The eye-patch worn by the redoubtable journalist Marie Colvin from late 2001 onwards probably enhanced her presence and impact in the world at large. But it was a heavy price and undoubtedly involved a traumatic journey of recovery from the injuries received from grenade shrapnel fired by a Sri Lankan Army patrol on 16th April 2001.
“In this Tuesday, April 17, 2001 file photo Sri Lankan army medical staff examine journalist Marie Colvin at a field hospital in Vavuniya (AP Photo/Government Information Department, File)” — Caption in Jeyaraj 2012
As an adventurous and determined conflict-situation reporter, Marie Colvin had defied Sri Lankan government (GSL) regulations and slipped across the state borders into LTTE territory where she met key Tiger officials and interviewed the political commissar, Thamil Chelvam, on 8th April (Jeyaraj 2012). During the trek back across jungle land north of Vavuniya, however, Colvin and her Tiger escort were intercepted by a SL Army patrol. According to her account and accounts of confidantes, the soldiers had paid no heed to her cries of “journalist! journalist!” and had targeted her (Karppi 2001; Hilsum 2012; Wikipedia item on Colvin).
Sinharaja Tammita-Delgoda’s questioning of the veracity of one of Colvin’s reports — from a desk in London — on the battle situation during the last phase of Eelam War IV in March 2009, however, raised questions in my mind about her pursuit of reliable facts and adherence to “truth journalism.” So I sought information from government sources[i] and can now present the manner in which the incident north of Vavuniya was recorded — in The stilted fashion of Sri Lankan officialdom — by the Ministry of Defence. Michael Roberts, 5 November 2014
DETAILS OF THE INJURED FOREIGN JOURNALIST MARIE CATHERINE COLVIN
Troops at a listening post observed a group of terrorists attempting to infiltrate through the forward defense line. Simultaneously terrorists engaged the troops with small arms and grenades. Troops too retaliated with small arms and grenades. During a subsequent search of the area troops found a female (a foreigner) with injuries. The injured foreigner was initially evacuated to the field hospital VAVUNIYA and then to the ANURADHAPURA Base Hospital on the advice of doctors. She had sustained grenade shrapnel injuries above her left eye, left and right shoulders and right side of the chest. She was subsequently identified as a foreign journalist.
According to a note made in her notebook she had met with TAMIL CHELVAM (LTTE) on 08 April 2001. The injured journalist was evacuated by air to COLOMBO at 0630 hrs on 17 April 2001.
Details of the Injured Journalist
Name : Marie Catherine Colvin.
Passport No : 701910574 USA.
Entered Sri Lanka On : 21 March 2001.
Profession : Journalist (London Sunday Times).
- 1 x Olympus Camera.
- 1 x Spare film roll
- 1 x Note Book
- 1 x Day to Day dairy
- 1 x Gold color pendent
- 1 x Digital dairy
- 1 x Bunch of Keys
- US Dollars 3240
- DM 120
- Rs. 4828
- Cheque book with 8 pages (HSBC No – 101078 to 101085)
- 1 x NOKIA hand phone
- 1 x Toilet bag
- Visiting cards
- Credit cards
Further it was revealed that an LTTE intelligence group leader and four other LTTE terrorists cadres were injured in the confrontation. Troops apprehended 5 x persons accompanying Miss MARIE CATHERINE COLVIN the foreign journalist who was injured whilst attempting to infiltrate from North to South the Security Forces Forward Defense Line at Primandalkulam on 16 Apr 2001.
Colvin, Marie 2010 [Memorial Speech at St Brides’ Church London] http://sunandadeshapriya.wordpress.com/2012/02/22/marie-colvin-in-her-own-words-our-mission-is-to-report-the-horrors-of-war/
Jeyaraj, DBS 2012 “Marie Colvin, The Uncrowned Queen of Intrepid Journalists,” 26 February 2012, http://tamilweek.com/news-features/archives/2925
Hilsum, Lindsey 2012 “My Friend Marie Colvin,” World News Blog Channel 4.
Karppi, Dagmar Fors 2001 “Woman Journalist Gets Her Story. In Spite of Grenade Attack, Marie Colvin Files Her Report,” http://www.antonnews.com/oysterbayenterprisepilot/2001/04/27/news/colvin.html
Tammita-Delgoda, S. 2014a “Reading Between the Lines in April 2009: Tammita-Delgoda takes apart Marie Colvin’s jaundiced propaganda article in British newspaper,” 26 September 2014, https://thuppahi.wordpress.com/2014/09/26/rading-between-the-lines-in-april-2009-tammita-delgoda-takes-apart-marie-colvins-jaundiced-propanda-article-in-british-newspaper [orig.pubn 2009]/
[i] This was assisted by contacts made after I researched the massive welfare effort at \ the IDP detention centres at Manik Farm and then presented a seminar on the topic at ICES Colombo in 2011.