By Rajpal Abeynayake –
Navi Pillai, the UN Human Rights Commissioner may be an example – to take a best case scenario – of someone who is an idealist of sorts, now in the business of being an international civil servant.
After all, Sri Lanka voted for Navi Pillai’s next term as the UN Human Rights Commissioner. But now we find that the Sri Lankan ambassador to the UN in Geneva, Tamara Kunanayakam, has faulted Pillai for being partisan, and exceeding her mandate in pursuing a UN Human Rights Council resolution pertaining to our country.
There is no doubt that Pillai is a loose cannon UN civil servant, persecuting Sri Lanka virtually – when what was required was a dispassionate role within the framework of general UN procedure.
So, there are zealots all over. But it’s a blot on Her Majesty’s armed forces and their general image that in Britain, they cannot province security for a visiting invited head of state against overzealous and misguided supporters of the Tamil Tigers, a banned terrorist organization. And if such security was available, as reported elsewhere, why did the Commonwealth Business Forum not avail itself of its use?
Tendency, now routine
As the current chairman of CHOGM (Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting) President Mahinda Rajapaksa was to address a Commonwealth Business Forum in London when he was in the city last week as a head of state invited for the queen’s diamond jubilee celebrations.
But a decision was made for the president by the organizers; he could not address the forum as a security breach was possible due to the massed presence of diaspora protestors outside the venue.
This tendency has now become routine each time the president visits the United Kingdom. Last time around, he could not address a meeting of the Oxford Students Union as the British police in the city of Oxford could not guarantee security.
The very routine nature of the happenings in Britain last week – the protests that prevented the president’s speech – thankfully prevented them from becoming a major story.
That was a silver lining in a situation that should not go without appropriate censure. Of what worth are Her Majesty’s armed forces and Her Majesty’s police, if they cannot be mustered to provide the necessary security cover for the person who is after all the chair of the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting?
Arguably, the fact that British security could not ensure that the president would be able to deliver his speech at the forum is an insult to the Head of the Commonwealth, Queen Elizabeth II herself. If a clear guarantee of security was there, no doubt the organizers would have gone ahead with the event.
It is also rather shocking that the defence authorities in the UK and the Commonwealth organizational elite does this type of thing so casually, without as much as a by your leave. ‘You are advised to cancel your speaking engagement in your capacity as the president of the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting,’ say the organizers. And that’s it.
From a country whose representative here in this country, Ian Rankin, who stated that there is no necessity for troops to remain in the northern and eastern parts of the island because there is no terrorist threat anymore, this is to put it in the mildest of terms – rather odd.
In Rankin’s own country, the defence establishment cannot provide security for a head of state who is also the current chairman of the CHOGM, due to the security threat posed by the rump of the terrorist LTTE.
Virulent LTTE menace
But yet, Rankin in his wisdom believes that in the country in which that virulent LTTE menace originated, there is no terrorist threat that remains! If only Rankin could put his money where his mouth is, and get his government to provide the adequate protection for the Sri Lankan president whenever he visits the UK, he could probably claim that there is no terrorist threat from the LTTE with some degree of conviction.
The question is whether a reasonable effort was made in Rankin’s country to ensure that there was no threat to the security of an invited Head of State at a forum he was scheduled to address in an event organized by an international body.
Obviously, in a country which possesses one of the most sophisticated armies of the world – which intrudes into other countries in search of weapons of mass destruction for instance – the idea that there was not enough adequate security to shield President Rajapaksa from a terrorist security threat is not tenable.
Perhaps it is true that there was some amicable decision arrived at, after consultation with the Sri Lankan side that it’s best that President Rajapaksa does not address the forum.
The point is, the Sri Lankans were left with no choice. No security guarantee, no game – or so said the organizers. But was it a proper way to treat an invited head of state, who after all is the current chairman of the commonwealth body that the queen heads with distinction? If the Commonwealth Business Forum itself decided to cancel the event, shouldn’t the queen herself or her government which was responsible for inviting the president, prevailed upon the organization to go ahead with the event under the circumstances? Or is it for nothing that the queen is the head of the commonwealth?