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The American creation of opposites

Over the last couple of weeks Sri Lanka has had to face a number of attacks and critiques, most obviously the latest film from Channel 4, but also reports from both Amnesty International and the International Crisis Group. These focus, often directly, on the resolution about Sri Lanka that has been proposed by the United States of America, and is being lobbied for by that country and some of its allies in an intensive fashion all over the world, in a manner that few countries have had to face.

Why is this? Why did the American Permanent Representative here tell ours last September that, whether or not the LLRC Report was a good one, they would get us this time round? Perhaps she spoke in the heat of frustrated persuasiveness, perhaps she was misunderstood, but this intensity is strange, and seems immensely at odds with what the resolution is presented as, namely a way of supporting Sri Lanka in its efforts at Reconciliation after several decades of brutal conflict.

The actual wording of the resolution however belies that claim, as Sri Lanka’s most accomplished student of foreign policy, as well as one of its best diplomats, Dayan Jayatilleka, made clear in his recent deconstruction of the resolution. It not only asserts that the Report of Sri Lanka’s Lessons Learnt and Reconciliation Commission is inadequate, it flouts all principles of the United Nations and the principles of this Council in trying to impose external mechanisms on a country that is simply suspected of not doing all that others want it to do.

The absurdity of the allegations now being advanced is strengthened by the way in which goalposts have shifted over the years. Whenever one query is satisfied, another is produced in its place. Those who were at the Human Rights Council in May 2009 will remember the allegations being made at the time that several European countries had demanded a special session because they were worried about the fate of the Tamils of the Wanni who had been displaced by the conflict, and about the future of former LTTE cadres. This concern was belied by the assertion in the House of Commons by the then British Foreign Minister, David Miliband, that the special session was meant to be about war crimes, a startlingly hyocritical statement from a government that had cooked up evidence about Weapons of Mass Destruction and driven a brave scientist to suicide, if that indeed is how he died, when he tried to expose the deceit.

We have now resettled all the displaced, more quickly than in any similar situation elsewhere in the world, and rehabilitated nearly all former cadres, but the persecution continues. Later we were told that the LLRC could not be trusted because it had been appointed by government and included individuals whom some elements in the international community thought untrustworthy. Then, when the LLRC produced a sharp and potentially very productive report, which was welcomed with few reservations by almost all countries except the United States, we are told that we will not implement it.

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"Whether the LLRC report is good or not, we will get you in March" – US representative to the UNHRC in Geneva Elieen Donahoe

I was shocked last evening to be told that this was what the US Permanent Representative to the UN in Geneva had told her Sri Lankan counterpart last in September 2011. The occasion was when she was trying to persuade the latter to accept an Interactive Dialogue on Sri Lanka, which I believe the Canadians were advancing at the time.

I suppose I should not have been surprised. The United States has been pursuing an extraordinary campaign against us, which has saddened me, because I remember the very positive approach that US officials evinced in the period in which others were resentful of us for having got rid of the LTTE from the East. The US Aid Director Rebecca Cohn, the Public Affairs Officer Jeff Anderson, led a team under then Ambassador Bob Blake which helped us considerably in rebuilding efforts.

In 2009 however something changed. Bob was supposed to have told a former American State Dept employee that the reason was he served a different government, but I suspect things went deeper. A clue was provided when, in August, Rebecca did something she should not have done, which she later told me she thought was unwise, but which her superiors had wanted.

This was to write on her own to Basil Rajapaksa, to say the same thing I had indicated, at a meeting with regard to the Displaced that was held at Minister Rishard Bathiudeen’s office. I thought, given what seemed to us delays, that I should suggest to Mr Rajapaksa that we needed to move more quickly on returning the displaced, and I did so the following morning.

I was called almost immediately by Mr Rajapaksa, who was uncharacteristically harsh and asked me what made me think he would not live up to his commitment. He said he had promised to return a large number of the displaced in six months, and he would do so, though it might take a couple of months longer. Six months did not mean half in three months, he said, noting what he had accomplished in the East, and that I should tell this to my friends.

I did not know what he meant by this last point, and asked, and he said he had received a similar letter from Rebecca. Naturally he had assumed we were acting in concert. I was shocked, and made it clear to him that I was quite capable of thinking and acting on my own, though I suspect that to this day he has a lingering doubt that I am influenced by external forces. When I called up Rebecca and reprimanded her, she was suitably contrite, but I realized then that not only does the United States want certain results that most of us would want, it requires desperately to take the credit for this. Read the rest of this entry »

Rajiva Wijesinha

March 2012
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