By Tisaranee Gunasekara –
“I will bear arms on behalf of the United States when required by the law…I will perform non-combatant service in the armed forces of the United States… I take this obligation freely without any mental reservation…so help me God.” – The Oath of Allegiance taken by all naturalised Americans
Spinning yarns is an integral component of Rajapaksa governance.
“Those who cannot tolerate the country’s growth after the eradication of terrorism are trying to take me to the electric chair”[i], thundered President Rajapaksa, with an eye on elections. The International Criminal Court has no competence to impose capital punishment, irrespective of the gravity of the crime[ii]. Even if President Rajapaksa is extradited, tried and convicted by the ICC, he cannot be sent to the electric chair because at The Hague there is no electric chair!
But that prosaic truth does not accord with the role of heroic, self-sacrificing martyr our thespian President is currently enacting. So the yarn about electric chairs – to deceive the economically-burdened voter and gain his/her sympathy, this election season.
Now that the Rs. 100million attempt by the Rajapaksas to bribe American politicians has failed, and Washington will present another resolution in Geneva, Yankee-bashing will make a noisy comeback in Colombo. How many of those Rajapaksa foot-soldiers who trudge and howl against ‘American intervention’ know that the super-patriotic Gotabhaya Rajapaksa and Basil Rajapaksa have two patriae – Sri Lanka and the United States of America?
To become a naturalised US citizen, a foreigner has to file an application, pay a fee, face an interview and sit for an oral test on US history and civics and an English test[iii]. The final step is the Oaths Ceremony during which the new recruit denounces all allegiances to his/her land of birth and pledges total fidelity to United States of America[iv].
Gotabhaya and Basil Rajapaksa are reportedly naturalised American citizens. If so, they would have filed their N-400 application, paid the fees, faced the interview and passed their citizenship and language tests. They would have taken the oath of allegiance, renouncing and abjuring their loyalty to Sri Lanka, and swearing allegiance to America.
Later (it would be interesting to discover when) they would have obtained dual-citizenship in Sri Lanka, just by paying a fee and signing some forms.
Basil and Gotabhaya Rajapaksa cased being Lankans and became Americans voluntarily. Neither was being persecuted; both left in search of greener pastures. They willingly gave up their motherland to become citizens of the richest country in the world. Both would have spent their entire lives in America, if their brother did not become the President of Sri Lanka.
If Basil and Gotabhaya Rajapaksa are American and Lankan citizens, to which country do they owe primary loyalty? If they claim that they are Sri Lankans heart and soul and love their motherland as no man every loved his motherland before, then were they perpetrating a lie when they pledged to “absolutely and entirely renounce and abjure all allegiance and fidelity to any foreign…state…of…which I have heretofore been a….citizen”? If, for example, their country, America, enter into hostilities with China, and Citizen Gotabhaya is called to ‘bear arms on behalf of the United States’ and Citizen Basil is summoned to ‘perform non-combatant service in the armed forces of the United States’, as per their freely given pledge, what will they do?
At the commencement of his campaign against British colonial rule, Mahatma Gandhi returned the medal bestowed on him by the British Sovereign for the help he rendered British soldiers during the Boer War. Why do Gotabhaya and Basil Rajapaksa remain citizens of a country which, they claim, is conspiring to divide and destroy their beloved Sri Lanka? Isn’t Mahinda Rajapaksa even a bit perturbed and saddened that his brothers continue their allegiance to a country which, according to him, is maddened by envy at his great victory, and is conspiring with other envious powers, to send him to the ‘electric chair’?
“Patriotism” wrote Ambrose Bierce “is as blind as a stone and as irrational as a headless hen.”[v] Little wonder that for charlatans, it is the weapon of first resort.
Geneva is a Rajapaksa Problem
In 2012, President Rajapaksa visited the Vatican. During their ‘cordial discussion’, the President and the Pontiff expressed the hope “that a global joint solution may soon be found corresponding to the legitimate expectations of all the parties involved.”[vi]
‘Global joint solution’ means a solution with a clear international component. The President would have consented to this papal-formula which contradicts his own mantra of a ‘home-grown solution’ because he has no intention of implementing either. They are just lies spun to buy time, to deflect criticism, to win a smile or, in this particular case, a politically-useful blessing.
The Tigers had a stock-response whenever they were confronted with the issue of child conscription. First, Denial: ‘We don’t have a single child soldier’; then Obfuscation: ‘We have a few child soldiers because some war-orphans absolutely insisted on joining’; next Solemn Promise: ‘We will release all child soldiers by….’ Every spin-cycle will conclude with stage-managed ‘Come-and-see-for-yourselves’ visits and demobilisation charades (‘demobilise’ a few child soldiers with much fanfare while hiking-up conscription secretly).
The Rajapaksas are going the Tiger way.
The LLRC was intended only as a ‘credible’ counter to the Darusman Report, a ruse for the Rajapaksas to sidestep the accountability-issue. The LLRC Reports fulfils that obligation scrupulously; it also includes some mild criticisms and a number of sensible recommendations, in the interests of credibility. The recommendations are nothing more than democratic and good governance commonplaces. The current ‘Geneva crisis’ stems from the Rajapaksas’ unwillingness to implement even these unexceptionable recommendations, made by their own commission.
Take, for example, the Rajapaksa-made issue about singing the National Anthem in Tamil. The LLRC Report warned that banning the Tamil national anthem “create a major irritant which would not be conducive to fostering post-conflict reconciliation” and recommended that “the practice of the National Anthem being sung simultaneously in two languages in the same time must be maintained and supported…”
The re-imposition of Sinhala-Only national anthem was a petty-minded act of revenge by President Rajapaksa. Furious at being prevented by placard-wielding British/EU Tamils from addressing the Oxford Union for the second time, he condemned the singing of national anthem in Tamil as a “shortcoming that must be rectified”, declared, anti-factually, that “in no other country was the national anthem used in more than one language”[vii] and banned the practice, via a cabinet decision.
Restoring the practice of singing the national anthem in Tamil will promote national reconciliation and help the regime internationally. It can be done expeditiously via a simple cabinet decision. Yet the Rajapaksas refuse. Such is the infantilism of our rulers.
Geneva is a Rajapaksa problem caused by the Siblings’ unwillingness to implement the recommendations of their own commission. Their mulish refusal has nothing to do with national sovereignty or national interests; it stems from their belated recognition that even the minimalist democratic safeguards recommended by the LLRC are incompatible with their despotic project.
And for this refusal, motivated purely by power-hunger, familial-interests and sheer pique, Sri Lanka must pay the price, financially and otherwise.
[iii] The details are freely available on the net, including the official US website http://www.uscis.gov/portal/site/uscis/menuitem.acfc8bb2d633f506e34f4a10526e0aa0/?vgnextoid=64f22cac1551b210VgnVCM100000082ca60aRCRD&vgnextchannel=5efcebb7d4ff8210VgnVCM10000025e6a00aRCRD Incidentally the language test involves one line of reading and one line of dictation.
[iv] “I hereby declare, on oath, that I absolutely and entirely renounce and abjure all allegiance and fidelity to any foreign prince, potentate, state or sovereignty, of whom or which I have heretofore been a subject or citizen; that I will support and defend the Constitution and laws of the United States of America against all enemies, foreign and domestic; that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same; that I will bear arms on behalf of the United States when required by the law; that I will perform noncombatant service in the armed forces of the United States when required by the law; that I will perform work of national importance under civilian direction when required by the law; and that I take this obligation freely without any mental reservation or purpose of evasion; so help me God.”
[v] The Devil’s Dictionary
[vi] Communiqué issued by the Holy See Press Office
[vii] The Sunday Times – 12.12.2010