1 October, 2020

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Alistair Burt Has Spoken, We Hear

By Malinda Seneviratne –

Malinda Seneviratne

British Under Secretary for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs, Alistair Burt has spoken. He has spoken for Britain, a country he describes as ‘a candid friend of Sri Lanka’. In the classic, hold-the-hand-and-rap-knuckles mode, Burt has clearly stated that Britain will continue to back anti-Sri Lankan moves at the UNHRC sessions later this month in Geneva. ‘In the country’s best interest,’ of course. ‘Being friendly,’ of course.

Burt was speaking on the topic of ‘Sri Lanka – 2013 and Beyond’ at a seminar organized by the Lakshman Kadirgamar Institute for International Relations. Minister of External Affairs, G.L. Peiris, in his impromptu response to the prepared speech by Burt made some valid points. Peiris asked, politely, why this ‘candid friendship’ expressed in relation to other countries (he was obviously referring to Isreal) was being selectively ‘applied’. Israel, as everyone knows, has in no uncertain terms told the UNHRC where to get off (as in, ‘we won’t let you get “in”’). Sri Lanka, on the other hand, engages with the UNHRC, takes note of resolutions and participates respectfully in periodic reviews, unlike Israel.

Burt talked of the need ‘to see individuals brought to justice in particular cases of violent attack, it simply cannot be right for the accused to be walking free’. Prof Peiris has been diplomatic to a fault. He could have said ‘How come you don’t surrender to the Haig, along with your entire Cabinet, Queen and PM downwards?’ That would be for perpetrating and aiding and abetting crimes against humanity.

Prof Peiris also pointed out the dangers of using a broad brush in talking about countries with very different cultures, histories and political contexts, and moreover, if comparisons are made, the strange reluctance to unreservedly applaud the vast strides Sri Lanka has taken post-conflict. In general, post-conflict progress is mentioned because it has to be, but is always followed by unfair and shrill shop-talk about accountability with little or no knowledge of realities faced by Sri Lanka in executing a military assault on the world’s most ruthless terrorist outfit. Britain has never ever exercised the kind of restraint Sri Lanka demonstrated in dealing with ‘enemies’. Britain is yet to compensate Sri Lanka for the violence it unleashed on citizen, culture and soil of this island. The loot stayed in Britain. Burt is a beneficiary of plunder. Scot-free and rich!

Burt is out of order. Is Peiris ‘in order’ though? It is no secret that the big boys and girls of the international community consistently play favorites in international forums. Where ‘crisis’ is needed, crisis will be manufactured, this we know. Where faulting helps, fault will be manufactured. Mountains will be made of molehills. The problem is that Sri Lanka is not Isreal, for Israel has the USA by its whatnots if we were to go by the number of times Uncle Sam played Israel’s one-true-friend at the UN.

That’s the small problem though. The big problem is that the Government sweats more over Geneva than over Thambuttegama, Paranthan and Kattankudy. There’s progress, yes. LLRC recommendations are being implemented, yes. If it is ridiculous to say that there were no human rights violations in the last stages of the conflict, it is even sillier to say that all that was ‘policy’, true. Still, it is important for Sri Lanka and Sri Lankans to come clean for Sri Lanka and Sri Lankans.

It’s not about Burt or Blake (that’s ‘Robert the Meddler from the USA’). It is easy to dismiss them and their loose-tongued drivel. The difficult thing is to desist from doing the easy thing. Easy things, plural, for ‘development’ and ‘progress in rehabilitation, reconstruction, re-settlement, de-mining etc.,’ laudable as they are, are less difficult than dealing with the anger, loss, betrayal and that which is unpardonable. Tamil political parties have played safe, refusing to come clean on their acts of omission and commission with respect to crimes against humanity. The Government should not wait on them to make the first move.

This year, the Government goes to Geneva knowing well that its (so-called) friends will spare no efforts to insult and humiliate. The Government is putting on a brave front. There’s something missing though. It is called ‘Moral High(er) Ground’. Moral high ground is a relative term and can be asserted by undressing the likes of Burt. The higher moral ground is obtained by a clean conscience. It requires humility. It requires penitence. It requires punishing those whose errant behavior made it easier for the Burts of the West to piddle on Sri Lanka.

King Dutugemunu suffered from insomnia after defeating Elara. He confessed to the fact. There was no shame. That was a war fought under different rules. This was different. The enemy was a ruthless terrorist that was holding some 300,000 people hostage. Extreme restraint was shown and that is easily established. But humans err. And some humans err to extents that are not pardonable. Such things happen and it is unfortunate but perhaps unavoidable. The guilty have to be named. Punished. That is not ‘betrayal’, for turning away is betrayal of all citizens and everything that is wholesome and laudable in our society, our history and heritage. Do it, and the Burts of the West can howl as loud as they want, but the Government will have the full backing of all the people on either side of this ‘Geneva’ and all ‘Genevas’ to follow. This and this alone (no, not China or Russia) is what will make the difference.

*Malinda Seneviratne is the Chief Editor of ‘The Nation and his articles can be found at www.malindawords.blogspot.com 

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    This article amply demonstrates what a war can do to different sections of the society. Most of the true soldiers came out of the war with deeper respect for humanity, human rights, rule of law, and justice. I have had the privilege of talking to many such soldiers. They were brave enough to confess deep flaws in the Sri Lankan political system that led to a series of unfortunate situations. For them, the dawn of an era at the end of the war, where guns will be silenced, citizens will be treated equally, and justice will protect everybody’s rights equally, was a bright dream. Then, there were politicians like Rajapaksas and some media people, who rode a super wave of success on the euphoria of the gullible at the expense of the blood of soldiers and all those who suffered. The war did not make them any more mature than who they were, but made them greedier. Some of the cover up media men, like the infamous guy who ran “Thulawa” (what a name for the biased!), and those Malinda may know best, keep the rest of the innocent people uninformed about the pressing social reforms that need to be brought in to make Sri Lanka safe for all. Why bother when they enjoy a different legal system? The above Thulawa guy is hanging around freely, but on warrants!.

    I am not sure how Malinda tests a friendship. For me, a friend is somebody who bothers to buy Sri Lanka’s value added finished products, for that generates employment for the skilled, and provides opportunities for broader education. A friend is somebody who is bothered about Sri Lanka’s human rights situation. If USA or UK is not bothered about the human rights record of Israel, they are not in a true friendship with Israel, but in a relationship of exploitation, that will destroy Israel in the long run. In that sense, President Obama is a better friend of Israel than many right wing republicans. A lot of my Jewish friends who are worried about the Prawar Plan, and the silence of many countries has been vocal about this. Anyway, it is upto the Jews who truly love the long term survival of Israel to worry about their country. But, I respect all those who express concerns about what is going on in Sri Lanka, the brave Sri Lankans first (those who gained higher respect for humanity during the war), and then those international friends. Malinda tries to apply the local “patriot” or “traitor” theory often used to choose one out of two diamemetrically opposite sets of laws co-existing in one country, to those international members of the UN who express concerns. They are “doing something against Sri Lanka”. So what they should do is to approve what is going on? Like the third grade tactics used to impeach the Chief Justice defying all recommendations of the Supreme Court, denying all principles of natural justice? By the way, did we see that Government efficiency in the implementation of the recommendations of the LLRC? Malinda may not notice that there is some flaw in the priority list of the Government, and the long term consequences, but people who are concerned about Sri Lanka’s future notice them to be matters to be concerned about.

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      Burt should put his money where his mouth is!
      The CHOGM should not be held to boost the Rajapakse regime in Sri Lanka in 2013 the year the first woman CJ was impeached and replaced by a corruption czar – Mohan Peris..
      MS is oddly silent on the Commonwealth beloved of Rajapassa who has spend billions of Lankan tax rupees on Commonwealth Games bids and entertaining the Commonwelath Parliamentarians the majority of whome are like the Diya-wenna Parliamentarians- uneducated goons, fools, criminals, thugs and geriatrics..
      The CHOGM in Lanka will only further de-legitimize an organization that is a British COLONIAL relic par example, an irrelevant and obsolete outfit that supports third world dictatorships. Dictators like Rajapakse (and Ranil Wickramasinghe who keeps prating about Latimer House Rules as if anyone has heard of these or give a damn about them) love the commonwealth but MS who hates Britain and never misses a chance to vent post-colonial vitriol is silent on the Rajapassa-Wickramasinghe- Commonwealth love affair which has cost the Lankan tax payer dear!

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      Thrishantha,

      A refreshing and sane response. Thanks.

      Dr.Rajasingham Narendran

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        It would be refreshing too if you stick to your earlier idea of starting a fund to help the Ex-CJ from public funds by setting it up !!!, you must be a man of action and not mere words but then again people like you talk big but do nothing !

        I can now understand what ‘help’ you must have provided to the people in the north, as claimed by you–all talk and no action !

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    Malinda is comparing Sri Lanka to Israel!
    What he fails to understand is the importance of Israel to the world and how much influence it has in the corridors of power in Europe and America. Israel is a nuclear power surrounded by enemies and has enormous support among the powerful nations. Sri Lanka is a dust particle with no significance whatsoever to the outside world.

    World opinion is turning against The Rajapaksa regime and not against Sri Lanka Mr Senevirate. Rajapaksas come and go but Sri Lanka will be there forever. Rajapaksa is not Sri Lanka and Sri Lanka is not Rajapaksa although Rajapaksa is trying his best to make this connection.

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    This clown continues his incessant bleating about hypocrisy and, as usual, is totally incapable of dealing with TOTALLY justified criticisms of the Hitlerian conduct of his masters.
    What else is new? One might as well expect a cow to crow at first light as to expect the Editor-in-Chief of a Rajapaksa-owned paper to utter anything even vaguely resembling the truth!
    Using Alistair Burt, a low-level British functionary as this week’s whipping-boy is but typical of the behaviour of someone of Malinda Seneviratne’s type.

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    Tamils have made it very clear every where that they are very upset of defeating LTTE and Letting their investment in LTTE slip away. So, Tamils have promised they make the Sri Lankan govt suffer. Tamils have block votes and they use those block votes to influence the govt. That is why all these countries want to BULLY SRI LANKA.

    Tamils will not stop it until they subjugate the Sri Lanan govt.

    On the other hand, as long as the Sri Lankan Tamil population is larger than the Sri Lankan Chinese population, Tamils keep on harassing Sri Lanka.

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    If we had fought a war abiding by normal rules of engagement, allowing media coverage these problems would not have arisen. It may have taken longer and the outcome may have been different. It was because of the unconventional tactics adopted by the armed forces that it ended quickly the way it did. Albeit at the expense of severe collateral damage and civilian casualties.

    LTTE placed their own people in harms way by using them as human shields. It is expected that the armed forces took whatever precautions required to prevent or minimize civilian casualties. Despite all this there is no doubt that certain rogue elements indulged in crimes against humanity as revealed in the numerous media footage available after the war, mostly taken by members of the forces themselves.

    Certainly the war crimes committed did not help the war effort. They were targeted aginst innocent civilians or individuals so they had no strategic advantage or value. Hence the govt decision to ignore such crimes and not take any action against those guilty runs counter to the purpose of fighting the war. In addition these crimes have blackened the good name of the country and forces. Such criminals can certainly not be called war heroes and their crimes must weigh heavily on the conscience of the nation. Hence the sooner that justice is done and the missing accounted and reconciled, the victims compensated, the better for all of us and the end to a sad chapter.

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    Western hypocricy; Read this (except Racist – Tribalist part).
    [Edited out]
    Please write instead of pasting links – CT

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    Malinda’s concern is that despite the offer of friendship the west is behaving in a manner alien to him. To the likes of Malinda, if you are a friend, then thou shalt acquiesce, support and shut up as he is wont to do with the “Lankan big boys”. He laments that the so called friends are not as unprincipled as he is!
    Given this lack of support and acknowledgement of all the good things that the government is doing, what is required is to make sure that the exchanges by the local “big boys” with the big boys and girls of the international community be “managed”. If we could achieve this objective by putting in place a process that would “get the nod of the people in the south” then we can return triumphantly from every trip to Geneva! Neat isn’t it?
    However to those affected this callous approach to managing everything is deeply resentful, be it the soldier who fought Malinda’s war or the civilian caught in the firefight. To combatants the war was fought at individual level, soldier to militant, losses were again at the lowest of the fighting unit. I have met some of these brave men who were lucky not to have lost a comrade in battle, but escaped with injuries. Their trauma remains inflicting deeper wounds. There are others like an aging parent who has lost most of his family and looks at a forlorn future. He would like to know how and why his family members perished, grieve and move on. The wounds may be different, but the pain is the same.
    Malinda’s strategy of managing this tragedy at a macro level, on both sides of the divide is nothing but a careless and crude attempt at hog wash. You may play ball with your masters, but the question remains if your conscience will play ball with you!
    M Y Foote

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    Your mental acumen is not in discussion, what you say is highly sharable. But there are two big, misleading twist: the fact that Israel is committing crimes against humanity is not an excuse for Sri Lanka. It can be a diplomatic weapon, but it didn’t change an inch in the opinion of person so enlightened like you and me.
    Second, and this is a big one, Sri Lankan armed forces showed no restrain: the UN, even the UN! had to admit, that yes, something (bad) happened.
    A final point, I appreciate very much the fact you slipped between the lines, that a proper investigation will silence all these Western hypocrites. I’m 100% with you: if Sri Lanka will properly investigate the people responsible of war crimes and atrocities during the IV Eelam War, it would suffice.
    You and I know that is impossible to chase the chain of command till the top: nobody is asking Rajapaksa to give up himself. But proper, authentic inquiry, will do. At least telling the Tamils, now fully Sri Lankan citizens, that some of their relatives’ murderers have been brought to justice. At least some.

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    The writer tells us, “Minister of External Affairs, G.L. Peiris, in his impromptu response to the prepared speech by Burt made some valid points. Peiris asked, politely, why this ‘candid friendship’ expressed in relation to other countries (he was obviously referring to Israel) was being selectively ‘applied”.

    This sort of response is not uncommon. But it is a weak response and an inadequate one. GLP’s statement does not seek to refute the allegedly unfair accusations made against the country. It reflects rather a tacit admission of guilt but a plea in mitigation that ‘we are only as guilty as the other fellow but why are you accusing only us?’ If you are unfairly accused of some wrong doing what you need to do is to refute the charge and demonstrate your innocence with satisfactory evidence. Perhaps, the administration cannot do so; hence the recourse to countering with protests of selective conduct.

    Alistair Burt has presented Britain’s ‘case’ calmly and soberly and with the good manners he realises that a guest should demonstrate. And to respond to his speech with a show of ‘bravado’ or simply with what the writer sees as a smart response is unfortunately not going to help.

    The Rajapakse administration has consistently refused to see the good sense of what other countries are saying if that runs counter to the administration’s interests. It does not appear to be capable of collaborative engagement with other countries or with international agencies. And the pity is that even men like GLP, who one would have expected to show greater sense, are happy to toe the government line.

    It is time the administration tries to work with the international community rather than against it, and abandon its tired and hollow rhetoric of an ‘international conspiracy’ against the country. There is undoubtedly still a vast reservoir of international goodwill towards Sri Lanka and countries that genuinely want the island to prosper and succeed. Let’s not waste the opportunity to use them to our

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    ” And to respond to his speech with a show of ‘bravado’ or simply with what the writer sees as a smart response is unfortunately not going to help.”

    This kind of crude response or language comes out of the regime’s representatives quite often whenever there is criticism. This is because there is no other way in which they can respond as there is no justification for their behaviour or acts. These people don’t know how to be diplomatic when responding but are using the language usually heard in fish markets in Sri lanka. A recent example was Kshenuka Seneviratn’s response to Ms Navi Pillay – appalling.

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    Rotten Joker Peris should have asked. Why you have not said anything when we killed the Tamils in 1956, 1968, 1977, 1981, 1983. Only when My Boss MaRa the comoom thug kills in 2009 you are asking all sort of unnecessary questions.
    If you have power you will kill indiscriminately without any reasons because you have power in Sri Lanka. They have power in the world so they will do as what they like.
    You want to be in power so you will kill Tamils to be in Power. They want to be in power and they are lokking after the interest of Tamil diaspora who can help them to stay in power

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