27 November, 2021


Castigation Of GR’s Foreign Policy!

By Rusiripala Tennakoon –

Rusiripala Tennakoon

A renowned writer and a foreign policy analyst, Dayan Jayatilleka, in a recent media release titled ‘President GR’s Foreign Policy deviation’, has referred to the current foreign policy of Sri Lanka in a highly critical sense. As the subject matter is of utmost importance to all of us, certain observations made by him need to be reviewed and pondered over. Hence the following concerns, along with more information relevant to the issue both in the international scenario as well as our own.

There are several obvious contradictions evident in DJ’s write up. He has Quoted from a reference to his late father Mervyn de Silva, who pronounced that “abandonment of nonalignment was pioneered in the 1980s”. which further added that ‘It’s colossal fallacy was spotlighted by his father whose warnings proved prophetic in 1987’. From this own admission if the policy change has been advocated in 1980s, we can only surmise that the idea of NAM has been a thing consigned to history long ago not by GR and MR as DJ is trying to propagate. Where, then, is the deviation in policy that Dr. Jayatillake is trying to make out? 

DJ accuses that Sri Lanka has just buried nonalignment and points out that President Gotabaya Rajapaksa has abandoned Sri Lanka’s long held framework of ideas on the world. Two questions arise. If his statement ‘just buried’ is correct then what his late father has told about it’s abandonment in the 80s has to be incorrect. The other question is where did this “long held framework of ideas on the world” exist? As far as we know the non-aligned movement was a matter of the past only. We haven’t seen any activity based on a nonaligned movement for a considerable period. It is a virtually forgotten affair in the modern world. 

DJ refers to the 1956 UNGA, address by SWRD to elucidate his position that President GR has omitted something that all previous leaders have done. That is the reference to Palestine in their addresses. A perusal of the UNGA address by SWRD in 1956, shows that he has not made any reference to Palestine as claimed by DJ in that address. One cannot accept there to be anything so sacred about repeatedly mentioning Palestine affair either. But certain references SWRD has specifically made in his address  quoted below will certainly help us as useful material in our discussion today about the NAM.

Quote, “……..That is why we do not range ourselves on the side of this power bloc or that power bloc. That is the philosophy of neutralism. It is not something dishonest; it is not a matter of sitting on the fence to see whether we can get the best of both world…………….” my emphasis.

I also wish to quote Late Felix.R.D.B. on Non –Alignment. Following excerpts (daily News ,16th August 1976) will be relevant. “NAM in its present sense came into being in the 1950’s and in the early 1960’s when leaders like Prime Minister Nehru of India, President Nasser of the U.A.R. as it was then called, President TITO of Yugoslavia, Prime Minister Sirimavo Bandaranaike of Sri Lanka and others decided to get together on the basis of principles they had adopted in their respective foreign policies which came to be described as “dynamic neutralism and non-alignment”

In the same context he adds further, “Non-Alignment does not mean mere absence of alignments. The positive concept of non-alignment is peaceful co-existence something much more than merely getting rid of old rivalries. It is a positive search for a new era of co-operation in place of the confrontation of the past. NAM is not ideologically tied. It does not have a common ideology as such. Many countries sway in favour of the ideology to another. The desire of nations to pursue independent policies for the good of their own people is fundamental to NAM.” 

DJ’s conceptualization of a doctrine behind the NAM is only an imagination. The Neutralism and non-alignment are features inseparable. In the absence of an active Movement there is absolutely no evil in continuing with the neutral concept. After all a movement for non-alignment itself is an alignment whereas independent neutralism is more desirable under a league of Nations advancing to provide equal opportunities in a modern world. 

DJ’s observations on the securing of safety through numbers and his gradation of countries as big and small appears to emanate from  a weak and subjugated mind set. It is more advantageous to use the neutral concept relying on our geo-political strengths and to engage in discussions to mobilize support towards our goals in our national interests. It is an undeniable fact that national interest enjoys considerable favour and respect in reference to the domestic policies of nations.

Neutralism, also called Nonalignment, in international relations, the peacetime policy of avoiding political or ideological affiliations with major power blocs. Therefore MR and GR have not committed any sins as alleged by DJ. Perhaps DJ is  well aware of the ongoing debate about the ‘national interest’ that he has referred to in his article. Global analysts have given objective as well as subjective connotations to “national interest”. The sum total of the reality is that ‘national interest’ is not a static thing and change in accordance with many other factors.

Let me quote from a historically renowned analyst in this regard;

“national interest is the perennial standard by which political action must be judged and directed, therefore the objective of a foreign policy must be defined in terms of the national interest. And exactly what constitutes this national interest? ‘the kind of interest determining political action and cultural context within which foreign policy is formulated”

It has been reasoned that nations do what they do in order to satisfy their best interests and that by describing these needs and wants the analyst would be in a position to use the concept of national interest as a tool for explanation. 

DJ cannot be oblivion to the fact that our country is facing the most controversial focus by different global power blocs as never before, now. Sticking to old values and theories hardly applicable in the current context would be a folly and choosing such dogmas to politically castigate the leaders is equally bad. Let us look forward. There cannot be any precariousness in following a neutral foreign policy as is attempted to make out by DJ!

The allegation of a deviation in policy by MR/GR government is therefore wrong. However, there is justification for any body to put a blame on the government for not initiating a new concept in keeping with the international trends to introduce a scheme, plan or an idea more suited in the current context. This is, but, a responsibility devolving on the many advisers sitting round the government decision making circles. 

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Latest comments

  • 5

    Rusiri, now you have taken up foreign policy issues with DJ (a good match). Someone here thought, you and Evil Eagle made up the previous story with concocted numbers on X,Y,Z in P Bank.Any comments ??? Over enthusiasm made to you to write against MP Harin , which was almost a contempt of court. I didn’t even know that GR had a foreign policy (which was never told prior to elections) other than making childish threats of walking out of UN/Geneva. Could you please elaborate first about GR’s foreign policy before you take up on DJ.

    • 3

      “renowned writer and a foreign policy analyst, Dayan Jayatilleka,”
      Forgive me, Mr. Rusiri, but I have doubts about that.

      • 2

        Rusiripala, by antagonizing India, what happened in 1987 is going to repeat. Though scenario appears to be similar, there are subtle differences. At that time Sri Lanka was on sound financial footing due to USA and west backing the government. Also when JR asked for help, USA gave correct advice to him to settle with India, which he took by surrendering fully, thereby preventing disaster and disgrace. Presently Sri Lanka is in dire economic state, and antagonizing USA will make it worse. USA has clearly warned not to have dealings with Chinese companies which were banned by them. Also it appears that China is giving wrong advice to confront India. Unlike JR, current leadership of GR/MR are gung ho types who think that they can fool India. MR was able to take India for a ride due to weak leadership, but now Modi is as strong as Indra Gandhi, and trying to show Chinese goni billa to him will end in disaster and disgrace.

  • 5

    While ‘non-alignment’ is not relevant anymore, invoking the notion of ‘neutrality’ by the current foreign policy nabobs is a cover-up. This is what I wrote in response to Dayan’s article:
    The argument that ‘non-alignment’ is not relevant anymore as the cold war between the two superpowers has long ended is just malarkey to camouflage Sri Lanka’s new foreign policy orientation. ‘Neutrality’ is actually a code word to signal that Sri Lanka is all set to neutralize India’s Big Brother role in its affairs by bringing in China as the counterforce. This is what is meant by ‘neutrality’ and this is the avowed dream of the ideologues of Sinhala-Buddhist hegemony. They find Dayan and his Dad’s foreign policy criteria not merely irrelevant, but as positively dangerous in the evolving domestic, regional and global situation.

    • 0

      Dear Ajith

      Neutrality means we are going to be Nation who will decide what is in the best interest of our Nation and whom we do business with is no other mans business as we do not tell others what to do period.

      Neutrality means we will not poison/sponsor/arm other mans “children” in other mans country for our needs nor not a way to help others solve their problems too.

      Anyone want to do trade/friendship with our Nation of people we will be fair to all and welcome all fairly and squarely to the table…..that is what India, Singapore, Malaysia and other Asian developing Nations do too….they always had and will continue to have million more problems than we do but will get their through du diligence planning/unity as a Nation. They all have tailored National planning for a particular phase of their Nations journey once and revisit the second phase and readjust outlook accordingly…..just as you will be running your family affairs too.

      Nothing stays the same..since we are such a divisive people it is even more important we have Sinhala identity yet religious diversity will bring us together. Let us say is like you evaluating unit trust for investments per se.

    • 2

      China had built strong ties with this country even before formal diplomatic ties came about in 1956.
      China has treated this country with more respect than any rival bidder for influence.
      If India gives up its hegemonic attitude in the region, it will be the most attractive to all countries of South Asia because of a long tradition of cultural ties.
      Check when China entered the picture before accusing any SL government of playing China against India.

      • 2

        You have a point there. But unfortunately there is a vast difference between the (Communist?) China of 1950s and its relations with Ceylon, and today’s superpower (Capitalist?) China and its involvement in Sri Lanka’s economy. Not to mention the radically changed geopolitics of the globalized world.

  • 1

    Thank you RT.

    Our Excellencies speech can be found in the following link


    A very well composed and not so elobrate yet specific regards placing SL and the Indian Ocean in the right place showing respect to all other Nations and their needs too…empathy.

    Did not rub anyone in the wrong side yet placing SL with dignity and her future journey with Environment/Bio diversity needs placed in the heart of all her ventures/planning for a sustainable future. Also explaining to the world how we are supporting each and every family during this pandemic times mindfully as a developing Nation and her limitations too.

    I hope CT publish the speech please. If we go down this path of extracting something and start politically killing all that is our Nation and her elected leadership misquoting our head of state to our own folks then we need to revisit our own basic instinct/intellect.

    I recall 70’s in Jaffna when the FP/TULF called for slaying opponents by our children and the same did the publications in “Suthenthiran” news paper a crime against humanity……yet to be accounted for by the Nation/UN/Hague.

  • 1

    Non – alignment meant to make friendship with dictators Qaddafi, Saddam, Hafiz Al- Bassar and couple of African Kings, by Castro, Siri Ma- vo, Dito, Nassar like communists, worked with USSR’s number one Friend India. So when these dis-aligned hokey-s met, they did nothing constructive other than shows and partying. In Tamil they say Irappanai Pidichchutham Paraipiranthu. Thero on the attack of Royals. Rusiripala on the attack of Thero. The higly important Subject is Non – Alignment. Come on man; these guys are early birds; Royal have not still enforced the curfew for the 2nd wave of Covid-19. These guys are already starting to celebrate work at home. No grand children or pets? Only the antique PC computer?

  • 0

    Whatever we call ourselves, non-aligned, neutral, or any other word, which seem to have the same meaning but with different flavors. There was a time when the so-called powerful nations, recognized the concept of nations not belonging to any power bloc. The number of such countries were in hundreds branding itself as the Non-Aligned and therefore was a formidable force of recognition. Subsequently that entity was not heard of and the protocol of mutual respect went into the dustbin, with clearer indications after 9/11 attacks when President George Walker Bush told the global community that “Either you are with us or you are with the terrorists”. Neutrality, Non-alignment, Pooh! Increasingly the so-called powerful are adopting this posture and bully the not so powerful. We are an impoverished nation. So, a delegation of a powerful nation can come into the country without any quarantine under the “bubble” principle and offer economic “Aid”. Another chap of the competing camp may come in under the same “bubble” principle and offer just a little aid with the threat that if you fall into the debt trap you are doomed. The real issue is how will SL cope with under these circumstances?

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