By Dayan Jayatilleka –
An official can have his/her opinions on any matter, or be forgiven for being ignorant of a subject, but he/she should not place on the public record his/her wildly unfounded version of the facts of history while utterly ignorant of them.
The dangers of the type of education that will be imparted if the KNDU bill goes through are best evidenced in an interview given by Gen Kamal Gunaratne, Secretary to the Ministry of Defense.
The interview was conducted by Chinese Chamber of Commerce in Sri Lanka Chief Media Officer Amy Yang on the first anniversary of the Sri Lanka chapter of the Alumni of China’s National Defense University (NDU). The Lankan chapter was founded by Gen Gunaratne. Here is a quote from the interview, in which (through no fault of the Chinese interviewer) Gen Kamal Gunaratne engages in outright falsification of history.
“When we were challenged by the United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC) on ‘war crimes’ and ‘crimes against humanity,’ China supported us by exercising the veto power against the UNHRC Resolution against Sri Lanka, which will never be forgotten even by our future generation.” (May the long-lasting friendship bear new fruits: Defence Secy. | Daily FT)
If as Gen. Gunaratne says, “China supported us by exercising the veto power against the UNHRC Resolution against Sri Lanka”, how could Sri Lanka have lost the vote at the UNHRC in 2012, 2013, 2014 and this year, 2021?
Contrary to Gen. Gunaratne’s flattering account, China couldn’t “support us by exercising the veto power against the UNHRC resolution against Sri Lanka” because there is no veto power at the United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC).
No wonder the best-educated stratum of our society, i.e., the community of university academics as a totality, is utterly horrified by the implications of the KNDU bill for the ethos and substance of higher education and the training of the mind of “our future generation”.
There is a veto at the UN Security Council (UNSC) though, but there was never any ‘resolution against Sri Lanka’ on ‘war crimes and crimes against humanity’ in New York because of an assured Russian and Chinese veto. Geneva was the only access-route and battlefield.
China, like India, Pakistan, Russia, Cuba and the Nonaligned Movement, was a member of the strong coalition amounting to a near two-thirds of the UNHRC’s member-states, that Sri Lanka assembled at the UNHRC on the occasion that Gen. Gunaratne speaks of as one which “will never be forgotten even by our future generation”.
China supported Sri Lanka robustly during the war, as it did diplomatically at the UN, but just as the war was fought and won by the Sri Lankans (of whom Gen Gunaratne was a frontline commander), so too was the diplomatic battle at the UNHRC, a week after Nandikadal.
Gen. Gunaratne’s version is the equivalent of saying that China, which assisted our war effort (and it did), delivered victory by dropping a bomb on the LTTE at Nandikadal (which it didn’t).
What must “never be forgotten even by our future generation” is the factual historical truth. A Chinese veto would have meant that the challenge to Sri Lanka was deterred or stopped in its tracks and we were saved from having to battle. What actually happened was that the challenge came – there was no veto possible, to stop it– and Sri Lanka won.
If the KNDU proliferation takes hold, doubtless Gen. Gunaratne’s imaginary version of Sri Lanka’s diplomatic history at the UNHRC would be imparted, so that it “will never be forgotten even by our future generation”.
No wonder the regime cannot manage Geneva, and suffers grave defeat. It cannot understand what went on there. Its topmost defense official doesn’t even know what on earth happened. Instead of pontificating about it, he should adhere to Mao Zedong’s famous instruction: “seek truth from facts”.
*Dr. Jayatilleka was an elected Vice-President of the UN Human Rights Council 2007-2008 and Ambassador/Permanent Representative of Sri Lanka 2007-2009, including in May 2009. The only time Sri Lanka won in Geneva was in May 2009. It lost four times since then.