By Mohamed SR. Nisthar –
There is an adage in Tamil, which goes “Arasan ev valiyoo kudihalum av valiyee”(meaning: whichever way the king heads towards, the subjects also go accordingly). This has very much been the case before, during and after the 23rd CHOGM summit in our motherland, Sri Lanka.
Apart from ardent Tamil tiger supporters, almost all Sri Lankans are relieved that the military outfit was defeated to the level that they cannot regroup. But the question as to how quickly the government would create normalcy after a quarter century long bloodshed in the country and offer peace to indescribably affected Tamils in particular and others in general remained unanswered. Days became weeks, weeks turned into months and now we are heading towards the last phase of the 5th full year since the notable event in May 2009.
The international community’s tacit approval given to the Sri Lankan government to have some time to enjoy their victory over the tigers seemed to have been interpreted wrongly by (the advisors of) the President and that prompted him enjoying the military victory indefinitely without realising that the international community is losing patience in waiting to see any meaningful measures or action plan in resolving the long burning issue of the ethnic question and also the President’s (government’s) accountability for the alleged war crimes and human right violations leading up to May 2009 and beyond respectively.
Regular elections have been conducted just to show the international community that Sri Lanka is not a country where the democratic process has no place. Once again it seems to be a misinterpretation of the (advisors of the) President that simply conducting elections, sometime before it is due, cannot mean to the international community, that a functioning democracy prevails in Sri Lanka in the right political sense.
The President, his government and the Sri Lankan diplomats all seem to have taken defensive positions whereas they have no solid defence as far as the allegation of war crimes and constant gross human rights violations against all minorities of the country are concerned. It’s evident from President to diplomats to Buddhists monks to politically innocent citizens of Sri Lanka, in the way media and foreign head of states, who are concerned about Sri Lanka’s human right record, are handled.
For many of us the “Grease Men” saga is a forgotten one, but it was the notorious act which rang the bell of things that were coming in the way of the peace loving people of this country. Fortunately these grease men did not enter Colombo or Hambantota, but in the areas predominantly populated by the country’s minorities. From Ampara district, to Trincomallea, to Jaffna to Puttalam; costing an innocent off duty police officer’s precious life and creating tension between Sinhalese and Muslims in the Holy month of Ramadan in 2010. Counter terrorism experts of Sri Lanka could not help the government. Intelligence unit of military, police and civilian intelligence group (white van) of government were useless in finding these grease men.
I cannot recall anything said by the President about the grease men, but the defence secretary said, “if you find grease men do not do anything, but inform the police”. However we heard all the Grease men sought refuge at police stations and army barracks. What was the big idea that this high ranking servant of the people had in his mind when he asked the people to report to the police? What did he achieve by his hide and seek, a children’s game? How long did he think he could play with people so foolishly, however different ways he does his experiments?
Soon after the last UN’s General Assembly meeting the President was interviewed by Al-Jazeera and was asked particularly about then recent religious hatred against Muslims of Sri Lanka. Our President’s answer was somehow disgusting as he said that a few Muslims raped two small Sinhalese girls that provoked Sinhalese sentiment. The President simply forgot that more than 130 incidents against Muslims small and big occurred within two years. The President also forgot to indicate whether the very first incidents, demolition of a shrine at Anuradhapura or the attack on Dambulla Mosque, were the direct result of the so-called “rape of Sinhalese girls” and this concocted tale had any link to the rest of 129 or so incidents and renewed attacks on Mosques inner city of Colombo and Akkurana and recently closed prayer room in the General Hospital in Colombo where more than 75 Muslim medical staff work? And any possible attacks after the March 2014 Human Right Conference session in Geneva?
It seems that the President has indirectly confirmed that the Sri Lankan police force was not capable of carrying out meaningful investigations or making arrests of the criminal of the alleged rape or this is a pretext to put the other minority community under threat by his uncorroborated accusation. The President also seems to have proved that the police are free to do whatever they like. Otherwise the police would not have abused their power by asking three Mosques not to facilitate the performing of prayers to its devotees a couple of months ago.
A further question of huge army deployment in the Jaffna region in the same interview to the President was met by his counter question; “does any country ready to station my army in their country” and “we have to decide the size of the army and where to keep them, if every part of the country asks the government to take the army back from their administrative area, where do we end up”. The President might have thought that his counter question was a very good answer to the question asked by Al-Jazeera. But the content of the question seems not to have been understood by the President. For anyone with reasonable understanding the content of the question would have been that “war was over some four years ago, can a tiny country like Sri Lanka afford such a huge army and why is one part of the country being treated differently?”
During the CHOGM Sri Lanka’s top diplomat, the High Commissioner to London, Dr. Chris Nonis was interviewed by CNN and BBC. My Sinhalese fellow countryman in my neighbourhood praised him for his “brilliant” advocacy (or manipulation if you like). I did not see any acumen in it, but blatant lies.
Dr. Nonis started saying that Sri Lanka has a 2500 year old rich culture, there has been functioning democracy, people can elect their representatives through fair elections, people enjoy freedom of speech, country is being developed, people feel safety, etc, etc. Then he lectured the interviewer on “sovereignty” saying we do not interfere in your country’s affairs, so we expect corresponding standard of behaviours from you, a poor interpretation of sovereignty by the super diplomat.
The interviewer then asked about human right violations in Sri Lanka. Dr. Nonis uttered something like that human right issues are not confined to Sri Lanka alone, every country has issues. Dr. Nonis did not understand that the questions were not something like interfering in a next door neighbour’s quarrel with his wife or about one individual violating another individual’s right, but it was about a government’s systematic human right breaches of its own citizens or government sponsored (BBS’) violations against fellow citizens in making preparatory work for another near-genocide of another minority in their master plan for establishing a pure Sinhala Buddhists(?) only county.
The interviewer’s sarcastic approach, by letting Dr. Nonis tell everything he had prepared at home by his guess work about the possible questions he would face, also was not understood. However Dr. Nonis was plainly screwed over by the BBC’s female interviewer. She stopped Dr. Nonis’ reiteration that the country is being developed astonishingly, by saying “I am asking about human right violations in Sri Lanka”. Dr. Nonis had nothing to offer other than repeating the learnt by heart things like rich culture, free elections, sovereignty, defeating terrorism and freedom of people to protest.
The same super diplomat was very much upset when the freedom to protest was exercised by some London based foreign Muslims in solidarity following the incident in Mahiyankanne. The diplomat seemed to have approached the Sri Lanka Muslims Cultural Centre in Harrow also known as “Harrow Mosque” through his stooge. Harrow Mosque could have educated him by simply highlighting how important the freedom of speech is in the European culture, which is far younger than Dr. Nonis’ so called 2500 old one, and Dr. Nonis to put up with possible future bigger protests in front of Sri Lankan High Commissions and Embassies in Europe and America if hatreds, bigotry and human rights violation against minorities continues in Sri Lanka and the government turns a blind eye.
At least Dr. Nonis could advise the Sri Lankan government about the British government’s definite move against Sri Lanka in the upcoming Geneva Human Right Council session in March 2014, the diplomatic manoeuvring of the developed world generally and their capability of doing things in necessity bypassing the international norms otherwise required in normal multilateral relationship.
Channel 4 journalist Cullam McCrae and a prominent Tamil intellectual from one of the Canadian universities have given evidence in a People’s Permanent Tribunals of the former judicial personals in Germany on the issue of alleged war crime and near-genocide claim. The American government is contemplating harsh action against the Sri Lankan government; the British government is seemingly lobbying for a similar stance in Geneva. This all makes a momentum gather against Sri Lanka. The year 2014 and onwards cannot be ignored if these prominent people, President, his brothers and diplomats, like Sri Lanka and its citizens of all kinds.
If our President wants to avoid any unpleasant consequences for his long dream of being a modern King (without a crown) with his constitutional and unconstitutional powers for the life time and save his dream (merely a day- dream) of making his son future President of Sri Lanka and our country a “wonder of Asia”, he should pause a while, think carefully, assess the international move realistically and put viable steps in action. The 21st century requires only right and meaningful diplomatic engagement locally, regionally and internationally. It’s as simple as that.