By H. L. D. Mahindapala –
With great fanfare and ballyhoo the Sirisena-Wickremesinghe (Siri-Wicky) government promised that they alone could conquer “the international community” (meaning the big power brokers of the West) which the previous regime of Mahinda Rajapaksa had alienated. This promise to conquer the world and restore Sri Lanka’s position in the world stage was based on several factors: 1. Siri-Wicky regime is pro-West committed with a foreign policy aligned to the American axis; 2. the Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe is the Asian Vice President of International Democratic Union – a leading political front of the West claiming to promote democracy; 3. it is acknowledged, though not officially, that the Siri-Wicky government was brought into power with the “blessings” of the American-Indian operatives; 4. in the new policy of “pivot to Asia” the Siri-Wicky government was expected to provide a safe haven to counter increasing Chinese presence in the Indian Ocean 5. Siri-Wicky regime has already appeased the West by absorbing their hired agents in the NGOs as a part of the administration, and , of course, 6. the promise of “good governance” with its emphasis on democratic norms that were supposed to warm the cockles of the Western decision-makers whose foreign policy was to “export democracy” to the rest of the world
Not since J. R. Jayewardene, the “Yankee Dicky”, went all the way with the Americans, including Margaret Thatcher’s war in the Falklands, has any government gone this far to appease the West. With these pro-West inter-personal and international relations the Siri-Wicky regime was quite confident that it could overcome the disadvantages faced by the anti-West Mahinda Rajapakse regime.
It was with these credentials that President Maithripala Sirisena led the first foreign mission to UK. He came back crowing that he shook the ungloved hand of Queen. Shaking the ungloved hand of the Queen was presented as conquest of great magnitude. He was also overjoyed that Prime Minister Cameron walked all the way from his residence at No. 10, Downing Street to open the car door for him and escort him inside. Obviously, President Sirisena returned home believing that he had won over just not Cameron but even the Queen. Now we are told that UK is one of the European countries rejecting the domestic inquiry and insisting on the hybrid court.
While the President junketed in the West the Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe parachuted into India to conquer the Big Brother. He has returned from Delhi giving the distinct impression that he has divorced the kahi gani (woman with a cough) from China and married the hotu gani (woman with snot) from India. On the issue of the UN Human Rights Council (UNHRC) report, it is possible that India will be opposed to the hybrid court of foreign judges because it has serious consequences to India. Supporting a hybrid court in Sri Lanka could be a precedent for UN to step in to investigate human rights violations of Indian forces in Kashmir. So with or without Wickremesinghe India can be expected to back Sri Lanka’s moves for a domestic inquiry.
In between, Mangala Samaraweera, who fancies himself as the kokatath-thailaya (all cure) to Sri Lanka’s foreign problems, went to America and wooed John Kerry. After extolling “the level of excellent and close relations” with America he assured Kerry that “America is not a threat but an opportunity”. To underscore the lovey-dovey relationship Managala went all out, with the gallantry of a knight in democratic armour, to kiss Nisha Desai Biswal, American Secretary of State for South and Central Asian Affairs. In the video she seemed to have been somewhat taken aback by the unexpected show of diplomatic affection. Samaraweera, however, was acting on the assumption that his oscular thrust was a great diplomatic coup to convince Uncle Sam of his effusive personal affection as great, if not greater, than that of “Yankee Dicky”. He was also out to impress the Sri Lankan public that he was not only on kissing terms with America but had also succeeded in mending the fences that were broken by Mahinda Rajapaksa.
All this was a prelude to soften America’s attitude towards Sri Lanka. Mangala Samaraweera was operating on the premise that the pro-West policy, plus the special quality of his personal diplomacy, would give him the leverage to manipulate America to go soft on Sri Lanka. He made his personal appearance at the UNHRC hoping his diplomacy had that magic quality to get a favourable results from the international community. He was initially buoyed by the postponement of the UNHRC report which was held back to help the Siri-Wicky government to get over any political embarrassment at the elections. In fact, the Siri-Wicky regime boasted that it was able to get the report postponed in March implying that it has already won the “international community” to its side. But when the report finally landed on Samaraweera’s desk it proved to be a negation of all his expectations. There was nothing to crow about it at all. His diplomacy had come to nought. The West was insisting on a hybrid court with international judges, prosecutors and investigators.
Unable to find anything positive he spun the yarn that there were no names of Sri Lankan forces mentioned in the report, accusing them of war crimes. The stunned Siri-Wicky government hastily summoned a press conference to say that the report would have been worse if Mahinda Rajapaksa was in power. That is all they could say to save their faces. But the shocking report in the Colombo Telegraph reveals that the UNHRC report had initially named President Sirisena who was the Acting Minister of Defence in the last days of the war. This has sent shivers down the spine of the Siri-Wicky government. To divert attention away from President Sirisena Wickremesinghe has given a spin to this episode. He claims that his government saved Mahinda Rajapaksa from the electric chair, hiding the fact that President Sirisena too was among the walking dead in the UNHRC list, as revealed in the Colombo Telegraph.
The grim reality is that the recommended hybrid court is still hanging over their heads like the Damocles’ Sword. Though not named in the UNHRC report there is nothing to prevent the proposed hybrid court from pursuing both President Mahinda Rajapaksa and President Sirisena until they are sent to the electric chair. This is where Mangala Samaraweera has failed. He failed to convince the international community that Sri Lanka could successfully handle its own problems with its own mechanisms. He failed to establish that Sri Lanka is willing and capable of handling its own affairs. His kissing America has taken him nowhere. Fortunately, he has the nation willing, able and ready to resist any attempt to foist the hybrid court on Sri Lanka. Ultimately, he and the Siri-Wicky government will have to save the nation not by kissing Biswas but by mobilising the grass root forces to defeat the bogus human rights champions out to get the defenders of the nation.
The UNHRC report is a bludgeon waiting to come down on the heads of both Sirisena and Rajapaksa. It is a victory for the Tamil lobby and blunt vote of no-confidence in the Siri-Wicky regime. Just a week or so before Samaraweera took the floor at the UNHRC and gave a detailed account of how the Siri-Wicky regime had bent over backwards to appease the Tamils. His self-laudatory speech was to convince the Tamil lobby as well as the “international community” that they could trust the Siri-Wicky regime to deliver whatever is required to satisfy/appease them. He was all out to impress that the Siri-Wicky government had reversed the anti-West policies and was ever willing to go along with his new allies in London-Paris-and Washington. With the appeasement of the Tamil lobby – President even had a meal (not egg hoppers!) with the GTF in London – and the West Samaraweera was hoping to shine as the saviour of Sri Lanka. But the big show put by the Siri-Wicky-Samaraweera trio ended like the drama of the “100-days” – no action, talk only (NATO). To use the apt and pithy Sinhala saying, it was a case of low-keta pra-kasay, geddetta mara-gathey! (Great big show to the outside world but it is utter disaster at home.)
The UNHRC report is a virtual confirmation of the position taken by the Tamil lobby abroad and at home. R. Sampanathan too has expressed his lack of confidence in the domestic mechanism and he now wants a domestic and the hybrid courts, trying to have it both ways. The Tamil Diaspora is out to get the hybrid court. After sharing a meal with the President they turned round and accused him of war crimes because he was the Acting Head of the forces in the last two weeks of the war on the banks of Nandikadal. Both the Tamil lobby and the West have left Samaraweera whistling in the wind. With friends like the Tamil Diaspora and the West does Samaraweera need any additional enemies?
The main thrust of the Samaraweera mission at the UNHRC was to get the approval for the local judicial mechanism to investigate allegations mentioned in the UNHRC report. It would have been a great diplomatic coup for him if he won that. But neither the pumping of John Kerry’s hand nor the kissing of Biswal gave Samaraweera the trophy he needed to crow that he is the Mohammed Ali of the Sri Lankan External Ministry. He, in fact, has fallen flat on his face. The biggest blow to him has come from the UNHRC report. It welcomes, recognises, approves, etc., the work done by the Siri-Wicky government and then turns round and says the government cannot be trusted to deliver justice. It is insisting on a hybrid court consisting mainly of foreign judges, prosecutors, investigators etc. So what has Samaraweera achieved to enhance his reputation as the foreign minister who rescued the nation from a foreign invasion of imported judges, prosecutors and investigators? Or save the necks of the national heroes? In the UNHRC report they are seen as war criminals. Clearly, Samaraweera has been releasing bags of hot air at the UNHRC because the upshot of all his rhetoric at the UNHRC was a thundering slap in his face. The statement that he delivered to the international community from the floor of the UNHRC was not worth the paper on which he wrote it. Even his own kissing friends have rejected it out of hand.
It is pretty clear that the boomerang he threw at the Sri Lankan judges has returned with a vengeance and knocked him down. He and his regime went round the world condemning the judiciary and now the “international community” is saying that they can’t trust the judiciary which he and his government has condemned. As if that is not enough, the Chief Minister of the North, C. V. Wigneswaran, a former judge of the Supreme Court, too has endorsed the view that the Tamils can’t expect justice from the courts. He must be speaking from his own experience as a judge for him to speak with such authority on the role of the bench of which he was apart until recently. He thinks he is smart in condemning the judiciary of which he was an integral part. But in doing so he is condemning his own integrity for having sat in a judiciary which he says now cannot be trusted to deliver fair judgement. Doesn’t that mean that he too was one of them? If he was not and if he was a man of integrity why didn’t he speak out then and expose the judiciary? Why didn’t he resign? Why is he condemning the judiciary now, now that it is politically expedient for him to gain political mileage? Judging by his latest statement, it seems that he was also a bird of the same feather that sat together on the same bench?
That apart, there seems to be no takers for the hybrid court recommended by the UNHRC? Not even Wickremesinghe can go for it knowing that President Sirisena’s head is also at stake. If the Siri-Wicky regime was hoping to use it as threat to keep Mahinda Rajapakse in line it has backfired on them because because President Sirisena is also in the same boat. As the distinguished lawyer, Gomin Dayasiri, told “Paki” Saravanamuttu and Jehan (Pacha) Perera in reply to their backing of the UNHRC report in the MTV debate, the “hybrid court is putrid.” Lawyer Dayasiri pooh-poohed the idea of “Paki” and “Pacha” Perera who were insisting on focusing only on the “victims”, meaning the Tamils who were caught in the last days of the war. After the deadly blows dealt by Dayasiri the two hired hacks of the NGOs backtracked. Genuine reconciliation has to go beyond the Tamil “victims”. It has to be a universal approach including all victims of the needless war declared by the Tamil leadership in the Vadukoddai Resolution of May 1976.
One of the fundamental flaws of the UNHRC report is also to focus on the “victims” of the last stages of the war. This is the political line of the Tamil lobby. The credibility and the competence of the UNHRC report is on the line when it concludes that a 33 year-old war ( 1976 May – 2009 May) can produce only Tamil victims. Isn’t the Minister for Housing, Sajith Premadasa, a victim of the war crimes committed by the LTTE? Isn’t Navin Dissanayake, another Minister a victim of the war crimes committed by the LTTE? Of all the southern political parties aren’t the UNPers the leading victims of the Vadukoddai war initiated, directed, financed, propagated, militarized, and brutalized by the Tamil leadership both at home and abroad?
Besides, the failure of the UNHRC to come to grips with the ground situation comprehensively, in all its historical, socio-political and international dimensions, makes them a part of the problem instead of their putative role of being problem-solvers. Successive heads of the UNHRC – from Louise Arbour, to Navi Pillay to Prince Zeid – have failed to grasp the multi-dimensional realities and continued to exacerbate the situation with their one-eyed view of the longest running war in Asia. Sadly, they have been serving the vested interests of selected lobbies and not the victims of “the latest Pol Pot of Asia”. (New York Times).
The UNPers in particular and the Parliamentarians as a whole must reject the partisan and unfair UNHRC report in toto and insist that Sri Lanka should go it alone and develop its own mechanism to deal with its own problems. If Sri Lanka could end the unwinnable war with its own initiatives there is no reason why it can’t win peace and reconciliation with its collective efforts.
This, of course, may require a more vigorous campaign of kissing at the international level. Perhaps, Samaraweera should start new courses in kissing for all our diplomats before they are posted to foreign missions. But those planning the course in osculation should take extra care to limit kissing only to the cheeks above the neck and not go down to the nether regions in the posterior of the anatomy.