Diaspora Link To Channel 4 Revealed
By Faraz Shauketaly
The Sunday Leader has unearthed startling evidence showing that the LTTE-leaning Diaspora in Britain have made in-roads to the highest levels within the British Channel 4 TV network.
Sri Lankan born Shirani Sabaratnam originally from Jaffna and Vaddukoddai is married to Channel 4 TV’s Director of Diversity, the well-known British journalist Stuart Cosgrove. Stuart Cosgrove’s responsibilities at Channel 4 is without doubt a major one: he oversees Channel 4’s strategy to have innovation and to have creative diversity. He also is in charge of managing strategy and development of new companies, within the general ambit of Channel 4’s operations with the ultimate aim of establishing Channel 4 as the “most creatively diverse media organisation in Europe”.
Vaddukoddai is famous for the so-called “Vaddukoddai Resolution” when the TULF in 1976 first called for the separation of the North and the East in order that Tamil aspirations could be better dealt with.
In 2010 Stuart Cosgrove participated in an unusual referendum: amongst the Tamil people of the world who voted for the creation of “Eelam” – a motherland for the Tamil community in the North and the East of Sri Lanka. Sometime thereafter, Stuart Cosgrove wrote about that election, “Maryhill (in Scotland) was chosen as a polling station in a global referendum organised by expatriate Tamils in their tense stand-off with Sri Lanka, a country that has resisted their independence.” He added, the “referendum is a fascinating story of democracy withheld, with more plotlines than a political thriller and enough constitutional twists to send Scotland’s political intelligentsia into paroxysms of near-erotic delight.” Cosgrove also said, “My interest went beyond the observational. I was there to cast my vote. My wife, Shirani Sabaratnam, is a native Tamil speaker from Jaffna, on the northern peninsula of Sri Lanka. She still holds Sri Lankan citizenship and, as a “qualifying spouse”, I am allowed to participate in the poll. So, strange as it seems, the stubby pencil of democracy was rightfully mine. As I handed over my identity papers, I was acutely aware of the paradox. Voting Yes/Yes in the 1997 Scottish referendum on devolution seemed natural; voting in a referendum on Tamil independence was an unexpected experience.”
Cosgrove was able to vote at the referendum because under the so-called rules of the Tamil Diaspora, he was a “qualifying spouse” through his marriage to Shirani Sabaratnam. Stuart Cosgrove waxed eloquent about the Tamil Diaspora’s battle with Sri Lanka’s government, “Tamils have for decades fought a relentless battle with successive Sri Lankan governments, demanding greater civil rights. With well-organised communities in Toronto, London and Paris, the Tamils are the undisputed world champions of diaspora politics.”
Sabaratnam and Cosgrove live in South London and are perhaps the best known husband and wife media combination in Britain – they make a formidable team: Sabaratnam is the Commissioning Editor at UKTV and Cosgrove had similar responsibilities at Channel 4 for a while. Neither Sabaratnam nor Cosgrove had any direct input on the production of the films broadcast on Channel 4 about Sri Lanka. Both have made visits back to Sri Lanka – the fact that Cosgrove was permitted to enter Sri Lanka in spite of his professional job at Channel 4 – and in an interview published locally Sabaratnam indicated that there were plans to make a film in Sri Lanka. Whether it was a film about Sri Lanka was not immediately clear. Her plans for a film in Sri Lanka on the surface would be of immense benefit in terms of tourism, international positive exposure and for the film industry in Sri Lanka. However, the current revelations that Sabaratnam is very much an activist with the Eelam-seeking Diaspora in Britain, will serve only to sully those intentions. Additionally industry sources in Britain have indicated that following up on the made-for-TV films, a full-screen film is also being considered for release next year.
Many questions have been raised as to how it is that in spite of the world’s hot trouble spots like in Zimbabwe, Sudan, Rwanda, Burundi, Tibet, Iraq and Afghanistan, Channel 4 have yet to make a film based on their coverage of events in those countries and continues to have an abiding interest in the Diaspora’s battles with Sri Lanka. Many in Sri Lanka complained that Channel 4 had not given coverage to the atrocities committed by the LTTE which also included killings of civilians and children. Zimbabwe in particular is of interest as it was the Channel 4 reporting that brought the world news of the ‘land grab’ from white farmers.
We attempted to contact both Sabaratnam and Cosgrove for a comment, but both were not reachable at the time of going to press.