16 October, 2019

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Mismanaging Sri Lanka’s Relations With India & America

By Rajiva Wijesinha –

Prof Rajiva Wijesinha MP

In discussing, as suggested, recent American moves on Sri Lanka and the Sri Lankan reaction, I am struck most of all by the failure of those in theory responsible for foreign policy to understand those moves. After the recent visit by Bob Blake, who had been ambassador here during the conflict period, and had a relatively positive if patronizing approach, I was assured by a senior External Affairs official that relations between Sri Lanka and America were excellent. He claimed that the negative reports in the papers were exaggerated.

Similarly, I was assured by those who claimed to have the ear of both the President and the Americans that there would be no American resolution against us in Geneva this year. Now it is conceivable that the Americans deliberately misled us, but I do not think that was the case. Not only from the pronouncements Blake made, but also from the comments made by both his successors, it was evident that criticism was the order of the day.

Why was this not understood, and why were we lulled into complacency? After all, there were several things we could have done that would have dealt with the more reasonable criticisms that were made, while also ensuring that the Americans would not find it so easy to build up a coalition against us. But we did nothing, and then affected surprise when not just the Americans, but a large majority in the UN Human Rights Council, came down on us like a ton of bricks.

Our failure to deal with this is primarily because we do not look at what has gone wrong in the past, and we fail to follow up on decisions taken. In short, we have both a failure of intellect and procedure. It may seem strange to say this since the Minister of External Affairs is supposed to be the brightest intellect in Parliament, but he does not seem to use his intellect at all in his current position. While it is possible that he decided that analytical skills had to be forgotten if he was to keep rising higher on the political ladder, and unpleasant advice would be unwelcome, a kinder explanation is that he knows follow up is not possible in the Ministry as it is currently constituted, so he might as well keep quiet and hope for the best.

As a result, we have sudden and inconsistent reactions to American moves, and no efforts at all to anticipate those moves and forestall them. Thus this year, after the debacle in Geneva, we are told how wonderful relations with America should be, and we are now paying enormous amounts to an American public relations firm to promote them. It is forgotten that in fact we have been paying enormous amounts to different American public relations firms over the last few years, and that that strategy has failed completely.

However, though wasting money is not something we should be doing given the worsening economic situation, at least this is not a vindictive and destructive reaction. In contrast, last year elements in the Foreign Ministry attacked anyone who had stood up previously to American pressure, and decided, in the memorable words of a Communist sparring partner at University, that since the Americans wanted to bugger us, we should roll over and let them. Therefore the Foreign Ministry sacked Tamara Kunanayagam from her ambassadorial position in Geneva, and ensured fore that we would not be able to build up any resistance to American moves.

An analysis of what was motivating the Americans however would have suggested how we could have dealt with the situation with relative ease. One reason for American irritation was what was seen as increasing dependence on China. In addition to their own worries in this regard, they used this to apply pressure on India. But we could have dealt with this very simply by making very clear the special relationship with India which has been the foundation of any foreign policy successes we ever had.

Unfortunately there are elements in the Ministry who are determined to destroy that relationship, based on the way J R Jayewardene ran foreign relations in the eighties, and the Minister is completely incapable of controlling them. So we are left with extremists, some of whom want us to run behind America, and others, who are not in the Ministry but still interfere in foreign policy, who think we can hide behind China. The simple fact that we should maintain a good understanding with India, and also cooperate actively with China while making it clear that this is not intended to be at the expense of anyone else, is not something our decision makers understand.

Secondly, we have not dealt sensibly with the diaspora, an influential part of which is driving the American agenda. The answer to this is to deal systematically with their allegations, whilst also coopting the moderate members of the diaspora who simply want a better deal for Tamils. However the very sensible recommendations of the LLRC in this regard have been completely ignored. Though recently the LLRC Action Plan was revived with the appointment of Mrs Wijayatilaka, who had been sidelined previously, to head it, I do not think we will get action at the speed and efficiency we need until we have a fully empowered Ministry for Reconciliation.

Finally, we need to improve our Human Rights record, since it is actual lapses in this regard that lend credence to allegations about lapses that did not take place. With regard to the war, where our Indian friends have made clear, even while supporting the resolution against us, that the question of war crimes is nonsense, we need simply to move quickly on the allegations that the LLRC has deemed credible. There are very few of these, and as in the case of the Trincomalee killings of seven years ago, we owe it to our own people to make it clear that cold blooded killing is not acceptable. Unfortunately we still have amongst us individuals who think – as the Americans do when their own security is involved – that anything is acceptable, and individuals should not be charged with actions against known enemies (or even their dependants, as happened with the poor child killed when Osama bin Laden was executed).

But even more important is to ensure that we re-establish the Rule of Law. Though many incidents that have occurred recently do not relate to the conflict, they can be used to paint a picture of a lawless society. We must therefore move quickly to strengthen the police and ensure proper investigation and prosecution with regard to heinous crimes. We must also make sure that those determined to stir ethnic and religious tensions are dealt with firmly when the peace is breached. At present we seem to be entrenching double standards, and that must be changed, if we are to regain the moral ascendancy that allowed us to deal so successfully with Western moves against us in the conflict period, between 2007 and 2009 – and we had better make use of intelligent and principled people like Dayan Jayatilleka, instead of getting rid of them

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    Ha ha this made me crack up …
    “and we had better make use of intelligent and principled people like Dayan Jayatilleka, instead of getting rid of them”

    I was looking for it and in the final line I found it as expected ! These two clowns have no guts to quit the government but sit there and praise each other or praise themselves hoping to get back into the good books of the government !

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      dayan doesn’t praise rajiva!! it’s a one way thing from a less credible one to a more popular self promoting one! :D :D

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    Tell me one think Sinhala budhist capable? They love blood and violence, once peaceful hard working tamils following your evil budhist violence. go to hell srilanka…

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    J.muthu

    “once peaceful hard working tamils following your evil budhist violence.”

    Tamils have never been peaceful. For sometime they portrayed themselves peace loving people, in fact they are anything but peaceful loving. In the hundred or so years their violence had been internalised, against their own people.

    Please note there is no place for violence in Buddhism. Your anthropological description must clearly say “Sinhala/Buddhist violence and not Buddhist violence.

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      well, native vedda, in the context of sri lanka buddhism is a rarely found ideology in practice. so i guess j.muthu wasn’t too off when it comes to a brief comment like that. maybe he coined a new term ‘evil buddhism’ to replace ‘sinhala buddhism’? because the latter might hurt a handful of peaceful people who happen to be both sinhalese and buddhists?

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      Dear native u r wrong, I belongs to a 70’s guy educated in a beloved language. we have no worries and free society during those yrs. yes tamil leadership misleaded our peaceful socity, and u have to blame Sinhala evil budhist leaders as well. thease Sinhala evil mongrels don’t know how to run their own home( worse sending their wife to middle east), running a country just a joke. blame brits all thease ….

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        J.muthu

        My elders observed the following:

        Inter caste “wars”

        Temple entries

        Land grabbing by shifting fences, legal eagles made fortunes out of fence disputes. As a result in many cases both neighbours were forced to sell their land to meet legal costs.

        Inter party rivalry resulting in violence.

        Domestic violence.

        Violence against domestic servants

        ……..

        Thug Sanglian’s ethnic cleansing in Madu.

        I am sorry some how you are convinced of a romantic past.

        Genetically and culturally Sinhalese are closely related to your people hence my elders see no difference between these two people.

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          Thus the Native Vedda was born in tiny village to a simple and humble parents. In his childhood he was aided by the wise guardians of the Native wild whispering in his ears that he should renounce rancour nor clamour from his heart and them away wholeheartedly. While growing to his youth he became a defiant and a formidable mighty hero of his people who not only fight for the axioms of the land but for the virtues of his faith and to reinstate his civics’ lost identity with vigour and force. Hail Native!

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    I liked Rajiva Wijesinghe’s post. He has articulated exactly what many of us have said before and still do. I am however compelled to ask what is the point? Wijesinghe is a close confidant of Mahinda Rajapaksa but he has to write in these columns to get a message conveyed to his boss which in any event will not be read since the latter is not a reader of anything, nor is that persona enamoured of lofty ideals of justice, rule of law and democracy. Therefore RW’s essay is merely a message to us that he thinks like us, but will serve no purpose in expecting the President to rectify the issues mentioned. The fact of the matter is that the President and the people with intellect do not think alike. The President has no intellectual side to him, only a political one. We have to be reconciled to the fact that we have no influence in trying to change Sri Lanka to the egalitarian society we desire. Not in our lifetime anyway.

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      no, this is rajiva’s new book in its making. he thinks by leaving a book full of preaching the good principles and demonizing the political and diplomatic opponents, he can go down in the history. but for that, he first has to be somebody in the present :D well, that’s what he tries to be by stating in every article his role as dayan’s side kick :D :D

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      “We have to be reconciled to the fact that we have no influence in trying to change Sri Lanka to the egalitarian society we desire. NOT IN OUR LIFETIME ANYWAY. “

      What exactly do you want to say, let the monster destroys the country and we the masses can’t do much about it , is it ? There are some people who pretend to be displeased of the entire system , but at the same time , love to admire the devil secretly. I recon some People deliberately spreading these sort of negative /pessimistic ideas to trap others in to their line of thinking !

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    Dayan Jayathilake, Rajiwa Wijesinghe, Austin Fernando and many more all give good advices to Sri Lanka.

    It is Sri Lanka that screws up relations with India and the USA and it is not the USA and India which control the relationship with Sri Lanka.

    what logics.

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      Leela, Can you rememeber few months ago you were praising Rajiwa when Rajiwa was pukka pro regime memebr at that time? What happened to you now? He is a bad man right? I am searching that post of yours that you wrote in an other media as a reply to a commenter. I will copy here that your own post for you to refer to freshen up your corroded mind. You such a hypocrat, arnt you?

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    “But even more important is to ensure that we re-establish the Rule of Law. Though many incidents that have occurred recently do not relate to the conflict, they can be used to paint a picture of a lawless society.”

    1.This is the manifestation of the problem.

    2. Mahanama Sinhala Buddhist Myths was and is the core Problem

    3. Need separation of Church and State. Need a Kamal Ataturk, like turkey had, in marginalizing the clerics, and in this case the Monks, to keep religion a personal matter.

    4. The country in now divided more than anytime in the past since Independence.

    De Da Vu, the the Monk Mahanama curse and Sinhala Buddhism.

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    True, No? Where are you now, Rajeeva? Are you in opposition? What…. you are still in the Government? Oh.. where else to go, no?

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      Leelee, from when did you become Sita?

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