By Rajiva Wijesinha –
I referred previously to machinations essentially by the opposition to create uncertainty and confusion within government. Trying to advance the date of the Presidential election, or suggesting deep divisions with regard to the position of Prime Minister, are intended to provoke reactions and sometimes precipitate crises that would not otherwise occur.
But there are also intrigues by those within government, and sometimes by elements in the administration who wish to promote their own agendas, regardless of the damage this might do to government – or perhaps to inflict this. One such incident occurred about a year ago, when an Indian Parliamentary delegation visited Sri Lanka, shortly after the resolution in Geneva which India unfortunately supported.
I was reminded of this when there was another Parliamentary delegation to Sri Lanka this month, this time organized by a Chamber of Commerce. There had been efforts in India to prevent it coming, and naturally one of the Sri Lankan papers opposed to government declared triumphantly that the pressures exercised had succeeded. Fortunately the presence of the delegation in Sri Lanka at the time the report was published enabled swift refutation.
But it is not only elements in India that wish to harm relations between the two countries. Last year it was an Additional Secretary in the Ministry of External Affairs who had told the President that the Indian Opposition Leader, Sushma Swaraj, had criticized him, as being the principal impediment to reconciliation, and had added that she had been supported in this view by a leading member of the Cabinet.
The story was all nonsense, and there is no doubt that Sushma Swaraj has a very positive approach to Sri Lanka, as is the case with the delegates who came to Sri Lanka this year. Of course they have their questions, and we should acknowledge and address their concerns in a positive spirit, since it is also clear that they understand the constraints under which we operate. But unlike those Members of Parliament in India and in Sri Lanka who seek to enhance their own prestige by attacking the other country, those who have come to us despite pressures not to do so are essentially friends with whom we should work to enhance relations further.
The President however had been startled by the story the Additional Secretary had told him, and was not inclined to meet the delegation. Fortunately the Secretary to the President, supported by a couple of the Cabinet Ministers who had been at the dinner at which the offensive remarks were supposed to have been made, had shown him that nothing of the sort had been said. The President had then met the delegation and all had been well.
I should note that the Minister of External Affairs had not been responsible for the untoward incident, and had indeed been one of those who reassured the President. Unfortunately what neither he nor his colleagues did was to follow up on what had happened, and inquire into how and why the President had been misled. Typically, the matter was forgotten, in line with the fact that we prefer not to rock boats, even when they are sinking, and getting up and getting out is necessary, except that that seems too complicated when we can sit tight and go down quietly.
Assuming the story was true, and this seems to be the case since the Secretary to the President had to work overtime to avert a diplomatic disaster, we should surely have found out the reasons for this extraordinary lie. Since it was perpetrated by the same person who had been responsible for the disaster that occurred in 2010, when the President went to Britain to deliver an address at the Oxford Union, contrary to the advice of our High Commission in London, logic would suggest that there is a deliberate effort to deceive him, and make the country suffer.
One explanation is that this is part of an agenda set by those elements in the diaspora that are still keen on separatism. Evidence for this is supposed to exist in the violations of tender procedure that took place in Geneva, to give a contract to repair the residence of the ambassador to elements sympathetic to the LTTE. Unfortunately the investigation into that particular violation was stymied, even though at the same time Ambassdor Dayan Jayatilleka was being persecuted for far less grave matters in Paris. When however the Ministry is controlled not by the Minister, nor by the Secretary, administrative norms are set at nought, with kissing and all else going by favour rather than principle.
There may however be a less sinister explanation, which has to do with the deeply anti-Indian feelings of some elements in the Ministry following the events of the eighties. Foreign Minister Hameed, who was responsible for recruiting this particular deceitful character into the Ministry through the back door, presided over a dispensation that thought India was an enemy, in line with the Cold War predilections of President Jayewardene. And even though the President learnt his lesson, and decided to compromise with India in 1987, the Cold Warriors in the Foreign Ministry still see India as the enemy.
Thus, after the resolution in Geneva last year, the claims that emanated from those elements that we should now go back to total reliance on the West, combined with continuing animosity towards India for having voted with the West. In effect, we are being dragooned into a position where we cut our ties with India, which should be our strongest ally in opposing country specific resolutions and the creeping domination of the United Nations by a single perspective. The idea that we should be working together to restoring the multilateral approach which was what the UN initially was about is anathema to such elements.
Poisoning the President’s mind about India is one element in this game, a game the country will lose, given the failure to investigate the reasons for that poisoning.