By Dayan Jayatilleka –
It was none other—and no less—than Prime Minister Wickremesinghe, who in an interesting article in the world press, provides us with the key phrase in understanding what’s going on in this country, how we came to be at this point, who benefits and who were probably involved, what the agenda is and where we are headed. In a piece published in the Japan Times, he uses the phrase: “…resetting our strategic position in the world.” (‘Winning Sri Lanka’s Peace’, The Japan Times, April 8, 2015).
Note that Prime Minister Wickremesinghe, a shrewd man, is not talking about ‘re-balancing’, of ‘course correction’; of a shift in emphasis from the ham-fisted external relations of the second Rajapaksa term. He is not talking about tactics, but about strategic positioning; about re-setting our strategic position in the world. This is a fundamental shift from Sri Lanka’s traditional positioning deriving from the island’s history, geography and abiding sense of collective identity (what Dr. Kissinger calls “the character of nations”).
The problem with such re-setting of our strategic position is not one of ideological preference. It is a matter of Sri Lanka’s core national interest. Is that interest served by resetting our global strategic position; reorienting it towards the US-UK and India, with their influential Tamil lobbies and vote blocs? The most recent evidence yields a negative answer.
Prime Minister David Cameron made the following disclosure in his message for Sinhala and Tamil New Year:
“When I met with President Sirisena in Downing Street last month I offered my support for the steps his government has begun to take to address the issues of the past. But I was also clear that the Government must go further and that they must continue to offer full support to the ongoing UN investigation”. (‘Sri Lanka Must Offer Full Support to the Ongoing UN Investigation’: David Cameron, Colombo Telegraph April 14, 2015)
We learn from this statement that:
- The UK isn’t willing to trade off the international inquiry for the domestic one that the new administration is hoping to embark upon
- The UK continues to support and push the UN inquiry
- It expects the new Sri Lankan Government to do so, over and beyond any domestic probe, and
- The new Sri Lankan government is already offering full support to that pernicious UN inquiry –hence Prime Minister Cameron’s phrase “they must continue to offer full support to the ongoing UN investigation”.
The question then is: is there a sell-out going on here that we don’t know about? Does President Sirisena know about it, or does he suspect it but doesn’t know it for sure, and it is being perpetrated by the Ranil-Mangala dispensation?
Ranil’s real threat perception
Completely unconcerned about any challenge from the SLFP – to the point that he doesn’t mention it—Ranil revealed his real threat perception in his Japan Times article: “…lest our people become discouraged and be tempted by the autocratic forces waiting in the wings to return to power in the coming parliamentary election.”
Stemming from his electoral threat perception, Prime Minister Wickremesinghe is telling blatant untruths—which he knows to be untruths– to the world media. He writes“…Sri Lanka’s military leaders honored their oaths and bravely rebuffed Rajapaksa’s unconstitutional order to annul the election and maintain him in power.” (‘Winning Sri Lanka’s Peace’, The Japan Times, April 8, 2015).
If there was such “unconstitutional order”, the Prime Minister should disclose the evidence in Parliament. Not only has the former army commander refuted the allegation in some detail in an interview given to a prominent newspaper (owned by the PM’s family), to which there has been no rebuttal, the Courts promptly dismissed the allegation against Mahinda Rajapaksa with regard to illegal orders and troop movements, when it was leveled by the radical-left FSP candidate Duminda Nagamuwa.
Author Taylor Dibbert, a Washington DC based critical analyst of the Rajapaksa dispensation writes a piece in The Diplomat, which reminds us of the reality that makes Ranil’s electoral scenario credible: “…Rajapaksa still won a majority of Sinhalese votes (the overwhelming ethnic majority in a country whose population exceeds 20 million)…”.
It is that “overwhelming ethnic majority” who form the natural, organic foundation of this island nation-state, whose vital interests will be jeopardized and will face an existential threat, if the global strategic re-setting and re-positioning envisaged by Prime Minister Wickremesinghe is allowed to succeed.
As was the case over centuries and even millennia, there is a force and fact that stands in the way of “re-setting of our strategic position in the world” as most recently projected by Ranil.
Mr. Wickremesinghe being far more intelligent than his political partner Chandrika, their supporters and their cosmopolitan civil society ideologues, has spotted the contemporary expression of that resistance and the probability of its resurgence.