Our preparations for Geneva

946826684glBy K. Godage

Former Ambassador

I was happy to read that Mr. Lalith Weeratunge and Dr. G.L. Peiris would be going out to Geneva to brief missions of countries in the HRC, whatever briefing/ publicity we can give to what we have achieved so far and what we intend to do will not be a waste of time.

This approach is certainly what is called for, not sending a large delegation during the Sessions to lobby delegates as we did a few years ago; most countries decide on their positions on Resolutions such as those relating to countries such as ours, before the Session commences. Former Ambassadors such as Jayantha Dhanapala. Pallihakkara, Nihal Rodrigo {who is an Advisor to His Excellency] and Bernard Goonetilleke would bear me out.

I have often wondered as to what the government’s strategy is to counter these anti-Sri Lanka Resolutions. In the first instance, as the government is already doing, we need to continue to reach out to the Tamil people in a meaningful manner and encourage the Tamil people to reach out to the Sinhalese and Muslim communities. The Tamil community in particular, along with all other communities of our country must continue to enjoy the hard won freedom in every sense of that word; they also need to feel secure and have opportunities to pursue livelihoods of their choice; another important value for the Tamil people in particular is Education, in this regard I am, aware that those who take the trouble to find out about the progress within the country are more than happy with what the government has done since the war ended, to improve the education facilities in the region. In this regard I would urge the government to continue its good work in spite of attempts by pro LTTE elements to divert its attention and create a rift between minor communities and the government.

The government, I presume, has prepared Documentaries that can be shown to the international community. Such Documentaries, perhaps prepared by foreign companies under our supervision of course, would have greater credence and acceptance. We should also establish a Reconciliation Commission which should be headed by a committed person such as Professor Rajiva Wijesinha, the Advisor on Reconciliation to the President, who is well informed and has worked tirelessly to challenge the baseless accusations made by the pro LTTE individuals and organizations. We should without further delay also establish a local commission with three retired judges of the Supreme Court to inquire into what happened in the last days of the conflict, when we saved the lives of over three hundred thousand civilians.

We could then without doubt, give the lie to the horrendous charge that 40,000 were killed in the closing stages of the war on terrorism. Let us call upon those who are making this wild accusation to come up with proof before the Commission, giving the names of those whom they claim were killed. We could also commission an independent body, comprising respected Sri Lankans from a range of professional fields, to document the history of the war and record the deaths that have resulted from targeted terrorist activity – this needs to include the support lent by any organisations and certain countries to the terrorists, which has enabled them to continue their war against the State.

Let us also sign the Ottawa Treaty banning Land mines, and also prepare a documentary on how we cleared thousands of anti personal mines and other incendiary weapons and made it possible for the civilians to return to their homes and resume life. It is a fact that no one has lost a limb or suffered injuries from land mines since the war ended. We must before the next session of the UNHRC show the world what has been achieved since the war ended.

Equally important is that we must reach out to the US State Department, the Congress, the Senate and the Media and also engage actively with the Embassy here, which would be filing regular reports on the situation in the country and on the treatment of minorities. I doubt as to whether our leaders and senior officials engage with US Diplomats on a regular basis, as Tamil politicians do; it appears that the Opposition and the Tamil political parties have the field all to themselves.

Having related to the Congress, the Senate, the White House and the media, I should, for the information of the government and the public state, that immediately after the pogrom of July 1983 when the Tamil Diaspora living in the US and Canada declared war on us, may I say that under the leadership of then Ambassador Ernest Corea we were able to reach out to the Congress, the Senate, the State Department and the Media; we were also able to mobilize the Sri Lankans living in the US, (thanks to Mrs. Srima Abeysundera who was the Receptionist at our Embassy, Neville Laduwahetty, Dr. Geeva Ganepola and a few others) who lobbied their Congressmen and Senators in their States). Under the leadership of Ambassador Corea we were able to make the US establishment understand that the pogrom of ’83 needed to be condemned but that it was an unprecedented happening and that the government had to accept responsibility for the horrendous happening, but that it was no act of genocide. Even the White House, the State Department and the Legislative branches of the US government accepted this position and they were not hostile towards us as they are today. President Jayewardene was even invited to visit the US in 1984 and President Reagan held a Banquet for him at which Frank Sinatra sang ‘My Way’—JR’s favourite song. So where and how have we failed today?

We have retained two PR companies at a huge cost to the country to lobby for us —- surely they have failed to discharge the tasks for which they were retained, for how else does one account for the persisting hostility of the US. It is a complete waste a public money for it appears that they have not been able to match Rudrakumaran and his organizations. This is indeed a shame. Let me recall that it was not only Ambassador Ernest Corea and myself who were able to counter the Tamil Diaspora in the US, without highly paid lobbysts, but also Ambassador Jayantha Dhanapala and his team which comprised Prasad Kariyawasam, presently High Commissioner in Delhi and Jayantha Palipana, presently Ambassador in Qatar, they were able to get a Resolution from Congress which was supportive of Sri Lanka. Yes we achieved what was expected without any highly paid lobbyists, because we were professionals.

These PR companies we have retained should be tasked to promote investment and tourism. If only there were US Companies in Sri Lanka we would never have had the US on our backs. I am reminded of what the British Ambassador to the then EC told me when I faulted the European Commission for not even expressing their Concern when the Indians violated our sovereignty and intimidated us with their infamous ‘Parippu Drop’, he said “what interests have we in your country, you even nationalised our tea plantations; whereas with India we do have many interests”; he concluded by saying, “please also do not forget that it was we who introduced Tea to your country from which your country has thrived for over a hundred years”.

There is no question that if only they had interests in our country we would never have been subjected to this bullying. I am reminded that the then Board of Investment, the GCEC, under the leadership of the late Upali Wijewardene as Chairman and the late Raju Coomaraswamy, as his Deputy, assisted by me as the SG and our Manager Investment Promotion Rohan Weerasinghe, were able to have big US Corporations, in the IT business, including Motorola and Harris, sign agreements to establish Computer Chip manufacturing facilities here, most unfortunately with the killing of their agent here in July 1983, they pulled out and have set up facilities in Malaysia, where Motorola alone employs over one thousand five hundred workers. If only the US companies had investments here Rudrakumaran and the Diaspora would not have had a look in.

In the UK the Conservatives, the Labour and the Liberals are pillorying us for the money they receive from the Tamil Diaspora. They could do this with impunity because they have, as stated before, no interests in our country after we nationalised their tea plantations; would Cameron have acted as he did if they owned plantations or had other economic interests in this country? They would never have.

Let us seek to promote Investment from the US and Britain offering their companies most attractive terms to establish here. Our relations with India and China are such that they would facilitate entry into their big markets for products or services from our country. It is well and good to establish closer relations with the countries of Africa but let us not be naïve and seek to “teach the west a lesson”, for what lesson can we teach them? They control the World Bank, the IMF and have become the largest contributor to the maintenance of the United Nations and also financially support many countries of the world; let us come to terms with reality and not live in a make believe world or a fools paradise.

The best and most sensible way of countering the pro LTTE support is by taking the wind out of their sails would be to win over our Tamil community with whom we share so much, it is only language that divides us, we are in many respects one people; let us continue to bring them into the mainstream instead of allowing separatists to pull them back into violence – the President had an idea of creating a Second Chamber –that should be the first step, next, the politicians from the North should be represented in the Cabinet and should hold important portfolios, that would be power sharing in a meaningful manner. It would be difficult for the pro LTTE elements to influence the western countries if we reach out to the minorities in a visible and meaningful manner; it would put an end to a problem for them as it would be for India too without any doubt. The missing aspect is that Sri Lanka is not able to project the good work that it does, thereby creating a vacuum that is exploited by the pro LTTE elements that are using the western countries to further their separatist agenda.


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