One of the sadder aspects of Tissa Jayatilaka’s celebration of American values and conduct with regard to Sri Lanka is his suppression of the change that took place in American policy with the change of government at the beginning of 2009. While many of us thought that, in the interests of the world as well as the majority of the American citizenry, a change would be good, we knew that things would be worse for Sri Lanka if the Republicans were defeated.

We were relieved, given the manner in which the diaspora with its ties to the LTTE had cultivated Hilary Clinton, that Obama was the Democrat candidate, but we still knew things would be tough. When Obama then appointed Hilary as his Secretary of State, we had to prepare for a very different approach. Unfortunately no one in the Foreign Ministry seemed to either understand or care.

I am astonished though to find Tissa too of such a myopic mindset, and asserting that the United States along with India ‘supported us to the hilt from 2002 onwards in our battle against the LTTE’. He has obviously not read Wikileaks, which makes it clear that in 2009 the US attitude had changed, and they were fully behind the European resolution against us.

The fact that the US had changed was obvious from the manner in which Bob Blake, in his last days, was no longer the pillar of support he had been earlier. In 2007 for instance, the US supported government actively in the East when the European Union was sulking because we had driven the LTTE out of there. In that year we found both the US ambassador in Geneva, a solid old school Republican, and his more left-leaning Deputy, extremely sympathetic. The latter was indeed one of Dayan Jayatilleka’s best friends in Geneva.

In 2009 however Blake had told a former State Department employee that his different approach was because he now served a different administration. I do not know whether Blake was one of the ambassadors Tissa got on with – he was not at the party Blake had on the occasion of Obama’s inauguration, when he said he had got together Sri Lankans he saw as special friends of his country – but Tissa must surely have realized that things had changed. Even if our Foreign Ministry did not understand this, Britain, which had been leading the attack on us, did so, and David Miliband got a far more sympathetic hearing from Hilary than he would have done from the intellectually more rigorous Condolezza Rice.

Tissa is right in drawing attention to the fact that the US, when Bush was President, was more consistent in its response to terrorism and terrorists, and supported us in our efforts to get the LTTE proscribed. But LTTE supporters understood this, as well as the softer touch Hilary was going to be – which unfortunately our Foreign Ministry could not see – and changed their approach. Though the LTTE could not quite be presented as largely innocent freedom fighters, which the Americans have convinced themselves Contras and Chechens and the Taleban have been in their time, by 2009 Blake was involved in what might be termed a rescue operation. Thankfully, the Indians put a stop to this, helped also by the intransigence of the LTTE.

Where Tissa’s misleading interpretation of international relations comes through is in his assertion that ‘Although the likes of Miliband and Kouchner tried their utmost to initiate international action against us, Sri Lanka was able to ensure that no Government took a concerted diplomatic initiative at the UN Security Council to compel Sri Lanka to abort the final military push against the LTTE, something similar to that which India, acting unilaterally, had done in the 1980s by compelling us to halt the Vadamarachchi operation.’

There were efforts to put Sri Lanka on the agenda in New York, but these were restrained because of the veto that our solid supporters could be relied upon to use. Tissa makes no mention of what happened in Geneva, because of his animosity to Dayan Jayatilleka, in line with that of the less civilized Americans he follows (unlike the intelligent Democrats who realize that Dayan is potentially their best ally if they can be satisfied with Non-alignment based on a solid understanding with India).

In effect he ignores the fact that the actual scene of action was Geneva, as it is now, where it is numbers that count. He ignores the fact that the sort of professional diplomat he affects to admire had failed to restrain the British from tabling a motion against us in 2006, a motion they sought to reactivate in 2007. Fortunately by then we had Dayan there, and by skilful diplomacy, building up a solid coalition of Third World countries whilst also talking actively to the West (so that some European countries were telling him what the Brits were up to, even though formally they could not break ranks), he was able to ensure that the motion was dropped from the agenda.

That was when the British Representative there, who had been hoping to go on to New York (and might have been sent there, had he fulfilled Miliband’s objective with regard to Sri Lanka, which was and still is an ideal test case for changing the dynamics of the current international order), told me that our Ambassador thought we had won, but we should wait to see what would happen. He moved on then, though, and I found his successor much less abrasive. But as we saw in 2009, Miliband was relentless, and it took another superb defence by Dayan and his allies to avert problems then.

That unfortunately led to complacence in Sri Lanka, and Dayan was accordingly sacked. The rest is history, as our victory (and I mean that over terrorism, not the diplomatic one) soon will be, unless we renew the energies and recall the abilities of 2009.

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