Feature Article

BBC's Harrison leaves

[TamilNet, Monday, 02 August 2004, 00:04 GMT]
Frances Harrison, BBC's Colombo correspondent for the past four years and who is leaving Sri Lanka to her new assignment in Tehran, pointed out in one of her last reports filed that she was troubled by the hardships the family of a murdered Jaffna journalist went through: "As I leave Sri Lanka I have on my mind a journalist called Nimalarajan Mylvaganam. He worked for the BBC in the northern city of Jaffna," she said, adding that Nimalarajan's family had become part of her life during the first eighteen months of her assignement in Sri Lanka.

Frances Harrison
(Photo: Sunday Leader)
Ms.Harrison obtained a Bachelor's Degree from the Cambridge University and a Masters on South Asian Area Studies from the School of Oriental and African Studies, London University before joining the BBC World Service.

She served in Islamabad for two years from 1993 and in Dhaka for three years from 1996. Harrison later worked for BBC in Kuala Lumpur for another two years. In 2000, she came to Colombo.

Writing about Nimalarajans murder, Harrison says in her farewell story, "All this a short distance from a military checkpoint and during curfew hours...Later we asked the Sri Lankan army if they knew who had been on duty that night at the checkpoint but they said they'd lost the records."

Mylvaganam Nimalarajan, BBC journalist, shot dead on 19 October 2000
On the conduct of Sri Lanka's security apparatus to Nimalarajan family, Ms.Harrison says, "To leave the country it's necessary to have a police clearance certificate. Although they knew full well who this family was - or perhaps because they knew - the Jaffna police dragged their feet on issuing this certificate. Finally we had to pull strings at the highest level of government to get the work done.It was the sheer meanness of that final gesture that lingers in my mind."

Ms. Harrison adds, "Almost four years later Reporters Without Borders who championed this case commented that it was now apparent the police were unable or unwilling to conduct an investigation and gather physical evidence.

"Impunity is a word that's often used in Sri Lanka but it's still astonishing that despite the peace process, the change of government and the international attention given to this case - justice has not been done."

In an interview with Sunday Leader, Ms.Harrison says, "Minds are as destroyed as the landscape. I noticed how difficult things were when people had to resettle in their old homes. Terrible memories of the places they left seem to flood as they began returning home following the truce. I witnessed the trauma associated with this exercise when people moved back to Chavakachcheri in January 2001."

Frances Harrison
(Photo: Sunday Observer)
On the peace process she says that "the [UNP] government should have appealed to the south on more emotional and moral grounds," and on the positive side considers that the "truce, despite the impasse has created a great opening for peace building."

Although she sees the "reintegration of the Liberation Tigers into the community of people," as a beneficial change, and feels "happy that the truce is surviving despite a change of government and that the Norwegians are still willing to play a role," she is skeptical if the ceasefire can hold with the Karuna affair, and the re-emergence of violence.

TamilNet and its readers wish Ms.Harrison a happy assignment in Tehran and commend her for adhering to high journalistic standards in reporting of a conflict known for its complex history and communal sensitivity.

Related Articles:
19.04.04   Media bias: dangerous fruits, flowers and foliage
19.10.00   Senior Jaffna journalist shot dead

External Links:
Sunday Leader: Cherished memories of a BBC reporter
Sunday Observer: BBC reporter bids adieu
BBC: Four years, Many deaths: Good Bye Sri Lanka


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