Colombo Telegraph

The London Brigadier & The Red Flag

By Dushy Ranetunge

Dushy Ranetunge

The unfortunate incident involving Sri Lanka’s military attaché to London, exposes the challenges faced by the Sri Lankan administration, struggling to steer the nation away from the gates of the International Criminal Court.

Waving the red flag of Tamil Eelam in the face of the hard line, nationalistic segments of the Sri Lankan population, is like waving a red flag in the face of a Spanish fighting Bull.

The red flag is waved in front of the bull, to provoke it into a trap, leading to its ultimate demise, and the bull falls for it every time. So does the hard line, nationalist segments of Sri Lanka’s population.

Every year on Independence day, aggrieved Tamil citizens of Sri Lanka, some of whom may now be European citizens, demonstrate outside the Sri Lankan missions around the world waving their red flags. It’s their democratic right to protest.

The bulls that react to this waving of the red flag, unfamiliar with the democratic norms of the civilised world will not only facilitate their demise, they will also embarrass the Sri Lankan republic. They demonstrate intolerance to civilised democratic norms to which Sri Lanka is a signatory before the United Nations.

The function of the military attaché to the Sri Lankan mission in London is not to be its security guard. He/she is the point of contact for British security agencies, to enhance the security of both nations, with periodic meetings for security cooperation between the two nations.

Historically, those who hold this office do not leave behind adequate files, or information to brief new arrivals who take up this post. There is professional rivalry to the detriment of Sri Lanka.

Perhaps a new procedure needs to be developed, where the Ministry of Foreign Affairs maintain files in Colombo, of community contacts and procedures with regard to this post, so that new appointees could be properly briefed and contacts shared. In the absence of such information, even LTTE operatives in the past have visited the Sri Lankan High Commission in London and introduced themselves to new appointees to this post with a view to causing mischief.

In 2015 the then Mayor of London, Boris Johnson declared that waving ISIS flags in London should not be a crime. This was in response to an incident where police officers allowed a man with a little girl to wave an ISIS flag in front of the British Parliament.

Sir Bernard Hogan-Howe, the Commissioner of the Metropolitan Police said carrying the black flag of the terrorist organisation was “not necessarily the worst thing in the world”, adding that the police should not overreact.

Californians, Catalonians, Basques, Scots, Irish, Tamils, Kurds, Kashmiri’s, Tibetians and many others wave their flags demanding separation. Waving flags and expressing an alternative opinion in a peaceful manner is not a crime.

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs has issued a statement clarifying the issue and apologising for the unacceptable behaviour of the Brigadier. The actions of the ministry has contained the situation and addressed the issue effectively.

The LTTE war is over. The State has demonstrated beyond any doubt that it has the capacity to enforce its writ from KKS to Dondra and from Colombo to Batticaloa.

This is a time for generosity, not insecurity of the ignorant.

TheBrigadier Priyanka Fernando should have offered tea and biscuits to the Tamils outside, protesting in the winter cold, and if they had shown hostility, he could have demonstrated to the world, the generosity of the Sri Lankan’s and the intolerance of those who espouse the separatist cause.

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