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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 »
The request to write an article on US Policy towards Sri Lanka in 2008/2009 came at a timely moment, for I had been reflecting in some anguish on the crisis that the Sri Lankan government is now facing. I believe that this crisis is of the government’s own creation, but at the same time I believe that its root causes lie in US policy towards us during the period noted.
Nishan de Mel of Verite Research, one of the organizations now favoured by the Americans to promote change, accused me recently of being too indulgent to the Sri Lankan government. I can understand his criticism, though there is a difference between understanding some phenomenon and seeking to justify it. My point is that, without understanding what is going on, the reasons for what a perceptive Indian journalist has described as the ‘collective feeling that the Sri Lankan State and Government are either unable or unwilling’ to protect Muslims from the current spate of attacks, we will not be able to find solutions.
Nishan might have felt however that I was working on the principle that to understand everything is to forgive everything. But that only makes sense if corrective action has been taken, ie if the perpetrator of wrongs has made it clear that these will be stopped and atoned for. Sadly, after the recent incidents at Aluthgama, I fear the time and space for changing course are running out. But even if we can do nothing but watch the current government moving on a course of self-destruction, it is worth looking at the causes and hoping that history will not repeat itself at some future stage
My contention is that the appalling behavior of the government at present springs from insecurity. That insecurity has led it to believe that it can rely only on extremist votes and extremist politicians. Thus the unhappiness of the vast majority of the senior SLFP leadership, and their willingness to engage in political reform that promotes pluralism, are ignored in the belief that victory at elections can only be secured if what is perceived as a fundamentalist and fundamental Sinhala Buddhist base is appeased.
I used to find it most entertaining, I once told Bob Blake, that the main hopes of the West with regard to Sri Lanka rested on a Stalinist and a Trotskyist. This was in the days when some elements in the West were trying to stop us destroying the Tigers, while others, whilst appreciating our need to escape the threat that had bedeviled life here for so long, were anxious that we also moved towards greater pluralism. I used to place Blake in the latter category, and though it seems that he condoned the games that some Embassy staff such as Paul Carter played later on, I had no objection to his support of pluralism.
I was also glad that he appreciated DEW Gunasekara and what he had achieved in a couple of years for language policy, which no government had bothered about in the nigh twenty years previously after Tamil had been made an official language. This was because the foreigners who welcomed the measures DEW had introduced could not claim that these were done to keep them happy.
We know that there are elements in Sri Lanka, as represented most obviously by the egregious Dharisha Bastians, who nine months ago declared, in conformity with the views of her patrons in the Ministry of External Affairs, that Sri Lanka had finally decided who her real friends were, and would therefore obsequiously follow the West. That particular act of dancing on the graves of Tamara Kunanayagam and Dayan Jayatilleka and myself has since given way to virulent attacks on the government, with similar sanctimoniousness. These have become more shrill recently following the drama of the impeachment, and contribute to the view that everything has to be seen in black and white, with any opposition to the impeachment of the Chief Justice constituting an attack on the government.
The recent intrigues by the nastier elements in the Ministry of External Affairs have prompted some thought about the confused and confusing nature of the diverse elements that make up the current government. The need to examine this in greater detail has been made clearer by the strange affair of Mr Gunaratnam. The implications of what occurred there have been explored carefully in a thoughtful article by Laksiri Fernando, through analysis of the statement issued by the Ministry of External Affairs. I believe that article should be studied carefully by all those concerned with the continuity and success of this government, which is I believe the perspective from which Prof Fernando has written.
There are some related considerations that I think should be explored further, given the statement by the Ministry, which in fact exposes its complete incompetence in this regard. Prof Fernando suggests that the statement indicates that ‘the “security establishment” has encroached into other ministries and in this case the Ministry of External Affairs’ but I think what it also indicates is that that Ministry has completely abandoned its responsibilities in dealing with international issues.
One reason I will not make a successful politician is that I have far too much interest in human nature. I find people fascinating and, when they are slightly unusual, I enjoy trying to understand what makes them tick, and how they perform in different situations, in comparison with others. Comparing their vision of their goals with what seem the actual goals, as well as the impression they try to create of those goals, is most illuminating.
I first properly came across Patricia Butenis at a Boxing Day dinner given by Paul Carter. If I recollect aright, I was the only one there from government, being Secretary at the time to the Ministry of Disaster Management and Human Rights, and having appreciated the introduction Carter had given me to the State Department Report on possible war crimes.
I spent much time talking to someone from Carter’s office who enlightened me on what seemed a strange association with the JVP. This came to mind later when I read the attack in 2011 on S B Dissanayake in the US Human Rights Report, which Carter had doubtless prepared. I was then about to leave early, when I noticed Mr
Sambandhan come in, and I thought I should wish him, since I have known him for longer almost than anyone else in active politics, since meeting him in my father’s rooms in Parliament in the late seventies.
He was out in the garden, closeted with Ms Butenis and with the EU Ambassador Bernard Savage, and as I approached them, I realized I was not wanted. Ms Butenis was barely polite, and Sambandhan perfunctory, but Savage I should note was very gracious, and did his best to make me feel not unwanted, though I realized I should leave as soon as it was possible to do so without being awkward.
I know I have a suspicious mind, but I was not surprised then when the TNA endorsed Sarath Fonseka, nor when Bernard Savage made an idiotic rejoinder to a query about Western support for Fonseka in
which he made his predilections clear, in suggesting that Fonseka’s candidature was on a par with that of General Eisenhower. I should add that, when later I remonstrated with Westerners about their support of General Fonseka, the Europeans in general made it clear that they had found him unpalatable, whereas the British, while asserting neutrality, indicated that they would not attempt to defend the Savage approach.
Still, I believe Ms Butenis realized that Sri Lanka was not quite as she had imagined it when she was sent here, and over the next year we worked together very well, since she like some other missions supported my efforts to bring together politicians of different parties to discuss issues in a social setting. I was surprised to realize that such gatherings were not common, and I believe my colleagues all found them interesting and productive, and the heads of mission concerned also seemed pleased that we could discuss things in a friendly manner. Read the rest of this entry »
The short answer, I suppose, is that I do not know. I would hate to think she was, for about the first time we met properly, she sent me chocolate chip ice cream, and someone of such sensitivity cannot be all bad. It was brought to me by one of the nicest people in her embassy, one who finally told me that the embassy did have some very peculiar people in it. Being a loyal and professional diplomat, that was the furthest he would go, but it brought home to me the systematic schizophrenia, not only of the American Embassy in Colombo, but of their foreign policy in general.
A few months later, the much publicized comment of the Defence Attache in Colombo, which led to him being in effect reprimanded by the State Department in Washington, provided the frosting as it were on that particular cake – and his assertion that he knew he would get into trouble when he spoke made clear that there are at least a few straight people left in those hallowed halls.
What then is the problem with Ms Butenis? I raise this question now publicly because the Secretary of Defence has finally brought into the open what I can only call disgusting behaviour by at least one American diplomat. I mentioned this some months back, which brought what purported to be the lady’s deep indignation on my head, duly reported in the newspaper group which also leaked another State Department barrage recently. The report about me then claimed that I was to be boycotted by two embassies, but this turned out to be false, though one possible suspect did tell me that the Americans may have made the claim on their behalf without actually keeping them informed.
And Ms Butenis indeed was gracious enough to say I could continue to speak to her staff, many of whom I believe belong to that idealistic school which lulls one into affection before the Ugly Americans so splendidly described by Graham Greene and John le Carre take over. But I don’t think she was pleased when, the last time we spoke – in fact in the office of the Defence Secretary, whom her colleagues seem determined to demonize – I told her that I thought her chief agent of wickedness was Pavlovian in his approach to Sri Lanka.
I was referring to Paul Carter, whom I would not describe as evil because I do not think he is actually capable of moral responsibility. Someone who tries to suborn the generals of a supposedly friendly country really is totally beyond the pale, though I suspect that is not the only reason he reminds me of the Anthony Perkins character in ‘Psycho’. On the occasion I was referring to, a party for those who had been on Visitor programmes to the United States, he had burst out into indignation about the treatment of his hero Sarath Fonseka, with concomitant insults about our judiciary, to a lady whose interests were in language training. The American Deputy Head of Mission had tactfully taken him away quickly, but I have no doubt something else would soon have triggered the same sort of reaction, in someone whose moral sense has deserted him, to be replaced simply by not entirely metaphorical foaming at the mouth.
His inordinate concern about Sarath Fonseka is what has convinced me that, towards the end of 2009, something very pernicious took place in Foggy Bottom, or wherever it is that the more devious American diplomats make policy. A short while previously, Carter himself had told me in very measured tones about a State Department report that I found fingered Fonseka as the most suspicious element in what were presented as potential war crimes, but put together in a very civilized manner that seemed to invite a civilized reply. Not for the first time, I must say that I believe we blundered in not responding immediately to that report, and I continue bemused at the continuing lethargy of those to whom the President entrusts crucial tasks.
One factor that emerged during the recent seminar on Defeating Terrorism were the very different interpretations of the concept of surrender. David Kilcullen declared at one stage that the strategy adopted by our forces ‘gave the Tigers no opening to surrender’. Rohan Guneratne pointed out that this was not the case, and indeed early on, in February, when the Co-Chairs of the Peace Process called on the Tigers to surrender, the Government would have certainly accepted this. What Government was insistent on, having repeatedly requested the LTTE to return to Peace Talks, was that any surrender be unconditional.
This reality the Co-Chairs seemed to recognize, and it led to great anger on the part of the Tigers. The Norwegian ambassador noted that their fury was directed primarily at the Norwegians, whom they accused of betrayal. I have no idea myself what understanding the Tigers thought they had reached with Mr Solheim, but certainly the Norwegian Foreign Ministry, as represented by both Mr Hattrem and his predecessor Mr Bratskar, had no illusions about the brutality of the Tigers.
I was told yesterday by one of those NGO activists who had benefited hugely from foreign funding that several Embassies were furious with me because of an article I had written about a meeting at the house of the American Ambassador at which UN officials were present.
I was surprised, because I had not been negative about the Embassies in general, and had indeed made it clear that I thought most Embassy representatives were victims of an attempt to dragoon them into complicity in the agenda of others. Soon it was clarified that it was only the American Embassy that was angry. This too was surprising, because Patricia Butenis is a sensible sort, and would not have been angry with me, though she might have been cross at those of her guests who had leaked the story.
Sure enough, the anger was not hers, but Paul Carter’s. He is the Political Affairs Officer of the Embassy, given to bow ties and pride in his southern heritage, certainly not someone one would have thought part of the CIA, except perhaps in its very early days. But I was surprised at the expressed vehemence, and decided I needed to check things out a bit more.
After all it was at his house that I came across Mr Sambandan in close conclave with the Ambassador and the EU Representative, when only the latter managed to be polite, and the other two made it apparent that I was interrupting a serious private conversation. It was shortly after that that the TNA decided to support Sarath Fonseka actively, something I found bizarre, given that he had been against swift resettlement of the displaced, that he had wanted to expand the army by 100,000 men after the war had been won, given that he had taken credit for having prevented the surrender of some LTTE leaders that he claimed had been arranged in air conditioned rooms
July 10 – A media outlet reported on July 18 that at a celebratory event in Ambalangoda, Army Chief General Sarath Fonseka stated that the military had to overlook the traditional rules of war and even kill LTTE rebels who came to surrender carrying white flags during the war against the LTTE.
The “media outlet” quoted is : http://www.lankanewsweb.com/news/EN_2009_07_18_005.html)
Report of the One-Man Panel appointed by One Man to look into allegations of impropriety highlighted by the Daily Mirror which had reported that
Diplomats, representatives of diplomatic missions and Non-Governmental Organization representatives in Colombo met at the United States Ambassador’s residence to discuss the United Nations Secretary General’s Panel Report.
Dr. Perera said those who attended included Dr. Paikiasothy Saravanamuttu (Centre for Policy Alternatives), Sherine Xavier (Home for Human Rights), J.C. Weliamuna (Transparency International), Sudarshana Gunawardena (Rights Now) and Sunila Abeysekera.
The diplomats were from India, Britain, the European Union, the Netherlands, France, Canada, Australia, UN Officials, Japan, Norway, South Africa, South Korea, Switzerland and Italy.
In view of repercussions this meeting might have with regard to the ongoing peace process, and various allegations that have been raised about this meeting and other possible interference in Sri Lanka by those responsible to external bodies, the former Secretary General of the Peace Secretariat appointed himself as a one man Panel to advise the media on the possible scope of such a consultation and the motivations of those who had participated.
The Panel’s mandate does not extend to fact-finding or investigation. The Panel analysed information from a variety of sources in order to characterize the extent of the allegations, assess which of the allegations are credible, based on the information at hand, and appraise them in terms of possible consequences. The Panel determined an allegation to be credible if there was a reasonable basis to believe that the underlying act or event occurred.
The Panel followed the principles adopted by the Kiki Darusman Panel, and assumed that it was best to follow the language that has given rise to such excitement in the drawing rooms of Jefferson House. Following Para 152, it may safely be asserted that – there are many indirect accounts reported that the meeting was organized at the report of Paikiasothy Saravanamuttu of the Centre for Policy Alternatives, which is largely funded by countries represented at the meeting.