President Maithripala Sirisena who will address the UN General Assembly today, had earlier confided to the media bosses that he would, in his UN speech, seek a reprieve of war crimes against the government forces.
“I will also make a written request to the Human Rights Council to settle the allegations against our troops…I want to tell them to remove these charges. We can amicably resolve this issue,”he said.
Though some sources suggest that the president is having second thoughts about this approach, chances are that he would stick to his earlier promise.
The President’s supposed comes in the wake of a proposal by the Jathika Hela Urumaya for a general amnesty for military personnel and the LTTE cadres, except those who were implicated in grave crimes inspired by personal gains.
An emerging China led global economic order, of which Sri Lanka is already a linchpin should further erode our dependence on the West
That is a fair deal, and should provide a much needed closure to an unwanted distraction of the national priorities. However, neither proposal is likely to please the diaspora Tamil organizations, local Tamil fringe, or the local and foreign NGO captains. Sinhala ultra-nationalist fanatics could well try to fish in troubled waters. Though some right violations did happen, which is inevitable in the total war that the Wanni was subjected to, due to the miscalculated military adventurism of the LTTE, the clamour for war crime trials is a ploy by the Eelam fringe to win a consolation price for losing the Eelam war. Mahinda Rajapaksa, the ex-president could have nipped this in the bud, if he investigated the most blatant cases of abuses, and made a conspicuous break from the arbitrariness of the war time past. Instead, he persisted on a culture of impunity and fostered a dynastic project.
Mr. Rajapaksa’s egregiousness in the eyes of West and America was the primary driver behind their call for war crime investigations, as means to intimidate their nemesis of the Rajapaksa regime. Constituent pressure of the Tamil diaspora added venom, but they were secondary. Rather, those groups were emboldened by MR’s repeated blundering through catering to a minority of Sinhalese ultra-nationalist fringe.
Since he vacated the office, the West lost much of its loathing towards Sri Lanka, yet, the veneer of sanctimonious pretense had to be retained for some time. That saw once in a while calls for reconciliation and accountability here.
However, much has changed since then. Donald Trump has pulled America out of the UN Human Rights Council, and threatened to sanction the International Criminal Court. Europe is going through an identity crisis, which would get worsened as those countries grapple with the rigours of diversity. Emerging nationalist right there has no pretense of liberal interventionism.
Surely, these changes are disturbing for a majority, but some may find the unfolding political upheaval in the West as beneficial. In a dispassionate take on things, that should include us, who should now be able to use this opportunity to sort our problems out in our terms.
An emerging China led global economic order, of which Sri Lanka is already a linchpin should further erode our dependence on the West, should such dependence come at the expense of our immediate national interests.
Frankly, the world is too busy to be bothered about Sri Lanka. Worse things are happening from Syria to Palestine to Democratic Republic of Congo.
However, our obsession to flaunt before global forums, a problem that was already 10 years old, stems partly from paranoia and partly from a misplaced sense of self-importance, both born out of ignorance.
There is a conspicuous lack of political will to implement crucial economic policy, be it multi-million- dollar investment projects, such as Hambantota free trade zone, or free trade agreements such as ECTA
Sri Lanka should find a solution to its war crime allegations within its shores, under its terms. The President’s UN address would not help things. Instead, it traps the global attention on Sri Lanka even temporary on a problem that the country should have buried a long time ago. Instead, we would be better off if the president flaunts the Chinese funded Colomboport city, and tells the world that SriLanka is open to business. That is what Dr. Mahathir Mohamed (younger one, who built Malaysia, not necessarily the current one who seems to be a self -contradiction of his inner-self) would have done. However, Sri Lanka, among a long list of countries, has long suffered from the absence of a coherent set of national priorities.
That leads to the distressing part of our predicament. The government’s penchant to revisit war crimes, every other time a local politician meets a foreign leader is partly due to lack of anything else worthwhile to talk about and agreed upon. That explains the country’s pitiful economic existence at the moment. There is a conspicuous lack of political will to implement crucial economic policy, be it multi-million- dollar investment projects, such as Hambantota free trade zone, or free trade agreements such as ECTA. Economic consequences of flight of foreign capital, manifest in the rupee hitting its all- time low (US $ 400 million fled the country so far this year) has been aggravated by the government’s failure to attract foreign direct investment. Instead, the government is sitting on investment proposals. We are going through the fourth lost years, economically speaking.
That is the real problem that this country is faced with. A pro-active government would have prioritized on the economy, the rest is secondary. A government that fails to exhibit even the bare minimum political will to create wealth for its people, is unlikely to be trusted by the people, especially the Sinhalese majority who feel an elevated sense of urgency. Northern Tamil leadership may have other demands, but deep down in their hearts, the average Tamil folks know their priorities are not much different from those of the rest of the country. Effectively, the government fails both these people. And, the blunt truth is that it is unlikely to resolve any of the special grievances of Tamils, until it solves common grievances of both communities.