The Commonwealth Summit is the biggest gamble of the President and his government, locally and internationally. By pleading with the Royal Palace and the Commonwealth Secretariat, the government has managed to make sure that the Colombo Summit goes ahead as planned.
The PM-level boycotts by North American Canada and the giant India cannot be compensated by the two Ashes rivals in cricket, Australia and England. So the countdown is on for a weeklong Summit extravaganza starting November 10th.
Colombo is painted and officially ready to cheer as the Commonwealth caravan rolls into town on the brand new highway from the airport to the City, avoiding the picture of poverty and misery that exists.
Nevertheless, the Imperial caravan is coming at some price, political as well as monetary, some of which the government has already been forced to pay and the rest and more will have to be paid in the future. The government may not have thought through the political-cost implications and the crisis that could emerge when two years ago, in Perth, Australia, it went all out to win acceptance to host the upcoming Summit.
Since then the government has come under persistent international pressure and scrutiny with regard to addressing war-connected human rights issues, and investigations of wartime atrocities.
"Clearly, the government should work with the new Northern Provincial government to address the issues in the North. This is a difficult task and requires a total turnaround in the thinking and approach of the Mahinda regime"
When Mahinda tried to run away from the recommendations of its own Lessons Learned and Reconciliation Commission (LLRC), the United Nations Human Rights Commission and the Opposition turned tables on him and made the LLRC recommendations a permanent frame of reference for government performance and conformity.
The government tried to arouse Sinhala Buddhist chauvinism by directing attacks against the Muslim community, but the Opposition was able to counter them successfully.
Politically, the biggest defeat for the government so far has been the holding of the election to the Northern Provincial Council and allowing the formation of a new provincial government led by the Tamil National Alliance. This was a significant victory for the Opposition considering the immense internal pressure mounted by the regime and chauvinists within the Cabinet to cancel the election and abolish the Provincial Council system altogether.
Clearly, the government should work with the new Northern Provincial government to systematically address the issues in the North. This is a difficult task and requires a total turnaround in the thinking and approach of the Mahinda regime. The alternative is to persist in militaristic thinking and political tomfoolery.
Continuing with the same old ways will be the easier task and the surer road to disaster. However, after years of denials, the government has restarted the investigation into the killing of 17 aid workers in Mutur and the murder of five young boys in Trincomalee.
Similarly, after stubborn cover-up attempts at the highest levels including shameful statements in the national parliament, the government has been forced to prosecute the suspects in the 2011 murder in Tangalle of British tourist Khuram Shaikh, and the rape of his Russian girlfriend.
It is not a coincidence that these investigations and indictments come on the eve of the Commonwealth Summit. Without the indictment, the British government would have come under severe pressure to boycott the Summit or to raise the matter during the Summit. What this means is that the government has created an informal court house within the Summit. This is a great betrayal and it is caused by the government and the Defence Ministry interference in the enforcement of law and order and the administration of justice.
Clearly, the police and the courts must be allowed to carry through to the end the Mutur and Trincomalee investigations, and the Tangalle murder indictment, without political interference even after the Summit. The Force for Unity will launch a massive agitation against any interference in it.