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Why did Mahinda agree to let UN Inquiry panel visit Sri Lanka?

Dec 22, 2010 5:57:13 AM- transcurrents.com

by Upul Joseph Fernando

When Sri Lanka (SL) President Mahinda Rajapaksa went to New York to attend the United Nations (UN) General Assembly, the UN Secretary General Ban Ki Moon met him and had discussions regarding the visit of the UN panel of experts to SL. At the discussions Mahinda had consented to grant visas to the panel members to visit SL . Earlier however the SL foreign Minister Dr. G L Peiris stated that they cannot be granted visas to come to SL on the ground that the panel is an illegal body.

But Ban Ki Moon after discussions with Mahinda succeeded in changing this stance by inducing him to issue the visas to the Panel members. In any case it is to be noted that the visas were not issued soon after despite the President’s okay - it was delayed. This triggered speculations that Mahinda took time until he was sworn in as the President of SL for the second time.

Moon declared, ‘after long consultations between myself and President Rajapaksa of SL, I am pleased that the panel of experts is now able to visit SL’. May be the ‘long consultations’ Moon refers to is the long time taken to grant visas to the panel following his discussions with Mahinda on latter’s visit to New York for the UN general assembly when Moon talked Mahinda into granting the visas . Of course a lot of water had flowed under the bridge during this period of ‘long consultations’. The most significant of the series of events during this period was Mahinda Rajapaksa’s Oxford tour. Rajapaksa learnt a grave lesson on this tour.

That is he learnt his exact orientation , his status and station in relation to the world. The next lesson was, even though the Tamil Tigers were destroyed within SL , the Tamil Diaspora across the world cannot be destroyed. If they are to be destroyed , it is paramount that the Western countries which pedestal the Tamil Tiger Diaspora are won over to his side. Another important lesson learnt by him was the Tamil Diaspora cannot be defeated by going to London and Europe in the way the Tamil Tigers were defeated at Kilinochchi and Nandikadal.

Wikileaks exposure was another of the important events in the series. Following this exposure, Mahinda was able to get an idea of what the US was thinking about SL. Mahinda’s advisors hitherto may have told him that there is nothing that the US can do against SL except hurl accusations against it and, though US makes loud denounciations to the world about the human rights violations in SL , it is not inclined to offend SL, adding that Robert Blake of the US State Dept. who is in charge of the affairs pertaining to SL , and the US Ambassador to SL Patricia Butenis can also be bent in SL’s favour via the personal relationships which exist between them and SL.

On the contrary, after the Wikileaks exposures, it became abundantly clear that the US Govt. is taking a very stern stand in relation to the SL Govt. Besides, it also became very evident following this exposure that the US stance is not based on its private animosity or grudges against the Govt. of Mahinda Rajapaksa or aimed at effecting a regime change within SL . The US Ambassador in SL has consistently conveyed a positive report to the US States Dept. whenever Mahinda’s Govt. toed a positive line of approach in regard to human rights implying that the US was always ready to engage SL positively provided Mahinda’s Govt. takes a positive approach towards human rights concerns. The most critical lesson Wikileaks taught to Mahinda’s Govt. was that.

The unrelenting criticisms leveled by the SL Govt. against the US Embassy in SL is that, in tow with the Opposition it is hatching conspiracies against the Govt. Yet nothing in the Wikileaks cables bore testimony to these allegations.

Even in regard to President Mahinda Rajapakse and Sarath Fonseka who was the rival to Mahinda at the last presidential elections , the US Ambassador declared , since Fonseka and his political Alliance are speaking for and on behalf of human rights and National reconciliation , in the event of their coming into power more profound changes can be anticipated in SL than those effected by Mahinda’s Govt.

In any case these are only her observations and not an optimism that Fonseka shall be victorious. In the circumstances , it is imperative that the Govt. of Mahinda Rajapakse realizes that the US is voicing its concerns about SL’s human rights , Democracy and media freedom not with a view to paying off a grudge against Mahinda’s Govt. or to topple it , rather only to remedy the Govt.’s lapses in these spheres.

Owing to the Wikileaks exposures , on the one hand Mahinda has got shaken up over the stern stand the US Govt. has taken against his Govt. , while on the other it must have made Mahinda also to perceive why US indeed took such a firm stand.

Yet another lesson learnt by Mahinda’s Govt. from this series of events was , by Liam Fox canceling his tour of SL, it is a demonstration that the Western countries cannot be won over through British PR Firms or personal ties.

Hence, it is a reasonable inference that the decision of Mahinda’s Govt. to permit the UN Panel of experts to come to SL was spurred by this series of events. It is obscure whether Ban Ki Moon’s ‘long consultations’ referred to this? ~ courtesy: Daily Mirror ~