11 August, 2020

Blog

CHOGM: A Victory For Rajapaksa, But At Some Price Paid And Counting

By Rajan Philips

Rajan Philips

There is no question, the November Commonwealth summit is a victory for President Mahinda Rajapaksa and his government, internally and internationally.  In collusion with the Commonwealth Secretariat, the government has pushed back detractors and naysayers, concerned about the human rights situation and the impeachment of Chief Justice Shirani Bandaranayake and has managed to make sure that the Colombo summit goes ahead as planned.   There could be distant and neighbourly PM-level boycotts by upstart Canada and hoary India, but the two Ashes rivals in cricket, Australia and England, will not let down their old port of call.  And so the countdown is on for a weeklong summit extravaganza starting November 10th.  Colombo is spruced up and officially ready to cheer as the Commonwealth caravan rolls into town on the brand new highway from the airport to the City.

But the caravan is coming at some price, political as well monetary, some of which the government has already been forced to pay and the rest and more will have to be paid in the future.  The government may not have thought through the political-cost implications of hosting the Commonwealth summit when two years ago, in Perth, Australia, it went all out to win acceptance to host the upcoming summit.  Since then the government has come under persistent international pressure and scrutiny in regard to addressing postwar humanitarian problems and political solution, and in dealing with human rights violation in general and investigating wartime atrocities in particular.  When the government ill-advisedly tried to run away from the recommendations of its own Lessons Learned and Reconciliation Commission (LLRC), the United Nations Human Rights Commission (UNHRC) in Geneva turned the tables on the Sri Lankan government and made the LLRC recommendations a permanent frame of reference for government performance and conformance.  Bi-annual human rights report cards in Geneva and periodical monitoring visits by UNHRC officials are now part of the routine.

Summit price, paid and counting

After playing up patriotism and pseudo-legal posturing, the government is grudgingly toeing the line.  The Commonwealth summit is a major the reason for the change in what has all along been a misguided strategy on the part of the government.  The government also used the August visit by UNHRC Commissioner Navaneetham Pillay as diplomatic preparation for the November summit.             Politically, the biggest price for the government so far has been the holding of the election to the Northern Provincial Council and allowing the formation of a new provincial government led by the Tamil National Alliance.  This was a significantly positive movement on the part of the government considering the immense internal pressure mounted by Gotabhaya Rajapaksa to cancel the election and to abolish the Provincial Council system altogether.  Things can go either way from now on.  The government can turn this ‘cost’ into positive benefit or permanent disaster.

Positively, the government can work with the new Northern Provincial government to systematically address the postwar problems in the Jaffna Penisnula, Mannar and the Vanni mainland, set an example for the East, and use the experience as a model for the PCs in other Provinces.  This will be a difficult task and will require a total turnaround in the thinking and approach of the Rajapaksa family and its regime.  The alternative would be to persist in militaristic thinking and political cockups, ‘that is to say’ – as our legal luminaries will expound, continue with the same old, same old.  Continuing with the same old will be the easier task and the surer road to disaster.

The Commonwealth summit and Navi Pillay’s visit have extracted other prices from the government in the areas of human rights and law and order.  After years of denials, foot dragging and legal pettifogging, the government has restarted the investigation into the killing of 17 aid workers in Muttur and the murder of five young boys in Trincomalee.   Similarly, after stubborn cover-up attempts at the highest levels including shameful statements in the national parliament, the government has been forced to prosecute the suspects in the 2011 New Year’s eve murder in Tangalle of British tourist Khuram Shaikh, and the rape of his Russian girlfriend.  It is not a coincidence that these investigations and indictments are coming on the eve of the Commonwealth summit.

Without the indictment, the British government would have come under severe pressure to boycott the summit.  It is almost certain that Britain is attending the summit not only to keep up with the symbolic tradition as the primogenitor of the organization, but also for the more substantial purpose of securing justice for Khuram Shaikh.  Even the Prince of Wales representing the Queen is expected to raise the matter during the summit.  What this means is that the government has created a situation for the summit visitors to embarrass the host formally and informally.  The positive lesson to learn from the embarrassment is to stop government and defence ministry interference in the enforcement of law and order and the administration of justice.

More importantly, the police and the courts must be allowed to carry through to the end, the Muttur and Trincomalee investigations, and the Tangalle murder indictment, without political interference even after the summit.  Anything short of this will turn into a permanent black mark against the government in the outside world, and the government might as well decide to keep away from future UNHRC sessions and other international forums.

Sharma, shill for GOSL

In the middle of all the controversy over Sri Lanka being the host of CHOGM 2013, not much seems to have been said about the main items on the agenda for the November summit.  Prominent on the agenda at the last summit in Perth were the recommendations of the Eminent Persons Group to create “a reform framework of co-operation and partnership’ to make the Commonwealth relevant in the 21st century.  The 11 member group headed by former Malaysian Prime Minister Tun Abdullah Ahmud Badawi had unanimously recommended mechanisms for dealing with human rights violations and democratic deficits among member countries.  The proposals were effectively stymied from serious consideration by South Africa and India, prompting Mr. Badawi to call the Perth summit a failure.

It is not clear if the old recommendations will come back for discussion, or what other substantial topic or theme will dominate the summit deliberations in Colombo.  On the other hand, there are bound to be plenty of sidebars, informal chats, and housekeeping matters involving the host nation and the Commonwealth Secretariat.  On the housekeeping front, the Canadian Prime Minister has threatened to cut its funding (20% of the revenue) to the organization, and the British government, the major donor, is also under pressure given its domestic emphasis on economic austerity to cut back on its funding support.  The main reason appears to be dissatisfaction among senior member countries with the highhanded dealings of the Secretary General, Kamalesh Sharma, and Sri Lanka is in the middle of some of Sharma’s shenanigans.  There have been reports that External Affiars Minister, perhaps in a rare act of usefulness for President Rajapaksa, obtained the services of Secretary Sharma to counter the diplomatic effects of UN Commissioner Navi Pillay’s critical remarks on the human rights situation in Sri Lanka following her August visit to the country.

More seriously, Mr. Sharma has come under fire for allegedly suppressing from members of the Commonwealth Ministerial Action Group, the legal opinions provided to him by a former South African Chief Justice (who has since passed away) and a British jurist, confirming the unconstitutionality of the impeachment of Chief Justice Shirani Bandaranayake.  It has also been reported that that Secretary Sharma allegedly went a step further and advised the government to have the new Supreme Court overturn the earlier court rulings against the impeachment process in order to retroactively legitimize the sacking of Chief Justice Bandaranayake and the hiring of her replacement.  These actions of the Secretary have angered members of the Ministerial Action Group.  Canadian Senator Hugh Segal was particularly incensed by the Secretary’s actions, and called Mr. Sharma “a shill” for the government of Sri Lanka.  The Secretarial shenanigans also appear to have provoked the boycott decision by the Canadian Prime Minister, Stephen Harper, and his threat to withdraw Canada’s financial contribution to the Commonwealth.

These are worries for tomorrow, but as far as the November summit goes, there need not be any doubt that President Rajapaksa and his government will put on a great show, turning on the endless taps of Lankan charm and hospitality to overwhelm the visitors.  The summit will give the government political bragging rights locally and a face saving performance internationally.  The summit statements based on consensus will be drafted to avoid any public embarrassment of the host, and will not be anywhere near as damaging as the UNHRC resolutions in Geneva.  And there is no United States in the Commonwealth as it has been in Geneva.

Yet, much can and will be said in the inner sanctums of the summit about the human rights situation in the country and about the need for the government to work with the new Northern Provincial Council to address the postwar human problems and lay the foundation for long term reconciliation.  The British Prime Minister, under pressure at home, will no doubt use the forum to raise these matters.  Australia too could speak up critically notwithstanding Colombo’s massive casino concession to James Parker and its co-operation in dealing with Sri Lankan asylum seekers down under.

But the absence of India’s Manmohan Singh, if the Indian Prime Minister decides to keep away from the summit in deference to the chorus of opposition in Tamil Nadu, will make the summit a missed opportunity for the outside world to persuade President Rajapaksa to faithfully implement the LLRC Commission recommendations in concert with the new Northern Provincial Council government.  Put another way, Manmohan Singh’s absence will be a blessing in disguise for the Sinhala Buddhist extremists in the government, who want the Thirteenth Amendment repealed and the Provincial Councils abolished.

Print Friendly, PDF & Email

Latest comments

  • 0
    1

    Rajan
    If you pay a price for a victory it is not call victory it calls BRIBE
    He did it in his presidential election also bought some opposition party members to his side to run the Dictator Government
    Money can’t buy everything and very soon Mahinda will find out in a hard way

    • 0
      0

      Very true MR will live to regret this.

    • 0
      0

      Well said!

  • 0
    0

    Put another way, Manmohan Singh’s absence will be a blessing in disguise for the Sinhala Buddhist extremists in the government, who want the Thirteenth Amendment repealed and the Provincial Councils abolished.

    “Sinhala Buddhist Estremists” palawa again! There is no legal or other basis for Provincian Councils. Only 48% of NE voted for TULF in 1977. This makes the war unleashed on Sri Lanka by TULF and the subsequant Provincial Councils legislation illegal. Indeed if there are “extremists”, they are not Sinhala Buddhists.

    In my personal observations ill gotten things never make one prosper nor does it last. If you want long lasting things my advise to Tamils is do not cheat and be dishonest.

    • 0
      0

      There are extremists in every society. My reference to Sinhala Buddhist extremists automatically indicates that there are other Sinhala Buddhists who are not at all extremists. The government includes both moderates and extremists. It is up to the President to strengthen the moderates and marginalize the extremists. The extremists, BBS, JHU etc., can never win power on their own, and President Rajapaksa does not need their support to win an election and to be in power.

      The connection between the 1977 election, the war and the Provincial Councils is a political matter and not a legal matter. The TNA won the 2013 NPC election by an overwhelming majority. That should make the NPC overwhelmingly legal!

      • 0
        0

        During the election campaign the CM candidate declared VP is a hero and not a terrorist. During the first sitting of NPC he uttered so many other things to explain why he made that statement but that was adding insult to injury than put things right.

        That is however is not the point that I want to raise here. Who VP is not something CM of NPC to declare. VPs actions have already cemented his character and is something that is accepted around the world — at least in letter if not in spirit.

        I assume you will concur with me that any terrorist is an extremist and anyone who adores such dreadful evil are also extremists. Given that, what do you say about TNA? Are they extremists? What about the people who voted for them? Are they also extremists?

        Now where has JHU displayed this kind of extremism? Yes they have their own ideas about history of Sri Lanka and who came first, who came next and who ruled whom when where and so forth. However, they have not advocated murder. Thus I’m puzzled as to why you continue to consider TNA as moderates while casting away JHU as extremists.

        Anyone who abhors extremism should be appalled by TNA’s stance on LTTE.

        • 0
          0

          Thank you for your comments and questions. Violence is obviously the worst manifestation of extremism in politics. There was a time when political commentators used to differentiate between the violence of the oppressed and the violence of the oppressor. Not anymore – as Tolstoy said more than a hundred years ago, there is no difference between dog shit and cat shit. The LTTE contributed immensely to the elimination of this difference.

          The defeat of the LTTE has not addressed the problems that gave rise to the LTTE. I write on the premise that the 13th Amendment and the Provincial Council system are a necessary condition to address the problems faced by the Tamils and the Muslims in the Northern and Eastern Provinces. There are many Sinhalese who share the same premise. They are within the government and outside it. In the postwar context, they are the moderates among the Sinhalese. The JHU is committed to rescinding 13A and eliminating the PC system, which makes the JHU an extremist organization, in my view.

          The TNA, on the other had, is committed to working within a united Sri Lanka to implement the PC system. In the postwar context, this an act of moderation, and this is practically the only option that is open to Tamil political leaders in Sri Lanka.

          • 0
            0

            Hello Ranjan,

            The defeat of the LTTE has not addressed the problems that gave rise to the LTTE.

            Tamil fascism and castisim is that right? If you have another one see if you can state only the pivotal reason.

            The JHU is committed to rescinding 13A and eliminating the PC system, which makes the JHU an extremist organization. The TNA, on the other had, is committed to … implement the PC system. In the postwar context, this an act of moderation.

            Wow! the party that represents the will of the people of Sri Lanka is “extremist” ! The one that went against people’s sentiments shadowing a world terror organisation is not!

            You must be the biggest dimit I have come across since last week.

        • 0
          0

          Navin

          “I assume you will concur with me that any terrorist is an extremist and anyone who adores such dreadful evil are also extremists.”

          You are right,

          How come Weerawansa who adored Wijayweera is a MP and a cabinet minister in MR’s government, not to mention Karuna.

          A few years earlier most JVP members were in bed with SLFP while they were stil faithful to Wijayweera and their violent past. Unlike Sampanthan JVP never apologized to the people for their terrorist past.

          To date they haven’t surrendered single weapon either.

          I don’t understand why people like you constantly choosing events from your selective memory.

      • 0
        0

        Hello there,

        Hiding behind terrorists banned in 52 countires, taking advantage of a decimated opposition and takes hold of a council system not endorsed by NE let alone people in the rest of the island.

        Have you heard of sand castles? That is what the PC system is really isn’t it? Is this the “intelligence” you used to write this article of yours?

        Extremists are there in every socienty. Although Tamils takes the cake for having extremists banned by nation states worldwide. There is no difference between Tamil Nadu or elsewhere is there? I mean who steals fish, commit unimagimaginalbe barbarianism and then blame others for human rights violations? Only a bunch of fruitcakes isn’t it really?

        Given such a state of affiars shouldn’t you focus your attention more internally when looking for extremists?

        • 0
          0

          Vibhushana

          “Hiding behind terrorists banned in 52 countires,”

          You will do well to remember your armed forces and President were those who were hiding behind terrorists. And bribed the terrorists to win the elections, paying a small fee in return.

          ” I mean who steals fish, commit unimagimaginalbe barbarianism and then blame others for human rights violations?”

          Oh you mean the southern Sinhala/Buddhist fisherman and their barbarian state. You are correct.

          Well done.

          • 0
            0

            Look here Native,

            Only if your response had any meat to dig my teeth in! Its a bare bone really. Its really weak.

            I shall wait for Ranjan whathisname to come back with anything worthy of a reply.

          • 0
            0

            My Elders used to say,

            LOKETA PARAKAASE, GEDARATA MARAGAATHEY.

            It says like,
            [Showing off to the World, but No any benefit to the home front].

            It is really A Victory For JARAApaksa Clan, But At Some Price Paid And Counting.

  • 0
    0

    Rajafucksa always wins.

    Modaya Tamils always lose.

  • 0
    0

    Interacting with the international community and sharing in principles of coexistance and harmony will no doubt be a positive experience for the Sri Lankan govt. Isolation breeds mistrust and deviousness. The effect of the local extremists and pressure groups will diminish to pave the way for a more balanced approach to governance and international relations.

    Too long have we chosen to ignore the advise of the international community feigning reasons of sovereignity and patriotism. By assuming the leadership of CHOGM we will need to accept the principles of the Commonwealth. It is hoped that this will reflect in a new style of governance and political leadership within the country as well. Then will CHOGM translate into a victory for the people of the country not only President Rajapakse.

  • 0
    0

    RAJAN PHILLIPS:

    You people had a thirty year war to get your own country ?

    What is the cost ? Who will pay for that ? You Tamils will pay for it ? India will pay for it ?

    Did you write this kind of titles those days ?

    • 0
      0

      “Did you write this kind of titles those days ?”

      Reply: ALWAYS!

  • 0
    0

    …… Secretary Sharma allegedly went a step further and advised the government to have the new Supreme Court overturn the earlier court rulings against the impeachment process in order to retroactively legitimize the sacking of Chief Justice Bandaranayake and the hiring of her replacement.

    Thinking of the person decorating the post of Secretary General of Commonwealth Secretariat, this allegation is very disgusting.

  • 0
    0

    UPFA blame suddha buggers for all happening outside against them.

    This is the time to show Suddha buggers that MR can be the host for suddhas.
    He should be a proud man for next few years. -:)

  • 0
    0

    Sydney, Australia had a “mega” wild fire a week ago and the Australian PM is reluctantly heading to Colombo. St Jude hurricane battered southern UK and caused cancellation of all flights and trains. Interestingly, the storm was given a name (which is uncommon in the UK) and the stormy day apparently was the feast day of St Jude Thaddeus, the patron saint of lost causes. Hopefully, David Cameron will deliver a stern message to Mahinda Rajapaksa at least to avoid another visit from St Jude. In the meantime Stephen Harper is enjoying sublime weather in Canada (perhaps not politically)as the leaves change colours and fall gently sets in.

Leave A Comment

Comments should not exceed 200 words. Embedding external links and writing in capital letters are discouraged. Commenting is automatically disabled after 7 days and approval may take up to 24 hours. Please read our Comments Policy for further details. Your email address will not be published.