Many moons ago, at the end of 2007 in fact, I did a piece for the now-defunct Montage magazine titled “And Then What?” seeking to deal with prospects for Sri Lankans after the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) were done away with.
Even though the prognostications were made about a year and a half before the final annihilation of Prabhakaran’s army, it wasn’t hard to predict accurately what the future had in store for us all.
I did then, perhaps frivolously, describe Sri Lanka’s allies among the Liberal Democracies, India included, who had proscribed the Tigers and continue that proscription even today in spite of Prabhakaran’s horde being gone from the face of the Earth, as the “Tut-tut Brigade.” I did so because they clucked around the chicken run making ineffectual noises about human rights and the democratic responsibilities of such as the Sri Lankan government while, in reality, doing diddly-squat to pressure our rulers to return to a modicum of democratic practice that had previously been the rule and had now become the exception in our country.
With the Wikileaks/Facebook revolutions of North Africa, Yemen, Jordan etc. the Liberal Democracies have transferred their self-righteous cacophony to that part of the world. The results will be the same as they were around Sri Lanka, Myanmar etc. They will contribute nothing in the way of relief in the realms of democratic and human rights. It was very evident that Libya — exemplified by the Blair/ Brown wheeling and dealing — was tolerated by, if not completely in the good books of that group of nations not so long ago. The reason for this rests with two words: oil, gas. Canada and the US were not as “front and centre” recently as Britain in cosying up to Gaddafi, but I remember, that at a time when Muammar Gaddafi was considered beyond the pale by the Americans and the British, Canadian oilmen not only were working in Libya but were mightily pleased with the big dollars they were earning and the great lives they lived on the Libyan oilpatch.
It is indeed fortunate that the people of Tunisia, Libya, Egypt, Yemen (and hopefully, the Gulf States, Jordan and Saudi Arabia) have chosen a path of rebellion not dependent on the support of the so-called “Western Democracies.” If they fail in efforts to free themselves from the yoke of despotism, it won’t be because they were sold out by those they thought were their friends and supporters.
The attitudes I dismissed in 2007 as epitomised by the “Tut-Tut, that’s not cricket, old chap. You really must do better in future,” response to all matters concerned with the rights of Sri Lankans have not gone away and are being displayed anew in the matter of the Libyan massacres.
And the reason is, basically, the same: Britain, in particular, has acted in what can be charitably described as a totally amoral manner. “New Labourites,” singularly bereft of any principle, took conduct driven by simple greed and self-interest to new lows even before the people of Libya rose up against Gaddafi. However, as when they joined their buddy, “Dubya” Bush, in the invasion of Iraq, justifying it by that nation’s possession of non-existent Weapons of Mass Destruction, it didn’t take long for their horse-trading with North Africa’s most violently repressive regime to begin unravelling. And the Brits are not the only ones. Pretty well all of the liberal democratic world played “footsie” with Gaddafi, Mubarak and Zine El Abidine Ben Ali and are now trying to save moral face before world opinion that is totally aghast at the Libyan madman’s behaviour which is even more violently bizarre than the weirdnesses of the past.
Still, led by “Mr Inaction” himself, Ban Ki Moon, the leaders of the liberal democracies continue to “tut-tut” all over the place tripping over their sanctimonious tongues in the effort to express outrage while doing sweet fanny adams about the butchery of the Libyan people. And all because of what Muammar Gaddafi has given them in the way of fossil fuels.
What has also now emerged are the contents of another can of worms: this oil-production giant, at a time when fossil fuel prices have been going through the roof, has a large percentage of its population living on less than $2 per day. Go figure! That segment of its population and a majority of the rest have said “enough is enough” and have begun the process to remove their oppressor. How and when that struggle will end is anyone’s guess.
And our “leaders of the democratic world” do little but cluck out sentiments of “moral outrage.”
They did the same in Sri Lanka when there were expectations, at least by the “peaceniks,” that there would be a return to justice, equity and the rule of law.
Make no mistake, it was the same suspects then as they are now: the “developed” Western powers and India.
As for China, Russia and their allies who are either silent or expressing support for the murderous regimes of North Africa in the name of “stability,” at least they are not hypocritical. They are consistent in never criticising their trading partners and suppliers of primary products or the fossil fuels they need, unless those nations do anything likely to damage their trading partnerships. Realpolitik with no pretense to principle, morality or ethics. The fact that such an impeccable track record of consistency entails the active support of the war criminal Omar Al Bashir of Sudan, the rogue regime of Myanmar and now the Butcher of Libya is but an integral part of that equation.
Given the Realpolitik that our leaders practise insofar as countries such as China, Russia and Myanmar and, presumably, Muammar Gaddafi, are concerned, our future appears to be an assured one, if not something to look forward to!
For those who believe that we need significant local change in the matter of all elements of governance, may I suggest, again, that we don’t waste time and energy looking to the Liberal Democracies (including India) for help and support?
Hope, if it exists at all for any project to return human rights, justice and the rule of law to Sri Lanka, continues to lie with Sri Lankans themselves, with marginal assistance from those human rights organisations in the Western world that are not dependent on their governments for their existence.
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