Trying to understand the role of the West in the election is not easy, not least because the West too is not a monolith. I have no doubt that most thinking persons amongst Western diplomats, including the UN, had no illusions about General Fonseka, and would have been bemused had he been elected, even if he had refrained from carrying out the aggressive policy of revenge that constituted his principal election promises. But some of them, by seeming to bless the candidacy of a military man and dancing attendance at the union of unlikely partners, suggested that they thought this a wheeze that deserved encouragement.

After all they would not have been human had they not been influenced by their principal interlocutors in Colombo. Some of them still believed, at the time the Tigers were overcome, that the government was intrinsically chauvinistic in its outlook, and thus they could well have welcomed what seemed a breach in the governmental coalition they thought alien to the Western values many still believe supreme. One of my enduring memories of international attitudes to this country is, after all, of one of the sharper American diplomats at the time of the Indo-Lankan Accord exulting, when the Tigers began a suicidal hunger strike, at what he termed Gandhian policies being turned against India.

This was when it seemed that India had dealt firmly with the Cold War adventurism that President Jayewardene had indulged in and, though I do not think America would have encouraged Tiger terrorism even then, some sort of sympathy for their less nasty tactics could be understood in a dispensation that had made use of the Taleban against the Soviet threat. Of course everyone is much more sane and civilized now, but then, they never thought the Taleban or Idi Amin many years previously would have turned out quite as strange as they did. So it is possible that at least one or two of them were complacent about the General, guided as he was to have been by that sweet Mr Wickremesinghe.

Certainly the impression given by those who present themselves as the anointed local agents of the West was that the General was its chosen instrument for restoring GSP+, for pursuing charges of war crimes against officers who had ignored his pleas for a gentle humanitarian approach, and for producing a political solution based on federalism for the oppressed politicians of the TNA. Sadly, far from making clear that they did not share this view, the more influential of Western players engaged in public pronouncements that could be used to support these impressions.

And there was more. The astonishing turn around of the instruments, such as the National Peace Council and the Centre for Policy Alternatives, chosen by the West for what they term advocacy, could not have happened had they not thought they were responding to Western predilections. After all, if you are wholly dependent on Western funding, you are scarcely likely to go out on a limb for the General unless you think it would be no barrier to continuing largesse. Conversely, agencies that were supportive of the incumbent President, which had sought to promote what they saw as his pluralistic vision, saw themselves as having been cold shouldered.

All these may have been only perceptions, and certainly there was no trace of the blackmail openly expressed a couple of years back by one of the less discreet diplomats who even her colleagues saw as a destructive gossip. But I believe the interests both of the Sri Lankan people, and those countries that express humanitarian concerns about them, would have been better served if agencies advocating consistently against the government had not been encouraged to think that Sri Lanka was like Iran in the eyes of the West.

The clarion call about the country being in a state of dysfunction and breakdown, which the more intelligent Western diplomats thought could never have been said, seemed designed to precipitate agitation about the election results. Had they not been as decisive as they were, I shudder to think of the sort of street fighting that the General and his deserters might have embarked upon, in full confidence that he would be presented to the world as Mr Moussavi.  Given that there is still a determination to contest the election results, and to do so through confrontation rather than through a legal process, it would seem that at least some of those behind the General feel this is a strategy that will gain support – and since the country at large has made it clear that the results are wholly acceptable, it would seem that that support is expected from external elements.

I continue, perhaps naively, to believe that such support will not be extended as a matter of policy by any country that has representation here. But individuals sometimes get carried away, by their own history or habits, and in particular by sustained social intercourse with individuals who are more compatible to Western tastes than the majority of their interlocutors in government. They ignore then the very real fears of those whom the General might have dealt with harshly in fulfillment of his campaign pledges, and believe that any effort to find out more about the plans made around those pledges is wasteful and confrontational.

It is conceivable that there were no such plans, but it is surely naïve to believe that brutal treatment of vanquished opponents is inconceivable in Sri Lanka. And if the West believes that the General and the JVP might have had uncivilized ideas, but the denizens of the drawing rooms of Colombo are above such activities, they should look again at what happened in 1977. Mr Jayewardene in those days gave leave to the police and allowed mayhem to happen, including the beginnings of concerted ethnic violence in Jaffna, concerted violence that he permitted to flourish again in 1981 and 1983. And when prisoners were massacred in Welikada Jail, not once but twice, in 1983, we were told that it was a way of allowing steam to be let off, otherwise the resentments that were bubbling over might have found other targets.

The price of liberty is constant vigilance. Certainly this must be within terms laid down by the law, but relentless complaints to the effect that a poor deprived General is being persecuted suggest a myopia that is as culpable as objections to the security systems that kept Colombo free of terrorist bombs even when the Tigers had infiltrated so thoroughly. The people of Sri Lanka have saved us from the dysfunction and breakdown that a motley crew of revengeful adventurers would have perpetrated. It would be sad if the West, or rather the few elements in it that have learnt nothing and forgotten nothing, continued to succumb to the advocacy of those they have funded for so long, and so uselessly. The positive cooperation that will help this country to develop as a pluralistic democracy should not be sacrificed on the altar of social intrigue or patronizing perversity.

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