“…noting that Sri Lanka had made a commitment to include some international participation in the investigation.”
– US Asst. Secretary Malinowski (Reuters, July 15)
Sooner, rather than later, there will have to be a ‘Mexit’: Mangala Samaraweera’s exit from the Foreign Ministry. His abject West-fetishism instead of Realist multi-polarity is counter-productively anomalous as Sri Lanka returns to an Eastward reliance in foreign investment. At the least, his policies will be electorally ruinous -- at a national level he is a cross between an electoral albatross and an electoral suicide-bomber. His agenda poses an existential threat to the State’s sovereignty and security, and gravely jeopardizes political
stability and governability.
Instead of restoring a friendly dialogic relationship and rebuilding bridges with the West, Mangala flung himself into a passionate embrace with Tamil Diaspora activist lobbies and the West’s “whited sepulchres” (as the Gospels put it), the hypocritical human rights hegemonists. He went to the disgraceful extent of canvassing personally and through his ministerial minions, the support of Sri Lanka’s staunchest allies big and small, from Asia to Latin America, for co-sponsorship of the US-UK Resolution of 2015. In this crass attempt he failed dismally, with neither India nor China, the two Asian big powers, signing up. That signal didn’t deter him.
A Foreign Minister must be committed to national sovereignty above all else, but not to the exclusion of all else. Samaraweera’s vocation, which he seeks to extend to Sri Lanka’s role in the world arena, is one of craven solicitation of Western patronage and pliant submission to external dominance. I tried hard to envision Lakshman Kadirgamar in the same unintentionally jocular posture as the cameras captured Mangala, attempting a cross-draw handshake with two US officials of lower rank than his counterpart, Secretary of State Kerry. But I just couldn’t picture it.
Neither could I picture our recent visitor, China’s Foreign Minister Wang Yi patronizingly and absurdly suggesting that Sri Lanka be “the next Singapore” (a City-State), lobbying for postwar accountability with the military and chatting on constitutional change with the TNA.
Mangala does not have any conception of, still less commitment to, Sri Lanka’s core national interests which are quintessentially identical to those of any State in the world system: the country’s independence, sovereignty, territorial integrity and security. Mangala gives cosmopolitanism a bad name. He does not comprehend the world of difference between soliciting and servicing Western clients, and Kadirgamar’s upright, dignified, cordiality with the West. When he isn’t gushily or slanderously expostulatory, Samaraweera is flaky. His statement that “in a democracy even a head of state can express an opinion”, is pure gibberish. His blithe contrast of the view of the President (against foreign judges) with that of a small opposition party, the TNA (in favour of foreign judges) and his optimistic determination to strike a balance in the middle, shows that he places the elected Executive on the same plane as a small political party (and a regional-particularistic party at that), which in turn means that he has not understood the hierarchical structure of the country’s democratic political system. His declaration that “not only the North and East of Sri Lanka, but the whole of it will be demilitarized by 2018” means that he has not understood what is and isn’t the business of the Foreign Minister.
The recent violence on the Jaffna Campus set against the backdrop of the resolutions and discourse of the Chief Minister, reveal a project of ethnic-cleansing: the de-Sinhalization of the North. If the North and East are “demilitarized” as promised by Mangala, the Sinhalese will have no security and eventually no presence there; not even a toehold. Enough inflammable material is strewn around which could combust into a fire storm with Mangala’s project of war crimes trials through Special Courts and foreign involvement.
In his written report on Sri Lanka to the UNHRC in June, Human Rights High Commissioner Zeid al Hussein stated that the Sri Lankan Government has promised to usher in constitutional changes in 2017, which would facilitate full accountability for actions during the last war by embedding international law in the Constitution and enabling a new judicial mechanism with foreign participation. Now, the US Constitution is unambiguously above international law, so why should ours be penetrated by and subordinated to it? So who made these pledges, when and with whose knowledge?
84 innocents died in Nice this Bastille Day while 146 worshippers were mowed down by Tiger marauders in the sacred city of Anuradhapura in 1985. The Sri Lankan public has watched on TV the violent sectarian shredding of the social fabric in countries ‘liberated’ by the US-UK, terrorist massacres in Western cities, and racial tensions exploding in shootings through America. Living in peace after vanquishing a three-decade scourge of terrorism, it is in no mood for double standards and hypocritical homilies on the Holy Trinity of “accountability, reconciliation and transitional justice”. It has no appetite for self-abnegation and zero-tolerance for self-flagellation through Special Courts with “international participation in the investigation”.
Mangala’s masochistic foreign policy has Sri Lanka handcuffed while dangling from hooks. The Chilcot Report confirmed what Asians with their colonial history had long suspected of the perfidy and myopia of Western liberal imperialism which destroyed functioning states on false pretences and unleashed a terrorist tsunami on the world and Western society itself, with no one brought to justice on
grounds of accountability.
Mangala is alienating, antagonizing and provoking three hundred thousand young men with guns and several hundred thousand more veterans of a thirty-year-war. A US aircraft carrier or beefed-up Marine contingent in an enlarged Embassy enclave won’t deter an anguished, enraged veteran with a grenade and in civvies, who gets up close and personal.
Extrication from the Mangala Trap/Quagmire and steering Sri Lanka on the right course through the choppy global waters requires the right personality in charge, the best available. Mangala’s successor as FM must be the current Sri Lankan parliamentarian most capable of projecting what Harvard’s Joe Nye calls “smart power” -- namely,
Sarath Amunugama. Mahinda Samarasinghe could be Minister of Human Rights, Reconciliation and Peace-building and can co-manage Geneva with Amunugama. Wasantha Senanayake could be Deputy for either. Dr. Amunugama is the most literate man in Parliament and the most intellectual of contemporary Sri Lankan politicians. Unlike the blustering, schmaltzy, foppishly neo-liberal Mangala, he is a tough-minded moderate; a cerebral centrist. A French-speaker with a North American PhD, familiar with international media and public communication, he is a close and knowledgeable friend of India, China and the West. A co-drafter at Gamini Dissanayake’s side, of the 13th Amendment, the author of scholarly essays on the ethnic problem and most recently a massive tome on Dharmapala, he is a rare cosmopolitan, committed to viable devolution while sensitive to Sinhala sensibility.
Dr. Amunugama will shift from Mangala’s assigned role for Sri Lanka as a subcontractor of the West. He can grasp the potentialities afforded by polycentric globalization and practice a neo-Gaullist multipolar balancing of India, Pakistan, China, Russia, Iran, Japan and the West in a pragmatic policy
of “tous azimuths”.
He is also acceptable to President Sirisena, Prime Minister Wickremesinghe, ex-Presidents Mahinda Rajapaksa and Chandrika Kumaratunga and JO parliamentary leader Dinesh Gunawardena. This also means Amunugama has the best chance of leveraging cross-party consensus on the ‘intermestic’ issue of reconciliatory political reform based on the 13th Amendment and the
Sri Lanka would finally have a worthy successor to Lakshman Kadirgamar and a chance to regain its lost bearings, self-respect and status in the world.