28 February, 2024


Towards International Isolation, Old Myanmar Style

By Kishali Pinto-Jayawardena –

Kishali Pinto-Jayawardena

When the world loses respect for Sri Lanka, certain consequences follow. Some may be minute and some graver but all are relatively unprecedented when assessed against the manner in which this country was once viewed in the community of nations.

We invite contempt from outside

This week, a visiting Canadian Member of Parliament’s insouciant remark during a guest lecture in Colombo that Canada’s courts have often rapped the Canadian government over its knuckles but that the Chief Justice of that country has not been arbitrarily impeached, had evidently touched his host, External Affairs Minister GL Peiris on the raw. Referring to this observation as ‘unwarranted and inappropriate’ during his closing remarks at the session, the Minister had stated moreover that ‘I would not have dreamt of making such a remark if I was visiting your country’ (Daily Mirror, March 23, 2013).

Certainly such a comment by a visiting parliamentarian would have raised eyebrows in the days when Sri Lanka had a sustainable foreign policy, a functional democratic system and able diplomats representing it not merely with empty defensive rhetoric but substantive skill. Demonstrably Sri Lanka is now lacking in all these respects.

Consequently government representatives must now learn to, as colloquially put, ‘grin and bear it’ when such comments are made by visitors. And while the Minister’s dreams are, of course, his own business, his assurance that he would refrain from making such a blithely carefree remark about the Canadian government if he had been visiting that country, is a classic non-sequitur. Simply put, it is beyond the bounds of conceivable possibility that any Canadian government would humiliate and insult its own Chief Justice, throw him or her out of office using military power and attack the judicial system so savagely leaving it to die, bleeding in the gutter as it were, so as to attract that same type of remark by any visitors there.

On the other hand, Sri Lanka has done precisely that, without remorse and without compunction. Consequently as offensive as such comments made by a visitor may be from a host country’s point of view, they remain unfortunately but irrefutably true. Aggrieved protests full of sound and fury but signifying nothing, do not detract from that fact.

Solidarity for ‘principled’ countries

These are minor issues though they indicate very well the negative manner in which Sri Lanka is increasingly come to be perceived by the world. The hardening of attitude by members of the United Nations Human Rights Council at this week’s passing of the 2nd United States led resolution on Sri Lanka and India’s extraordinary reference to local mechanisms of justice needing to ‘satisfy the international community’ says volumes for the dangerous path of isolation and eventual international rejection that the current present political leadership is taking the country heedlessly on.

Amidst the dramas, there were exquisitely funny moments as well as for example, when Sri Lanka’s Permanent Representative in Geneva thanked nations who voted against the US Resolution as taking part in a ‘rare moment of solidarity for principled countries.’ Granted, there is nothing principled about superpowers raking smaller countries over the coals for international crimes while escaping unscathed themselves. As observed by the inimitable documentary film maker Michael Moore who has distinguished himself in conducting scathing exposes of successive US governments from arms lobbies to the gun lobbies, US policy makers such as Donald Rumsfeld and Dick Cheney who oversaw multifarious abuses being committed in Iraq and Afghanistan may well be termed as the world’s foremost war criminals. The impunity with which they acted, as Moore terms, only encouraged tinpot dictators in other countries to think that they too can follow suit.

Granted therefore, the wheels of international justice grind discriminatorily. But such realpolitik which determines that powerful countries are not held accountable for their actions has always been the way of the world. The political leadership of smaller countries who behave in that same abusive manner towards its own citizens cannot bleat constantly that it is unfair for them to be held to account. The ebb and flow of international politics makes those arguments extremely flimsy as any first year student of international relations would know.

Is this government ‘principled’?

That being said, when the country’s Geneva representative lauds those who went against the US resolution as being ‘principled’, this same argument can be turned dexterously around towards the Sri Lankan government itself.
What is principled pray, about using the Lessons Learnt and Reconciliation Commission as blatant cover for the government’s own excesses and then after an unexpectedly critical report emerges, try to bluff its way out in respect of implementation of even that minimum? Where is the report of the 2006 Udalagama Commission of Inquiry which the LLRC recommended, should be released to the public? Has the government lost it among its files? And after more than six years of feet dragging, are we supposed to applaud when we are told that the killings of hapless Tamil students in Trincomalee is before a non-summary hearing, clearly indicating the lack of priority accorded to it?

Then again, what is principled about treating a country’s Chief Justice worse than a common criminal? What is principled about the militant Bodhu Bala Sena whipping up the flames of religious hatred against the Muslim community in Sri Lanka? This extremism is as equally deadly as the pro-LTTE extremism that has resulted in the beating up of pilgrims and Buddhist priests in Tamil Nadu.

Following in the wake of old Myanmar style isolation

But over and above, general chaos in government predominates. The striking absence of a coherent voice on matters as important as the UNHRC vote was seen when on the day after the vote was passed, we had one Cabinet Minister thanking India for (presumably) diluting the US resolution. At the same time, Sri Lanka Secretary to the Ministry of Defence who is indisputably far more powerful than any Cabinet Minister, declared his deep disappointment with India for voting for the resolution, quite apart from insensibly announcing in the full throated roar of his fury that every Tamil visitor from Tamil Nadu stands the risk of being arrested at the Katunayake International Airport (see LankaTruth, 21 March 2013).

The comparisons with the old Myanmar are almost irresistible. At one point, Myanmar or former Burma was the foremost rice producing country in that region. Now as it emerges shamefacedly into the modern world from the ruins of international rejection and economic disasters at the hands of a military leadership, we seem to be treading down that same path. While the majority of the Sinhalese populace mingle around, sheep like in their slavishly mindless adoration of fripperies such as a second international airport, parks, roads and luxury hotels built in the main, on borrowed overseas money and as state banks shake beneath the massive weight of loans given to the government on unsustainable projects, it is not the Rajapaksas who are at fault.

Veritably, it is ourselves who are to blame for failing to recognise the truly calamitous consequences of these choices that are being made in our name.

Print Friendly, PDF & Email

Latest comments

  • 0

    The world according to Rajapakse is a place where he can go about his sordid business with impunity and expect the international community to sing hossanahs to his great victory over terrorism.

    According to him the fact that he defeated the LTTE, a terrorist entity, gives him the right to treat the Tamils as sub human prisoners of war and gloss over any crimes committed by his loyal criminals.

    As the great leader of new sinhale vansa kathawa no one may question his intentions or methods of governance on pain of being dubbed a traitor and being abducted and disposed of in manner that leaves no trace or evidence of criminality. No wittnesses, no evidence, no crime is the simple home made rule of this great leader. Lies and denial are the tricks of his trade.

    • 0

      You don’t speak any facts Safa.

  • 0

    The way the writer use the word ‘world’ betrays her Western centric slavish mindset.

    If she takes sometime to find an answer to ‘why Sri Lanka?’ among 190+ states in this world (not the writer’s narrow ‘world’) that has been singled out, she might find out, that this is nothing to do with human rights, rule of law, good governance or justice.

    The writer can perhaps ponder on the statement made by one BJP leader recently. “When there was violence in Sri Lanka, both the Centre & the Tamil Nadu were silent. Why is the Centre & TN are now violent when there is silence (no violence) in Sri Lanka?”

    The question I have is does she wants to find out the real answers or is she serving someone’s agenda?

    The actions Sri Lanka needs to consider therefore is to, work more closely with the countries who supported Sri Lanka at the UNHRC, increase engagement with the countries who abstained from voting, critically examine and renew with vigour the engagement with other developing countries (excluding India) who have voted against Sri Lanka, increase awareness & engagement with all other developing countries in the UN in Asia, Africa & Americas in various fora, strengthen relationship with all smaller SAARC neighbours, enhance strategic relationship with all political formations within India who are not inimical to Sri Lankan national interests and never allow domestic rats & mice to betray the country. There needs to be focussed group within the governing circles in Sri Lanka (both political & bureaucratic) continuously working on these aspects in a proactive manner.

    Sri lanka has been singled out for certain reasons and the outcome has far reaching consequences to the rest of developing world. The outcome with regard to Sri Lanka in UNHRC and other fora such as the Security Council will determine the stregthening or weakening of current neocolonialist agenda of USA & the West. Collective resistence therefore is the need of the hour.

  • 0

    There are a few articles that enlightens the public.Kishali’s articles are bold and speak the truth without mincing words.The conflicts that revolved round the ethnic issue since 1948 and the serious violations of human dignity as a result have desensitised even the rational thinking public.The silence seen in the face of ruthless thuggery shows a deep malaise which will not disappear unless a resposible government comes into power and address this issue as priority number one.

  • 0

    At a time when the opposition headed by the spineless Ranil is planning to field a utterly incompetent self centered woman like Chandrika at the next Presidential election, what the people in this country need most is people with integrity, self-respect and commitment to come forward to save the mother Lanka. I honestly salute Kishali for her upright stance taken against the failed state that had absolutely failed to respect the rule of law.

  • 0

    fuck this dog

    • 0

      Really, you can do it to the Lanka Matha, the Sanghala or it’s custodians?

  • 0

    Learning alone does not make a man. Character built around sound human values, principles, discipline, courage and honour must complement learning to be recognized as a man of substance. G.L.Peiris is an unprincipled pedant, a man of weak character, a man of free flowing words but without the strength to act on them. He is but a servant of his master and deserved the lack of respect bestowed on him by the Canadian M.P.

    We Sri Lankans are aware that there are international pressures on Sri Lanka due to various strategic and other reasons besides the post war UNHRC resolution. We are aware that Rajapaksa has serious issues due to the civillian killings at the tail end of the war and his own bungling. We like to stand by our country but what we cannot understand is why Mahinda Rajapaksa and his government cannot give us the fundamental democratic freedoms, and why he cannot ensure true justice, fairplay, and enforce law and order. His father founded the SLFP along with Bandaranayake and others. Surely therefore,he must be a man who associated with common people, aware of the fears, prejudices and aspirations of the majority population? His political history of 40 years did not depict him as power hungry though anger and violence was reportedly a weakness. The question I keep asking is why he strives to project an image of an amiable, and somewhat pious personality, but in fact his actions are so cruel. Has he a psychological disorder, a paranoia, an inferiority complex, a learning disability, or what? We need to find answers if we are to deal with him and save Sri Lanka from the disastrous path he has chosen to take, with the Sri Lankan people as hostages. Reminds one of the three hundred thousand people Prabhakaran surrounded himself with for the selfish purpose of his own protection. If he wants the people to stand by him he must give us back our freedom and justice. He must give us law and order. The alternative is isolation amongst the international community. No one forced him in to the Presidency. Now it is time he delivered for us.

    • 0

      From what I hear G L Peiris was a weakling even at school in St Thoma’s College Mt Lavinia when he was a student

      well all brains and no backbone has made poor G L Peiris into what he is today!

  • 0

    “When there was violence in Sri Lanka, both the Centre & the Tamil Nadu were silent. Why is the Centre & TN are now violent when there is silence (no violence) in Sri Lanka?”

    No violence and as such the centre & TN now have got excited.

    [Edited out]
    You are mistaken and gullible.

    These articles have nothing to do with the public.
    There is a powerful and priviledged interest in the “other side’.
    Kishali has picked up an issue where the IC is propped up by a hidden hand. If Kishali undermines this issue, tomorrow she will be no Journalist and have no B&B on her table.
    Thats how it works. [Edited out]

  • 0

    If we go by the punditry write-ups of Thisaranee while the war raged on, Kilinotchchi would never have fallen. She compared Sri Lanka soldiers in Kilinotchchi to Germans in Stalingrad. According to her Sri Lanka could never have defeated LTTE. When the end for LTTE was approaching fast, she said Pirapakaran would be fighting an entrenched guerrilla war from Mulathivu jungles for years to come. Sighting various reasons, I wrote she is only dreaming. For one, Mulathivu is no Tora Bora; but she never responded. If we didn’t let Pirapakaran walk free to a third country she said, not just IC would have imposed trade sanctions on us but they would have invaded Sri Lanka as well. She and her ilk has been warning us the repercussions arising from our close association with China. That was her intellectual insight. Thisaranee is not ashamed a bit for non of it come true.

    Pinto’s prophesy of an apocalypse for Sri Lanka is no different to that of Thisaranee’s.

Leave A Comment

Comments should not exceed 200 words. Embedding external links and writing in capital letters are discouraged. Commenting is automatically disabled after 5 days and approval may take up to 24 hours. Please read our Comments Policy for further details. Your email address will not be published.