By Ramzy Baroud –
Alas, those who are recognised as the representatives of the Palestinians stand on the wrong side of history, writes Ramzy Baroud, editor of PalestineChronicle.com and author, in a recent column.
In June 7, 1970, a 24-year-old Mahinda Rajapaksa, lawyer and the youngest member of the Sri Lankan Parliament, gave an impassioned speech centring on the Palestinian struggle, the first of many more to come over the next four decades. The speech was the vote of thanks to the Throne Speech by the world’s first woman prime minister Mrs. Bandaranaiyake when she came into power, in which she declared Sri Lanka would sever all relations with Israel.
Most heads of the country have aligned themselves with Palestine, although none as strongly as the current president. President Rajapaksa headed the Palestine Solidarity Movement in Sri Lanka which was an offshoot of the Arab Solidarity Movement of Sri Lanka for 30 years until he was elected the country’s president.
As Sri Lanka continued its opposition to occupation of Palestinian land and their oppression, it also began harvesting enemies. Perhaps the battle against terrorism in its own soil and a step-brotherly treatment by most Western nations made the country more empathetic towards the Palestinian struggle.
The friendship between the two countries however did not prevent the Palestinians from allegedly training the Tamil Tiger terrorist faction during the early stages of its three decade war against the government, nor did the country’s anti-Israel stance prevent it from seeking to procure arms from Israel during the war years.
(However, Israel reneged on its agreement to provide arms to Sri Lanka after a sudden visit by the Iranian president to the country, citing that Israel’s fire power, defence and war secrets might be leaked out to Iran).
Since President Rajapaksa’s presidency though, Sri Lanka has become a vociferous ally of Palestine, with the president speaking against the oppression of Palestinians and in favour of Palestinian statehood at different forums.
In reciprocation, Palestine has stood by Sri Lanka through the war years, and now during decisive moments after the war. Every time the United Nations or the US moved against the island over various allegations including the war crimes accusations involving the government and President Rajapaksa, Palestine has remained a steadfast friend.
Like all alliances and the threat that comes with taking sides, siding up with the Palestinian struggle has, and will, cost Sri Lanka.
The resolution moved against the island over its alleged war crimes at last month’s UN Human Rights Commission was tabled by the United States and co-sponsored by Israel. With further bilateral agreements signed between Sri Lanka and Palestine last week, the countries are sending out fresh signals in their strengthened cooperation.
Sri Lanka has undeniably set itself as a representative of Palestine.
Courtesy Khaleej Times