Press Conference by Under Secretary Maria Otero and Assistant Secretary Robert O. Blake, Jr. in Colombo - 13 Feb 2012

1) Would you be willing to send a brief response to the US govt’s publicly announced stance that they will support a resolution against SL at the UNHRC in March?

They have argued that the LLRC report has not covered accountability issues in sufficient detail – and therefore they will support a “straightforward resolution” which will call for a credible, transparent mechanism to probe the war crimes allegations. 

2) Ambassador Blake also made it clear that if there are shortcomings in such a domestic mechanism, SL would have to face international pressure for an external probe.

3) Ambassador Blake further backed the TNA’s position that a solution must first be reached in the bilateral discussions between the govt and the TNA, and that such a solution could be the basis of discussion at a PSC. How do you view this development?

Thanks for the questions, though I am not sure of the basis on which you have constructed them. I have not been in Colombo for some days, so missed the reports of what transpired during the American visit, but the transcript of the press conference that the Embassy issued gave a different impression. Under Secretary Otero suggested a more nuanced approach, whereas Assistant Secretary Blake seemed to be more threatening.

What he said could be interpreted on the lines you have suggested, and perhaps that was intentional, but I would prefer to go along with the Otero approach on the grounds that there are still some civilized people in the American administration. After all, when she says that a resolution is intended to provide ‘an opportunity for the government of Sri Lanka to describe what it intends to do to implement the LLRC’s recommendations and advance reconciliation as well as address accountability, human rights, and democracy concerns’, she is only repeating what I have been saying, as Adviser on Accountability, for a very long time.

The problem is that the Americans are often schizophrenic on these matters, because their foreign policy seems to be based on ignorance and thuggery, though this is sandwiched between a plethora of good intentions that often tend to pave a road to Hell. The problem is that, given their power and prestige, the Hell they create is for other people, like the Afghans who suffered the Taliban the Americans supported to get rid of the Soviets, or the Iraqis who died in tens of thousands so the Americans could get rid of the Saddam Hussein they once supported when Iran seemed the greater enemy. But, as in these cases, they always have good reasons for their support for the insupportable, such as Papa Doc Duvalier in Haiti or Pinochet in Chile, and I rather fear they believe in those good reasons through that strange dove-like innocence they manage to combine with serpentine cunning.

Take their effusions about the Russian and Chinese veto with regard to Syria. The way they speak of the general will being thwarted, you would think they have no memory at all of the countless times  America has vetoed United Nations resolutions about Palestine. And, sadly, it is their unthinking support for Israeli extremists that has completely destroyed that Jewish moderation and practicality, as represented by Rabin, which has no place now in Israeli politics.

Robert Blake meets with GTF President, Rev. Father S.J.Emmanuel (Germany), President USTPAC - Dr. Elias Jeyarajah, Mrs. Grace Williams (USA) and Suren Surendiran (UK) - 28 March 2011 at the U.S. State Department in Washington.

I think, if one is to read between the lines, that that was the most frightening thing about Bob’s version of the American position, that he seemed to be privileging the extremists in the TNA, which was not what Ms Otero suggested. I have been told by an Indian journalist friend that those extremists are now getting a lot of money, and I fear this may lead to intransigence and a sidelining of the moderates – as happened in the past too, when Amirthalingam and Tambimuttu and Tiruchelvam and so on were killed, with the compromises they supported being described as traitorous.

This is what makes me certain that, contrary to what some commentators in what I call the Mangala type websites are suggesting, there is no common thinking between the Indians and the Americans. India never swerved from its opposition to terrorism, while asking us to take positive action on behalf of the Tamil people, India never flirted with Sarath Fonseka, whether to promote regime change or to use him as a lever to apply pressure for selfish reasons masquerading as altruism.

But all this speculation that those opposed to government are engaging in brings home the need for a coherent foreign policy, instead of the knee-jerk reactions to crises that we now see occurring endlessly. Fortunately the Human Rights Action Plan, which we fast forwarded while I was Secretary to the Ministry, but which was then allowed to languish because we had wrongly assumed External Affairs could look after Human Rights, has now been approved by Cabinet, and its implementation entrusted to Minister Mahinda Samarasinghe who is aware of what needs to be done.

Something similar should be done with regard to the LLRC Report, and I believe a Minister of the calbre of Sarath Amunugama or D E W Gunasekara should work on its recommendations. And, leaving aside the Constitutional reforms with regard to the national question, as to which all those in government who are keen on moving forward should work together to ensure swift progress, we should also be working more coherently on reforms to entrench democracy, in the different areas I have discussed in the last issue of the Parliamentary journal. I shall also be presenting soon for public discussion a draft towards a National Reconciliation Policy, and I hope that this is looked at seriously, adjusted as necessary, and then adopted and implemented expeditiously.

Daily Mirror 17 Feb 2012 –