The Documentary, “The Last Phase”, produced by an independent film crew, portraying the true story of a former female combatant and her family, as well as the ordeal they went through during the last couple of months of the conflict in Sri Lanka, as a human shield of the Tamil Tigers, was screened today (28th November) at the EU Parliament in Brussels for the first time. The event was hosted by the Chair of the Friends of Sri Lanka Group in the EU Parliament Mr. Geoffrey Van Orden, Member of the European Parliament representing the Conservatives of UK.
The film is a moving true story of Jayawadhani and her family, who were young fighters radicalized at the Sencholai orphanage run by the Tamil Tigers. At the end of the 30 long years of the bitter conflict in Sri Lanka, they are now rebuilding their shattered lives, which were once in appalling conditions, trapped in a narrow strip of land barred by huge soil mounds and other barriers under the gloomy shadow of death. She was fortunate to survive a fatal attack by those very forces that she believed in and fought for. Having being reborn, she now speaks out revealing the hidden secrets of the last Phase. It is also the story of over 12000 former combatants who now enjoy the dawn of peace in Sri Lanka.
The film was first launched on 20th May this year in Colombo where the Secretary Defence and Urban Development Mr. Gotabaya Rajapaksa was present as the chief guest. It was screened for a packed house of members of the diplomatic corps, journalists, think tanks, university professors, NGO heads, military chiefs and other distinguished invitees.
It was not only an eye opener for the many in the audience of LTTE atrocities on its own people but also the event itself was unique, as a family of former cadres was among a gathering that consisted of top defence and military officials – it speaks volumes of the real situation in Sri Lanka. It was indeed a moment of triumph not only for Jayawadanee and her family but also for all the stake holders of the post war reconciliation process.
Ambassador and Head of Mission to the EU H.E Mr. P.M Amza, speaking at the event at the invitation of the Chair, said that when he first saw the film, earlier this year, as a native Tamil speaker, it convinced him, that this is a story that speaks volumes about the untold sufferings of hundreds of thousands of Tamils, at the hands of the Tamil Tigers and it also amply proves that even the cadres, who once believed in the cause of the Tamil Tigers and fought for them were not spared, when they decided to escape for life. On the other hand, it also talks about the overwhelming sympathy and compassion extended to affected people by many unknown, including the military personnel, the medical staff etc, irrespective of any differences in cast, creed or ethnicity. “This conviction made me as the Head of Sri Lanka Mission to EU, to get the film crew to visit Brussels and to screen this film for the first time in the EU Parliament in Brussels”, he said.
Mr. Van Orden while stating that as friends, we have not hesitated to express our honest opinions regarding Sri Lanka, but it appears there is unbalanced observance on the country. No one seems to have noticed that more Tamils had died as a result of the actions by the Tamil Tigers, than by the Government forces. Any war is brutal, but much happened as a result of what LTTE was doing at that time, he said.
Mr. Richard Mundy, the British national who narrates the film, addressed the gathering shared his experience in Sri Lanka and described his motivation to be part of the project. He said during the eleven years he has been living in Sri Lanka, he encountered people from all walks of life and travelled extensively in the country. The story of Jayawadhani and the immense courage she has demonstrated to reconcile with what went on in her life and the determination to move forward, made him want to be part of the film he said. He did not hesitate to say that he was embarrassed, as a national of UK, to see Briton’s Prime Minister wagging his finger at Sri Lanka. Referring to his personal experience both through the bloody terrorist campaigns in the Middle East and also in the Northern Ireland conflicts, he said it is not fair to criticize. “These people deserve a chance”, he said. He invited those interested to visit the country and then to form their own opinions.
The Director of the Film Mr. Jeevan Chandimal told that although the film, is about Jayawadhani the former Tiger combatant; it goes beyond a single person’s life story. It is the plight of many like her, and it is also the story of people in Sri Lanka trying to recover. They need empathy and help, and that is why he wanted to create this film, he said.
Following the screening of the film a follow-up discussion was held with the participation of the film crew and the audience, that comprised a section of interested people from across the diplomatic corp. based in Brussels, the representatives of academia, EU Parliament, think tanks and the Sri Lankan community. There was strong feedback from the members of the audience that the film should be screened as widely as possible, to ensure a fairer balance of media coverage.