19 June, 2024


Dismal Foreign-Policy Failure Of Rajapaksa Regime: War Crimes Resolution In U.S. Congress

By Daya Gamage

Daya Gamage

Sri Lanka is currently in a foreign relations wilderness. When the Biden administration took office, during an interview to a question how Washington’s new regime could affect Sri Lanka, Foreign Secretary Jayanath Colombage said ‘it has no effect’, and further said ‘the U.S. needs to organize its own terrain’. Angered by this short sighted, undiplomatic statement, Biden’s Secretary of State Antony Blinken reiterated in a zoom meeting with officials of the UNHRC in Geneva that Sri Lanka needs accountability for its actions during the final stage of the Eelam War.

Previously, Sri Lankan authorities never took notice of a question raised by a senior U.S. Senator in December 2019 at a hearing in the Foreign Relations Committee whether “an alleged war criminal is now elected as president of Sri Lanka”. When his Democratic Party took control of the Senate in January 2021 this Senator – Robert Menendez – became the Chairman of the Committee. Sri Lanka is yet to establish working relationship with this Senator.

The Rajapaksa administration doesn’t seem to have any knowledge the individuals in the Biden White House who manage, formulate, and administer America’s foreign policy apparatus. The Colombo regime doesn’t seem to evaluate the mind-set of those who are at the helm of Washington’s foreign policy.

The result: Sri Lanka is in a foreign relations wilderness. What the Rajapaksa administration does not realize is: Foreign Policy is Domestic Policy as well as Domestic Policy is Foreign Policy.

The two foreign relations committees in the Congress are the most vital instruments of the American system which maintain constant rapport with any administration in Washington. The senior members of both committees maintain contacts with the White House National Security Council, the Council that formulates foreign policy in collaboration with the State Department.

It is known fact that the active representatives of the Tamil Diaspora maintain constant contact with Members of the Senate and House in the Congress to push their agenda connected to allegations of violation of international humanitarian law (IHL), war crimes, the plight of the minority Tamils, devolution of power to peripheral provinces, civilian deaths and the importance of holding a referendum in the Tamil majority north-east region.

Coinciding with the 12th anniversary of the completion of the war, the U.S. House of Representatives on 18 May 2021 presented a resolution “honoring the lives lost, and expressing support for justice, accountability, reconciliation, reconstruction, reparation, and reform in Sri Lanka to ensure a lasting peaceful political solution”.

The Resolution, now referred to the House Foreign Relations Committee, “urges the international community to advocate for and protect the political rights and representation of the historically oppressed northeastern region of Sri Lanka and work towards a permanent political solution to address the underlying issues that led to ethnic conflict”.

The inactivity of Sri Lanka is well manifested when the U.S. Members of the House of Representatives still strongly believe that ‘northeastern region is historically oppressed’ and officials in the Rajapaksa administration’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs are yet to come closer to the policymakers and lawmakers in Washington to find out why they believe in it.

Does the officials of Sri Lanka’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs and/or the Presidential Secretariat aware that American policymaker and lawmakers strongly believe that the conflict that the Government of Sri Lanka had was against ‘various armed Tamil independence organizations’ and that the LTTE also falls within that category of ‘Tamil independence organization’

The U.S. House Resolution declares: (Quote) whereas May 18, 2021, marks the 12-year anniversary of the end of the 26-year armed conflict between the Government of Sri Lanka and various armed Tamil independence organizations, including the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) (End Quote).

The American lawmakers – quite possibly policymakers – belief that north-eastern region is Tamil Homeland is well reflected in the Resolution as “Whereas the northeastern region of the country, the traditional Tamil homeland, remains heavily militarized with up to one soldier for every two civilians in the most war-affected regions”.

Washington’s belief that the current Rajapaksa administration is militarizing the nation is reflected in a another section of the House Resolution as “Whereas Sri Lanka’s COVID–19 response has been led and executed by the military, exacerbating longstanding concerns regarding state surveillance, harassment, and discrimination against Tamil and Muslim communities”.

The Resolution further notes:

(Quote) Whereas a 2021 report from the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights found that theGovernment of Sri Lanka has, over the past year—

(1) elevated individuals implicated in war crimes to senior governmental positions;

(2) pardoned a convicted war criminal;

(3) reversed key democratic reforms and consolidated power behind the office of  the President;

(4) obstructed efforts to investigate and prosecute perpetrators of war crimes;

(5) allegedly employed security forces to abduct and torture dissidents; (End Quote)

Reflecting Washington’s sentiments, the U.S. House of Representatives’ Foreign Relations Committee declares in the Resolution: “Whereas no effort has been made to bring to justice those who are alleged to have committed war crimes and crimes against humanity, no investigations have begun even on emblematic cases, evidence gathering is hindered through arbitrary arrests and threats by the state, and impunity prevails in the country with the outdated and the excessively harsh Prevention of Terrorism Act, which does not comply with international standards and has still not been repealed despite repeated promises by the government”.

The Congressional Resolution “urges the United States to work with the United Nations General Assembly, the United Nations Security Council, and the United Nations Human Rights Council to establish a credible and effective international mechanism for accountability for the grave crimes committed during the war in Sri Lanka”.

The co-chair of the U.S. House ‘Sri Lanka-America Caucus’ Congresswoman Dina Titus, expressing her frustration of the manner in which the current Sri Lanka administration is handling domestic affairs, is relinquishing the position. Dr. Titus was one of the few American congresspersons who kept close contact and rapport with the Sri Lanka expatriate community. It is her party – Democratic – currently controls the White House and both Houses of the Congress. The strong indication is that the ‘professionals’ attached to Sri Lanka’s Presidential Secretariat and officials of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs are yet to establish contacts with leading and influential lawmakers of both Houses of Congress, and officials in the White House National Security Council who are assigned to handle South Asia, Human Rights and Rule of Law.

One could understand how strenuous the current Sri Lanka Ambassador to Washington Ravinatha Aryasinha’s diplomatic duties could be due to this scenario.

On the American soil, those who are maintaining contacts with such Washington officials are several Sri Lankan expatriates; one such person needs to be mentioned here is Sanjay Sedera, a leading Democratic Party official activist from the State of Nevada, whose reach goes to Washington D.C., who says that the Rajapaksa administration is yet to tap professional experts who have developed broader knowledge and understanding of the American governing system – some of Sri Lankan expatriates who had worked in the system – that could be most helpful to Sri Lanka.

Canadian Ontario Province on May 6 became one of the first jurisdictions in the world to recognize genocide against Tamils in Sri Lanka as the bill passed third reading in the legislature.

Bill 104, the Tamil Genocide Education Week Act, establishes seven days each year, May 11 to 18, during which Ontarians “are encouraged to educate themselves about, and to maintain their awareness of, the Tamil genocide and other genocides that have occurred in world history.”

With no assistance from Sri Lanka’s Foreign Ministry, a group of Sri Lankan expatriates –led by Dr. Neville Hewage – in Canada went global using webinars – attended by Lord Naseby and other professionals – to dismiss that a genocide took place in Sri Lanka during the separatist war, and educate the global recipients about national issues in Sri Lanka, a task Sri Lanka’s foreign ministry should have undertaken. The irony is that not a single official of the foreign ministry commended the Canadian Sri Lankan expatriates for the colossal ‘foreign policy’ task they undertook.

The U.S. House of Representatives’ Resolution table on May 18, 2021 – the 12th anniversary of the conclusion of the war – it is understood – is a preparation for ‘Genocide Resolution’ in the U.S. Congress.

When the Rajapaksa administration does not know to tap qualified and experienced persons among the expatriate community, expatriate Sri Lankan political activists whose rapport goes as far as Washington, D.C., undoubtedly it is in political wilderness. The value of this caliber of persons is that they maintained over the years close rapport with those who matter on the American soil rather than act like diplomats who are stationed her for a year or two.

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Latest comments

  • 4

    The initiative of the write-up is two-fold. Tamils should avoid being lulled by the impression the write-up creates, – namely, that Democrats are tilting yowards NE Tamils.

    • 3


      “namely, that Democrats are tilting yowards NE Tamils.”

      Could you expand a little bit on your observation.

      • 5

        Daya Gamage, I was watching Al Jazeera telecasting proceedings of ICC war crimes tribunal against Sudanese officials committed in Darfur. Going by the charges that were read out by the African prosecutor, all those crimes had been committed by Sri Lanka security forces on Tamils. So stop trying to white wash your murderous security forces and regime. Noose is tightening round your neck, and you are trying to wriggle out of it. Last week that Nosey Boy told house of lords that UK should not to harass Sri Lanka, as they will tilt more towards China. No much of gonibilla tactics is going to work. No much of bribing foreigners with perks can turn the tide against your criminals. Sinhala racist expatriates can only bark and bray, and could do nothing to prevent justice for Tamils.

      • 1

        Native Vedda,
        .. Previously, in December 2019, Sri Lankan authorities never took notice of a question raised in the Foreign Relations Committee, the Council that formulates foreign policy. When his Party (Democratic) took control of the Senate this Senator Robert Menendez became the Chairman of the Committee.
        For any further expansion, kindly read the write-up again.

  • 7

    Daya Gamage

    How long do you intend to question Sri Lanka’s foreign policy.
    Did you know Sri Lanka never had any policy on anything, except the racist ones, which does not even satisfy those racists who demanded it in the first place.

    Broadly Sri Lanka’s foreign policies are similar to that of Hindia since Nehruvian times. There is a possibility it could change within the next few years. Further China will appoint a deputy Chinese Foreign minister in charge of our Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

    Why duplicate things?
    What seems to be your problem?

    The serious question you ought to pose yourself is that if and when Xi take full control of the state affairs of this island will he retain the services of Kamal(a) and Shavendra or indeed will listen to your advice?

    • 2

      Sinhala bigots do not understand that in the past it was due to intransigence of Prabaharan and his continued acts of indiscriminate violence, that Sri Lanka was able to get over Tamils pushing their legitimate rights to the back. After elimination of Prabaharan, Tamils have regained the moral high ground as suppressed and persecuted people. Even after twelve years of ending of war, there is no sight of reconciliation, which can only come about through truth and justice. Blatant lies are being told and justice is being vehemently denied, and when international community tries to bring Sri Lanka to book, the ready made answer is that any interference in local affairs will only jeopardize the reconciliation process, when in fact there is none. Sri Lanka cannot continue to hoodwink for ever, and to blame officials of not acting properly, without change in attitude of Sinhalese to achieve true peace with Tamils.

  • 5

    Gobbasena behaves as if SL is a super power. Perhaps thinks, now that he has China, he does not need the States.
    Ravinatha in Washington DC will indeed have his hands full. He has impeccable American credentials, graduated from a US high school as an exchange student, studied at the American University in DC, (perhaps one of his children may have been born in the US). So, at least we have a reputable man there. (Think of Jaliya Wickramassoriya, who looked and behaved more like the embassy driver than the Ambassador.)
    Someday, Gobbasena could be prosecuted in the US for war crimes, when he is no longer President of SL.

  • 6

    USA closes the stable door after the donkeys have bolted!

    USA had 10 years to press charges to Gota when he was a US citizen after the war. Didn’t.
    USA had 5 years to press charges to SS when was in the US for 5 years. Didn’t.

    Now everybody knows it is too late.
    Meanwhile USA holds joint military drills with SL and expands military relations, weapons donations and training!

  • 4

    1) Robert (Bob) Menendez is one of the most senior congressman who was tapped as Chairmen of Foreign Relations by Bidden due to his wide experience,knowledge and seniority. He has served as New Jersey senator ,without a break since 2006 and I have had the opportunity to briefly meet him during one of his re-election campaign. He came across as a person with broader knowledge and understanding on Lanka. 2) Concerns raised here by U.S and Ontario, Canada are real and valid. 3) A “Genocide resolution” is long overdue, better late than never.

    • 2

      Genocide resolution against Sri Lanka is appropriate as per new yardstick, as it has occurred. Though genocide means elimination of entire ethnic group, it had been applied to killing of over one million people such as Armenians by Turks and Tutsis by Hutus. Recently Gambia brought a case in ICJ accusing Burmese regime of genocide against Rohingyas where 750,000 of them were expelled and less than 1000 killed, which is actually ethnic cleansing. Killing of 10,000 Muslims by Serbs is also being talked about as genocide. In this scenario, expelling of 500,000 Tamils of Indian origin and 300,000 indigenous Tamils and killing of 150,000 Tamils fall into the category of genocide. Whatever arguments that will be put forward against this, the fact is that Sri Lanka had genocidal intent since independence.

  • 3

    The concerns raised by U.S and Canada are same as many readers mention here in CT. Nothing extra ordinary.

  • 0

    You can only call it a foreign policy failure if this is not the message that Sri Lanka wanted to communicate to the international community and wanted to beat about the bush with appeasing separatists and terrorists.

    But my point is that Sri Lanka is saying it out straight. We will not prosecute our war heroes to satisfy anybody. and therefore there is no foreign policy failure

    • 2

      I have very little time for stupids like you. I am going to use it now.
      Prosecution will clear the names of all the true war heroes. Why oppose that?

  • 0

    To all my Tamil brothers, you are fighting for so called genocide in the North committed by the Armed forces. You seem to have forgotten the amount of fear we faced when our children were forcibly recruited to fight the agenda of overseas Tamil extremists. To this date all these Tamil leaders have done nothing to develop the north. Either these so called leaders live in Colombo 7 or in countries like Canada, USA, or in Europe. Its high time that we call it quits and let go of the 1983 violence and the attrocities the LTTE committed against the Sinhala people and make Sri Lanka a united nation. It is very easy to bring division which destroys the entire nation.

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