By Upul Joseph Fernando
Sri Lanka (SL) President Mahinda Rajapaksa’s sudden tour of the United States was shrouded in mystery. Though speculations were rife , the aims and objectives of the tour are still a secret. The secrecy notwithstanding, the outcome of it was the US based pro Tamil Tiger activist group ‘Tamils against genocide’ filing a lawsuit against Mahinda for war crime charges.
In 2009 October, when the former chief of defense staff of SL , Sarath Fonseka visited the US and the Department of Homeland security of that country questioned him in connection with the SL war crimes., Fonseka fled America and returned to the Island.
However when Mahinda visited the US, he did not face such an experience. It is reported that this was because he was protected by the Diplomatic immunity he enjoyed as the President of the country. Of course, Fonseka too ought to have enjoyed the Diplomatic immunity as he was the chief of defense staff then when he visited the US , but as he made a private tour he was not entitled to the diplomatic immunity.
Consequently, the US Homeland security sought to interrogate him, reports say. It is argued that even Mahinda too did a private tour of America , and how come only Mahinda enjoyed the diplomatic immunity. The answer furnished by some to this question is, as Fonseka is a green card holder of the US , he is liable for questioning by the Homeland security.
When all the circumstances and events surrounding the SL war crime charges are taken into account , it is very clear that a ‘hide and seek’ game is being played by interested parties. When Mahinda went to Texas, America , the US state Dept. Assist. Secretary Robert Blake was also in Texas ; when the media questioned on whether Mahinda will be meeting Blake , the spokesman for the US States Dept. did not give a direct answer and was evasive. He said , there will be no official meeting. But Blake also being in Texas while Mahinda was visiting Texas was something that was most intriguing. The US States Dept. spokesman declared that Blake was in Texas because he was to deliver a lecture at the Rice University.
It is impossible to imagine that Mahinda Rajapaksa would have embarked on the US tour without Blake’s assent. The President or the SL foreign Ministry would have perhaps made sure by speaking to Blake that he would not encounter any problems the Tamil Diaspora could possibly create . The President who had a nasty experience recently when he visited London and learnt a bitter lesson would in all probability leave no room for a repetition in the US by keeping Blake in the dark.
It is a well and widely known fact that during the period when Blake was the US Ambassador in SL , he maintained extremely close and friendly ties not only with President Rajapaksa but even with his family. It was reported that Blake at that time along with his family at the invitation of the President had spent a whole day with Mahinda’s family members at the latter’s ‘Carlton House’, in Tangalle at Hambantota – the native place of Mahinda. His swimming and frolicking in the sea then with Mahinda’s family members became a theme of conversation among all.
There was no doubt that when Mahinda visited Texas, Blake’s stay in Texas was not by accident. According to Govt. sources both have met unofficially. It is also learnt that though President ‘s tour was professedly private , he was scheduled to meet Blake , and that was why President’s secretary Lalith Weeratunge and Foreign Minister Dr. G L Peiris accompanied him on the tour. There are also reports that when defense Secretary Gotabaya Rajapaksa went to America last year , he too had met Blake unofficially.
According to Blake he had unofficial meetings with Mahinda and Gotabaya purportedly to ‘change’ Mahinda to fall in line with Blake’s diplomacy akin to UN Secretary General Moon’s ‘quiet Diplomacy’.
If Blake desired he could have given a blaze of publicity prior to Mahinda’s US tour as did Mahinda receive on his London tour . Yet , Blake like the SL Govt. treated President’s tour as confidential. It would have also been no difficult task for the Tamil Diaspora to locate Mahinda’s residence while he was in America. The Tamil Diaspora in America is not as vicious or vast as that in London.
However , Rudrakumaran , the Prime Minister of the Tamil Tiger transnational Govt. is in America. The SL Govt. has repeatedly urged Blake to arrest Rudrakumaran and entrust his custody to SL, but Blake has not acceded to this request. Some sources say , Blake has declared that there are no terrorist indictments against Rudrakumaran. It is also known that Blake is in constant touch with Rudrakumaran.
It is obscure whether Blake made a request to Rudrakumaran not to create a stir over Mahinda Rajapaksa’s US visit , in spite of the fact that ‘ the Tamils against genocide’ filed a law suit after Mahinda left the US. All in all , why US and Blake are playing ‘hide and seek’ ` pertaining to SL war crime charges is clouded in mystery.