Sixty five years after Independence – to what extent we are free is another issue – we need to take a serious new look at our international relationships in a world where the wonders of modern information and communication technology have created a global village.
We welcome President Mahinda Rajapaksa’s assurance at the Independence Day ceremony yesterday in Trincomalee that Sri Lanka would respect the UN Charter and other countries should also do so.
In 1976 Sri Lanka’s external affairs had been handled so diplomatically that the then Prime Minister Sirimavo Bandaranaike presided over the Colombo Summit of more than 75 nations at the Non-Aligned Movement. In 1994 the then President appointed one of Sri Lanka’s most brilliant and respected lawyers Lakshman Kadirgamar as Foreign Minister. During the next seven years Mr. Kadirgamar, top officials of the Ministry and career diplomats abroad worked out an effective foreign policy so much so, that the LTTE was banned in the US, most European countries and in India.
After the killing of Mr. Kadirgamar and especially after 2010, Sri Lanka’s external affairs policy and international relations have been messed up by political diplo-mutts masquerading as diplomats. Many if not most, of our envoys in important countries are political appointees and not career diplomats. The vital relationship with our giant neighbour India is known to be handled and often mishandled by the Rajapaksa brothers. The relationship with the super-power US is fragile and full of friction with President Mahinda Rajapaksa not even meeting the two Assistant Secretaries of State and the Assistant Secretary of Defence who visited Sri Lanka last week. Like a diplo-mutt suicide bomber, the Rajapaksa regime’s loud mouthpiece Wimal Weerawansa -- often jarring and irritating – blasted the three Assistant Secretaries as “Obama’s idiots”. On Sunday Mr. Weerawansa openly accused the US Embassy in Colombo of funding anti-government NGOs.
All this comes at a time when Sri Lanka faces a stinging indictment at the upcoming Geneva meeting of the UN Human Rights Council. Last year the UNHRC approved a US-sponsored resolution relating to alleged war crimes, accountability and human rights issues. Dealing a stunning blow to Sri Lanka, India also supported the resolution. This year Sri Lanka finds itself in the same position as the much-abhorred Zionist regime in Israel. Sri Lanka faces censure and possible sanctions not only for the issues mentioned in last year’s resolution but also the illegal and unconstitutional impeachment of Chief Justice Shirani Bandaranayake.
The impeachment crisis which has led to a breakdown of the rule of law and an apparent end to constitutional democracy has provoked worldwide condemnation, the possibility of Sri Lanka’s suspension from the Commonwealth and the resultant cancellation of the Commonwealth Summit scheduled to be held in Hambantota in November this year.
A strategic partnership with China amid severely-strained ties with India, the US and the European Union have put Sri Lanka on an international undiplomatic tight rope and where we will end up is a diplo-mutt’s guess.