The United States has no genuine interest in accountability or reconciliation in Sri Lanka, but is seeking a strategic military base in Asia, says Tamara Manimekhalai Kunanayakam, onetime Sri Lanka’s Permanent Representative to the United Nations Office at Geneva and Sri Lanka’s Ambassador to Holy See.
In a wide ranging interview with Ceylon Today, Kunanayakam said, the US would demand more concessions using the resolution as a tool and charged the UN Rights Chief as a ‘US instrument’ doing Washington’s bidding.
Kunanayakam also alleged the resolution was aimed at demonstrating Sri Lanka’s alleged failure to demonstrate accountability and to showcase the island as a failed State to maximize on concessions, including a demand to create a US military hub in Sri Lanka.
The exclusion of intellectuals and their input in the making of public policy — foreign policy in particular — and the consequences thereof, was a recurring theme at a recent public discussion on the upcoming UN Human Rights Council session in March 2014. Nativist, xenophobic tendencies were coming to the fore and “We don’t know how to converse with the world anymore,” warned Dayan Jayatilleke, the keynote speaker. Dr Jayatilleka is best known as the former UN ambassador in Geneva who led the team that defeated a hostile resolution brought against Sri Lanka at the Human Rights Council Special Session in May 2009, soon after the military defeat of the LTTE. Sri Lanka lost two subsequent US-led resolutions in 2012 and 2013.
The discussion held at the auditorium of the Organisation of Professional Associations (OPA) was organised by the Liberal Party and moderated by its leader Rajiva Wijesinha, a National List MP and Secretary to the (now dismantled) Secretariat for Coordinating the Peace Process (SCOPP). Prof Wijesinha noted the absence of input from independent think tanks in foreign policy decision making, and lamented the failure of the Lakshman Kadirgamar Institute and the Bandaranaike Centre for International Studies in this regard.
Jayatilleka has been arguing consistently in the media that the cold war the country faces is an intellectual battle. A bibliography on Sri Lanka has developed over the years with a number of documents being produced, but though these were studied in the West there was no significant discourse in Sri Lanka he said, on his fortnightly TV talk-show ‘Vantage Point’ aired Thursday on ‘MTV Sports.’ “We are going into battle without knowing the history.” He said it was unthinkable that the GoSL did not respond to the flawed report of the UN Secretary General’s Advisory Panel (the ‘Darusman report’). There were two brilliant critiques of it that had been disregarded. One was by the Marga Institute, a much respected independent think tank, and the other a study titled ‘The Numbers Game’ by a group of highly educated Western-based Sri Lankans. Listing some of the other literature on the subject he mentioned the Petrie report, Gordon Weiss’s book ‘The Cage,’ The Routledge Handbook on R2P, and a UK House of Commons research paper in 2009 titled ‘War and Peace in Sri Lanka,’ which traced the campaign against Sri Lanka originating much earlier than the ‘last stages of the war.’
I have received recently two very different petitions, one from a body that calls itself the World Alliance for Peace in Sri Lanka, the other from a body that calls itself the Friday Forum. They present two very different points of view, the one asking that the 13th Amendment be abolished, the other that no changes be made to it.
I think we need to understand the fears of both sides, and in both cases reasons have been given for the positions presented. My own view is that we need to look at the problem from three different angles, all of which are equally important.
The first is the moral position. From that perspective, it would be wrong for the present Sri Lankan government to abolish Provincial Councils, given that it clearly pledged to implement the provisions of the 13th amendment. However, in also committing itself to go further, it could propose further devolution of power, which indeed is what WAPS suggests.
They believe that too great an accretion of power to the Provincial Councils could lead to disruption of the unitary character of the country. I believe that this fear is unfounded, though I could understand it at the time of an enforced merger which was pushed through contrary to the provisions in the Bill that permitted this. It is for this reason that I see nothing wrong with getting rid of the Constitutional provision that permits merger. To reimpose the merger was not part of the pledge made by the current government, and it would be wrong to insist that it abides by a previous measure that has been ruled unconstitutional and was achieved through sleight of hand.
Garbage dump polluting the air & destroying the scenic beauty
I have been confronted with many problems during meetings of Divisional Secretariat Reconciliation Committee meetings, but perhaps the most unusual was the question of garbage which came up at Kattankudy. I was told that garbage was being piled up at the edges of the area coming under the Secretariat, though I should hasten to add that this was not the fault of what seemed an efficient and responsive administration under the Divisional Secretary – yet another of the bright youngsters I keep coming across, who should be given greater responsibilities, with commensurate reporting obligations to the people they serve.
Waste disposal comes under local government institutions, and it seems that this Urban Council gets rid of garbage by depositing it near the sea on one side of the town, and near the lagoon on the other. What I was told seemed so bizarre that I decided I had to check this out for myself, so after the meeting I went on a tour of inspection, complicated by the fact that Kattankudy has very narrow roads, and it was Friday afternoon, which meant that they were blocked by thousands of motor-bikes as the faithful gathered for prayers.