Government unable and unwilling to investigate violence against journalists and independent media, satire is one way in which violent events, processes and individuals can be held up for public scrutiny more frequently. In the first submission to the site, Banyan News Reporters publishes a piece on how TV Remote Controllers are a threat to National Security. The submission notes that,

“The television remote controller poses a serious threat to the country’s national security, the government has determined. A new law will soon be introduced to register and regulate this electronic item. The ubiquitous gadget helps unpatriotic persons to change the channel when matters of national importance are being broadcast on state TV channels. This, in turn, deprives the government its rightful opportunity to address and inform all its citizens, security advisors have pointed out.”

Read Remote Controllers a threat to National Security.

Writing in for the first time, Valkyrie in From the ‘sole representative’ to the ‘sole alternative’: Justice for, and within the Tamil Community asks pertinent questions and ends on a thought-provoking note,

“What kind of future do Tamil politico-armed groups have? Since the usefulness of these groups to the government is dependent upon the existence of the LTTE, what would their position be in a world without the LTTE? We can venture to guess that it is unlikely they will be able to eschew government patronage and become legitimate advocates for the rights of the Tamil people and at the same time survive politically within a majoritarian state that is unwilling to acknowledge the concerns and fulfill the legitimate demands of its minorities.”

Continue reading

ICT for Peacebuilding, ICTs in general

Citizen journalism on Groundviews and Vikalpa’s YouTube channel interrogates assassination of Lasantha Wickremetunge

Lasantha

The Editor in Chief of the Sunday Leader and one of Sri Lanka’s best known journalists Lasantha Wickremetunge was murdered on 8th January 2009 en route to work. He was beaten and shot repeatedly and succumbed to his injuries in hospital. The first post on Groundviews on the assassination can be read here.

Lasantha was 50 at the time of his assassination. No group to date has claimed responsibility. In a tremendously powerful and moving editorial published posthumously the Sunday after he was killed, Lasantha notes that “When finally I am killed, it will be the government that kills me.

For its part, the Rajapakse administration points to a mysterious armed force hell bent on discrediting the government. It has done what it does best – expressed outrage, ordered a full investigation and appointed a committee to investigate the attacks. Yet it conveniently forgets, inter alia, that the Cabinet subcommittee to look into the grievances of journalists set up in June 2008 is largely forgotten today. No one knows whether it exists, how to reach it, what it does, or came up with as recommendations to protect journalists. Journalist J.S. Tissanaiyagam still languishes in jail on the most ludicrous charges under the Prevention of Terrorism Act (PTA). The government is silent on his plight and on-going case, despite widespread local and international condemnation and calls for his release.

Well over eleven thousand came to Groundviews from 8th to 13th January alone to read and actively engage with content published on Lasantha’s assassination and what it portends for independent media and democracy in Sri Lanka.

Amongst regular voices was the former President of Sri Lanka, Chandrika Bandaranaike Kumaratunge, who wrote in to the site in response to a comment left by Dayan Jayatilleka, Sri Lanka’s Ambassador to the United Nations in Geneva. You can follow this conversation here. This was the first comment by the former President on Lasantha’s murder featured in any local and international media.

Also significant was the thrust and parry of debate between Indi Samarajiva, Sri Lanka’s best known and perhaps most read blogger (and architect of the country’s leading blog aggregation site Kottu) and Dayan Jayatilleke. Follow the conversation thread through to its interesting denouement here.

Groundviews was also honoured to receive strong protests in verse from award-winning and internationally acclaimed Sri Lankan poets. Vivimarie Vanderpoorten, winner of the Gratiaen Prize in 2007, Malinda Seneviratne and Indran Amirthanayagam wrote strong poems against violence and Lasantha’s assassination. They were joined by Cry Lanka, an anonymous poet. Most recently, Francesca wrote in from the US. Born in Sri Lanka, Francesca was moved to write about Lasantha’s killing from the point of view of someone from the diaspora. Her poem is here.

Several others wrote in expressing their disgust, shock, sadness and concern. Lionel Bopage, a former General Secretary of the JVP states that,

These assassinations and the repressive culture being imposed upon the Sri Lankan society, culminating with the killing of Mr Wickramatunga, should provide the impetus to stimulate all political forces and individuals in Sri Lanka and overseas, who are committed to protecting the human and democratic rights of its people, to come together and oppose this state of fascism.

Prof. Sumanasiri Liyanage, who teaches political economy at the University of Peradeniya, suggests an alternative proposal for our consideration when he notes that,

Attack on Sirasa and killing of Lasantha Wickramatunga have made me convinced once again my earlier proposal that any protest and opposition to the present government should be a part of a bigger political exercise aiming at naming a non-party peoples’ candidate with minimum transitional program that include the change of the constitution in order to make the state more accommodative, power-dispersed and the politicians more accountable through built-in checks and balances.

Groundviews also featured several videos on Lasantha’s assassination taken from the Vikalpa YouTube video channel. These videos include interviews with civil society, coverage of his funeral as well as the first hours after he was admitted to the Kalubowila hospital.

As a mark of protest and respect Groundviews changed its homepage on the day of Lasantha’s burial to black, featuring links to key articles on his murder.

Groundviews on Lasantha

This site exists to demonstrate that it is possible, using web media strategies, to create spaces for voices at risk to be heard and archived for posterity. In a small but significant way, the original content and conversations on Lasantha’s assassination on this site rigorously interrogated issues of culpability, impunity, democratic governance, media freedom and violence.

At the end of the day, Lasantha’s dead and gone. Yet through these evolving and vital conversations on the web and Internet, he will continue to inspire us.

Sanjana Hattotuwa
Editor
Groundviews