31 May, 2020

Blog

Geneva 2020: New Strategies, Tactics & Intentions

By Uditha Devapriya

Uditha Devapriya

“If you find yourself standing on a landmine, you don’t just jump off – experienced experts have to painstakingly deactivate the pressure-sensitive mine.” (Dayan Jayatilleka)

The United States that exited the Human Rights Council after calling it a cesspool has been a little slow to respond to Sri Lanka’s official exit from Resolutions 30/1 and 40/1. Canada has, as expected, called out on the delegation, expressing their disappointment and hoping that Sri Lanka will get back on track resorting to domestic mechanisms. The move may or may not be a diplomatic pincer – let history judge that – but it certainly spells out an end of an era. In the same vein with which he criticised the Mangala-Chandrika-Ranil troika which effectively led to a capitulation for Sri Lanka in Geneva from 2015 to 2018, Dr Dayan Jayatilleka has come out and criticised the new government’s new strategy. With the critique Dr Jayatilleka returns to the public sphere after a long interregnum. Times are changing, the waters have grown, but we don’t know what to do; should we start swimming, or sink like a stone?

Resolution 30/1, Foreign Minister Dinesh Gunawardena went on to observe, was sanctioned by neither the parliament nor the president who headed the party that led the parliament at the time. Without quoting the Minister verbatim, let us say here that the best summing up of the new government’s attitude to the resolution comes out by contrasting the responses of the two regimes to the subject of reconciliation on which the resolution centred. The one viewed it as an altar on which the ideal of sovereignty could be sacrificed, while the other views it as a contest between the imperatives of sovereignty and the exigencies of interethnic amity which shouldn’t, at least theoretically, be resolved in favour of an enrichment of the latter at the expense of the former. A smarter response would have been to embed or enshrine the one in the other: to hold that reconciliation is actually linked to sovereignty. But in capitulating, the Sirisena-Wickremesinghe regime pre-empted even that. Only a reversal was possible, and by calling for it, the Gotabaya-Mahinda regime has done the inevitable.

It probably wasn’t the main reason or one of the main reasons why they lost power in 2019, but the former government’s attitude to the question of reconciliation didn’t go as expected with any of the concerned communities. The TNA reluctantly bought it, the SLFP and the Sinhala Buddhist petty bourgeoisie were split on it. If in 2015 the moderate Tamil and petty bourgeois Sinhala vote led to Mahinda’s defeat, in unison, in 2020 the two had separated to a degree unparalleled in this country’s history. Reconciliation had in many ways failed, and no amount of rhetoric brandishing or linguistic theatrics was going to win us in this country what the government had thought it had won abroad. Statements by ambassadors and diplomats at cocktail circuits and press conferences were never going to be a wholesome substitute. The centre couldn’t hold, and in 2018 when the Sirisena administration sent Tilak Marapana to refute misrepresentations made by those at the top in Geneva, it wasn’t a volte-face. It wasn’t even a paradigm shift. It was a restoration. A reversal.

Mr Marapana’s statement was a turnaround that was expected, conceding ground to the need for transparency and accountability while defending the government’s track record on both. It was certainly different to the picture of the country drawn by his predecessor, so much so that it surprised no one when the predecessor, in a defensive and lengthy riposte, contended that Marapana’s entourage had “made a spectacle of ourselves.”

If anyone wanted a confirmation of the previous government’s appeasement of international interests, this was it: not only did Samaraweera critique the widely held, and also somewhat accurate, belief that by cosponsoring the resolution Sri Lanka produced an accusation against itself, he went as far as to tender an apology to the High Commissioner for Human Rights, Michelle Bachelet, “on behalf of all sane, rational, decent, sincere, compassionate, serious-minded and honest Sri Lankans” – an irony, considering that Bachelet had misrepresented the proportion of military lands returned to civilians in the north as well as excavation of mass graves in Mannar, alleged to have contained bodies of Tamil war victims and proven later to have been graves from the 15th to the 18th centuries.

It would have taken no less a person than Gotabaya Rajapaksa, with Mahinda Rajapaksa as the prime minister, to reverse the process. But here a distinction must be made between the Geneva encounters of 2012, 2013, and 2014 – years of defeat, as Dayan Jayatilleka calls them – and the steps taken and underlined in his speech by Dinesh Gunawardena.

If the defeats of the second Mahinda regime led to Mangala’s capitulation in 2015, the anger against the Mangala-Chandrika-Ranil troika led to a restoration to how things had been prior to the quick succession of diplomatic defeats in the second Mahinda regime. In other words, what we’re seeing here is the situation that existed immediately preceding those defeats; that was a time when we actually won in Geneva, with Dr Jayatilleka at the helm. What we need is that kind of victory: the kind which comes out not from brandishing sovereignty with mad abandon, but from playing the game well internationally while preserving the self-respect of the nation. So the moment is ours, and depending on how we handle it we can play the ball or lose it forever. If we lose, it will come back full circle and we’ll be forced to kowtow. And if we kowtow, popular resentment will again fuel a reversal.

A never ending cycle like this has to be stopped, if at all in the interests of the country. To do so necessitates a delicate balancing act in which the exigencies of national reconciliation and the imperatives of national sovereignty are reconciled. Personally, I don’t think that with a Foreign Minister like Dinesh Gunawardena – a person praised again and again by the likes of Dr Dayan – this is going to be mission impossible. All it takes for foreign affairs to prosper is a person like Dinesh or Lakshman Kadirgamar at the top, and all it takes for them to sour is a guy who either rails against the international community or subscribes unconditionally to the terms and conditions set down by that community. As of now Mr Gunawardena has implied that he’s neither of these, as witness the Ministry’s response to the Swiss Embassy fiasco, and it would do well if his office toes that line as a matter of policy. This is a victory we’ve won, and a victory we can lose. We can’t afford defeat. Not now.

So how do we keep the victory? Mr Gunawardena not unjustifiably referred to the vast strides the Rajapaksa government made after the war, while soberly observing that Sri Lanka never entertained illusions of the end of war converting to a lasting peace. The speech was in itself a deft balancing act: since May 2009 “not a bullet has been fired in the name of separatist terrorism”, yet the country urgently requires “certain reviews and strengthening of existing structures.” The thrust is both rational and firm: we need to consolidate what we have, but not at the cost of sovereignty or territorial integrity. We have the resources to do what it takes to restore reconciliation, and we are not going to cede space for non-local actors to do what the legislature and judiciary should do. By violating certain norms, the previous regime made commitments which were “impractical, unconstitutional, and undeliverable.” Thus the task of this government is to regain the country’s trust in the international system, and its credibility in the eyes of the world. A hard day’s work, certainly.

In other words, the task devolved on the new government is not one of satisfying a need for gung-ho jingoistic euphoria. In the years following the war victory such a battle cry could be, if not justified, at least validated by the popular mood. In 2020, the new decade, people are not as ruffled by such a mood and as such the government has the perfect opportunity to do what Mangala, Chandrika, and Ranil couldn’t do. If reconciliation in post-war Sri Lanka has always been about wrong tactics and right intentions, the previous government, at least in the eyes of commentators like Dr Jayatilleka, caved into wrong tactics and wrong intentions. It was a blunder from which we had to recover, and the only way to recover was by discarding it. The manner of discarding it may be open to debate – what, at the end of the day, isn’t open to debate? – but the crux of the matter is that by abandoning it, we have opened ourselves to new strategies, tactics, and intentions. The moment is thus all ours.

Print Friendly, PDF & Email

Latest comments

  • 3
    1

    Uditha, could you please enlighten us further on such a sweeping statement you made “the vast strides made by Rajapaksas after the end of war”. If true ,what ever RW/Mangala govt said or did would not have put us in this precarious situation. Does the vast strides include political murders, kidnapping, attacking journalist, targeting Muslim Community, unleashing Ganasara, vandalize religious sites, churches and mosques., post war. This has nothing to do with sovereignty or any other BS. This is about how Rajapaksas conned the world and then kept lying and giving false promises to cover their lies.

    • 4
      0

      Yet another outpouring of an apologist of Sinhala racism. He is justifying the denial of legitimate rights of Tamils to territory and power taking cover under the dubious terms of security and sovereignty. Security and sovereignty is sacrosanct to Tamils just as much for Sinhalese. Please remember Tamils are only demanding restoration of their security and sovereignty, which was taken away from them by Portuguese and not returned to them by British. It is under concept of security and sovereignty of Sinhalese that Murder and ethnic cleansing of Tamils took place with appropriation of their lands. What was told in Geneva was a pack of lies. Yesterday Tamil journalists from Vavuniya were summoned to CID head quarters in Colombo for interrogation for publication of article based on truth about Geneva proceedings. Yes, since May 2009 not a bullet has been fired in the name of separatist terrorism, but bullets are continuing to be fired in the name of racist terrorism resulting in the death of Tamils, in all of which Sinhala murderers have been allowed to go free. Therefore time has come for international community to step in and eradicate this Sinhala racist terror and save Tamils to live in equality, safety and dignity. If the courts cannot arrest murderer Karannagoda for contempt of court, how can it deliver justice to Tamils. All this talk of reconciliation is nonsense because no one can hear the truth nor can see any commitment to justice. Whatever party comes to power it will pamper to Sinhala racism and will do nothing about reconciliation, as they do not have right intention. The tactics adopted was first to resist foreign concerns and when it is not possible to confront them, to cheat by delaying tactics. I have been saying that USA and west did not want to rock the previous government and gave them leeway, but that will not be the case now, since ten years is more than enough if Sinhalese were sincere.

      • 0
        3

        Dosthara Ag Gnana, are you one of the 40,000 Hora Dostharayas supposed to be posing as genuine Doctors?

      • 0
        2

        You are no better than terrorists or even at worst Dr. of evil.
        You sounds the father of LTTE, with extreme anti Sinhala stance and rehetroric.
        One can only respond to idiots in the same language and tone, your rights and sovereignty was taken by the Portuguese, then go ask the Portuguese to give it back – always, the one who took it has it with them. if not, ask the British if they denied your existence and aspirations.
        Show me any evidence in history your so called heroes fought against the sovereignty? non whats so ever, except your people joined the invaders to support the invasion of Srilanka.
        Wake up and learn to live peacefully with all others in this tiny island, so many well respected Tamil people are true patriotic citizens of this nations and they never have these terrorists agenda like you, more Tamil people lives among Sinhalese peacefully as friends except few LTTE extremists like yourself keep adding fire to rekindle the separatist war for your dream of Elam.

  • 1
    0

    OMG. Even Afghanistan seems to be making some stride towards sanity. A peace deal is signed in Doha today. (keeping fingers crossed). Where as our Sorry Lanka has just pulled out of the resolution they signed. JEYAWEWA.

    • 4
      0

      There is news that some bunch of Sinhala lunatics want Sri Lanka to exit UNHCR. Why only UNHCR and not the entire UN establishment altogether.

  • 0
    0

    The environment around you shapes who you are. The Human Rights Council has the history of records that given speeches by sri lanka of past years a step by step process to unveil the painstakingly deactivate the pressure-sensitive that was inposed to sri lanka . On the past Presented propotionate to counter the finding from HR. Now the witdrawal of the Resolutions 30/1 and 40/1. is looked forceful or agressive to declare it in an urgency manner. There is an folktale man frending a lion, if you want to take out the thorn from a lion the way is first make friend and the approching way he pulled out the thorn from the paw of the Lion, who was soon able to rise and lick the hand of . Now speech is done and the consequence is waiting, what magnitude is unknown, depending on china is not posible, and india has its new problem. Turkey shook hands with sri lanka for future affairs not past.should we start swimming, or sink like a stone?

  • 2
    0

    Uditha, there are enough lessons to learn by observing others. Mahathir was trying to extend his stay just like MS /MR / RW. But the King and Mahathir,s own party members realized his ploys and intervened to make the right decision in picking a new PM with the support of all parties for the benefit of the nation. Where as in Silly Lanka the immoral public is behind the crooks and keep electing them back to power, just to see more misery being heaped on their neighbors.

    • 2
      0

      Difference between Malaysia and Sri Lanka is that though the legislature and executive are racist, Judiciary is fair. The recent case against Tamils in Malaysia is a proof, when the Attorney General said that there is no case and the Malay judges dismissed the case. Malaysian Bar council found fault with police for partiality between Islamic terrorists returning from Syria being treated leniently and Tamils being treated harshly on false charge. This would never happen in Sri Lanka as there is institutional racism in the judiciary consisting of the police, bar (both official & unofficial )and the bench.

    • 0
      0

      I wonder who the beneficiaries are in Malaysia.
      The corrupt and racist UMNO is back in the saddle.
      Is there much to celebrate?

      • 1
        0

        UMNO has crept in because of Mahathir who did not want his deputy Anwar Ibrahim to succeed him. Subsequently they made up, but it was tool late and Muhyiddin Yassin was appointed by the King without checking whether he has a majority in parliament. This is similar to Sirisena appointing MR as prime minister without a majority, which was then corrected when parliament met. Malaysia appears to be going down the same way as Sri Lanka, with Malay Islamic racism and corruption. I hope with fair minded Malays together with Chinese and Tamils, this situation will be corrected.

  • 2
    0

    What to do? When you represent the country on a world body such as UN Human Rights , you cannot speak in a manner and terms you use in your local -election meetings. Now all powerful players of the world not only screw, but, even stop funding foreign aids and even take the country to International court of law for murdering innocent minorities showing with prove of witnesses.

  • 3
    0

    Geneva is now a side issue compared to what has been handed down to Gotha by the Californian Court . It is a death knell . Gotha cant recover from this. His presidenfcy is doomed as the Judge was quite clear in stating that Gotha can be tried when he is no longer the president. How is the CRIMINAL going to deliver Justice when he is waiting for justice. His application ro relinquish American Citizenship is in jeparday and the Sinkala Judges look fools.
    I ask the Gotha Lovers where are you just to mention the most vociferous few

    JD
    Eagle Rye
    Lester
    Shankara Singhe ( The Poirot lover once famously said enjoy it when you see a good one and dont ask for its purpose and dont regurgitate )
    Man Gotha loosing the appeal and Ahimsa winning it was a good one just enjoy it. The purpose was to Criple the CRIMINAL

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.