By Rajeewa Jayaweera –
The greatest Indian of modern times, Mahatma Gandhi once said “there is a higher court than the court of justice and that is the court of conscience. It supersedes all other courts”. His grandson, Gopalkrishna Gandhi (GG), former diplomat and one time Indian High Commissioner to Sri Lanka, delivered the keynote address at the ceremony, to mark the first anniversary of President Sirisena in office. Considering the contents of GG’s address, one could rightfully wonder if he is a man with a conscience and worthy of being referred to as a relative of the great Mahatma.
After praising former President Rajapaksa for giving political leadership to the task of defeating LTTE terrorism, hitherto not given by any of our former Presidents both dead and still alive, GG proceeded to castigate Sri Lanka on the issues of War Crimes and treatment of the Tamil community.
GG attributed the death of Prabhakaran’s 12 year old son, to the GoSL and Sri Lankan Army. By stating, “the killing in cold blood, of a child, for sole reason, that he was his father’s son, has left the world in cold horror”, GG has assumed the roles of prosecutor, judge, and jury all by himself. There is no tangible proof of young Balachandran being executed by SLA. It has not been established if he was executed or a casualty in a crossfire, attempting to cross battle lines while fleeing from SLA. It behooves GG to substantiate his claim with irrefutable proof.
GG must prove his credentials of being a champion against war crimes. When and where has he spoken of war crimes taking place elsewhere, similar to the example he used to castigate Sri Lanka? What was his stand in the case of proven events such one of Osama Bin Laden’s young sons killed in the shootout, shooting of Osama Bin Laden in the presence of his 12 year old daughter during ‘Operation Neptune Spear’, scores of 12 year olds, both boys and girls in Iraq, Afghanistan and Syria who have lost limb and life during American drone strikes to name a few? Or does he justify such killings by India’s new found ally, the USA, as ‘collateral damage’, but castigate Sri Lanka for a crime yet to be proven? One wonders if GG is aware that his grandfather once said ‘to believe in something, and not to live it, is dishonest’.
GG further stated “if the Ponnambalams and Chelvanayakams had not been disappointed, spurned and marginalized, Velupillai Pirbakaran would not have been required. We may not have those great leaders of Sri Lanka today, but we have in the Tamil leaders of Sri Lanka today, let us not forget, persons who have survived terror. The Tamil Nationalists who has striven to find political solutions within a united Sri Lanka is a terror survivor. The very presence of such a politician is a huge acknowledgement of the efficacy and strength of perseverance”.
Once again, before making such grandiose assertions, should not GG look inside India and ask himself of the status of Muslims in Indian Occupied Kashmir? Why have over 100,000 Kashmiris lost their lives since 1947? For what purpose are 500,000 Indian troops based in Indian Occupied Kashmir, unleashing terror and repression? What of the draconian Indian laws such as Terrorist and Disruptive Activities (TADA), Jammu & Kashmir Public Safety Act 1978, The Armed Forces Special Power Act 1990 (AFSPA), Jammu & Kashmir Disturbed Area Act 1990 and Prevention of Terrorism Act (POTA) 2002 which constitute a repressive tool in the hands of Indian forces to harass and intimidate innocent Kashmiris? The infamous AFSPA protects members of security forces from prosecution for alleged Human Rights abuses and empower security forces to search, detain and use lethal force against any person acting against the law. GG who hails from and has been a representative, of a country involved in such deplorable acts does not have the moral right pass judgement on Sri Lanka’s national question.
GG’s high principled address conveniently left out India’s involvement in nurturing, training, arming and funding LTTE terrorism, the use of force against Sri Lanka to prevent the annihilation of LTTE by SLA in 1987 thus extending Sri Lanka’s misery and agony by another 22 years, the violation of Sri Lanka’s sovereignty followed by the unwanted drop of food over Jaffna, sending an Occupation Force termed as a Peace Keeping Force after having coerced an ‘invitation’ from a weak and hapless President and refusing to even sell armaments, desperately needed by Sri Lanka, even as late as 2000 when GG himself was India’s High Commissioner in Sri Lanka. There was also no mention of the need to investigate if IPKF had committed war crimes during the occupation of the Northern and Eastern Provinces.
This discourse is not an attempt to justify war crimes committed by SLA if any or the injustices meted out to the Tamil community. It is an attempt to highlight a new tendency which has begun to evolve since 08 January 2015. It is that of the Prime Minister, Ministers, officials and in this instance even a retired official from India arriving in Sri Lanka, giving unsolicited advice even in our Parliament, passing strictures on how Sri Lanka conducted its own war on terrorism, its foreign relations and at least one Indian Union Minister making a statement in the Indian Lok Sabha, contradicting our own Prime Ministerial statement in our Parliament on the Indo-Sri Lanka Bridge issue, to name a few.
Sri Lanka is no doubt a small and powerless country. We need to maintain cordial relations with India for our own good and avoid any acts, detrimental to India’s security. Beyond that, Sri Lanka must retain the freedom to conduct its own foreign and trade relations as it sees fit, without having to kowtow to India. Sri Lanka must retain and must be seen to retain its sovereignty and independence. It cannot be or be seen to being the 30th state of India.
In the Indo – Sri Lanka Relations balance sheet, India had a massive surplus of injustices meted out to Sri Lanka since late 1970s till as recently as 2012. Some of our leaders tend to ignore this fact as their outlook is from a political rather than a national perspective. However, to many ordinary persons without a political or commercial agenda, especially those who lived through the turbulent and traumatic days of the air drop, IPKF etc., the sense of outrage continues and requires a closure. Such a closure is only possible if and when India acknowledges its role and mistakes during Sri Lanka’s war on LTTE terrorism, followed by an apology suitably worded in a manner maintaining India’s own pride and dignity.
This writer would like to conclude by quoting the great Mahatma; to GG, “ an error does not become truth by reason of multiplied propagation, nor does truth become error because nobody sees it; to India “I suppose leadership at one time meant muscles; but today it means getting along with people” and to our own leaders “it is any day better to stand erect with a broken and bandaged head than to crawl on one’s belly, in order to be able to save one’s head”.