Sri Lanka was very good in ‘diplomacy’ in the past. Many government supporters holding citizenship in Western countries were hired – for instance Palitha Kohana, Rohitha Bogollagama, Shirani Gunatilleke and Rajapaksa brothers were involved in fooling the international community.
Even though Norway stated last June that both parties wanted war, Sri Lanka successfully convinced the International community that it was the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam-LTTE who walked away from the talks. In fact, Sri Lanka has expertly avoided international scrutiny. In 2006, the EU countries worked out a UN resolution demanding that Sri Lanka accept an international monitoring body. Understanding the danger, Sri Lanka found a ‘home grown solution’, the International Group of Eminent Persons-IIGEP to look into a limited number of cases. Everyone knows the fate of the IIGEP.
In the final stage of the war, when French Foreign Minister Bernard-Kouchner and UK Foreign-Secretary David-Miliband went to Sri Lanka seeking a ceasefire on humanitarian grounds, President Rajapaksa gave them very hard replies, which were proudly reported to the press by Rajapaksa’s Secretary – “Sri Lanka is a sovereign country which does not want to be advised by other states”, etc.
Last year, in a Special session on Sri Lanka in the Human Rights Council, western countries were preparing a snail speed resolution on accountability. Meanwhile Sri Lanka frantically formulated a self-congratulatory resolution with the help of few Asian countries. This resolution was successfully passed.
But now Sri Lanka has lost its GSP plus trade concession and the UN Secretary General has appointed an Advisory Committee on Sri Lanka. Yet again Sri Lanka found a ‘home grown solution’, this time in the form of its ‘Lessons Learnt and Reconciliation Commission’ involving past government lobbyists.
In a joint briefing to the Security Council, Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon, Sir John Holmes and Ms Navaneetham Pillai spoke strongly about the situation in Sri Lanka.
Since 1927, Sri Lanka has had numerous negotiations and ‘home grown solutions’. They never lasted weeks or even days. Most of the talks ended in failure as the Tamils aspirations’ were ignored. Of course, four negotiations ended successfully, but the signed agreements were unilaterally abrogated by then Prime Ministers and through biased Supreme Court decisions. These were in 1957, 1965, 1987(Indo-Lanka) and 2005(PTOMS).
In brief, some of the talks with dates : between 1927-1931, there were talks with Ramanathan brothers regarding the Donoughmore Commission; in 1972, leaders of the Tamil United Front(TUF) had talks with then Prime Minister Srimavo Bandaranayke; in 1977 July, Tamil United Liberation Front-TULF had talks with Prime Minister Jayawardena; in 1985 two rounds of direct talks took place in Thimbu, between militant groups including LTTE and other Tamil parties; in 1986 November, a talk took place in Bangalore, India – between the LTTE Leader Pirabakaran, his advisor and President J. R. Jeyawardena through the mediation of the Indian Prime minister; in 1990 President Premadasa negotiated with the LTTE; on 5 January 1995 President Chandrika and the LTTE Leader signed an agreement for cessation of hostilities. These are a few of the many talks that ended in failure.
Prof G. L. Peiris
When Prof G. L. Peiris used to visit Kumar Ponnambalam in the 90s, Prof Peiris believed that Tamils should have equal rights. Then when he became a politician and with President Chandrika he worked out a package, including decentralisation of powers which was never implemented. A few years later when he joined the UNP and Ranil Wickremasinghe, he was in favour of internal self-determination for the Tamils, but now he is with the Rajapaksas and is for a ‘home grown solution’, but not an ‘instant noodle’. In future, if he joins the JVP, he will say that there are no Tamils in Sri Lanka and no need of any solution. If an academic who participated in many rounds of peace negotiations can bury his conscience for his political survival, what can one expect from an ordinary citizen from the South or elsewhere?
Recently an article by an academic stated, “law and justice are two quite different things”. I would add “an individual’s conscience and what they say may bear no relationship, whatsoever to their actions”. Hence a United Sri Lanka is still not born.
The proposed 18th amendment does no good for the masses in the South who voted for this government. If so, what can the Tamils and India expect?
Solidarity with Palestine is a Gimmick
History we witness today has roots in Israel’s birth in 1948 in Palestinian land, and now the Palestinians are demanding their political independence from Israel. According to the Jewish version of history, the land of Israel (Ertez Yisrael) is over 3,500 years old and the New Testament (Matthew 2:19-21) makes reference to it.
I would rather give importance to the suffering of the people, than politics. As far as the Palestinians are concerned they have open support of the OIC – Organisation of the Islamic Conference which consists of fifty seven Islamic countries. Apart from the OIC members, Palestine also has the support of many non-OIC members – China, Cuba, India, Russia, South Africa and others.
Consider the “right to self-determination” in global terms, whether ‘internal’ or ‘external’ – there is no great difference between the Palestinians and the Tibetans, Kashmiris, Balochs, Chechnyans, Kosovons, the Tamils of Sri Lanka and others. So, the OIC member countries and the non-OIC members cannot support only the Palestinians and ignore the others.
Where does Sri Lanka stand?
As far as the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is concerned, where does Sri Lanka stand? In 1980s, President J R Jeyawardena said, “I am ready to go to a devil, if it is helpful to stop the militancy in Sri Lanka”, and sought the help of Israel.
When Rajapaksa was the President for Committee for Solidarity with Palestine, he was in favour of a peaceful solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and maintained that the solution should be within the framework of a sovereign Palestinian state.
But surprisingly, Sri Lanka’s ambassador to Israel, Donald Perera was interviewed in the Ynetnews of 21 July 2010 – “We back Israel’s war on terror”. Donald Perera brings a new doctrine that the Palestinian issue is a terrorist problem. See, http://www.ynetnews.com/articles/0,7340,L-3923309,00.html. Those who find disparity between the Palestinian, the Tamil and others could peruse international law on ‘self-determination’ and also consult Donald Perera.
Anyway these statements and events clearly show Sri Lanka’s dilemma in its foreign policy, towards not only Israel and Palestine but other countries as well.
Iran openly advocates that there is no such country as ‘Israel’. India and China are having a real race in Sri Lanka. Recently friends of mine told me that, if one goes through the minutes of the meetings that took place between India and Sri Lanka since 2008, these records show clearly how a small country with appalling human rights records dictates terms to a regional power! Also they told me that the days are not far off when this regional power will realise the mistake it has made in the recent past!
S. V. Kirubaharan, France