Of the two separate attacks made on me by Radhika Coomaraswamy, I was obviously more hurt personally by her efforts to classify me as a racist. I believe this technique, which she has used on multiple occasions, not only against me but even against Tamils who cross her path, needs to be exposed in its own right. It is part of a demonizing othering that, if not challenged, will leave only Radhika and her friends as possible associates for those who believe in and promote pluralistic values for Sri Lanka.

But there was another peculiar aspect to her attack last week, which also needs clarification if only for the record. This relates to the incident which provoked her ire at the beginning of 2008 (even though it is now obvious that her demonizing of me had begun somewhat earlier, with what seemed the first signs of success for the approach Dayan Jayatilleka had employed in Geneva, and for which he had introduced me as part of the delegation to the Human Rights Council). Radhika came out firing openly as it were only when what was happening at ICES was questioned.

So now she not only claims that nothing was wrong there, but also that I was engaging in ‘near racist constructions of Tamil “mata haris”’ so as to create a ‘narrative for Sinhala nationalist consumption’. In short, the weapon of choice for international consumption, the claim that anyone who opposes Radhika’s preferred options is racist, was trotted out to protect the Rama Mani regime at ICES.

Why such underhand defence mechanisms? Are they due only to deep anxiety about Rama? Radhika’s version is that she had no agenda herself with regard to the Responsibility to Protect doctrine in relation to Sri Lanka, albeit she claims this in an article in which she declares a passionate commitment to the doctrine itself. The question however is, did Radhika know or not that Rama Mani had in July 2007 accepted the offer of the Global Centre on R2P to make ICES a Southern Affiliated Centre? Since she was on the GCR2P Advisory Board, it is difficult to believe that its executive authorities had neither consulted nor informed her about the acceptance, let alone the offer.

Rama Mani did not bother to inform the ICES Board in Colombo of the offer until December, and she did not reveal even then that she had accepted it, and that ICES was listed on the GCR2P website as an Associated Centre. Till now there has not been even the slightest sign from Radhika to acknowledge that Rama did something wrong in keeping the matter concealed from the Board for five months, even though both of them knew that enough controversy about R2P had been created by the lecture Gareth Evans gave when Rama had invited him to deliver the Neelan Tiruchelvam Memorial Lecture in July.

Radhika claims she did not know what Gareth Evans was going to say, but it is difficult to believe that she did not know, as one who was constantly in touch with ICES, what would be the subject of his talk. Certainly she was well aware afterwards of the problems the talk created so, even if she claims she had ‘no say in matters at ICES’ (as she told me on January 21st 2008), it is telling that she continues to think Rama did nothing wrong.

Pradeep Jeganathan

But of course she continued to have a say, relentlessly. One excuse for this was that those who had played a part in hiring Rama had a responsibility towards her. This makes sense for Radhika certainly seems to have been the moving spirit in the appointment. Though she claimed on January 28th 2008 that she had ‘encouraged many Sri Lankans to apply’, including Pradeep Jeganathan, three days earlier she had written that the Board of management said it would resign and the staff said they would go on strike because Pradeep is very theoretical and confrontational and had alienated many people. So we went for an open search by a search committee headed by Gananath Obeyesekere and Rama was completely ahead of the rest’.

This was simply not true, as regards the Board, though it is possible that some individual members of the Board of management whom Radhika had spoken to had expressed opposition to Pradeep. And to make crystal clear the depths of deceit Radhika can descend to when she has a particular goal in view, a few weeks earlier, on January 3rd, she had written, to one of the senior researchers at ICES, ‘Rama was the only person of any academic qualification that applied and though I encouraged many of you to apply none of you did so there really was not much of a choice’.

Bradman Weerakoon, who admitted that Rama had applied for the post after this had been suggested to her, granted that Jeganathan might be slightly disgruntled because he was, kind of overlooked, when it came to the position of Executive Director. That is to say he was brought almost to the point of being granted the position and it was taken away. So he might have been upset about that. Interestingly, though Radhika was later to belabour those at ICES who were critical of Rama Mani as though they were responsible for the publicity that attended the dismissal of Rama Mani, it was Bradman Weerakoon who first went public with the problems. His technique then was to suggest that Rama was under siege only in order to make a favoured appointment in her place, a not so thinly veiled attack on Pradeep Jeganathan.

 This ruthless sacrificing of others is not something Bradman or Radhika would think wrong if it was the only way of achieving their goals. But the question arises, why was it so important to ensure that Rama stayed on? I cannot but think that Rama had been actually brought in initially by Radhika, not least because this has never been clearly denied, whilst circumlocutions are used to suggest something different. Bradman’s comment is typical – A lot of people said that she was Radhika’s appointee and so on, but that is absolute rubbish. Rama Mani knew Neelan from 1994. She got to know Radhika only much later. But Radhika, I must say, was quite interested in her qualifications, her general outlook, her personality and the way she conducted herself.’ Neelan of course had long been dead (killed by the Tigers though Gareth Evans seemed unaware of this) by the time it was suggested to Rama that she apply to ICES, and no one else has been indicated as the person who did the suggesting.

Radhika admits that it was she whocalled a Board meeting went to Kandy and they welcomed her appointment, which suggests something of a fait accompli. This was after she had continued on the ICES Board with permission of the UN, as she puts it, to personally attend the Board meeting and hand over power.’ The last phrase suggests her delusions of grandeur as ICES Executive Director, and why she felt she had to preside over the handing over to a chosen nominee.

And the story of how she continued to cling to power even after she had ‘handed over power’ is one that will bear telling on its own, even if we can only speculate about what she was trying to achieve with all that power.

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