29 October, 2020

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Absence Of ‘Balance’ In Sri Lanka’s Foreign Policy After Kadirgamar And Its Consequences

By Tissa Jayatilaka

Tissa Jayatilaka

Note: This is a slightly modified version of the article that appeared in the Sunday Times of Sri Lanka on 21 April, 2013.

Reminiscences of Sri Lanka’s foreign policy triumphs spearheaded by the late lamented Lakshman Kadirgamar are fresh in my mind given that it was only the other day (12 April) that we marked what might have been his 81st birth anniversary with a tribute to the former Foreign Minister. It is, therefore, doubly sad to reflect on the fact that Sri Lanka’s relations with the world outside our shores are in tatters at present. To say that our foreign policy today lacks coherence, direction and depth is to be generous.

Had Lakshman Kadirgamar been our Foreign Minister at the time, the short-sighted ‘victory resolution’ introduced by Sri Lanka at the UNHRC in Geneva in 2009 would not have seen the light of day. His sagacity would have enabled Sri Lanka to avoid the pitfall of playing into the hands of our opponents, a sagacity that characterised our professional diplomacy even before Lakshman Kadirgamar came on the scene. The first decisions or resolutions on Sri Lanka were adopted by the predecessor body of the Human Rights Council, the Commission on Human Rights(UNCHR) in 1984 following the disastrous ‘Black July’ of 1983 and the outrage that that awful incident caused both domestically and externally, and later again in 1987, largely on the initiative of India supported by the European Union (EU) and Argentina. The key point we need to remember, however, is that these resolutions were adopted without a vote because the Sri Lankan delegations of 1984 and 1987 ‘with tact and professional diplomacy converted hostile resolutions into benign ones’. The then Canadian representative in Geneva in fact ‘recalled [that] the representative of Sri Lanka had rightly referred to that country’s reputation as a voice of reason, moderation and prudence. His [Sri Lanka’s] delegation had laid great stress on the recognition of these qualities’. From 1987 to 2009, Sri Lanka was mentioned in the debates of the Commission on Human Rights(CHR) and the Human Rights Council (HRC) but no resolutions against us were passed in either body. Here, we do need to acknowledge the diplomatic support we received from India in the aftermath of the Indo-Lanka Accord of 1987.

Lakshman Kadirgamar

It is in 2009 that we were once again at the receiving end of a hostile resolution in Geneva during the last stages of Sri Lanka’s military defeat of the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE). This resolution was aggressively opposed by the Sri Lankan delegation. Discretion was not considered the better part of valour by those guiding Sri Lanka’s diplomatic destinies at that time both in Colombo and in Geneva and anti-western ideology was allowed to trump national interest. Instead of deploying ‘quiet diplomacy’ to turn ‘a hostile resolution into a benign one’, we went in with ‘all our guns blazing’ and initiated a counter resolution( dubbed by its critics as a ‘victory resolution’) which was adopted by the UNHRC in a divided vote (29 for, 12 against and with 6 abstaining). Included in this ‘victory resolution’ significantly is a promise to implement the 13th Amendment to our Constitution. It is largely the content of this ‘victory resolution of 2009 that has come back to haunt us in the resolutions against us adopted by the UNHRC in 2012 and 2013. After as violent an end to a decades-long war with the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam that Sri Lanka endured, prudent and smart diplomacy demanded that we stay off radar, not willingly get on it. Thanks to the foolhardy diplomatic adventurism of 2009 in Geneva and the excessively self-congratulatory post-war attitudes and non-progressive policies that that ‘victory resolution’ engendered, Sri Lanka is now doomed to remain on the UNHRC agenda for the foreseeable future.

The architects of these UNHRC resolutions against Sri Lanka in 2012 and 2013 are two countries – – India and the United States – – who supported us to the hilt from 2002 onwards in our battle against the LTTE. India, by the way, voted with Sri Lanka in 2009 for our ‘victory resolution’ as well. Previous policy blunders related to nurturing the LTTE notwithstanding, India supported our conclusive military action to eliminate the LTTE despite the then impending Indian elections of May 2009 and related Tamilnadu ‘compulsions’. In 2006, the United States had sent a Special Envoy to Europe on behalf of this very same government led by President Rajapaksa to lobby support for the listing by the European Union of the LTTE as a terrorist outfit. In doing so, the United States had to resist the not inconsiderable Norwegian and the Tamil diaspora-led opposition to this ban on the LTTE. Although the likes of David Miliband (UK) and Bernard Kouchner (France) tried their utmost to initiate international action against us, Sri Lanka was able to ensure that no Government took a concerted diplomatic initiative at the UN Security Council to compel Sri Lanka to abort the final military push against the LTTE, something similar to that which India, acting unilaterally, had done in the 1980s by compelling us to halt the Vadamarachchi operation. Transforming these intra-conflict diplomatic assets into post-war diplomatic liabilities has taken some doing and is reflective of our recent foreign policy blunders! This state of affairs indeed is a sad commentary on our post-war diplomacy.

Our External Affairs Minister declares emphatically in Parliament that our relations with the United States remain unchanged, that is, we assume, they remain in disarray. Meanwhile both the Sri Lanka Mission in Washington D.C., and the Central Bank of Sri Lanka, according to the well informed Sunday Times Political Editor (see the Sunday Times of 14 April, pages 12 and 13 for details) enter into agreements with lobbying firms in the United States for a monthly fee of US$ 116, 660 or more without Cabinet approval or the formal consent of the Ministry of External Affairs. Are we to assume that these costly agreements are to keep US-Sri Lanka relations unchanged as Minister Peiris asserts or is it the case that the responsibility for the maintenance of our relations with Washington is being outsourced? Actions, we know, speak louder than words, even if the words are those of our usually eloquent External Affairs Minister. In fairness to Minister Peiris, it has to be recorded that he is, unlike Foreign Minister Kadirgamar, hamstrung by Monitoring MPs who have not the foggiest about international relations and saddled with ambassadors and high commissioners who know more about selling tea than reading tea leaves!

Clearly Sri Lanka’s foreign policy record, post-2009 in particular, leaves much to be desired. Key supporters of Sri Lanka up until 2009 (the foundation for such support was deftly laid by Lakshman Kadirgamar and our seasoned career diplomats ) – – India and the United States – – are now the leading sponsors of hostile UNHRC resolutions against us. Canada, a government that stood by us solidly in Geneva and elsewhere in 1987 and after, is today critical of our post-2009 record. These disagreements over our post-2009 conduct have spilt over into the domain of foreign policy. Canada is now unsupportive of Sri Lanka’s hosting of the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM) scheduled for November 2013 whilst Britain has expressed considerable doubts about its level of participation in it.
The Commonwealth Ministerial Action Group (CMAG) is scheduled to meet on the 26th of April and indications are that our indefatigable External Affairs Minister is set to dash to London around the time of the CMAG Meeting to attempt damage control. Time was when our Ambassadors and High Commissioners could handle routine matters of this nature. But that was during a time, generally speaking, when square pegs were not placed in round holes as seems to be the case today.

Accountability, reconciliation, and the violation of Commonwealth Latimer House Principles as a result of the procedurally flawed and illegal removal of Chief Justice Shirani Bandaranayake are expected to be discussed at the April CMAG Meeting. This discussion may have an impact on the next CHOGM, particularly with regard to the location of, and the level of participation at, that Meeting. Chances are that the developing member countries of the Commonwealth will support sticking with the venue agreed upon- – Colombo – – for the next CHOGM. But as to whether the 2013 CHOGM will be well attended at Heads of Government level is as yet uncertain. The precise level of participation of some senior member countries of the Commonwealth is likely to be decided upon only after the deliberations at the April CMAG Meeting or even after the September sessions of the UNHRC. The key issue the Commonwealth will need to resolve, according to informed sources, is whether or not it will be comfortable with having Sri Lanka as its Chair-in-Office for the two years following the November 2013 CHOGM, were the Meeting to go ahead as scheduled. Given Sri Lanka’s parlous track record in the sphere of democratic governance in recent years, we seem to observe in the breach established Commonwealth principles such as respect for and observation of the rule of law, freedom of expression, independence of the judiciary and the like. Hence having Sri Lanka serve as Chair-in-Office, to put it mildly, may well prove an unenviable burden for the Commonwealth.

Meantime portentous events are unfolding in our neighbourhood across the Palk Straits. If the turmoil in Tamilnadu is bad, the statements of two of India’s foremost political personalities are astounding from a foreign policy perspective. India, alone among all important stakeholders connected to Sri Lanka who, despite its early misguided support for the Tamil militants of Sri Lanka, has been from the very start categorically opposed to the establishment of a separate state in Sri Lanka, appears now to have second thoughts on this significant issue. Let us ponder over the statements attributed to Sonia Gandhi of the ruling UPA and of senior BJP leader Yaswant Sinha, a former Foreign Minister of India. Sonia Gandhi took a remarkably unusual step at the Congress Parliamentary Party meeting of a few weeks ago when she expressed her party’s concern for the Sri Lankan Tamils in the following terms:

The plight of the Tamils in Sri Lanka is close to our hearts. Our support for equal rights and equal protection of the laws to them has been unwavering since the days of Indiraji and Rajivji.

We are pained at the manner in which their legitimate political rights continue to be denied them. We are anguished by reports of unspeakable atrocities on innocent civilians and children, especially during the last days of the conflict in 2009.

Yaswant Sinha on Wednesday the 3rd of April (as reported in the Indian Express of 4 April, 2013) urged Prime Minister Manmohan Singh to skip the CHOGM scheduled to be held in Sri Lanka. ‘Noting that India is the pivot of the Commonwealth’, in the course of a speech on the predicament of the Tamils of Sri Lanka, Sinha opined that ‘if India does not go there, the CHOGM cannot be held’. Sinha also called for the suspension of Sri Lanka from the Commonwealth by the CMAG for violations of the Harare Declaration. He suggested that India should initiate action to see that Sri Lanka is so suspended. He also called for ‘an India-led resolution at the UNHRC, suggesting Sri Lanka remove all of its Forces from the northern and eastern provinces of the island’. Whilst stating that elections[ to the Northern Provincial Council] should be held at the earliest under international supervision, Sinha also went on to say that ‘there should be an independent inquiry into the atrocities committed against the Tamils’.

The sting, more ominously, is in the tail of Sinha’s speech. Refraining only thinly from extending overt support for the demand for a separate Tamil Eelam, Sinha has pointed to ‘Bangladesh, East Timor and North and South Sudan, where people overthrew suppressive (sic) regimes and warned Rajapaksa to reform’.

These two statements of Sonia Gandhi and Yaswant Sinha are juxtaposed not because they are equal; no, they are so placed merely to heighten the degree to which the mutual understanding that has existed between our two countries since 2002 in particular have diminished today. Two of the leading personalities in the government and the political opposition of India are indicating dissatisfaction with what is happening in our country and this is clearly a case for serious concern. Beyond underscoring the latter fact, I should be doing Sonia Gandhi irreparable harm if I were to equate her with Yaswant Sinha. Both statements self-evidently are connected to the prospects of support in Tamilnadu for the respective political parties that Gandhi and Sinha represent. It is but fair to say though that in the case of Sonia Gandhi, there is a larger commitment to the Tamils of Sri Lanka stemming from a historical involvement that goes back to Jawaharlal Nehru( although she has not invoked Nehru). There is thus a ‘civilisational acoustic’ in Sonia Gandhi’s voice that is absent in the purely political amplification of Yaswant Sinha’s. I wish to record in this context a relevant extract from a conversation that I had some time ago with an intimate Indian friend of mine. Over a cup of good Darjeeling tea she told me that she was one among millions all over the world who has been deeply troubled by the post-war trajectory of Sri Lanka: that a yuddhayuga should be followed by a dukkhayuga is truly tragic.

Be the above dangers and disappointments as they may, commentators partial to the government of Sri Lanka would have us believe that the socio-political mess we are in today, particularly on the foreign policy front, is thanks to interfering outsiders and not due to any of our sins of commission or omission. Is it really the United States, Canada, Britain, India/Tamilnadu or any other outsider that is the cause of our post-2009 woes? Are those ‘double standards’ of outsiders opposed to us the cause of all evil that has befallen ‘The Miracle of Asia’ in these post-war years? Or would it not be correct to say that we have been our own worst enemy and that Sri Lanka’s own ‘double standards’ have hurt us both domestically and internationally?

Can we honestly say that our government treats all of our citizens equally under the law of the land and in terms of our Constitution? Are all of us equal before the law or are not some ‘more equal than the others’? Can we honestly claim that the Sri Lankan state treats all Sri Lankan citizens, regardless of ethnicity and religion, in the same way? Do all of our religions receive equal status under our Constitution? We Sri Lankans seem very good at detecting the mote in the eye of others but hopeless at seeing the beam in ours! We make promises to our international partners and colleagues and to our own citizens one moment only to renege on them the next. Can a domestic or foreign policy, especially of a small state, survive such blatant prevarication and perfidy?

A favourite argument of the defenders of the state today is that our national sovereignty is not being respected by outsiders and that the principle of non-interference in the internal affairs is not adhered to by certain states. Sovereignty and non-interference in the internal affairs of countries of course are vital principles to be found in the UN Charter. Sovereignty, however, is no longer an absolute value, if ever it was. In this regard, one must ever remember the fundamental point that it is the people that are sovereign not the state. Acceding to the treaties/protocols/conventions may thus enhance the sovereignty of the people whilst possibly undermining the ‘sovereignty’ of the state. In any event, like everything else in geopolitics, sovereignty is also applied or practiced selectively. Try as we might, Sri Lanka will not be able to hide legitimately behind the concept of sovereignty. Each time any Government of Sri Lanka signs a human rights treaty or a new protocol or covenant, we give other countries the right, if need be, to examine our record on human rights and to question, comment on and review that record. We are a signatory to all major international human rights conventions and we should be justly proud of this record. In 2005 Sri Lanka joined all of the member states in unanimously adopting the Responsibility to Protect (R2P) norm at the 60th anniversary of the UN General Assembly. We agreed to the setting up of the UNHRC in 2006 and with its mandate. We also agreed to the establishment of the Universal Periodic Review (UPR) and the procedure by which it allows individuals and organizations to bring human rights violations to the attention of the UNHRC. Sri Lanka, in keeping with our obligations arising from being a signatory to these UN Conventions, reports periodically on its adherence to these International Human Rights norms. A lack of due transparency makes it very difficult for the average citizen to access these reports. This absence of transparency and a lack of free flow of information only make it easier for some of our politicians and certain individuals to dupe the majority of us. The R2P norm accepted by consensus at the UN (2005) is conditioned by the requirement of UN Security Council approval for any action to take place. Its purpose is to ensure that humanitarian action is taken in extreme cases of genocide as in Rwanda. Beating the ideological drum to warn our citizens of neo-colonialism and neo-imperialists is in fact a cover for human rights violations.

Let us now examine closely the rhetoric of our politicians and officials alike that vitiates the reality of Sri Lanka’s current predicament. The root cause of the current crisis in Indo-Lanka relations, asserts one observer, is ‘extra regional’ and has ‘nothing to do with the region’. Surely this viewpoint is as much an exaggeration as it is tendentious. Is it entirely or solely the US-led 2013 Geneva resolution that has triggered off violence against Sri Lanka and Sri Lankans in Tamilnadu? Has Sri Lanka handled Indo-Lanka relations in the post-war years as deftly as we did from 2005 to May 2009? Is it true to say as a prominent official said recently ‘that protests in Tamilnadu over accountability issues in Sri Lanka would serve to discourage those pushing for devolution of power in under the 13th Amendment to the Constitution’? Sincere and candid answers to the above queries would indicate that Sri Lanka has been less than honest in our dealings with ourselves as well as with outsiders. By our limited action and inaction since May 2009, we have dilly dallied over our efforts at reconciliation and thereby invited the hostility of friend and foe alike. Long before today’s protests and violence against Sri Lanka/ Sri Lankans in Tamilnadu came to be, Sri Lanka began playing unsavoury games with the issue of power devolution at home. And nobody of significance in the current government of Sri Lanka is pushing for the implementation of the 13th Amendment, so far as we citizens know.

What progress has Sri Lanka made in the spheres of rehabilitation and reconstruction? Here I think it is unhelpful to conflate reconstruction and rehabilitation as much as it is unhelpful to conflate accountability and reconciliation. Reconstruction, rehabilitation, accountability and reconciliation are indeed inter-related in the ultimate reckoning. The most daunting and challenging of these four tasks surely is accountability. In regard to accountability I feel the critics of Sri Lanka, both domestic and external, are on uneven ground. Human history bears witness to the tragi-sad fact that at the end of all human conflict, more often than not, a victor’s justice prevails. Sri Lanka’s Permanent Representative at the UN Headquarters in New York has eloquently held forth on this particular theme a few days ago, referring in the process, to post-conflict justice in all of its manifestations quoting, along the way, the Buddha and Shakespeare. The problem in Sri Lanka, however, is not an absence of eloquence of which we have more than our fair share. What we desperately lack is restorative justice. As I see it, what is found in abundance in Sri Lanka post-2009 is a victor’s justice. Examples abound in other parts of the world of instances similar to that in Sri Lanka where the winners failed to look with compassion and justice on the vanquished. Yet these past errors ought not detain us at this juncture except to afford us some fresh perspective to understand the present better and to help us avoid pitfalls arising from such past errors.

Reconstruction is a priority for Sri Lanka for both humanitarian and practical reasons. The urgent re-building of the war-ravaged north and east is a must. In this endeavour it is best to be guided by the citizens of the area and their elected representatives. To this end, the announcement of plans to hold the Northern Provincial Council elections is a step in the right direction. Let us hope that these elections will be free and fair and that they will be held as scheduled in September 2013.

Much has been achieved on the rehabilitation front although more yet remains to be done. Demining, treatment of LTTE’s child soldiers and the release of some suspected LTTE detainees are laudable acts and the government needs to be commended for the work done to date. Difficult though it admittedly is, steps should be taken to follow due process with regard to bringing to justice some of the ex-senior LTTE cadres. Four years almost to the end of the war, we have not yet been able to identify those listed as missing or believed dead. This is a vital area on which we must move as speedily as humanly possible so that their next of kin could come to terms with their sense of loss. We should either press charges against those in custody guilty of offences against the state or release them if there is no hard evidence to keep them in jail. This complex aspect of rehabilitation needs to be attended to responsibly and speedily if we are serious about helping those of our citizens overwhelmed by tragedy of war to apply closure. Parents need to know if some of their children are dead or alive; wives need to know the same of their husbands and vice versa and relatives need to know how many of their kith and kin have survived the war and how many perished.

On the reconciliation front, Sri Lanka’s progress is tardy. Nobody expects national reconciliation to occur overnight as if we could pluck reconciliation out of thin air! But after nearly four years post-war, at least a credible beginning of that long healing process leading to reconciliation ought to have begun. It has not. Even the basic recommendations of the Lessons Learnt and Reconciliation Commission(LLRC), as has been pointed out ad infinitum by many a writer on Sri Lanka have not yet been implemented. The External Affairs Minister is on record as saying that ‘the pace of implementation, priorities and timing [of the LLRC recommendations] are political judgements for the Government of this Country’. Heaven help us! We have been waiting from 1980s onwards when President Jayewardene summoned an All Party Conference(APC) for our government to act and to find a solution to our Sinhala- Tamil conflict. Thereafter we went through the elaborate All Party Representative Committee (APRC) deliberations chaired by Minister Peiris’s other professorial Cabinet colleague, Tissa Vitarana. That exercise reminded one of a mountain labouring to produce a mouse. Then it was a case of waiting for the LLRC recommendations. These recommendations have, like the ides of March, come, but, happily, unlike the ides not yet gone. How much longer does Minister Peiris want us to wait for the ‘Government of this country’ to bestir itself to implement the LLRC recommendations one wonders. One can only hope this wait will not be like our famous wait for Godot. The proposed Parliamentary Select Committee to aid in the search for an enduring political solution to the Sinhala- Tamil conflict or the National Question is yet to be appointed. In the pre-2009 period, admittedly the intransigence of the LTTE did not help the cause of a negotiated political solution. But today the LTTE is no longer an impediment to a marriage of true Sri Lankan minds. Hence the present delay in our national search for a true peace is both puzzling and troubling.

The pressure from Geneva and elsewhere should therefore come as no surprise to us. These pressures stem from Sri Lanka’s neglect of home grown mechanisms for reconciliation for the formulation of which Sri Lanka asked for and received ‘time and space’. The LLRC laboured and produced its comprehensive recommendations unlike the APRC. Now instead of implementing these LLRC recommendations, like Oliver Twist of old, the government is asking for more; more ‘time and space’ in which to do so.

I submit that it is our recent foreign policy debacles arising from our repeated failure to act on principle and on assurances given to our international partners that has been, to use Minister Peiris’s words used in a different context, ‘the catalyst for discord, dissension and violence’ in our international relations. Likewise the government’s failure to act on similar assurances given to its citizens has been the catalyst for domestic discord, dissension and violence. Belated though it is, we have got to extricate ourselves from the enormous diplomatic hole we got ourselves into after May 2009 even at this late stage. This endeavour ought to be a national priority and is a task that should not be entrusted to the government or the politicians alone.

A country’s foreign policy and its domestic policies are inextricably bound together. As United States Senator Lindsay Graham has perceptively observed, ‘’investment in foreign policy is a national security insurance’. The crucial element of balance that characterized the foreign policy of Prime Minister Sirimavo Bandaranaike is markedly lacking in our foreign policy today. President Jayewardene in his period in office unwisely moved away from the balanced foreign policy of his predecessor and not merely he and his government but Sri Lanka as a whole paid dearly for that significant failure. Foreign Minister Lakshman Kadirgamar restored that delicate balance to our foreign policy but those lesser mortals who followed him recklessly abandoned that in favour of a ‘realist’ counter-balance. We are today reaping the harmful consequences arising from our deviation from a balanced and nuanced foreign policy. As in the 1980s, it will be Sri Lanka as a whole that will once more suffer if our present government continues to follow a lop-sided foreign policy. Governments may come and governments may go, but Sri Lanka needs must go on. Hence all of us Sri Lankans have a crucial role to play to help resurrect Sri Lanka from the dangerous depths to which it has sunk in recent times. Our failure to rise to the occasion will only serve to push Sri Lanka deeper into the mire of chaos and dissension. The time to act to transform Sri Lanka into a viable 21st century state is now.

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Latest comments

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    As usual Tissa has written an excellent balanced article. This must be translated into Sinhala and Tamil and published in all news papers. Well done Tissa.

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      Absolutely. I feel wiser after reading this piece.

      This must be read by the masses of Sri Lanka. Sinhalese, Tamils, Muslims and all other Sri Lankans. Must be read in their native language. Either Sinhalese or Tamil.

      Otherwise all they read is Wimal Weerawansa’s populistic rubbish.

      Please Mr. Jayatilaka, publish this in Sinhala and Tamil as well.

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        Yes, We must get Mr Jayathilaka to translate it to Swahili too. Rubbish needs to be thrown at plentiful quantities to have an effect!

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          For you to have any “Traction” at all, you must explain why you think it is rubbish.

          Chhers!

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    I would not consider Kadirgamar to have deliverd on equal balance. Rather he was a balancer on a tight rope with the balance pole heavily tilted in favour of the govt. It could not be otherwise if he was to remain in the favour of the govt and retain his position. Albeit he did have a moderating influence on the policies of the government. His talent was that he was an eloquent speaker and was able to convince the international community by capitalising on the war against terror post 9/11.

    13A was not conjured up in 2009 but a part of the constitution since 1987 following the Indo Sri Lanka accord. 13A has not been implemented mainly due to the executive presidiency which is inimical to devolution of power. Successive presidents have seen fit to undermine its implementation especially in the north and east. Also it was undermined by LTTE who wanted nothing else but a separate state.

    Present state of Sri Lankan foreign policy is chaotic. How else could it be with the likes of the crooked Sajin Vaas and the senile GLP dancing to the tune of the president.

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      @safa:
      “I would not consider Kadirgamar to have deliverd on equal balance. Rather he was a balancer on a tight rope with the balance pole heavily tilted in favour of the govt. It could not be otherwise if he was to remain in the favour of the govt and retain his position.” This is why he did not deserve to be immortalised by the erection of a statue. At least,useful space was not wasted this time.

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    Safa

    “Also it was undermined by LTTE who wanted nothing else but a separate state.”

    Do you think VP really wanted an independent state?

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      Yes NV, that is my perception having followed the trend of events over the several decades. There were peace talks but always ended in a stalemate. Following brief narrative from World Movement for Democracy.

      By the early 1970s, militant ethnic nationalist groups who demanded autonomy emerged in the Tamil-dominated eastern and northern regions of the island, with the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) most prominent among them. In 1983, the LTTE launched an attack on the military in northern Sri Lanka that sparked anti-Tamil riots across the country and is generally viewed as the beginning of the civil war. By 1989, the LTTE controlled the majority of northern and eastern Sri Lanka. Peace talks between the government and the LTTE were initiated in 1995 but quickly broke down because neither side was willing to concede anything substantial. In February 2002, a new peace process was begun with the signing of a ceasefire agreement, in which both sides agreed to disarm, maintain current borders, and enter into peace negotiations. From September 2002 to April 2003, six rounds of peace talks were held between the LTTE and the Sri Lankan government. However, in 2003, the LTTE announced that it would settle for nothing less than an interim government and pulled out of the negotiations, which were not resumed until February 2006, when the entities met in Geneva, Switzerland. The February talks proved fruitless, and by the summer of 2006, full-scale violence had returned to eastern Sri Lanka. A stalemate was reached in September, and another peace talk was held in Geneva in October. However, both parties failed to agree on a constructive way to end the conflict and have once again resorted to violence.

      As stated LTTE was in a position of power by 1989 controlling large areas of territory. Hence they would not give up on the hope of establishing a separate state.

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        Safa

        The man/monster wrongly thought he was a born leader, a president in waiting. Therefore he needed a country to govern. This has nothing to do with wider issues faced by the minorities.

        He tried to calve out Tamil Eelam first. It din’t happen the way he desired.

        Then he initiated a discussion among the Tamilnadu “intellectuals” about the entire Tamil speaking people of the world, and who would be the leader of Akand Eelam (greater Eelam) comprising North East Sri Lanka and Tamilnadu. The Akand Eelam didn’t happen.

        Frustrated man didn’t stop his destruction and killing, his actions were of a sadist psychopath. By now he had earned enough enemies hence his reluctance to transform himself and LTTE.

        He feared for his life in a democratic North East and would have thought it was safe for him to remain a military leader than a civilian one, a perpetual war condition would guarantee his safety from his own people and enemies he had already earned.

        His demise is also similar to cult leaders, when he went down he took his followers and his people with him, he knew the game was up many years prior to his surrender and subsequent murder by MR clan.

        A president in waiting who turned his guns on the people and loved to be a leader of 100 million Tamils and eventually succumbed to his past mistakes.

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      From where I am positioned now in time and space, I am beginning to increasingly think that no one wants a negotiated, mutually acceptable solution. Everyone wants a solution on their own terms. There may be occasional and even repeated pretence otherwise, when conditions are adverse. This is a dastardly tactic to buy time. However, the strategy remains ‘ only on my terms’.

      Unless the strategy becomes oriented towards a solution involving accommodation, give and take ,forgive and apologise, repent and self-criticism , we will be on the old tread mill for years, if not decades to come.

      The people, their suffering and their needs do not figure in the current political equation. They are pawns in a despicable game.

      Dr.Rajasingham Narendran

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    Success in diplomacy appears to depend on skilful brainwashing of other deplomats to beleive what one wants them to beleive.
    Hance the 2009 “success” at the UNHRC meeting.
    Now it appears that lankan delegates are beginning to beleive their own lies to the world!

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    Any Idea Tissa, why any country should support Sri Lanka ?

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    Well done my brother Tissa you have written a well balanced article,keep educating Sri Lanka (pearl of the Indian Ocean)you will archive one day what you are looking for,all the best.

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    Trumpet blowers have now turned out as Whistle blowers.

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    1. So, 1987 Accord and Kadirgamar helped successive governments control damage at the UN against the accusations of discrimination of the ethnic minorities which has been incessant from 1948 till today,
    2.It is a pity that many like this author didn’t start to prod this government much earlier.
    3. Report (with its recommendations) of the All Party Representative Committee (APRC) was not released by the President just as the reports of 14 other bodies appointed by him. LLRC report was released under great international pressure.

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    It is crystal clear that this article is written to please Tissa’s [Edited out]. There is nothing new in this article but just another reproduction of the common stupid rhetoric of the shameless west. At the same time Tissa obsequiously ingratiates the USA and India at the cost of losing his own credibility altogether if he ever had it, which culminates when he maintains that the USA and India helped us to the hilt which would not struck any Sri Lankan mind even in the wildest of a dream. Rest of this dubious article notwithsatanding, this wild phrase alone shamelessly expects the reader to be oblivious to obvious and thus makes a mockery of his whole approach. Obviously he will get a return of investment for this audacious article which the USA and Tamilnadu can reproduce as the voice of genuine concerned Sri Lankan interlectual. This article should be translated into Sinhala and Tamil and published in Sri Lanka, because average man should know, how certain so-called interlectuals nakedly dance to the tune of their paymasters and betray this country.

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      Betrayal? Well, well, betrayal is what the Government of Sri Lanka is doing to the minorities. Writing the honest truth cannot be betrayal, may be I should say honest truth can be considered as betrayal only by the traitors of democracy, peace and above all stooges of the present regime.

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      Tissa Jayatilaka has very lucidly briefed us on the current status of our foreign relations, how we came to be in this imbroglio, and what steps we can possibly take to pull ourselves out of the quagmire. What he has not said is what is in store for us if we do not. To those who are perceptive the portents are ominous. Those who criticise Tissa and other writers like him cannot recognize and differentiate between genuine concern for the people of this country and their own bigoted ideology. Neither do they offer helpful suggestions. It is Sri Lanka’s tragedy that there are more people of such calibre in positions of influence, arrogant, insulting,lying, and ever willing to kill a reasoned argument. It is difficult for them to curb their soaring ego, nor do they recognize the extent of harm they inflict on their own people by their tunnel vision.

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    Wijab,

    Article is quite clear & a balanced one. Great Stuff Tissa. I dont think there is anything clear to please anyone b’coz he has been critical wherever necessary be it India, USA, Gove & also given credit where it is due. So the crystal you seeing thro perhaps is not very clear. Just shows your ignorance.

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    Tissa Jayatilaka is trying to blame the jokers in charge of foreign policy after Kadirgamar’s demise for all the problems the country has faced after the end of the war. What he has failed to recognise is the conduct of the Rajapaksa regime towards the tamils after the war and the general deterioration in good governance as the primary causes for the country’s troubles. No one, either inside or outside the country, would have had cause to complain if the regime had reached out to the tamils, apologised for the killings and the mistakes made in the last sixty years and allowed them some degree of autonomy without delay.

    What we see today is the complete alienation of the tamil people from the Sinhalese people by continued militarisation, colonisation, sinhalisation, intimidation and murders by the military, police and the paramilitaries. The promised 13A has been abandoned and the sinahala fascists are being primed to scuttle any chance of accommodating the wishes of the tamils.

    Mr Jayatilaka, let me tell you that even if Kadirgamar had been alive today he would have resigned the post in disgust at what the Rajapaksa regime had done not only to the tamils but to the country in general since the end of the war.

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