Rejoinder to Rear Admiral Sarath Weerasekara
Rear Admiral Sarath Weerasekara crucially writes: “When it became evident that his Dr. Dayan Jayatilleke’s [DJ] sole purpose of getting closer was to push Gotabhaya Rajapaksa [GR] towards 13A, naturally there were objections from others. I was of course one of the main speakers/writers against 13A. When DJ realized that he could not achieve his objective he left GR even without informing him. It is natural for a man to get utterly frustrated when he had miserably failed to date, to push the rulers of the country towards full implementation of 13A.”
Let’s think this through, shall we? If I had failed to convince GR on 13A while Sarath Weerasekara [SW] and the hawks have succeeded, and GR is the Opposition’s Presidential candidate and possibly our next President;
1. What does he offer as a reformist political solution to the Tamil question?
2. How, with what universally acceptable and credible arguments, does Sri Lanka win the battle of narratives and re-accumulate ‘soft power’, stopping its hemorrhage in the international arena?
3. Who are the Northern Tamil takers of any significance he will have, with not even moderates like Devananda and Siddharthan on board?
4. How can the Tamil majority areas be politically governed except with and through a Tamil ally?
5. What happens to the Indo-Lanka Accord and its offspring 13A and the Provincial Council system?
6. How will the small-state unilateralism of ditching/downgrading 13A sit with India?
7. Which country out of 193 will back us in such unilateralism?
8. How does GR persuade India to go back on its entire diplomatic and hard power investment of the 1980s, when it is currently being pressurized by the West and Tamil Nadu to move well beyond it?
The line that SW is taking and the Viyath Maga and Eliya have gone along with, taken together with GR’s silence, fill me with the grim foreboding that we are headed along the route that Milosevic of Serbia and Mikhail Shakashvili of Georgia respectively took—a unilateralist route that is especially unviable with a large ethnic kin state as your neighbor. It can only end horribly badly and to your own country’s conclusive and irreversible detriment.
To move to nonsense which verges on the moronic, SW refers to the “hardcore federalists such as DJ who argue that 13A is the only answer”. In another paragraph he calls me “separatist”. SW’s ignorance is so vast that he thinks that “hardcore federalists” support 13 A and 13A supporters are hardcore federalists or worse, separatists! 13A is precisely devolution within a unitary state. SW obviously does not know the difference between devolution/autonomy and federalism, not to mention devolution, federalism and separatism. 13A is convertible to federalism if the executive Presidency is removed, but that is one of the reasons why I have been an early and prominent critic of any idea of removing the executive Presidency.
I have never advocated the “full” implementation of 13A, but only “the implementation of 13A” as the Government of Sri Lanka, including President Mahinda Rajapaksa [MR], Gotabhaya, Basil and Lalith Weeratunga promised India during the war and in its immediate aftermath in May 2009. This promise was made to the Govt. of India as well as the UN Secretary-General in official Joint Communiques.
I have never once advocated “full implementation” in print or on the public record. I support graduated and phased implementation based on MR’s instructions to his negotiating team in 2011 at Foreign Minister Prof. GL Pieris’ residence ( a meeting at which I was a participant) that the negotiations should be based on the 13th amendment and should arrive at a compromise on the Concurrent List which would involve swaps.
Now to the blatant lies. He writes that “I approached GR and joined Viyath Maga.” I was invited to a dinner meeting at the 80 Club by some professionals and academics with whom we had worked in the 2015 campaign, and Viyath Handa invited me to speak at a seminar or two, which I did. I never joined either Viyath Maga or Viyath Handa. Indeed I declined to attend the opening of the Viyath Maga office explaining that the ideology and profile of Viyath Maga was not of a sort I could be associated with.
I was taken to see GR by Udaya Gammanpila and Wimal Weerawansa last year. It was their idea. I liked him, and found him sharp, realistic, and receptive. When he invited me to speak on foreign policy at the first major Viyath Maga meeting at the Golden Rose, Boralesgamuwa, I readily agreed. Unfortunately for SW, the film footage of my speech opens with a clear statement by me that I am NOT a member of Viyath Maga -- so much for seeking membership! Now why does he think I said that, thereby differentiating myself publicly?
SW says “we know that DJ is anti-Buddhist. When he was the Ambassador to France the first thing he did was to remove the Buddha statue kept at the reception of the embassy office.”
- SW refers to the “hardcore federalists such as DJ who argue that 13A is the only answer
- He obviously does not know the difference between devolution/autonomy and federalism
- I never joined either Viyath Maga or Viyath Handa. Indeed I declined to attend the opening of the Viyath Maga office
Well, one of the first things DJ did as an “anti-Buddhist” when he took over as ambassador to France and UNECO, was to organize a global conference at UNESCO in record time, to celebrate the Sambuddathva Jayanthi. It was on the theme “The Contribution of the Thought of the Buddha to Universality, Humanism and Peace”.
It is true that I removed the Buddha statue from the office room of the ambassador and transferred it to a position of honour in my official residence. It had been put there by my immediate predecessor in the ambassador’s office which previously never had one. One of my most distinguished predecessors, Prof. Senaka Bandaranaike, a renowned scholar on our archaeology and ancient history, did not have the Buddha statue in his office in Paris —with very good reason. France is the most secular state on earth. I did not substitute the Buddha statue with any other—I removed all religious symbolism from the ambassador’s office where I represented my country in a state that was secular, in which I had to fight the battle of narratives.
SW says “DJ also had the audacity to prohibit playing our National Anthem at the Independence Day reception held at the embassy in Paris. It is up to the public to decide whether a man who has no respect to his country’s identity and the National Anthem is fit to represent the country.”
Now this is a Goebbelsian lie, so typical of SW. The National Anthem was sung, in Sinhala, on both National day celebrations that took place when I was ambassador.
Finally, to Geneva. Completely unknown to me as Prof. Rajiva Wijesinha will attest, two meetings took place in postwar Colombo with an Indian delegation and the UN Secretary General at which the country’s leadership signed joint communiques agreeing to “proceed with the implementation of the 13A”. On a conference call, the then Foreign Minister and Foreign Secretary instructed me to “stick to the language of the text of the Joint Communiques” in drafting our Resolution. That Resolution was thoroughly scrutinized and endorsed by the Senior Legal Advisor of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs Dr. Rohan Perera (currently our PR in New York), the members of the AG’s team Shavindra Fernando and Yasantha Kodagoda,Minister of Human Rights Mahinda Samarasingha and his Secretary, Prof Rajiva Wijesinha. Minister Samarasinghe was in constant touch with Colombo.
I was sacked six weeks after our victory probably because I took that promise made on the implementation of 13A seriously, and knew that our credibility and alliances would suffer (as they did) if it was thought that we had reneged on it, and therefore kept urging its implementation. I was also probably sacked because of my critique of Israel’s Gaza war. Now these are not two contradictory reasons but one—because the lobby that is anti 13A/anti-power sharing is also the hawkish pro-Netanyahu lobby. That was so then, in postwar 2009, and it is so now.