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I wrote last week of the destruction wrought by the West, to itself too, by its cynical support for terrorists when it sees them as helpful. But while I deplore what it did to Sri Lanka, we in Sri Lanka must also recognize that we contributed to the disasters that have overwhelmed us in the international sphere, beginning with the hunting down of this country in March 2012. It is simply the frosting on the Western cake that now our own Foreign Ministry is supporting this vendetta.

But while the Clintons and Millibands and sadly the Camerons of this world are guilty of double standards, reinforced by the hound dog mentality of Rice and Power and Donohue and Sisson and Chilcott and now Dauris, we must also recognize that much of the running is done by idealists with no capacity to sift evidence. The latest report emanating from Australia with regard to General Gallage is typical of how myths become entrenched in stone if not immediately exploded.

I can understand Dayan Jayatilleka’s current admiration for Gotabhaya Rajapaksa, and I share his view that he is perhaps the most competent and least selfish of those who ran things under the last government. But there were weaknesses, which as Dayan noted both he and I drew attention to.

In this context I should note that, while I stand by what we wrote about Weliveriya, the aftermath raised my admiration and affection for Gotabhaya. Unlike others in government who undermined me behind my back, Gotabhaya was direct, and called me up and shouted at me. And what he stressed was not so much the content of what we had written – he agreed that there needed to be an inquiry into what had happened – but the fact that I had signed a petition along with enemies of the government. Read the rest of this entry »

Another mark of increasing age, though I suppose I should be pleased at this one, was a request to deliver a memorial lecture. The topic given to me was ‘The March of Folly’, which led me to look up the origin of the phrase. I knew it was the title of a book by the popular American historian Barbara Tuchman, but I had thought this was the one she wrote about the beginnings of the First World War, chronicling the headlong rush into a war that could have been avoided, and which destroyed the world its perpetrators thought to perpetuate.

In fact ‘The March of Folly’ is a later book, based on the idea that folly is the pursuit by governments of policies contrary to their own interests. Tuchman deals with four examples of this, beginning with the decision of the Trojans to take into their city the horse left on the beach by the Greeks who had pretended to abandon their attempt to conquer Troy. She goes on to discuss the policies of the Popes who precipitated the Reformation, and then the British blunders that led to the independence of the United States. Finally, and at length, she deals with the American disaster in Vietnam.

All very interesting subjects, and I should now read the book. But it gave me a focus for this new series, which will look at recent political history in the context of folly in the Tuchman sense. I will not confine myself to governments alone, since the whole picture demands looking also at what others in the political arena engage in. And the series will be different from the lecture, which will have to be tightly focused. But these articles will I hope provide some food for thought, and with luck some changes in approach – assuming, that is, that those who decide, and those who influence decision making, both read and think.

I will begin however in an area where obviously I cannot hope for influence, since I shall talk about the folly of the West in persecuting us for achieving what it pretends it desires, namely the eradication of terrorism. But from the Sri Lankan perspective it is essential to consider this too, for the mess the current government is in springs largely from its unthinking acceptance of Western mythology. Some in the government, and even perhaps the Prime Minister, have begun to realize how badly they blundered way back in 2015, but he has no idea how to reverse gear effectively, and he certainly cannot even begin to do this while Mangala Samaraweera continues to run foreign affairs and bleat helplessly in Geneva. Read the rest of this entry »

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

April 2017
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