By Kumar David –
Sri Lanka has become the centrepiece of action in Geneva this March at the 22-nd UN Human Rights Commission sessions now in progress. The betting at the moment is that the US resolution critical of the Lankan government will secure about 33 votes and the remaining 14 will split between pro-Rajapakse votes and abstentions. What is curious is how the Delhi government is playing ducks and drakes; at one moment leaking news that it intends to support the resolution and at another PM Manmohan Singh declaring that it all depends on the wording. Juliet declared that “A rose by any other name would smell as sweet” but for Delhi it appears that commas, semi-columns and adjectives are the stuff of great political decisions. I never heard of a great power whose policies on matters of global and regional import depended on grammar! In all seriousness, what’s wrong with this Indian government, why so vacant of mind, why no stand on the grave turn of events in Lanka?
This is not me, an irate Lankan alone; here are two quotes form an Indian web site: “The most disturbing aspect of the entire development at the UNHRC is India’s continuing dubious role”. “A US-sponsored resolution will come up for voting at the 22nd session of the UN Human Rights Council later this month. And it’s so embarrassing that India, which claims to be the world’s biggest democracy, is still sitting on the fence and doesn’t say a thing on the resolution till the 59-th minute”. Indian oddity is becoming “curioser and curioser” as Alice would have said, and what kind of a mad-hatter’s tea party is going on in Delhi is difficult to decipher; parliament and press are in turmoil, Tamil Nadu on the boil and Delhi dumb! Let me ask, in all sobriety, can anyone suggest a rational explanation for the sloppiness of the Manmohan Singh government; surely it is not reducible to the congenital indecisiveness of an individual, what other miasmic causation may be at work?
The breaking news in Colombo last week was that Minister Mahinda Samarasinghe had travelled to Delhi and come back hot with an offer. He was thereafter asked by the President to lead the delegation to Geneva. The deal, it was said, was that given the size of the votes stacked against the Rajapakse Government (please don’t say Sri Lanka), Delhi had connived to make the following offer: “Accept the resolution; then no vote need be taken. Afterwards you can game things as you wish and claim to be implementing its terms”. Smart move eh; if you can’t beat ‘em, then join ‘em! The Indian public, familiar with Colombo’s shenanigans, will recall that such hoaxes lie scattered all along on both sides of Rajapakse Street. This time however the game fell apart for two reasons.
Extremists have rallied all over the island condemning the US resolution, burning effigies and calling upon the government to “defy imperialism”. These demonstrators are from Rajapakse’s core constituency, he dare not “betray” them; if he does his support base will fall apart. Hence accepting the resolution’s conditions, especially the presence of UN rapporteurs in Lanka, has become a no-go nightmare. Secondly, having got wind of the plot, the sponsors upped the ante; they toughened the terms of the draft to make it unacceptable to Rajapakse and also embarrassing to Delhi. So the choice before Delhi is stark; support a tougher resolution and abandon illusions that it can influence the draft or the vote, or fall flat on its face. The resolution will be carried with or without Delhi’s vote and at that point its bluff will be called. I do not know for sure whether Delhi still has space for manoeuvre to pull a rabbit out of its hat; we will have to wait and see.
Why the US decided to short-circuit Delhi’s game plan I do not know; perhaps it is just fed up with hypocrisy and prevarication on the Lankan issue; perhaps the wheeling and dealing along the Colombo-Delhi axis is just too much for anyone to swallow. On February 4 (Independence Day) Rajapakse buried devolution and the Thirteenth Amendment and recanted on eight years of assurances and negotiations with the highest Indian leaders and its most stuffed mandarins. Delhi has remained mute and tongue tied; it has not puked or even mewed.
Since the Indian Government remains dumb and inscrutable it is open season for speculators. What are its motives? I speculated in my last piece (Paper 5393, 14 Feb 2013: “Colombo spits in Delhi’s face”) that perhaps India had (unrelated) concerns about its new security relationship with the US and was using this issue to get leverage elsewhere. This hypothesis seems invalid since it is India, not the US, that is tying itself in knots and the Geneva Resolution will be carried with or without India’s vote. A second possibility, whose truth will not be known until there is a change of administration in Delhi, is that Colombo has plenty of dirt on Delhi, exposing informed restraint, if not assistance, in Colombo’s human rights violations and war-crimes in the civil-war. If Colombo is going down, it can take the erstwhile Indian Government down with it.
A third line of speculation is wooing Colombo away from a dangerous suitor in the shape of the Chinese bear; the so-called Indian Ocean strategic contest and the String of Pearls theses. I think these threats are much overblown, if not downright miscalculations as I have often written before.
A fourth line of speculation that has been aired more recently relates to the anti-Muslim hate campaign, fanning across the country, with the not all that concealed encouragement of the UPFA government and the visible participation of certain extremist Cabinet Ministers. Speculators suggest that India, with its own concerns about extremism, would not mind the Muslims of Lanka being taught a small lesson and put in their places before anything smacking of jihadism takes root. Hence Lanka’s political leaders are not to be antagonised too much. Such speculation aside, the instigation of anti-Muslims sentiments has taken serious proportions in Lanka and it merits the attention of readers in its own right. I will close with a few paragraphs on this topic.
The anti-Muslim hate campaign in Sri Lanka
The chauvinist campaign directed at Muslim business establishments and mosques is alarming and though clashes have not erupted, nor lives lost as yet, matters are approaching a flash point. Writing on behalf of the National Peace council Jehan Perera had this to say:
“Over the past several years, the government used the war against the LTTE as its primary mode of unifying the Sinhalese majority behind it and obtained its vote at successive elections. Now with the fourth year of the end of the war approaching there may be a need for new issues to keep Sinhalese solidarity (as) perceived by sections within the government. . . Those who view the government’s actions as being directed towards its political advantage would notice that the Halal issue can be used to unify the Sinhalese majority in a common cause. However, keeping religious sentiments on the boil without creating a conflagration is likely to be impossible”.
A strongly worded statement issued by the Friday Forum, a liberal think tank of several highly connected or respected signatories, can be found here.
I reproduce below the opening paragraph of the statement to give overseas readers a feel for the dangerous situation that is developing.
“The Friday Forum urges you to act immediately and decisively to counter the increasingly venomous and strident anti-Muslim hate campaign launched by a few extremist groups claiming to represent the majority Sinhala community. As you are aware, this campaign has intensified over the past several months. The country has witnessed attacks against mosques, and the circulation, on social media, public posters and web-sites, of obscene and vituperative messages that are offensive to religious beliefs. It has witnessed anti-Muslim public rallies and processions, including a call to boycott Muslim business establishments”.
The Friday Forum finds the governments inaction inexplicable (Jehan Perera does not) and says later in the same statement.
“Yet, the government headed by you has not up to now taken decisive and concrete measures to stem the current hate campaign or to reassure the Muslim community of its rightful place in our society. This is difficult to understand in light of your own assurances and that of the government on the urgent need to forge a lasting peace after ending the destruction and suffering of thirty years of fratricidal war. The silence of the government and a mute response in the face of the hate campaign against the Muslim community, particularly though the misuse of media is a violation of both national and international law.”
I am taking web extracts for this piece from www.colombotelegraph.com, which is the best Sri Lanka focussed website at the present time, and a far more alarming piece is by Lathif Farouk here.
More things than just the Sinhala-Tamil ethnic imbroglio, pervasive corruption and rising authoritarianism are rotten in the state of Sri Lanka.
*This article is first published in southasiaanalysis.org
Celerati Editorial / March 11, 2013
India just wants to pretend it is a difficult decision. Rajapaksa can pretend it was a tough call. USA can pretend they are schooling on human rights. But of course the vote will have zero consequences. A vote of India won’t constitute a serious threat for Sri Lanka. Even if implemented, the LLRC won’t address the most severe issues. No investigation, no war crimes, no justice.
It seems to me more a game than a confrontation.
Thangadurai Sivakumaran / March 12, 2013
Whitehouse official saying “we have been happy just to get the son. It’s a real bonus to get them both”.
Safa / March 11, 2013
The regime seems to be approaching the end game. There are deep fissures appearing within the govt and these are bound to widen due to the unstable situation. The regime has opened up on too many fronts and made too many enemies within and without the govt itself and within and without the country as well.
Now the situation is that it is grasping for the last straw to keep afloat which is the BBS. The SOD who heads the defence and urban sectors has positioned himself to be the chief benefactor and patron of this ultra facist group in the hope of protecting the regimes last bastion vote base.
The opposition is gaining strength on all fronts and it seems the govt has now lost the sizable muslim vote as well due to its dilly dallying with the mad priests of the BBS. People like Hakeem will find it very difficult to remain with the Govt if the situation is not controlled. The damage has been done. I expect the impending increase in the electricity tariff will be the last straw that breaks the camels back.
Anonymous / March 11, 2013
You said it all and well.
Hewa / March 13, 2013
What a set of predictions you have made ! Amazing. Soon there is bound to be a long queue outside your home to peep into the crystal ball that you are using to make these predictions.
Lankan / March 11, 2013
It is time for the US to include the Matale skeleton detection also to the resolution. This too has to be investigated.
kautilya / March 12, 2013
How is the US,UK,EU, Canada, Australia following a two tier justice system in this world?
So when the US,UK,EU,Canada,Australia and the NATO forces commits gross crimes in the form of an endless war still ongoing and massacring human beings it is OK?
However poor third world countries suffering from endless wars created by british colonists of the past actually ends not keep on having wars but actually ends wars in the most humane way possible it is a crime?!
I think that Sri Lanka is scapegoated to hide gross crimes committed and being committed in places like Iraq, Afghanistan, Libya and other places.
However since there is a two tier justice system in the world where the neo liberal imperialist forces of the West and their allies and cohorts are exempt from being scrutinised at all for example the cohort of the West the LTTE’s atrocities, its foes like Sri Lanka even a pin dropping in Sri Lanka is scrutinised!
Another ploy of the imperialist neo colonialist Western forces is to raise the bar so high that any developing country on this earth will fail and the same neo colonialist forces then cries ‘human rights violations’!. In the case of Sri Lanka the war cry of the neo imperialist West is that police and army are not good, journalists are harrassed, judges are sacked and so on. However a quick situation report of any developing country would quickly find that most developing countries are like this. In fact most are worse than Sri Lanka in some cases by miles. Even some more developed countries are worse than Sri Lanka.
So all this bullshit is a witch hunt. It is very obvious. I think Sri Lanka should indeed let someone else handle the CHOGM meeting why should we waste our money on this rubbish meeting? At UN if it is me, I would walk away from such a witch hunt.
Jayasingha / March 13, 2013
Commonwealth values are impractical and bullshit when western countries intimidate developing countries. Yes we don’t need CHOGM.
kali / March 13, 2013
Copy and paste. Do you have anything new to a say otherwise boredom will set in.
noble / March 12, 2013
I am amazed why this David fellow hadn’t gone to Geneva with Ven Sobitha, his future presidential candidate to short circuit his chances to be the president of Sri Lanka.
kautilya / March 12, 2013
When Malcolm Rifkind previous foreign secretary of the previous right wing conservative govt of the UK comes on channel 4 news and says sri lanka meaning the sri lankan people practice apartheid then you know it is a neo imperialist resource grab that countries like the US, UK, Canada are planning and trying to get eelam by the back door.
As we all know the north has many mineral resources and offshore oil and in the east is the strategically located trincomalee harbour. It is these that the UK, US, Canada are after and so the efforts to get eelam by the back door.
It is shameful that many anti govt sri lankans on this site would actually agree with this neo colonialist neo imperialist right wing resource grab from third world countries agenda and it is extremely shameful that many on this site would actually agree with the outrageous views of lunatics like malcolm rifkind that sri lankan people practise apartheid.
It is so shameful that some ani govt sri lankans cannot but be subservient to the UK US Canada. They simply cannot get themselves to see that these imperialist countries are only after our resources just as they were after iraq’s or libya’s resources. Even right thinking people in the UK, US agree this is the case.
Some anti govt sri lankans will even agree with these neo imperialists simply because they are western european (due to their subservient mentality) that sri lankan people practise apartheid!
I find these utterances of malcolm rifkind and channel 4 news a gross insult and channel 4 news is a racist channel, racist towards the sri lankan people.
I find it a personal insult the gross lie that sri lanka people practice apartheid. I have never practiced apartheid, do not intend to do so and never ever thought of doing so and even buddhism will not allow me to do so even if I wanted to! It is a gross insult this malcolm rifkind is saying. I never ever evn thought about it and was shocked to hear it on channel 4 news. It is a gross insult.
The govt should really walk out of the UNHCR circus since I can guarantee that sri lanka will not get any fair hearing there. It would be more injustice meted out by the neo colonialist neo imperialist right wing lunatics which will be handed out there. Also ask the oommonwealth to have their meeting any place they want!
Rana / March 13, 2013
Professor, there are so many things lying beneath which your professional mind cannot grasp about india’s dubious role. India knows by experience that any resolution pass against Srilanka would create disastrous consequences against them too. Because like every superpower India also has notorious past about H/R violations.
Because diaspora can buy channel 4 and professional’s like you to tarnish the image of Srilanka, don’t think US,EU or any other country sincerely behind tamils. Maybe Canada might back tamils because of the tamil votes in there. But when the time comes they all wash their hands on [diaspora] tamils.
kali / March 13, 2013
You have a sick mind to say that Sri Lanka has an Image to be tarnished. Man you dont have an immage and you lot are a laughing stock of the World with a CV like the following
1) Slaughter thousands of Tamils during onesided race riots starting in 1958 when there was no “the so called Tamil Terrorists”.
2) Killing Lasantha and number of other Journalists
3) MR lying close to Killer Mervyn.
4) Impeach CJ without due process
5) Lock up a Decorated Four Star General
6) Partying with Duminda
7) Many others
YOU ARE RIGHT. WHO WOULDNT BE ENVIOUS OF YOUR IMPECCABLE RECORD.
Sellam / March 13, 2013
Mr Manamohan Singh Cannot make a decesion. He is the Prime Minister by name sake only. He is the secretary. I agree with the writer, India is waiting to see the wordings in the draft resolution put forward by the US. They already know the wordings. The resolution itself is watershed one and nothing is going to happen on this resolution. We will wait and see.The politiicans are showing their weaknesses to the people.
kali / March 13, 2013
A friendly word of advise. The answer to your question as to why India is playing a dubious role is very simple. India is in a quandry for the folowing reasons:
1)India supported the Genocidal Sri Lankan leaders to crush the LTTE by providing Arms , Logistics and Soldiers.
2)The reason was twofold a) To take revenge for the killing of Rajiv Gandhi b)To minimise the threat to Indian Union fearing that it might encourage Tamil Nadu to follow suit.
3)The third and equally important reason was to clear the Mannar basin to start drilling for oil.
India has so far protected MR and his clan to escape justice for fear of being dragged in to the dock at the Hague by MR . Dont you think that if MR was brought to the Hague to be tried he will point the finger at India. India was a partner in crime against humanity.
Remember the following:
” He who comes to equity comes with a clean hand”
Just like MR Indias hand is tainted with blood ( Tamil Blood).
Nothing tangible is going to happen until we have a change at the top in India then the penny will drop.
The Key Word for me is the following with General Election in India in the offing.
Mr.Narendra Modi From CM to PM
Miss.Jeyalalitha From CM to PM
Antany Peter / March 14, 2013
The Westerners and their puppets don’t want Sri Lanka or Asia to move forward. As soon as the Tamil diaspora leaders do something good for their motherland they will lose their status, won’t be able to get a job, won’t be able to have a place to live, will be isolated from their family and community by the powerful Western propaganda. The self centered Tamil Diaspora leaders are not ready sacrifice their life for their country or region. They didn’t do it for the last 30 years, so don’t expect too much from them. Sri Lanka’s prosperity is a threat to India. The Indians are not going to live without toilets, while the Sri Lankans, Singaporeans and Malaysians are having better life. Indians will fight for seperation, if Sri Lanka become Singapore. Therefore, Sri Lankans have to constantly battle with the Tamil Diaspira, Westerners and Indians to develop their country. It is a huge task. I can only hope that the Lankan leaders’ commitment and knowledge will guide them to a victory.
kali / March 14, 2013
Your talent for writting is very limited and blurred. But with your accounting talent ( big question mark) you may be able to help Sri Lanka to balance their books and transform Sri Lanka as an Economic Powerhouse.
Can you clrify the following.
How can the Tamil diaspora do something good for their motherland and loose their status and loose their jobs. What job are you talking about. It doesnt bloody make any sense.
Wont be able to have a place to live and will be isolated from their family and community but for your information that is the reality.
The Indians can shit where they want or choose not to shit ( you are right if they dont shit they will become septic and die) as long as it is in their country and not yours what does it matter to you. Have you heard of Slumdog Millionaire.
Your comment if Sri Lanka become Singapore ( you mean like Singapore)
doesnt make sense because these are two seperate countries seperated by an ocean and above all Sri Lanka is going to be an Economic Powerhouse so there is nothing to conquer. Why are you hiding in Newzealand go back to your country and enjoy the benefits