presidency 23In my student days I had a great friend who simplified Wittgenstein into the theory that people simply created their own mythology. That was a satirical idea, used about the more obsessive amongst us, but I fear it is the most suitable image for what is now happening in government. And the saddest aspect of such personal mythologies is that those who create them begin to believe them, and become enthralled by their own vision of the world, even if it has no connection with reality.

twitter-logo-bird

…sheer ignorance of government about the information revolution that has taken place in recent times

This phenomenon seems to lie behind some of the confusion that has beset the country in the last few weeks. And it is compounded by what seems the  sheer ignorance of government about the information revolution that has taken place in recent times. A simple understanding of the world, as it actually is, would have prevented the efforts to give a positive spin to the President’s meetings with other leaders while he was in New York. But there were immensely optimistic pronouncements, which came an absolute cropper. This was not only because of the immediate response of the American government, but also because several news outlets that Sri Lankans read with ease today cited that response.

The manner in which the Americans corrected the spin ‘government sources’ had tried to put on the meeting the President had with John Kerry was pretty shaming. Their spokesman said, about the report that had appeared in a Sri Lankan paper, to the effect that the American position was softening, that ‘The only thing that was right was that the Secretary did speak with the Sri Lankan president on the margins of the UN General Assembly. He did so with the express purpose of conveying that U.S. policy with regard to Sri Lanka has not changed’. In effect, she made it clear that the report had got everything else wrong, so that she was able to assert clearly the opposition of the American government to what is going on in Sri Lanka. Had we not tried to lie about that, it would not have become known so widely.

A further reflection on what can only be described as the idiocy of those who are interpreting what goes on internationally is that we have been here before. I remember being confidently assured by someone in the Ministry of External Affairs early in 2013 that the Americans were softening, and that there would be no resolution about us in Geneva that year. But even an idiot reading what the Americans were saying would have realized that they were not happy.

SajinNonis-600x493

..they are deliberately misleading him, so that they can fulfil their own nefarious agendas

It is sad to think that those who are now running our foreign policy and advising the poor President are worse than idiots. But it would be sadder to think that they are deliberately misleading him, so that they can fulfil their own nefarious agendas. But that seems to be the truth. Given how clever they have been in getting rid of anyone sensible who might have brought some sense into our actions, one has to conclude that they are not really idiots, but instead devilishly clever.

Certainly to have bamboozled someone I had thought of as one of the shrewdest political minds in the business shows great skill. And what is worse is that they have actually persuaded him to deploy all his own skills to fulfil their own agendas. The efforts to black out the story of what happened in New York might indeed have succeeded, given the persuasive powers of the President, were it not for the immense power now of social media. But the way in which that works, the fact that one cannot limit access to websites, the immense ease with which a story spreads if just a few people with social media capacity and skills are determined to get their message across, all seem to be unknown in the corridors of power in Sri Lanka.

And of course once a story breaks, no one can afford to keep quiet about it. This may not be entirely true in Sri Lanka but, despite the determination of the state media to suppress anything that does not conform to the vision they are propagating, we now have enough and more outlets that will keep the people informed.

So it is astonishing that the President does not seem to understand this. His anger when the story he had tried to suppress broke, and he found out that it would overshadow his visit to the Pope, indicates a mind that is no longer in touch with reality. This is contrary to the hope of one of the few sensible people still in close contact with the President who had hoped, since he had ‘my ears to the ground; in every district, little groups have been talking to me’ that there could be some sort of a reality check. But he too seems to have been overborne by those he described in nothing that ‘Not many speak the truth today and all I hear are blatant lies.’ Read the rest of this entry »

sleepy 5In 2011 then it seemed that GL was intransigent about granting anything the TNA wanted. Obviously however this was not because of any principles, given that in 2002 he had been excessively indulgent about giving the LTTE anything they wanted. The conclusion then is inescapable that he simply deduced what his patron of the moment wanted, and then went much further.

In 2002 he had been serving Ranil Wickremesinghe who was complaisant about LTTE demands, since he saw an agreement with them as the key to his future electoral success in contesting the presidency. In 2011 however GL served a different master, and this was not it seems the President, given his refusal, on the grounds that his neck would be on the block if things went wrong, to follow the President’s instructions about submitting a draft in accordance with what had been agreed with the TNA. Rather, it would seem that GL was working in accordance with what he thought were Gotabhaya Rajapaksa’s predilections. Basil certainly seems to have been of this view, and was bitterly condemnatory of GL when he mentioned him.

Another instance of GL’s acquiescence in the Defence Secretary’s agenda was apparent late in 2013, when the South Africans launched an initiative to promote Reconciliation. The South African ambassador to Sri Lanka, who seemed anxious to help Sri Lanka, had long lost faith in GL, who he thought would not give the President any messages. He had therefore himself met the President to promote a dialogue, and the President proved enthusiastic and met with a high level South African team late in 2012 to formulate a plan – without GL being at the meeting.

It was decided that a delegation be sent to South Africa to explore options, and the President, who had surprisingly invited me to the initial meeting, insisted that I go too. This was in contradiction of his assertion that the delegation would be from the SLFP, his own political party, a formula designed to leave out the hardliners from other political parties who were part of his coalition. I pointed out that I was not a member of the SLFP, but he said that did not matter.

Unfortunately the leadership of the SLFP was not enthusiastic, and suggested a date far in the future. The ambassador called me and I contacted the President’s Secretary, Lalith Weeratunge, whose intervention seems to have proved fruitful because the delegation left for South Africa before the Christmas lull of 2012. However I was omitted, which was a pity because I had discussed expanding the powers of local government with the President, an idea he had welcomed, and I was perhaps the only one of those he had initially selected who understood how the original post-apartheid South African constitution had been later amended to strengthen the role of local authorities. This had happened in India too, as we had noted in our discussions with the TNA, and it seemed the obvious solution to fears about confrontation between the central government and provinces that saw themselves as the alternative centres of power.

With none of the other members either enthusiastic or knowledgeable, that initiative failed, but the South African ambassador was indefatigable. Over the following year he promoted much interaction between Sri Lankan politicians and those who had steered the reconciliation process in South Africa following the initial agreement between Mandela and the apartheid government.

His commitment became clear when President Jacob Zuma, at the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting in Colombo in November 2013, gave Sri Lanka a great opportunity to move forward while repudiating the unwarranted interference of the British Prime Minister David Cameron. He responded very positively to President Rajapaksa’s request for advice and assistance on the lines of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission which had reduced animosities in South Africa. The President’s request was clearly a great step forward, since it seemed to recognize the need for solutions based on culturally appropriate models of inclusiveness, rather than the oppositional punitive approach that Cameron was advocating.

But the opportunity was not immediately taken up, and it was apparent that at least some elements in the Sri Lankan government were wary of South Africa. Indeed this had become apparent a few weeks earlier, when a high level delegation came over to facilitate discussions on reconciliation, and a seminar was held at the Lakshman Kadirgarmar Institute for International Relations and Strategic Studies, which came under GL. Read the rest of this entry »

Presidency 22When I wrote about corruption last week, I concentrated on the structural absurdities that have been introduced into the allocation of development funding. Given the blatant deployment of this for electoral purposes, many politicians have the liberty to award contracts for projects as seems most beneficial to them, rather than the people they are supposed to serve. And while of course some development will occur, and perhaps a lot in some areas, the bottom line is that the people are no longer being fooled, as the last set of election results made clear.

But I would be remiss if I did not talk too of the perceptions of corruption at the top, since the general impression seems to be that what we have now is a kleptocracy. I should note that the President himself does not figure in these rumours, though he too must know that some who do are alleged to also act as agents on his behalf. And sadly – though given his excessive indulgence of those close to him, I can see other reasons for his weakness in this regard – his failure to discipline them is attributed to worry about what they might reveal.

Given what he has achieved however, there is little anger, except amongst those who disliked him in the first place. What is serious now is the erosion of confidence in those around him, and in particular with the immediate family. Thus, when I was recently in Kandy, I was told about a new hotel that was coming up that there were rumours that it was owned by Gotabhaya – and then later I was told that it belonged to Basil.

That both stories should be circulating indicated that these were rumours, and it is quite possible that they are unfounded – or even that they are being spread by those who do own the hotel, and who think their position will be stronger for whatever planning needs they have, if it is thought that powerful people were involved. But I was saddened by this, remembering my father’s old friendship with D A Rajapaksa, one of the simplest and most honest politicians I knew, who had almost no assets when he lost his Parliamentary seat in 1965 and travelled home by bus.

The story about Gotabhaya upset me particularly, because I had unhesitatingly stood up for him when criticism first started about the powers the family had. I had been impressed by the confidence he had given the forces, not least because the corruption that had reigned previously with regard to procurement had been stopped. He was clearly the best man for the job at the time, and the country must continue grateful to him for what was achieved – and not least because all accounts are that he tried to fight the war as cleanly as possible. Read the rest of this entry »

In the course of the frenetic travel programme I had set myself before the usual budget period, I had just two days in Sri Lanka last week. They were packed, with Parliament, and an overnight stay with a cousin visiting after several days, and the 92nd birthday of my most distinguished aunt, but also a couple of interviews as well as meetings with two ambassadors.

Though I feel increasingly despondent, I continue to defend the war record of the government, and indeed feel that some of the absurdities now occurring spring from the bitterness felt with regard to unfair attacks on us. But when I reiterated how fundamentally wrong the Darusman Report had been, one of them asked very simply why we had not refuted it.

3rd narrative - MargaThis failure continues to bemuse me, and the more so now after the Marga Institute produced their Third Narrative, which provides a wonderful opportunity on which government could build. But given the schizophrenia that possesses government, it will not take ownership of this document and flesh it out with details that only government possesses (though perhaps it has again misplaced them, for I had a frantic but informal request from the Foreign Ministry for the Peace Secretariat archives).

One explanation I offered the ambassador was that government simply had no one left who could argue a case intelligently and in good English. A couple of years back, when I told the President to make better use of the professionals in the Ministry of External Affairs, he told me that their command of English was weak. I fear this is a myth of which he has been convinced by those who see themselves as brilliant exponents of the language, having been to elite Colombo schools. The fact that they cannot use the language with sophistication, or respond in a manner those accusing us would take to heart, is not something the President realizes.

But there had recently been an exception, in the form of Chris Nonis, who had given a superb interview on Channel 4. All those I met in London were still full of the way he had responded, which is not something that had happened, they were kind enough to say, since my discussion on ‘Hard Talk’. However I had soon after that been removed from public appearances, except just the once when the President over-rode the blockages of the Ministry and sent me to London to deal with an attack on us organized by Channel 4.

Jon Snow dropped out after my participation in that programme was announced, though it would be too much to assert that was the reason. Conversely, after Chris’ great performance last year, a Sri Lankan station had asked him to participate in a debate with Jon Snow and Callum Macrae, but he had said he wanted me involved as well. The station then abandoned the idea, which I suppose is some sort of compliment. If both Channel 4 and local television would rather avoid me, I can claim to be perhaps the last adherent in government of Mr Bandaranaike’s Middle Path. Read the rest of this entry »

 

UPFA Parliamentarian Rajiva Wijesinha, former Secretary to the Ministry of Disaster Management and Human Rights, addressed a letter to all party leaders regarding the audit report on the refurbishment of the official residence of the Permanent Representative in Geneva on Tuesday.

Professor Rajiva Wijesinha elaborated on the matter on our special segment Newsline – 22 Oct 2014.

http://newsfirst.lk/english/2014/10/genevagate-audit-report-prof-rajiva-wijesinha-elaborates/59397

sleepy 4Enemies of the President’s Promse: Mahinda Rajapaksa and the Seven Dwarfs – Sleepy (Part 1)

Enemies of the President’s Promse: Mahinda Rajapaksa and the Seven Dwarfs – Sleepy (Part 2)

Enemies of the President’s Promse: Mahinda Rajapaksa and the Seven Dwarfs – Sleepy (Part 3)

Meanwhile GL was also making a mess of the other task that had been entrusted to him, namely negotiations with the Tamil National Alliance, which had done well in local elections for the North, and could credibly claim to represent the Tamils. The main components of the Alliance had seemed to support the Tigers during the war, but this was obviously because they were fearful of what would happen to them otherwise, given that the Tigers were ruthless in eliminating any Tamils opposed to them.

However, while careful not to engage in overt condemnation of the Tigers, its principal leadership made it clear after the war that they were not unhappy the Tigers had been destroyed. In this context they were able to hold discussions with the various groups that had opposed the Tigers, and almost all of these now joined the TNA.

The Tamils of Indian extraction whom the British had brought over during the colonial period were an exception. Though the Ceylon Workers Congress, the main party that represented them had been part of the Tamil United Liberation Front, that had contested the 1977 election as a united group, it had soon afterwards joined the Jayewardene government. Its exceptionally able leader, SauviamoorthyThondaman, had won for his people much that they wanted and needed and, after the UNP lost, he had joined the SLFP led government led by Chandrika Kumaratunga. After his death his grandson took over the leadership of the party, and remained with government, though with nothing like the effectiveness of the older Thondaman.

The principal exception with regard to the TNA of Tamils from the north of the country was Douglas Devananda. Sadly he and the other Tamil groups that had been opposed to the Tigers had not got on, and government failed to build up a solid alliance either before or immediately after the war. Perhaps enmities lay too deep, but given Douglas’ dependence on the government, and the brave stand taken against the Tigers by the others, some serious effort would surely have produced dividends.

Unfortunately, caught up also in its own electoral agenda, government did not expedite negotiations with the TNA immediately after the war, while conversely the TNA explored other options, including support in the 2010 Presidential election for Sarath Fonseka. This was not conductive to trust between them and the government. Given the general approach of Fonseka to Tamils during the war, the message this move sent out was that the TNA was implacably opposed to the President.

Despite this, agreement to negotiate was reached by the beginning of 2011. The government team consisted of the Leader of the House, Nimal Siripala de Silva, former Prime Minister Ratnasiri Wikramanayake and GL. Added to these was Sajin Vas Gunawardena, ostensibly to maintain records, a task he singularly failed to accomplish. Instead he was seen as an influential member of the team, given his close relationship with the President. Certainly the others were nervous of him, and GL clearly assumed that he knew the President’s mind. Read the rest of this entry »

presidency 21There has been much exultation in some quarters in Sri Lanka about the conviction of Jayalalitha, but I was glad to see that at least some articles also noted the need for stringent measures in Sri Lanka too, to combat corruption. One article however missed the point, in citing as an example of what needed to be dealt with firmly the Ceylinco case.

The failure to deal with that swiftly, and provide compensation to the victims of the scam, is indeed appalling. But that failure has to do with the delays, not necessarily arising from corruption, of our judicial system. Certainly we also need measures to make our courts move and it is sad that those have been forgotten. Though it is featured in the Human Rights Action Plan, as far as I can see no one has bothered about that plan following my resignation as Convenor of the Task Force to implement its recommendations.

But that is a different issue, and what we are talking about in Jayalalitha’s case is the corruption of politicians. Now this is nothing new, and it also happens all over the world. I remember the scandals in Local Government in Britain when I was a student, more recently we had the horrors of the Bush administration dishing out contracts in Iraq to agencies in which senior officials had interests.

Nearer home however aggrandizement seems to be excessive. The Jayalalitha case is about disproportionate assets, and in Sri Lanka too it is the inordinate greed of those who are plundering the state which has skewered development plans whilst also contributing to the increasing unpopularity of the government. And sadly government seems to be conniving at this corruption, given the mechanisms it has set up this year, with no transparency, to spend public money. Read the rest of this entry »

Lakbima Newsවිදේශ කටයුතු අමාත්‍යාංශය හා විදේශ සේවය පිළිබදව පසුගිය සති දෙක තුළ විශාල ආන්දෝලනයක් ඇතිවිය. ඒ විදේශ කටයුතු අමාත්‍යාංශයේ අධීක්ෂණ මන්ත්‍රී සජින් ද වාස් ගුණවර්ධන හා බ්‍රිතාන්‍යයේ සිටින ශ්‍රී ලංකා මහ කොමසාරිස් දොස්තර ක්‍රිස් නෝනිස් අතර ඇතිවු ගැටුම නිසාය. ලංකාවේ විදේශ සේවයේ වෘත්තීයභාවය ගැන වැඩි අවධානයක් යොමු කරන පාර්ලිමේන්තු මන්ත්‍රී මහාචාර්ය රජීව් විජේසිංහ මේ ක්‍රියාදාමය පසුගියදා විවේචනය කළේය. විදේශ කටයුතු අමාත්‍යාංශය ගැන ඔහු දක්වන අදහස් පිළිබදව මෙන්ම විදේශ කටයුතු අමාත්‍යාංශය තුළ ඇතිවී තිබෙන තත්ත්වය හමුවේ ලංකාවට ජාත්‍යන්තර බලපෑම් තීරණය වන ආකාරය ගැන මහාචාර්ය රජීව් විජේසිංහ සමග ලක්බිම කළ සම්මුඛ සාකච්ඡාවකි මේ.

ලංකාවේ තානාපති සේවය වෘත්තීයභාවයකින් යුත් තානාපති සේවයක් ලෙස හැඳින්විය හැකිද?
තානාපති සේවයේ දුර්වලතා රැසක් තිබෙනවා. ලංකාවේ විදේශ සේවය ආරම්භ වන විට ඔවුන්ට නිසි පුහුණුවක් ලැබුණේ නැහැ. එහෙත් විදේශ සේවයට හොඳ පිරිසක් එක්වීම නිසා එය සාර්ථකව ඉදිරියට ගියා. ලංකාවේ විදේශ සේවය ආරම්භයේ සිටම හොඳ තානාපතිවරුන් ලෙස කටයුතු කළේ විදේශ සේවය තුළ සිටි තානාපතිවරු නොවෙයි. විදේශ සේවයට පිටින් පත් කළ අය තමයි හොඳම තානාපතිවරු ලෙස කටයුතු කර ඇත්තේ.

ශර්ලි අමරසිංහ, නෙවිල් කනකරත්න, ක්ලෝඩ් කොරයා වගේ නම් රැසක් මට ඉදිරිපත් කරන්න පුළුවන්. 1948 සිට 1980 වෙ තානාපති සේවයෙන් පැමිණි හොඳ තානාපතිවරු සිටියේ එක් අයෙක් දෙන්නෙක් පමණයි. එයට හේතුව වන්නේ විදේශ සේවයට එක්වන අයට නිසි පුහුණුවක් නොලැබිමයි. අපි නිසි පුහුණුවක් නොදීම නිසාත් ලංකාවේ විදේශ ප්‍රතිපත්තියක්  ස්ථිරව පවත්වාගෙන නොයෑම නිසා විදේශ සේවය තහවුරු වූයේ නැත. ජේ.ආර්.ජයවර්ධන ජනාධිපතිවරයා විදේශ ප්‍රතිපත්තිය වෙනස් කරන විට විදේශ කටයුතු අමාත්‍යාංශ ‍ලේකම් ධුරයට පැමිණි තිස්ස විජයරත්න ගමේ ළමුන් විදේශ සේවයට බඳවාගත්තා. ඉංග්‍රීසි භාෂාවට වැඩි අවධානයක් යොමු කළේ නැහැ. මේ නිසා විදේශ සේවය පසුබැස්සා.
මෙහි වාසිය ලබාගත් ජේ.ආර්. ජයවර්ධන ජනාධිපතිවරයා තානාපති කාර්යාලවල දෙවැනි, තෙවැනි තනතුරු සඳහා දේශපාලන පත්කිරීම් කළා. මේ නිසා තමයි විදේශ සේවය දේශපාලනීකරණය වුණේ. වත්මන් ආණ්ඩුව යටතේත් මේ දේශපාලන පත්වීම් සිදුවෙනවා. මේ දේශපාලන පත්වීම් නිසා විදේශ සේවයේ වෘත්තීය භාවය බිඳවැටුණා. ඒ වගේම දැන් විදේශ අමාත්‍යාංශයේ සිටින සමහර අය ආණ්ඩුවේ ඉහළ අයගේ ඔළුවට දමා ඇත්තේ තමුන්ට පමණක් ඉංග්‍රීසි හැකි බවයි.

Lakbima Sinhalaවිදේශ කටයුතු අමාත්‍යාංශයේ නිලධාරීන්ගේ වෘත්තීයභාවය වර්ධනය කිරීමට ඔබ මැදිහත් වුණා. එය ඉදිරියට ගෙන නොගියේ ඇයි?
විදේශ කටයුතු අමාත්‍යාංශයේ නිලධාරීන්ට නිවේදන සකස් කිරීම ගැන පුහුණුවක් ලබාදීමට මම සූදානම් වුණා. ඒත් එය ක්‍රියාත්මක කිරීමට අවස්ථාව විදේශ කටයුතු ඇමැතිවරයා මට ලබාදුන්නේ නැහැ. මේ ගැන මම ජනාධිපතිවරයාගෙන් විමසුවා. එවිට ඔහු කීවේ මහාචාර්යවරයෙක් තවත් මහාචාර්යවරයෙක් දැක්කාම බය වෙනවානේ කියලයි. ඒ කියන්නේ ජනාධිපතිවරයත් විදේශ කටයුතු ඇමැතිවරයාගේ හැසිරීම දන්නවා.

ඔබ මේ කටයුතුවලට මැදිහත්වූයේ නියෝජ්‍ය විදේශ කටයුතු ඇමැතිකම බලා‍පොරොත්තුවෙන් නොවේද?
ජනාධිපතිවරයා බලයට පත්වීමෙන් පසුව විදේශ කටයුතු අමාත්‍ය ධුරයට පත් කිරීමට අයෙක් නැති බව මා සමග පැවැසුවා. ඒ වෙලාවේ මම කීවේ මට නියෝජ්‍ය ඇමැතිකම දෙන්න කියලයි. ඒ වෙලාවේ ජනාධිපතිවරයා හිතුවේ මමත් සාමාන්‍ය අය වගේම තනතුරු ගන්න හදනවා කියලයි. එය එසේ නොවන බව මම ජනාධිපතිවරයාට පෙන්වා දුන්නා. මම ඒ තනතුරු ගැන කතා කළේ විදේශ කටයුතු අමාත්‍යාංශයට කවුරුත් නොමැති බව පැවැසූ නිසයි. එසේ නොමැතිව තනතුරු බලාගෙන නොවෙයි.

විදේශ සේවයේ සිටින දක්ෂ නිලධාරීන්ට තමන්ගේ දක්ෂතා පෙන්විය හැකි තානාපති ධුරයන් ලැබි තිබෙනවාද?
බ්‍රසල්ස්වල පී.එම්. අම්සා, ප්‍රසාද් කාරියවසම්, චිත්‍රානි වාගීෂ්වරී වගේ දක්ෂ තානාපතිවරුන් විදේශ සේවයට පත්වී සිටිනවා. විදේශ සේවයේ සිටින තවත් දක්ෂ නිලධාරීන් තානාපති තනතුරු ලැබෙන තුරු බලා සිටිනවා. ඒ අතරවාරයේ පිටින් තානාපතිවරුන් පමණක් නොව අනෙක් තනතුරු සඳහාද පත් කරනවා. මේ නිසා විදේශ සේවයේ වෘත්තීයභාවය දියුණුවීමට අවස්ථාවක් ලැබුණේ නැහැ. තානාපති කාර්යාලවල දෙවැනි තුන්වැනි තැන්වලට විදේශ සේවයට බාහිරින් පත් කිරීම් කළ යුතු නැහැ. දයාන් ජයතිලක, තමාරා කුගනායගම්, ක්‍රිස් නෝනිස්,  අසිත පෙරේරා, සරත් කෝන්ගහගේ වැනි විදේශ සේවයට බාහිරින් පත් කළ තානාපතිවරු විශිෂ්ට සේවයක් කළා. ඔවුන් තරම් විශිෂ්ට නැතත් නාවලගේ බෙනට් කුරේ වැනි තානාපතිවරු පවා නරක නැහැ. ප්‍රශ්නය තිබෙන්නේ මොවුන්ට සහය දීමට විදේශ සේවයේ දක්ෂ කාර්යමණ්ඩලයක් නොමැති වීමයි. විදේශ සේවයේ සිටින නිලධාරීන්ගේ පරිපාලනය හරිම දුර්වලයි. ප්‍රසාද් කාරියවසම් වරක් මට පැවසුවේ තමන් ජනාධිපතිවරයාට යවන ලියුම් ඔහුට නොලැබෙන බවයි. ඔහු විදේශ සේවයේ තානාපතිවරයෙක් නිසා තමන් යවන ලිපි යැවිය යුත්තේ විදේශ කටයුතු අමාත්‍යාංශය හරහායි. Read the rest of this entry »

downloadEnemies of the President’s Promse: Mahinda Rajapaksa and the Seven Dwarfs – Sleepy (Part 1)

Enemies of the President’s Promse: Mahinda Rajapaksa and the Seven Dwarfs – Sleepy (Part 2)

Mahinda Samarasinghe was asked to chair an Inter-Ministerial Committee to implement the Human Rights Action Plan, and as usual I had to do much of the work through convening a Task Force to expedite implementation.

I resigned however in 2013 when I found that, though there was much goodwill from many Ministries, and we got a few things done, no formal coordination of activities and initiatives was possible. I realized that it was impossible without proper authority to expedite decisions and action. I told Samarasinghe in my resignation letter that he should request that a Ministry be set up. While he was the obvious person to be Minister, I told him he should suggest the President take over the portfolio and be his Deputy. This upset him, even though I pointed out that he would still be in the Cabinet with his existing portfolio of Plantation Industries.

He ignored the letter, and simply declared that he would not let me resign, but did nothing further about the matter. So, after my resignation, hardly anything happened, with Mahinda Samarasinghe uncertain too about his own position, being often asked to go to Geneva at the last minute for Council sessions. By 2014 he was talking about resigning himself, but characteristically he held on to the position, though in effect doing nothing to promote the Human Rights Action Plan.

Human Rights were grossly neglected by the Foreign Ministry, with no invitations to any Special Rapporteurs, until they were forced to interact more positively from late in 2013. Contrariwise, we had tried to engage with them constantly, and had indeed had invaluable support from the Special Representative on the Rights of the Displaced, Walter Kalin, who came to Sri Lanka three times during the conclusion of the War. But there were no visits after that until the High Commissioner herself came in 2013, followed by Kalin’s successor.

All this was of a piece with Peiris’s failure to recognize, or unwillingness to convey, that the Human Rights situation was worrying for Sri Lanka. Unlike in the days when the dedicated Ministry under Mahinda Samarasinghe coordinated responses to critiques, writing and disseminating the most effective ones, there was now no concerted response to attacks on us. As a result, the impression gradually developed that we could not answer the many allegations against us.

***

 Most pernicious for Sri Lanka was the failure to deal consistently and coherently with the UN on what were termed accountability issues. Well before GL  became Foreign Minister, the President had agreed, in a joint communication with the UN Secretary General, to address such issues. Nothing was done about this, and there was no response too later in 2009 to an American query about possible violations of law. This was very politely worded, and included material that would have helped us rebut any serious charges, but the President simply appointed a committee chaired by an octogenarian lawyer, which never met. My constant reminders to members of the Committee, and to Mohan Pieris who was Attorney General, and seen as the front man on such legal issues, achieved nothing, though Pieris kept assuring me that he understood the seriousness of the problem.

With nothing done for nearly a year, the Secretary General appointed his own panel of experts, headed by ‘Kiki’ Darusman of Indonesia, and including an American who had previously suggested that Sri Lanka was a genocidal state. Though members of government demonstrated against this, there was no formal response from the Foreign Ministry, which GL by then headed. The impression created was that this was not a serious issue for the country, but simply an opportunity for politicians to score brownie points by establishing their patriotism. Read the rest of this entry »

Rajiva Wijesinha

October 2014
M T W T F S S
« Sep    
 12345
6789101112
13141516171819
20212223242526
2728293031  
Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 248 other followers

%d bloggers like this: