After the Resolution targeting Sri Lanka was passed in Geneva in March, there seemed to be a scramble in the Ministry of External Affairs to jump on what was seen as a Western bandwagon. The egregious Dharisha Bastians engaged in much bashing of many of those entrusted with various aspects of international relations over the preceding few years who had also been in the forefront of advocating, long before the LLRC made its report, that we should move swiftly towards reconciliation.

Instead, claiming to have inside information from the Ministry, which may well have been the case, she declared that a decision had been made to cleave to the West. This was accompanied by active denigration of many countries that had supported Sri Lanka in the last few years.

The claim was that this was the new approach the President had adopted rang false given his long commitment to the traditional principles of SLFP Foreign Policy. Sadly the triumphalists in the Ministry went so far as to attack one of the principles of SLFP Foreign Policy, namely close relations with India, in that they even tried to sabotage the meeting the President had scheduled with the Indian Parliamentary delegation that visited Sri Lanka soon after the Geneva sessions. It was only a quick intervention by the Presidential Secretariat that saved the day then.

Recently they have been active again. The various false pronouncements that emanated from the Ministry about the recent visit of a delegation from South Africa is symptomatic of this incapacity to see virtue anywhere in the developing world. South Africa has a tremendous amount to offer Sri Lanka in terms of the experiences that country has been through, but those who have no understanding of foreign policy and think knee jerk reactions sufficient cannot appreciate the need to widen our horizons.

Now they have struck again, in trying to remove Tamara Kunanayagam as Chairperson of the Working Group on the Right to Development. I can do no better than quote then from the letter sent to her by the Chief of the Right to Development section of the UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights – ‘It is a pity that the Government has made a decision too quickly. I wonder if the Government has considered its implications for the NAM…It is unlikely that a new Chairperson will be found in a week or so. Now the decision rests with NAM. Otherwise there will be no presentation of the report’.

I cannot believe that the President is aware of this decision. It is certainly unlikely that he would have chosen the week of the NAM meeting in Teheran to dismiss a diplomat selected for her personal capacity to chair so important a group, if the wider framework of human rights is not to be forgotten in fulfillment of the more narrow perspectives of Western countries.

Whether this is policy or vindictiveness on the part of the Ministry, this measure suggests that the delay in Ms Kunanayagam’s appointment to Cuba is also an effort to sabotage the President’s decision to develop relations with South America. He had discussed with her a wider brief, but that clearly the Ministry will not allow. Now it seems they are trying to get her to resign, since they know that, by virtue of the excellent relations she enjoys with decision makers on that continent, she will ensure better understanding even if her powers are limited. But that it seems is what the current decision makers in the Ministry do not want.