By Tamara Kunanayakam -
On my return to Sri Lanka yesterday after several months outside, I learned with much astonishment about recent media reports claiming that I am engaged in discussions with officials on my re-appointment as PR to Geneva. The falsity of the claim and its malicious character compel me to respond.
The reports refer to instructions given by the President to certain officials to meet and discuss with me arrangements for my re-appointment to Geneva as Permanent Representative to the United Nations. It claims that I have expressed “reservations” “due to short time span between now and the Geneva sessions to be held in March.”
At no time was I contacted or consulted by any Government official on this or on any other matter, related or otherwise, since my departure from the diplomatic service in July 2012.
Even when I was on the frontline in Geneva, and at the best of times, the Ministry of External Affairs chose to ignore me; at the worst, it sought to obstruct me from carrying out my functions! In preparation for the battle, I was severely reprimanded for travelling to Colombo to seek a briefing on the strategy to be adopted at the Human Rights Council. Afterwards, the Ministry sought no debriefing and no information on my experience in Geneva, my opinion, or my analysis!
The practice of the ruling class to disseminate misleading information for personal gain has resulted in the nation being deluded about the real threats and their origin, so that its destiny is slowly slipping away from democratic control and being transferred to external forces.
We are on the brink of overt external intervention today and unilateral sanctions that will primarily affect the ordinary citizen, because those in positions of responsibility have failed to draw the political lessons from the strategy of defeat adopted by certain important members of the Sri Lankan delegation to the Human Rights Council in March 2012 and the ensuing debacle. A betrayal from within the ranks transformed a near victory into an overnight defeat.
More importantly, and for reasons unknown, those in charge of foreign policy have chosen to ignore the lessons from Sri Lanka’s undeniable victory at the September 2011 session of the Council, when we succeeded in forcing the US and its allies to withdraw the draft resolution that would have otherwise placed Sri Lanka on the international agenda in 2011! That single most important victory at the Human Rights Council continues to be hidden from the public, as the success achieved by Ambassador Dayan Jayatilleke in 2009 to ward off imminent external intervention continues to be denigrated.
On several occasions, I have tried to expose the veritable reasons for US intervention in Sri Lanka and its strategic objectives, recalling the threat “We’ll get you next time!” that was flung in my direction by the US Ambassador for Human Rights in Geneva, when Washington was forced to withdraw the draft resolution against Sri Lanka in September 2011. Despite the obvious, some have thought it clever to deliberately underestimate the gravity of US actions in the Human Rights Council, with an important representative of our country even calling for a strategic alliance with Washington, including military!
A foreign policy driven by personal gain rather than national interest and collective vision, has led to vacillations that have brought ridicule to the country and a significant loss of credibility, internationally. After first defending Navi Pillay by publicly denouncing me for having exposed the detrimental role played by her Office in violation of its multilateral mandate, the same officials then engaged in a campaign of denigration and provocation against the person of Navi Pillay, taking care, however, not to criticise Washington’s instrumentalisation of her Office. Not once was the responsibility and strategy of the US put into question! No self-respecting sovereign nation has cowed down as Sri Lanka has done to the constant humiliation suffered by its people, its government and representatives, and to insults hurled at them.
Washington’s determination to condemn Sri Lanka, force a regime change, and obtain a foothold in this strategically vital region, was never taken into account politically by the ruling class. It comes as no surprise that panic has taken over, and false stories abound as those responsible for Sri Lanka’s growing loss of sovereignty and independence seek cover behind new scapegoats! Under the circumstance, it is not farfetched to question the real motivations of those disseminating false claims about discussions supposedly taking place between certain officials and myself!
I have not changed my opinion!
I remain convinced that there is only one strategy to counter the imperialist threat:
(1) unite the patriotic forces within the country, irrespective of ethnic origins and differences in religion and language;
(2) arm the country with the means necessary to conduct an independent foreign policy through economic and financial policies that render it independent of imperialist pressures;
(3) adhere in fact, not just in rhetoric, to the principle of genuine non-alignment;
(4) build a united international front with our natural allies, based on common interests.
These are the basic principles that should guide Sri Lanka’s foreign policy. Without respect for these principles, no representative of the country, whoever he or she is, will be able to defend the interests of the Sri Lankan people and country!
We are told that it is too late to change course between now and March. I disagree! There is an alternative, but it demands political will and honesty!
*Tamara Kunanayakam Sri Lanka’s former envoy to Cuba and the UN in Geneva