14 July, 2020

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The Lalith Weeratunga Presentation

By Dayan jayatilleka

Dr. Dayan Jayatilleka

Dr. Dayan Jayatilleka

Though I cannot say the same of his companions on the voyage, my friend Lalith Weeratunga embodies a rare combination of intelligence, ability, affability and civility. He made a valuable presentation of the government’s case, in Geneva and the USA. Mr Weeratunga has made some very valid points on the dangers of an international accountability mechanism. The problem is that the case itself is inadequate to deter, defer or rally the support needed to stop precisely such a dangerous move being made in Geneva.

Mr Weeratunga’s crisply professional presentation loses efficacy because it does not reflect, and is not embedded in, the right strategy. Indeed it reflects a major strategic error. That error, if persisted in, will render the sovereignty and security of the Sri Lankan state vulnerable in the overall strategic environment.

None of that which I am about to argue is either a secret from the government and state nor does it date back to the end of my diplomatic stint in France. The points that follow were presented as an extended intervention at a working dinner hosted by the Minister of External affairs, chaired by President Rajapaksa, and in the presence of a total of 15 persons including Mr Weeratunga, a handful of ministers (including a member of the ruling troika), Sri Lankan ambassadors posted to frontline countries, senior officials (including the newly appointed Secretary to the MEA, at the time my successor in Geneva) and the Monitoring MP of the MEA. This ‘policy roundtable’ style evening was as far back as late April 2011, when we convened to assess the so-called Darusman Report and implications for Sri Lanka. I was then Sri Lanka’s Ambassador to France.

At this dialogic session which had elements of a policy debate, I made the following points:

  • Sri Lanka must identify the main threat — that of an international accountability hearing—and the quarter from which it comes—the West.
  • It must then seek to make trade-offs on secondary issues to ward off that main threat.
  • To this end, it must use broad coalitions and a classic ‘balance of power’ strategy to defeat, deflect or contain that main threat and the zone it emanates from.
  • I argued that for all practical purposes the world is divisible into three strategic zones on the issue of Sri Lanka.  I likened these to three baskets. These are:

(a) the US-UK led West which wants accountability and democratisation.

(b) India, most of the BRICS and much of the Nonaligned (because of the Indian factor) which wants the implementation of the 13th amendment.

(c) the Far East ( mainly ASEAN) and some parts of the global South which want an integrated, multiethnic, meritocratic, non-discriminatory Sri Lanka — a return to the rather more level playing field that prevailed in Ceylon modified by that which I dubbed ‘Soulbury Plus’.

  • I said that we must decide which of these three baskets we shall fill and with which ‘bowls’ of policy reforms as it were. We can either fill the

a)     Western basket with the bowls of accountability and democratization

b)    The India/BRICS/NAM/G77 basket with devolution up to and including the 13th amendment, or

c)     The East Asian basket with strong anti-discrimination legislation and a Singaporean type high profile integration of the Tamil community in the ruling elite.

  • I cautioned against the assumption that Sri Lanka could ward off accountability while not really conceding anything significant to anyone on any issue. That would be a grave strategic mistake and prove untenable, I stressed.
  • I suggested that we should trade-off to some degree, democratization for accountability with the West, but that the main trade-off should be devolution for accountability. This would enable us to leverage the East against the West, the South against the North. Without adequate devolution this could not be done, because India cannot be kept on board, and without India our coalition of the BRICS and the NAM cannot be sustained and is doomed to shrink.
  • I also made the case that the UN PoE (‘Darusman’) report should be responded to formally and frontally.  I went onto make that case on TV as a search of YouTube (‘Dayan Jayatilleka on UN Panel Report’, uploaded on May 2, 2011) would show.

After a productive to-and-fro, the President made exactly the right decision. He instructed the Minister of External Affairs and the team that was negotiating with the TNA to take the 13th amendment as the basis and to discuss trade-offs through the fair reallocation of the powers contained in the Concurrent list. He followed it up with instructing his officials to invite the TNA leader and the India High Commissioner for breakfast with him.

I left for Paris with the comforting illusion that something of a breakthrough had been achieved. I had underestimated the new balance of forces in decision making circles in Sri Lanka.

A few weeks later I read while in Paris, the ghastly account of how the junior most member of the Government’s negotiating team and the one who had absolutely no experience in handling the ethnic issue, Mr. Sajin Vass Gunewardene, had insolently provoked the senior most TNA politician Mr Sampanthan, and then planted a story in a newspaper to the effect that ‘the TNA was demanding the same things that the Tigers had wanted’. The talks broke down.

The Government shifted to the new position that negotiations would henceforth have to be through a Parliamentary Select Committee, and not take the form of a dialogue. To date the process of seeking a comprehensive political reconciliation through dialogue with the leaders of the TNA and now the Northern Provincial Council has not resumed.

Thus ended the three dimensional strategy of trading devolution for accountability, keeping India on side, and leveraging the East against the West and the South against the North— in short, the winning strategy of Geneva May 2009.

This then is the problem I see with Mr Lalith Weeratunga’s presentation: the large lacuna in the otherwise lucid rendition. It doesn’t concede anything tangible to anyone on any front.

The only real achievement of the past five years — and it is a historic achievement—is the holding of the Northern province election but that can be spun by Sri Lanka’s critics and opponents as too little, too late. It should either have been held earlier (as I had argued at the cost of my job) or followed up swiftly with a structured dialogue mechanism and a reasonable time table on the implementation of the 13th amendment, which could have got India back on board and therefore also many of those who voted for us in 2009 but against us in 2012 and 2013.

Mr Weeratunga’s presentation does not contain any of the following points which could rally the requisite support to deflect the threat of an international accountability mechanism:

a)     A credible local investigation by distinguished Sri Lankan personalities of high international repute.

b)    A compressed time frame for the full implementation of the 13th amendment.

c)     The speedy arrest and prosecution of those identifiable through video evidence of attacking places of religious worship.

d)    A strong anti-discrimination legislation and a powerful watchdog body with teeth.

e)     A UNESCO supervised revision of school text books by a panel of internationally renowned Sri Lankan scholars (such as Prof Sudharshan Seneviratne) so as to minimize prejudice against communities and ‘build the defences of peace in the minds of men’.

f)     The reconstitution of the Ministry of Human Rights and the Peace Secretariat (SCOPP) as well as the appointment of a highly respected National Ombudsman for Human Rights who would report to parliament and a more autonomous and credible National Commission of Human Rights.

g)     The restoration of the independent commissions proposed by the 17th amendment, albeit with no prejudice to the 18th amendment and the removal of presidential term limits.

h)    The bridging legislation needed domestically to fully incorporate the ICCPR.

Thus there are no serious, verifiable structural reforms on offer which can be counter-posed to the dangerously de-stabilising call for an international accountability mechanism and intrusive (even invasive) process.

Mr Weeratunga’s ably presented report does not avoid the strategic triple error I warned against in April 2011:

  1. That we can defend Sri Lanka’s sovereignty without balancing off a coalition of states against the Diaspora driven West;
  2. That we can cobble together a coalition that can defeat or deter the West without India as the cornerstone of that coalition;
  3. That India can be retained or won back without addressing the Tamil Question through devolution.

In other words, the grave strategic delusion that Sri Lanka can ward off or ignore the accountability threat without conceding anything to anybody on any front.

What passes for strategy is the upper reaches of the Sri Lankan state these days is the double Israeli delusion. The decision makers think that the Israelis can and will defuse the US campaign on Sri Lanka. They also assume that Sri Lanka can behave as obdurately as Israel and that China’s commitment to Colombo is the equivalent of Washington’s to Tel Aviv.

These assumptions are nonsensical. Firstly Israel’s interest is in allowing the attention to be focused on Sri Lanka as a diversion from the human rights and humanitarian law campaign against its practices. Israel has no interest in reducing the attention being paid to Sri Lanka in global civil society and by the UN. Sri Lanka is the perfect red herring. Secondly, Israel does not control US policy making, not even in the Middle East, as it learned when the US ignored Netanyahu and entered the diplomatic track with Iran on the issue of nuclear power. Certainly in Asia, the role of India is far more influential in US thinking than that of Israel. Therefore it takes a particularly low brow intellect to think that Sri Lanka’s road to Washington DC lies via Tel Aviv rather than New Delhi.  Thirdly, China’s support to Sri Lanka is nothing like, and cannot be anything like, the US security guarantee for Israel. Fourthly, Sri Lanka’s strategic strength in its neighbourhood is vastly inferior to that of its neighbour, unlike Israel which militarily dominates its neighbourhood.

My friend Mr Weeratunga is an intelligent man. But he doesn’t make the decisions. He should have stopped off for a chat in the neighbourhood before he proceeded to Geneva, Washington and New York.

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Latest comments

  • 1
    2

    It would be nice to see for a change a real critique of the article rather than of its author or his name. I really find it difficult to disagree with Dayan Jayatilleka’s analysis, and do thank him for it.

    • 2
      0

      Let’s try one point at a time.

      Here is what Dayan says now “A credible local investigation by distinguished Sri Lankan personalities of high international repute.”

      In 2009 it is he who got a resolution to that effect voted down – and had been chest-thumping on that victory since then, up until he was thrown out his job!

      When asked why he objected to a credible investigation then, Dayan self-appointing himself as a spokes person of all-Sinhalese claimed that Sinhalese don’t care a rat’s ass for the truth!

      It is this shameless shifting of position to suit his selfish-goals that is being criticized in almost all the comments here. And that is what earned him the “prostitute” title from the President responding to Al Jazeera.

      If you think the comments here are undeserved, could Dayan tell all of us, including the President and Al Jazeera, why he changed his position, in fact going as far as wailing “What must the regime have done to the Tamils at the end of the war and continues to do even today”- this he said after Weliweraya.

      • 1
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        Also can he explain what are those 9 or 10 specific incidents which needed an investigation? Probably his guilty mind finally speaking out that these 9 or 10 incidents would have led to death of lives 40000 or more.

      • 0
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        Kumar R.There was a time that I thought that he was an intellectual.I am no longer carrying that burden. He is no better than G.L.Peiris.Please note his comment on the 18th ammendment

  • 0
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    D.J
    A Good theoritical strategic analysis in the year 2010-2011 indeed. Dr R.N’s comments explain the fact as in a Tamil proverb ‘ettu suraikai karikku uthavathu’ – the melon in a paper( in computer graphics) is not useful for cooking. I hope you should stop strategising and go on soul searching accepting the fact that the ‘game is over”
    “Fourthly, Sri Lanka’s strategic strength in its neighbourhood is vastly inferior to that of its neighbour, unlike Israel which militarily dominates its neighbourhood.” You are wrong there!!! Sri Lanka had been and can always rely on its soft power
    ‘Booze, Bash, Bebes and Bumps”

  • 2
    0

    This guy has not understood why he was pushed out from Geneva even after having done a decent job at the time. He should move on, no point in arguing for his 13th amendment!

  • 0
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    Lalith Weeratunga’s real intelligence is doubtful. Real inteligence is wisdom = intelligence + good ethics and intentions.

    If Lalth was really intelligent he would have put the Raja petiyas on the correct track somehow. Being a relation as well as a senior civil servant with education helps in the Rajas accepting his view. But for all these years his wise counsel is not seen and the Rajas are going from bad to worse. On a Results frame – impact negative.

    So there is no point even talking about Lalith Weeratunga as he has behaved like a wimp and does not want to rock his own comfortable boat.

    As someone said don’t talk about your attempts to achieve. Talk about the change you have brought about.

    • 0
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      Is n ot it is Lalith’s brother who is our point man in Ukraine.Good he should report what is happening there

  • 0
    0

    “Baffle them with Bullshit” eh ? Nice try Dayan !

  • 0
    1

    Sajin and Namal were sent to “MONITOR” Mr. Weeratunga.

    Mr. Weeratunga: What does this indicate to you? So better be prepared and cautious. You know very well both these “MONITORS” are best known for anything other than “DIPLOMACY” to sit with Internationally famed civil servants and make a case on behalf of our country.

    Don’t you feel ashamed and degraded by these two sitting beside you?

  • 1
    0

    Dayan,

    “A credible local investigation by distinguished Sri Lankan personalities of high international repute.”

    You are obviously referring to yourself, aren’t you Dayan?

  • 1
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    I cant understand how totally incapable people like Sajin and Namal are heading this most imporatnt mission. This is laughable sending someone like Sajin and Namala to Geneva. What is the President thinking he is so stupid. Like a frog in the well. THis will be a guranateed defeat for S.L. with people like this heading our team. Lalith W. is learned no doubt but is not suitable for this mission.

    • 1
      0

      Pl. understand that the President wants the Resolution to go against
      SL, by which he intends to keep his President-ship for ever! He
      has the local set-up fine tuned for this. He knows whom to bribe and
      when. (The IGP gets a family trip to Maldives and a CW S400 Benz)

      • 0
        0

        And he knows what to do incite the racially infested minds.

  • 1
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    First of all this man called Lalith Weeratunga’s eligibility to hold the post of Seceretary to the President should be investigated.He is living with an illegitimate wife named Indrani Sugathadasa. why does she never use the sirname Weerathunga.

  • 1
    0

    It is all a case of the monkey
    praising himself. Sri Lanka does
    not move if not for Dayan
    Jayatilleke, an intellectual
    humbug and a crazy old bum
    for publicity. High time he
    retired instead of regurgitating
    all the grass he ate.

  • 0
    0

    Dayan, the political analyst starts by commending that blackguard Lalith Weeratunge-born stooge- and then goes on to tear LW’s presentation to pieces. DJ is in self-crisis

  • 2
    0

    Breaking news!

    Dayan has been shortlisted to go to Geneva.

    He begging has paid off.

  • 0
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    This is the most perfect team. Not sure why DJ sees it differently. Remember that this s very much like Parba’s team. Praba had Anton and it did not mater what Anton had to say. The main thing is to create an enemy that keep bombarding your own people – who will then support you whole heartedly.

    So all you need in the team is an English speaking gona and some one to take the leadership against all the horrible white people who are out to destroy the Sinhalese. So the President has chosen well.

    • 0
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      Kiri Yaka

      I haven’t seen your comment under much acclaimed Irathina Valli’s new recent story set in a historical background.

  • 0
    0

    I suggest and request CT to get a copy of the presentation made to the Diplomats at the Geneva meeting and publish it here, so that we could discuss it in a meaningful manner.

  • 0
    0

    Dayan’s basket filling plan is not something the Rajapaksas will ever agree to. The mere suggestion of this makes Dayan a real basket case. He appears not to have realised that filling the West’s basket with accountability will lead to the Rajapaksa brothers and the military commanders ending up as war criminals. The most important reason why Rajapaksa adamantly refuses to conduct any kind of inquiry into the war crimes allegation is that he knows that he, his brother Gota and some military commanders committed war crimes and crimes against humanity. Dayan’s desperation in trying to defend the man who called him an NGOwalla in the pay ill of the west is puzzling.

  • 0
    0

    “Sri Lanka must identify the main threat — that of an international accountability hearing—and the quarter from which it comes—the West”.

    Now what is threatening about this? Sri Lanka is not threatened by this but YOU and those who think like you are definitely threatened by it because you are FASCISTS.

    Those who are not FASCISTS would welcome international assistance to do a good job of house cleaning after the war by identifying and punishing ALL WAR CRIMINALS and those who assisted them in their crimes.

    YOU are clearly one of the chief supporters of the Sri Lankan DEEP STATE and as can be seen here one of its chief strategists.

  • 0
    0

    The evil started before the Tigers were born but continues unabated into the seventh decade:

    The Judicial Mind In Sri Lanka; Responding To The Protection Of Minority Rights, 4 February 2014,
    https://www.colombotelegraph.com/index.php/the-judicial-mind-in-sri-lanka-responding-to-the-protection-of-minority-rights/

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