My comments on the ridiculous expansion of the Cabinet were carried in the Leader today, expressively edited by the sensible Camela Nathaniel. Ironically they were juxtaposed with those of Nirmal Ranjith Dewasiri, who was initially responsible for the unwarranted interference by the Prime Minister in my work which led to my resignation. But I don’t suppose he can understand his role in ensuring that the only voice able to challenge the hardline UNP leadership on its own terms was removed.

Will Jumbo Cabinet Be Another Nail In Government Coffin?

by Camelia Nathaniel
The government’s move to increase the number of cabinet ministers has come under fire from many quarters. On April six, President Maithripala Sirisena appointed a new state minister and two deputy ministers, increasing the total number of ministers and deputy ministers to 92.  Badulla District United People’s Freedom Alliance (UPFA) MP Lakshman Seneviratne was appointed State Minister of Science, Technology and Research while UPFA Galle District MP Manusha Nanayakkara and UNP Kalutara District MP Palitha Thewarapperuma were appointed as deputy ministers.

At a press briefing held in Colombo last week, JVP General Secretary Tilvin Silva said they were totally against the latest appointments. The former regime, Silva said, had maintained a cabinet exceeding 100 members and it was pathetic to see the present government too following the same bad policies. Silva said there was no scientific or logical basis for appointing these ministers. Citing the example of MP Thewarapperuma who represents the Kalutara district in the south, Silva said there was no logical reason for appointing him to develop the Wayamba Province. According to Silva the only reason these appointments were made was to strengthen the President’s power.

President Maithripala Sirisena is facing a split in the Sri Lanka Freedom Party, and according to Silva he is trying to assert his power in the party by doling out ministerial appointments.

Already the coalition national government of Maithripala Sirisena and Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe has faced criticism and there is some suspicion that the coalition may be in trouble. The UNP rode on the back of Maithripala and vice versa and now Maithripala may be worried, it is surmised, that the UNP is trying to take over. The UNP on the other hand is trying to strengthen its position in the coalition by holding onto the key positions in the government. Although the two main parties decided to come together in a bid to save the country from the tyrannical Rajapaksa regime, these same two parties are now engaged in a power struggle to establish supremacy over each other. Generally a single, more powerful party can shape the policies of the coalition disproportionately. Advocates of proportional representation suggest that a coalition government leads to more consensus-based politics, in that a government comprising differing parties (often based on different ideologies) would need to concur in regard to governmental policy. Another stated advantage is that a coalition government better reflects the popular opinion of the electorate within a country.

Prone to disharmony

However those who disapprove of coalition governments believe that such governments have a tendency to be fractious and prone to disharmony. This is because coalitions would necessarily include different parties with differing beliefs and who, therefore, may not always agree on the correct path for governmental policy.

Commenting on the current status of the national government of Sri Lanka and its waning promises, veteran politician and writer Professor Rajiva Wijesinha said it was sad that the number of ministers was increasing apace, because that destroyed the idea of governance, let alone good governance.

Pledges Ignored

“The President’s manifesto pledged that ‘the number, composition and nature of the Cabinet of Ministers would be determined on a scientific basis’ but as I noticed last year, I was about the only person interested in the manifesto,” Wijesinha said.

The short manifesto pledged a Cabinet of 25 which was ignored too, the number increasing dramatically when SLFP members who had not supported the President were brought in – none of the senior leadership, though, which has contributed to the continuing suspicions of and about the President.

Then, when the 19th amendment was brought, though the idea of statutory limits was introduced, there was a proviso that, in the event of a National Government, the number could be increased. That was destructive, because it implied that a National Government was essentially about jobs for the boys, he added.

According to Professor Wijesinha, when the 19th Amendment was put to the house, some of those now in the Joint Opposition objected to the special clause about possible expansion in the case of a National Government after the next election, but their remedy was to make that exception valid in perpetuity. “I proposed dropping the exception, but that amendment was not taken up, and there was no effort to define the term National Government.” Read the rest of this entry »

Text of a presentation by Prof Rajiva Wijesinha

at the ‘Afkar-e-Taza: Rescuing the Past, Shaping the Future’ Seminar

Lahore, April 3rd 2016

The world seems to be at boiling point at present given the increasing impact of terrorist activity. Civilian populations are subject to ruthless attacks in Africa, the Middle East and now both Europe and Asia. Typically, there is much less attention to what happens in our part of the world, which I believe may explain why there seems no adequate response to deal with the menace. Western powers engage in long distance operations that result in more civilian deaths, in the less developed world, and the occasional claim that an identified terrorist has been killed. But the reach of the terrorist organizations seems only to grow in the face of such operations.

There has indeed in recent years been only one unquestionable success in dealing with terrorism. In 2009 Sri Lanka defeated a terrorist movement that had pioneered suicide killings, with responsibility for several incidents where the victims had been numbered in hundreds. The Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam had also killed two heads of government and destroyed several leading moderates of the ethnic group which it claimed to be liberating, namely the Tamils of Sri Lanka (Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi of India, President Ranasinghe Premadasa of Sri Lanka, Messers Amirthalingam, Yoheswaran, Sam Tambimuttu, Neelan Tiruchelvam, Lakshman Kadrigamar, Mrs Sarojini Yoheswaran, Ketheswaran Loganathan, Alfred Duraiyappa, etc)

And yet, far from this achievement being recognized, and efforts made to replicate it,  Sri Lanka became the object of relentless persecution by the Western bloc at the United Nations. While the Sri Lankan government certainly blundered in not dealing firmly with allegations against it, and also in failing to address comprehensively the problems that had created the terrorist movement, the manner in which it has been hounded deserves careful analysis. Not least, one needs to examine the role of the Obama administration, in playing to a public gallery of bleeding hearts whilst continuing a far more ruthless war on those it feared than had been engaged in by previous American Presidents.

These victims of American terrorism, concealed as human rights promotion, included serving heads of state as well as terrorists, while ironically sometimes the latter were deployed to destroy the former when they seemed more dangerous to American interests. But, as Sri Lankan President Mahinda Rajapaksa, a particular object of hate to leading lights in the Obama administration, put it to a State Department official who preached at him, he could not help the fact that his terrorists were not Muslims. Read the rest of this entry »

Introductory remarks by Prof Rajiva Wijesinha

at the Panel discussion during the Seminar

‘Afkar-e-Taza: Rescuing the Past, Shaping the Future’

Lahore, April 1st – 3rd 2016

I will be very brief since I presume discussion, and responding to questions that are raised, will be a more useful way of dealing with this question. To introduce the topic however I will paraphrase some remarks I made at a seminar on working Towards an Asian Agenda also held in the Punjab, in Chandigarh just six months ago.

I noted then the need for more concerted Asian inputs in what current dominant forces believe is a unipolar world. This belief has led now to greater terrorist activity that threatens all of us, including the horrendous attack in this very city, less than a week ago.

One of the problems about concerted action from a South Asia perspective is possible worries about India taking a leading role. That seems essential, for reasons of geography as well as the size and wealth of India in comparison with its neighbours. But I recognize that this point may be challenged, and most obviously by Pakistan.

Personally I regret this, and I regret too the manipulation of the post-colonial situation in South Asia from the time in which the then dominant world powers realized the independence of their colonies was inevitable. The dispensation put in place then led to an othering confrontational situation, as opposed to the more civilized inclusive approach that should have been normal for the East.

All that however is water under the bridge, and we have to recognize that the suspicions that were engendered during the Cold War years will not be easy to overcome. Instead of engaging in wishful platitudes therefore, we need to think of ways in which the rest of South Asia will worry less about domination by one of our number. I was impressed then by the fact that the seminar in Chandigarh included participants from Central Asia, because that is a region which has ancient cultural and trade connections to the South, but it was cut away because of the dichotomies of the colonial era.

Strengthening links is vital, but I believe this may also contribute to resolving the South Asian problem, on the model of what Paul Scott suggested when he wrote of a stone thrown into a pond leading to ever widening ripples that then connect with the ripples of another stone. At its simplest, the overwhelming threat, that India’s size can be interpreted as by one or more other countries in South Asia, diminishes in the context of a larger group which will involve countries with greater economic leverage too, such as the energy rich nations of Central Asia.

Future discussions should focus then on how regional cooperation can be expanded, so as to avoid possible perceptions of security threats. The model of the European Union, which could not be replicated in an unbalanced situation as obtained in South Asia, can be more easily replicated in a larger grouping.

At the same time the problems that now beset Europe can be avoided, by greater mutual respect for the different cultural and social perspectives in the South and Central Asian region. For while we need to focus on what we have in common, we should also celebrate differences and seek out what we can learn from each other. In particular we all need to know more about the astonishing achievements of different elements in Islam basSouthed civilizations, that move beyond the monolithic vision of Islam that leads to confrontation such as many Islamic countries – but not those in Central Asia – are suffering from now.

Such educational initiatives should also include a cohesive programme in all our countries to increase awareness of the cooperation of the past, and the cultural connectivity that flourished. The way in which civilizations built on each other, and the role of trade in promoting personal interactions even in times of political hostility, needs celebration. That may also help to reduce prejudices, as has happened through for instance the Erasmus programme in Europe.

I should note too that, in addition to increasing cooperation with Central Asia, we should as a body move also towards better relations with ASEAN. That too will I think help to kick start SAARC again since – to return to Paul Scott’s metaphor of stones creating wider circles – success with other bodies will help to get over the distrust within SAARC that I have noted.

For this purpose I believe it would be helpful if there were regular meetings of senior administrators in our countries to work out not just common approaches, but also structures that would facilitate cooperation. At present SAARC centres hardly function, though I did find, when I was Secretary to the Ministry of Disaster Management, that the SAARC Disaster Management Centre was an exception – and largely I think because of the excellent understanding between the Indian and the Pakistani heads of the relevant institutions, both professionals of the highest calibre.

More cooperation in such fields would I think help to bring us closer together, and also help countries like Sri Lanka, which no longer has as good civil servants as India and Pakistan have, to develop greater professionalism that would help to overcome the predilections of politicians. These can be destructive at times, for obvious reasons, but a bedrock of professional understanding would I think help us to work together more productively.

bookLe dernier ouvrage de Rajiva Wijesinha, « Triomphe et désastre : les années Rajapaksa » est un remarquable document sur les premières années au pouvoir de Rajapaksa qui constituèrent un tournant de l’histoire récente du Sri Lanka.

L’ouvrage célèbre la victoire sur la terreur du LTTE des tigres tamouls, qui avait imprégné tous les aspects de la vie des Sri Lankais au cours du dernier quart de siècle. Il donne un aperçu exceptionnel du travail d’une institution de l’état qui a joué un rôle central, même lorsqu’il a dû s’adapter aux circonstances lorsque le LTTE des tigres tamouls a imposé un changement radical de tactiques, en déplaçant le terrain de confrontation de la table des négociations à un champ de bataille féroce où les civils furent transformés en chair à canon.

C’est un récit personnel de grande qualité des événements tels qu’ils se déroulèrent de juin 2007, quand Rajiva Wijesinha fut nommé secrétaire général au secrétariat chargé de la coordination des pourparlers de paix et la fin de la guerre en mai 2009. En juin 2008, il fut aussi chargé du secrétariat au ministère des droits humains et de la gestion des catastrophes et son récit se trouve ainsi enrichi des expériences vécues au fil de cette période.

En dehors du caractère fascinant du texte et de sa description colorée et vivante des caractères et des situations, des intrigues et des duplicités étayées par une abondante documentation, j’ai trouvé dans cet ouvrage les pièces du puzzle qui manquaient à l’image que je m’étais faite de ce morceau d’histoire à partir du confortable point de vue dont je bénéficiais à Genève.

Quand je dis Genève, je n’évoque pas seulement l’année passée en tant que représentant permanent du Sri Lanka auprès des Nations-Unies, mais bien la part la plus importante de ma vie passée à Genève à étudier et travailler autour et alentour du système des Nation-Unies. Plus de dix années furent ainsi consacrées au service du Haut-Commissariat aux Droits de l’Homme. J’ai vu et vécu ce fonctionnement sous de nombreux angles : en tant qu’étudiant à l’Institut des Etudes Internationales à Genève qui formait les agents à ces fonctions, plus tard comme employée internationale et, plus récemment, comme représentante d’un état membre. Read the rest of this entry »

Lord Finchley tried to mend the Electric Light

Himself. It struck him dead: And serve him right!

It is the business of the wealthy man

To give employment to the artisan.

It was not only in Sri Lanka that, from the inception until very recently, Vocational Training was seen mainly in terms on Technical Education. This is understandable in that this constituted the bulk of what were seen as vocations in earlier days. This was to ignore the socially common use of the word ‘vocation’ as denoting an occupation to which one was committed. On the contrary, vocation when used in conjunction with education or training was seen as equivalent to the word job, such training being designed to find employment. And, to venture into social theory, those who needed to find employment were concerned about blue collar jobs – as opposed to those who, from the gilded halls of the 19th century British university, glided into an occupation, even if it was only smoking.

What might be termed class structures in education continued for a long time in Britain, the most class ridden of societies, at least until the last quarter of the last century, except possibly for Sri Lanka. I still recall the scorn for polytechnics, and the horror at Oxford when these became universities.

Sri Lanka, the last bastion of imperialism, has continued with the dichotomies that Britain has got rid of. We still think of degrees as a precious commodity, to be confined to a very few. Though finally, eight years ago, what was termed the National Institute of Technical Education became a university, it produced hardly any graduates until the last couple of years. And though things are now changing, there is still a tendency to work towards academic qualifications, without stress on practical applications.

We still think in terms of the dichotomy of working with hands and working with the mind. The assumptions of superiority that this dichotomy caused were regrettable. But the division was understandable when the bulk of real work was done in industry and agriculture, with those not engaged in active work functioning at a vast remove physically and conceptually. And it was they after all who decided, as Lewis Carroll might have put it, what words meant.

All that has now changed. The expansion of the middle class has been accompanied by an expansion of what might, to extend the class metaphor, be termed middle level occupations. In addition to work based on technical capacity that is more sophisticated than what was considered the preserve of the blue collar worker, a large proportion of the economy in many countries, and certainly in Sri Lanka, is now based on services. However, while traditional universities develop sophisticated technology skills, there is little training in government educational institutes in Sri Lanka to cater to the service sector. And the general education provided by schools and universities has proved unable to satisfy the needs of many employers. Read the rest of this entry »

‘Success in War: My time at the Peace Secretariat, 2007-2009’

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Continued from yesterday

Presentation by Tamara Kunanayakam

On the occasion of the Launch of Prof. Rajiva Wijesinha’s book, Triumph and Disaster: The Rajapaksa years on 18 February 2015

Rajiva Wijesinha provides a fascinating insider account of the first appearance of RtoP and how Sri Lanka was framed with the help of the “conglomerate of interventionist’ NGOs, who had been built up with foreign funds during the previous regime. Not surprisingly, the concept was introduced at the same time the LTTE was defeated in the East, also in July 2007, and by none other than the man who pioneered the concept, the former Australian Foreign Minister Gareth Evans. Evans had been invited by the International Centre for Ethnic Studies to give the Neelan Tiruchelvam Memorial Lecture entitled “The Limits of State Sovereignty: The Responsibility to Protect in the 21st Century.” At the time, Evans happened to be President and CEOof the International Crisis Group and Co-Chair of the Global Centre for the Responsibility to Protect.

Rajiva reveals the existence of a veritable conspiracy. Allegations began to be fabricated for future use in a claim that the State was engaged in genocide, ethnic cleansing, war crimes or crimes against humanity, or other similar mass atrocity crimes. And so began the step-by-step building of a case that found its way into the notorious Darusman Report and then into the reports of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights. That there was indeed a strategy to frame Sri Lanka became evident many years later, in 2013, when Sri Lanka was chosen as one of six countries for RtoP application by a US working group on “The United States and RtoP: from words to action,” which was co-chaired by former Secretary of the US State Department, Madeleine Albright, and US Presidential Envoy to Sudan, Richard Williamson. Gareth Evans was part of that group.

July 2007 – Entry of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights

It is in this political and military context that characterised mid-2007 that the then UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Louise Arbour, also paid a visit to the country. She arrived in July 2007, accompanied by Rory Mungoven. Rajiva’s describes in much detail the insidious role played by Rory Mungoven, who was known as an interventionist and had been a constant in the affairs Sri Lanka ever since his appointment as UN Human Rights Advisor following the Ceasefire Agreement (CFA) in 2002. Before joining OHCHR, Mungoven had been Advocacy Director at Human Rights Watch and Asia-Pacific Programme Director at Amnesty International. He returned with Louise Arbour advocating the establishment of a monitoring mission in the form of a field office, which, elsewhere, had become discredited as channels for Western intervention. Mungoven was back again more recently, with the newest High Commissioner, Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein, to discuss implementation of the controversial 2015 Human Rights Council resolution. In the 8th February edition of The Island, I wrote of the insidious role that had been played by OHCHR, and continues to play.

Defeat of LTTE – battlefield shifts to Geneva

One would have expected the venom to subside when the Sri Lankan leadership succeeded in defeating a formidable terrorist outfit, singlehandedly and without the need for outside intervention. Elsewhere, such a feat would have been considered laudable by the same Western powers. After all, fighting terrorism is their new battle cry.

But that did not happen, and the viciousness returned with a vengeance. A Special Session was attempted in May 2009to stop a final victory against the LTTE, but the West failed to mobilise the support needed. Rajiva reveals how already then, the West had been seriously contemplated a War Crimes Tribunal.

The West did, however, succeed in obtaining the Special Session they wanted a few days after the war ended, but not its outcome. Rajiva describes how the strategy adopted by Sri Lanka’s newly appointed Permanent Representative to the UN, Dayan Jayatilleke had proved effective in isolating the adversary. That victory demonstrated the importance of mounting a robust defence as a means of deflecting attacks. Had the team in Geneva remained passive, defeat would have been inevitable with a British-led draft resolution already on the table. Dayan’s strategy was to prevent the draft resolution from being taken up at all, and the only way to do so was to refuse to negotiate the text and to persuade enough members to make known that they would not support any move that would place Sri Lanka on the agenda. Rajiva describes how crucial to isolating the opponent was the close coordination between the Permanent Representative and the Peace Secretariat with its first-hand knowledge of the ground situation. This knowledge, combined with an understanding of the motivations and internal contradictions of the adversary, and the ability to recognise the community of interests with the developing world, was what had permitted the team to respond rapidly and aggressively to unsubstantiated attacks and to expose the duplicity of the Western power, thus putting them on the defensive and weakening their position.

In September 2011, another failed attempt to place Sri Lanka on the agenda followed, this time with Canada acting as Washington’s proxy, give that the US was not a member of the Human Rights Council. I was then Sri Lanka’s Permanent Representative in Geneva and found myself facing a furious US Ambassador, Eileen Donahoe, who exploded, “We’ll get you next time!” Six months later, the US, which had by then become a member, took the lead and two resolutions followed in 2012 and 2013, culminating in the notorious 2015 resolution that was adopted without a vote, because of co-sponsorship by the new pro-Washington Government in Colombo.

With this precedent-setting resolution posing a very real threat to Sri Lanka’s sovereignty, the publication of Rajiva’s book is indeed very timely,

 False projection of Tamil reality – the Sri Lankan tragedy

An important aspect of Rajiva’s account is its exposure of the irresponsible and persistent projection by Sri Lankan politicians of Tamils as a homogenous group, not a heterogeneous community with its differences based on class, caste and geographic origin, and reflecting a diversity of social and political forces. The book is replete with examples of the heterogeneous character of Tamils in Sri Lanka and contains a catalogue of abuses by the LTTE against other Tamils showing they were the first and most immediate victims of its terror.

And yet, despite the obvious, all the protagonists in the Sri Lankan tragedy – the LTTE, successive Sri Lankan governments and Western powers – have all subscribed to this distortion of Tamil reality. Rajiva’s narrative shows how this false projection served in many ways to justify the policies of successive governments under the Presidencies of J.R. Jayewardene, Premadasa and CBK, resulting in the recognition of the LTTE as the “sole representative of the Tamil people ‘to the detriment of other political and social forces that could have represented a democratic alternative. Premadasa had even actively supported the LTTE against other Tamil political forces, who had come into mainstream politics following the 1987 Indo-Lankan Accord.

The 2002 Cease Fire Accord signed by the Ranil Wickremesinghe government under President CBK went so far as to recognise the LTTE as the sole representative of the Tamils, a recognition that prevented other Tamil forces from complaining against LTTE abuses. And since the government did not complain either, there are no proper records of the horrors inflicted by the LTTE against the people that it claimed to represent. During this period, millions of rupees were given to the LTTE, channelled through the UN and authorised by the Government of Ranil Wickremasinghe. Despite ample evidence that the LTTE was arming itself and expanding its operations into new areas, the Wickremasinghe government continued to pretend that the CFA was working.

CBK was no different. She had shown readiness to negotiate with the LTTE on the basis of a controversial LTTE proposal for an Internal Self-Governing Authority, which, if accepted, would have given it totalitarian powers. She then signed the P-TOMS agreement, clauses of which were found to be unconstitutional by the Supreme Court. In privileging the LTTE, CBK failed to talk to the moderate Tamil forces until after it was too late. By the time she put forward a package to appeal to the moderates, Neelan Tiruchelvam had been assassinated and the LTTE had gained full control of the North and also its politicians. To make matters worse, the UNP literally burnt that package in Parliament.

By projecting Tamils as a homogenous group, our politicians have, wittingly or unwittingly, aided the LTTE in gaining legitimacy as “the sole representative of the Tamil people,” and thereby also, validating its demand for a separate State. Rajiva’s account helps understand how the propagation of the false perceptionhelped frame a RtoP case against Sri Lanka, providing Washington the precedent it needs at the United Nationsto legitimise unilateral intervention under the controversial third pillar of RtoP.

The repeated references by successive Sri Lankan governments to the existence a so-called “Tamil Diaspora”, whether in a positive sense or a negative sense, only further reinforces this false perception, and unless we are ready to learn from the lessons of history, we will continue to be a divided people.

In my view, the false perception of Tamils as a homogenous community is what has been – and will continue to be – the paramount obstacle to achieving lasting peace and building a common Sri Lankan identity, one that is based on justice and equality. The fiction that the conflict was between the Sinhala majority and the Tamil minority may suit politicians vying for power within Sri Lanka,it also suits Western powers seeking to intervene in the country’s internal affairs, but it positively does not serve the interests of the Sri Lankan people, nor their aspirations for a society in which they have the sovereign right to determine their own destiny.

A challenge to re-appropriate our history

One cannot sufficiently emphasise the importance of perpetuating memory. If we fail in this responsibility, we will risk seeing our history re-written by others. Rajiva’s book is a challenge to all of us to re-appropriate a decisive sequence of our recent history, and is a must read for each and every one of us!

Island 22 February 2016 – http://www.island.lk/index.php?page_cat=article-details&page=article-details&code_title=140792

‘Success in War: My time at the Peace Secretariat, 2007-2009’

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Tamara Kunanayakam

 

At first, they sought to wield influence through their support to the LTTE. The presence of pro-Western UNP governments under the Presidency of CBK was also reassuring. Rajiva’s book is replete with facts and figures demonstrating the mutually-reinforcing relationship that existed in particular between the CBK-Ranil Wickremesinghe regime, the LTTE, Western powers, sections of the UN, and interventionist NGOs – both national and international. During this period, millions of rupees in foreign funding had gone to finance the LTTE – authorised by the UNF government, even after the LTTE had made clear it would not attend the negotiations. Funding to the”conglomerate of like-minded interventionists,” as Rajiva described the NGOs, was on a massive scale, coming in good stead during the Rajapaksa years when this “funding for peace” was “diverted to critics of government,” which is the title of the book’s Chapter 6.


Presentation by Tamara Kunanayakam

 

On the occasion of the Launch of Prof. Rajiva Wijesinha’s latest book, 18 February 2015

 

Rajiva’s latest book, Triumph and Disaster: the Rajapaksa Years, is a remarkable documentary of the first Rajapaksa years that constituted a turning point in Sri Lanka’s recent history. The book celebrates the victory over LTTE terror, which had determined almost every aspect of our lives for a quarter of a century.

 

It provides an exceptional insight into the work of a state institution that played a central role, even as it had to adapt to changing circumstances when the LTTE forced a radical shift from talks across the negotiating table to a brutal war in which it transformed civilians into cannon fodder. It is a profound personal account of the events as they unfolded between June 2007, when Rajiva was appointed Secretary-General of the Secretariat for Coordinating the Peace Process, and the end of the war in May 2009. In June 2008, he was also appointed Secretary to the Ministry of Disaster Management and Human Rights, and his account, therefore, also includes insights gained while he was there. Apart from providing fascinating reading, painting as it does a vivid image of the characters and events,the duplicityand the intrigues, substantiated by a wealth of documentation, I found in his book pieces of the puzzle that were missing in my own analysis, from my Geneva vantage point.

 

When I say Geneva, I don’t mean only the year I spent as Permanent Representative of Sri Lanka to the United Nations. I mean most of my adult life, which I spent in Geneva, studying and working in and around the UN System, of which more than 10 years were in the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights. I had seen and experienced the functioning of the UN System from various angles: – as a student at the Graduate Institute of International Studies in Geneva, which trained international civil servants; then, as an international civil servant; and, more recently, as Permanent Representative of a Member State.

 

Unlike the LTTE yesterday, the separatist lobby today, and their Western backers, the major failure of successive Sri Lankan governments was an underestimation of the international dimension of the conflict. In my view, it is this understanding that permitted the LTTE then, and the separatist lobby today, to occupy the international space fully, made easier by the absence of the Government in this domain. My presentation will, therefore, essentially focus on the chapters that address this dimension.

 

International intervention

 

Rajiva’s book is not so much about the military operations, but about an aspect of the war that is less spectacular, but perhaps more important and more dangerous, because insidious. It is about what Rajiva calls the “battle that had to be fought to prevent the government being stalled in its tracks by international intervention.” That battle is not over and that is also why this book is a must read for anyone interested in lasting peace. Read the rest of this entry »

bookBook Review
By Enid Wirekoon

Prof. Rajiva Wijesinha had a ringside seat at recent events that shaped and defined the political environment of Sri Lanka today.

In June 2007, former President Mahinda Rajapaksa appointed Wijesinha to head his Secretariat for coordinating the Peace Process and he was in that position in May 2009 when the final military defeat of the LTTE took place.

Throughout the pages of his book, Triumph and Disaster: The Rajapaksa years, Wijesinha deals with events and people whose involvement in those events are commented on with an experienced and a critical eye that he brings to bear on the issues that confronted the army, politicians and the people. He begins his introduction by being critical of the failure of successive Governments to introduce simple reforms that may have assuaged resentments that festered and led to violence. He has no hesitation in concluding that politicians have failed the people with their own interest being put before all else in order to cling on to power. His stinging criticisms of the LTTE and its leadership are also set out in vivid detail.

The book highlights issues that are of contemporary concern by posing such questions as to how President Sirisena can keep in office such persons as the present Foreign Minister who on the 20th of September 2015 launched a savage attack on the armed forces of Sri Lanka who, he alleged in committing war crimes, were “following orders”. The author adds, “I did not expect the government under President Sirisena to thus attack our own armed forces”, and goes on to assert that he cannot believe that the President accepts, that large scale violation in terms of policy were carried out from above. The author’s observations in this regard are in fact coincide with the findings of the recent Paranagama Second Mandate Report which holds that there was no such overarching plan by the then Government to wantonly kill civilians.

With regard to the issue of child soldiers recruited by the LTTE, the author does not hesitate to pull his punches by saying that the Rajapaksa Government failed to deal with the problem robustly, and permitted the international community to gain the impression cultivated by the LTTE that this was all down to the Karuna faction. The NGO, Human Rights Watch does not escape the lash of the author’s condemnation with the remark that “Sri Lankan forces have been far more careful about civilians than many governments which HRW does not seem inclined to criticize with the same personal intensity”. He also alleges, that HRW worked abroad to rally opinion to stop the war against the LTTE and that “coincidentally”, their diatribes emerged just before Sessions of the Human Rights Council in Geneva which was the pattern to be followed later by Channel 4. Read the rest of this entry »

AustraliaI am pleased to have been asked to speak at this event, because over the last few years I have grown increasingly conscious of the strength of our friendship with Australia. Perhaps the most intelligent new friend I made in the last couple of decades was one of the Australian High Commissioners to Sri Lanka. I also found enormous sympathy and support from the last two High Commissioners. The first of them, Kathy Klugman, who had been Deputy to my great friend in the nineties, was the first foreign envoy to categorically condemn the Tigers, when the rest of the Western oriented world was being mealy mouthed about them. I still recall her telling me, soon after she came here, early in 2008, that she thought the Sri Lankan government would have cause for satisfaction in the first press release she was going to issue. She was quite correct.

Her successor brought the relationship to the two countries to a new height, at a time of increasing international difficulty. Indeed she suffered for this, in the onslaught on Australia that took place earlier this year by the new government. But, as she put it in a mild but anguished defence (unlike the more forthright criticism of her Deputy), she and her government had not compromised on issues of Rights and Reconciliation. I had recognized this when, at the time of the Commonwealth Heads of Government meeting in Colombo in 2013, which Tony Abbott attended, I wrote – ‘We should also make clear our appreciation of countries such as India and Australia, which others were trying to dragoon into opposition to us, but which, without compromising on suggestions as to how we could do more to promote Reconciliation, maintained and asserted their confidence in our capacity to improve things for all our people.’

Grateful though we should be to Tony Abbott for coming to Sri Lanka in 2013, I have to admit that I have no regrets about him being toppled, inasmuch as he was replaced by someone I shared a house with nearly 40 years ago in Oxford. Malcolm Turnbull was indeed kind enough to spare a lot of time for me when I was last in Australia. At the time – having been replaced by Abbott as leader of the Liberal Party in yet another of the interminable internal coups that seem to characterize Australian politics in recent years – there seemed no chance of him getting into power. But I was delighted to find him as iconoclastic as ever. He regaled me with tales of the Spycatcher Trial in which he had taken on the British establishment in the interests of Freedom of Information, a value we should – as pledged in the President’s manifesto – be doing much more to uphold. Read the rest of this entry »

 

ceylon todayBy Rathindra Kuruwita

Prof. Rajiva Wijesinha who initially defected from the Rajapaksa regime along with President Maithripala Sirisena and later supported Mahinda Rajapaksa at the last general election said while he was ‘glad’ the change was made said the incumbent government too like the previous regime was making the mistake of doing ‘too little too late’ in terms of reconciliation.

Q. You are planning to publish a book on education, a collection of your old essays. Did you choose to publish the book at this time for a specific reason?

A. When I found myself without a formal occupation in August, I thought it was a good opportunity to reflect on the past and engage in some assessments. A publisher agreed to bring out three books, though two of them are in fact collections of articles. The most important of these, is on Reform, Rights and Good Governance, and it will be available at Godage’s from the 22nd, when it will be launched by the Speaker and Sarath Amunugama.

There is another book on poetry, and also a new book, currently being serialized in Ceylon Today on The Rajapaksa Years: Triumph and Disaster. The first part of this, Success in War, will also come out later this year.

In collecting old writings, I remembered that I had thought of doing the same with my writings on education several years ago. I had prepared something earlier this year, soon after I ceased to be Minister of Higher Education, which put together a lot of ideas which built on my earlier experiences too. Given that the situation has got much worse than it was a decade back, I thought it desirable to publish the earlier essays. Read the rest of this entry »

Rajiva Wijesinha

May 2016
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