Mon, 30 Jan 2023 Today's Paper

UNDER SIEGE Sri Lanka in Geneva, March 2014

12 March 2014 04:30 am - 0     - {{hitsCtrl.values.hits}}


Po­lit­i­cal cor­rect­ness or the fear of it makes Sri Lan­kan com­men­ta­tors on the draft res­o­lu­tion on Sri Lan­ka as well as the calls for an in­ter­na­tion­al in­qui­ry at the 25th ses­sion of the UN Hu­man Rights Coun­cil in Gen­e­va blame the Gov­ern­ment, the West (‘im­pe­ri­al­ism’) or the Tam­il di­a­spora. This uni-di­men­sion­al anal­y­sis fails to re­gard the thing ho­lis­ti­cal­ly, and nei­ther traces the chain of cau­sa­tion nor un­earths the root of the mat­ter.

Why Sri Lan­ka?
While it is the my­op­ic and mis­placed post-war pol­i­cies, na­tion­al and ex­ter­nal,  and the sheer crass­ness of the dis­course, of the in­cum­bent ad­min­is­tra­tion that has left us wide open to an in­tru­sive res­o­lu­tion for an in­ter­na­tion­al in­qui­ry, that alone is not an ac­cu­rate an­swer to the ques­tion that many, if not most Sri Lan­kans are grap­pling with to­day. That ques­tion is ‘why Sri Lan­ka?’ Why is Sri Lan­ka un­der far great­er scru­ti­ny than many oth­er states, for far less hei­nous sins? Why is the ‘in­ter­na­tion­al com­mun­i­ty’ that did not get on the LTTE’s case with the same de­gree of sus­tained pur­pose dur­ing dec­a­des of dai­ly ter­ror­ism, tar­get­ing Sri Lan­ka?

The an­swer is the ge­o­stra­te­gic weight and com­pa­ra­tive ge­o­stra­te­gic ad­vant­age of the Tam­il com­mun­i­ty in the world sys­tem, en­hanced, in­deed mul­ti­plied by the back­ward­ness of the Sri Lan­kan state.  In the glob­al ma­trix, the Sri Lan­kan state is back­ward in ev­ery sense, while the pan-Tam­il se­ces­sion­ist van­guard is more ad­vanced.
The Sri Lan­kan state — and the Sinh­al­ese— are no lon­ger in­ter­na­tion­al­ly com­pet­i­tive, while the Tam­ils are in­creas­ing­ly so. To spell it out, be­cause of the spe­cif­ic char­ac­ter of the di­a­spora, the Tam­ils punch above their weight in the world com­mun­i­ty while the Sri Lan­kan state and the Sinh­al­ese punch far be­low their own ear­li­er weight be­cause of the anach­ron­is­tic char­ac­ter of the of­fi­cial dis­course and the de­te­ri­o­ra­tion of the qual­i­ty of hu­man re­sour­ces of the Sri Lan­kan state, stem­ming from dec­a­des of sub­stan­dard so­cial pol­i­cies.

This di­ag­no­sis is con­firmed in a new and in­dis­pen­sa­ble book on Sri Lan­ka’s war by Prof Paul Moor­craft, Di­rec­tor of the Cen­tre for For­eign Pol­i­cy Anal­y­sis, Lon­don, and more per­ti­nent­ly a for­mer se­nior in­struc­tor at the Roy­al Mili­ta­ry Acad­e­my, Sand­hurst, and the UK Joint Serv­ices Com­mand and Staff Col­lege. An in­ter­net search shows that he worked in Cor­po­rate Com­mu­ni­ca­tions in the Min­is­try of De­fence in White­hall and is a cri­sis man­age­ment con­sul­tant to Shell, Brit­ish Gas, 3M, and Stand­ard Bank.  He al­so worked for Time mag­a­zine and the BBC as a free­lance pro­duc­er/war cor­re­spond­ent. He has worked in 30 war zones in Af­ri­ca, the Mid­dle East, Asia and the Bal­kans, of­ten with ir­reg­u­lar forces. Most re­cent­ly he has been work­ing in Af­gha­ni­stan, Iraq, Pal­es­tine/Is­ra­el and Su­dan. Prof Moor­craft writes that:

“In some coun­tries the Tam­il com­mun­i­ty stood next to the Jew­ish di­a­spora if not in wealth, per­haps in or­gan­i­za­tion; it was less as­simi­la­ted too. It was much smar­ter at play­ing on ten­der hearts in the host com­mun­i­ty while fund­ing an in­sur­gen­cy back home. It out­did the Kurd­ish, Irish, Kash­miri and even Pal­es­ti­ni­an di­a­spora in this re­gard...

In Gen­e­va to­day, Sri Lan­ka must be re­al­is­ticêto­geth­er with its friends, it must ne­go­ti­ate flex­i­bly, cre­a­tive­ly and sin­cere­ly, mak­ing all com­pro­mi­ses nec­es­sa­ry to re­move any ref­er­ence to an in­ter­na­tion­al or ex­ter­nal in­qui­ry by any agen­cy what­so­ev­er

The Ti­gers’ In­ter­na­tion­al Sec­re­tar­i­at es­tab­lish­ed a world­wide sys­tem of weap­ons pro­cure­ment, fi­nan­cial, and po­lit­i­cal sup­port and me­dia out­lets. Much of the net­work sur­vived in­tact af­ter the de­feat of the in­sur­gen­cy in Sri Lan­ka it­self... Af­ter the LTTE was ban­ned in the US and the EU, var­i­ous front or­gan­i­za­tions were set up in fif­ty-four lo­ca­tions in thir­ty two coun­tries. The LTTE con­tained some bril­liant prop­a­gand­ists who es­tab­lish­ed a range of TV and ra­dio sta­tions, web­sites and prin­ted me­dia. The front or­gan­i­za­tions worked as­sid­u­ous­ly on for­eign pol­i­ti­cians as well as the ap­prox­i­mate­ly one mil­lion Tam­il ex­iles, no­ta­bly in Eu­rope and North Amer­i­ca. ...Hun­dreds of Tam­il schools were set up in the di­a­spora re­gions (350 in Eu­rope alone) to in­cul­cate third gen­er­a­tion chil­dren in the cause. Of­ten these chil­dren were mo­bi­lized on be­half of pro-LTTE pro­tests...

...around ten per­cent of Tam­il ex­iles were ac­tive rad­i­cals. They were of­ten suc­cess­ful busi­ness peo­ple and high­ly ca­pa­ble of or­gan­iz­ing vote banks in re­gions and cit­ies where their nu­mer­i­cal con­cen­tra­tion could sway the lo­cal votes and thus se­cure a ready ear from pol­i­ti­cians. In Brit­ain the LTTE (un­der a po­lit­i­cal and le­gal guise) formed dedi­ca­ted or­gan­i­za­tions to liase with both the La­bour and Con­ser­va­tive par­ties...”(Pp.103-105, ‘The To­tal De­struc­tion of the Tam­il Ti­gers’, Pen & Sword, UK, 2012)  

The op­tions
Bad as this pic­ture is, it leaves out the enor­mous weight of yet an­oth­er fac­tor: Tam­il Na­du, with its 70 mil­lion strong pop­u­la­tion. To­day Tam­il Na­du is bid­ding to play the same role in Del­hi’s pol­i­cy to­wards Sri Lan­ka that a near hys­ter­i­cal Cu­ban com­mun­i­ty in the state of Flor­i­da used to play for dec­a­des in Wash­ing­ton’s pol­i­cy to­wards Cu­ba.

Thus Sri Lan­ka is in a far worse sit­ua­tion in­ter­na­tion­al­ly than al­most all states, es­pe­cial­ly dem­o­crat­ic ones, which have won a war against a ruth­less non-state ac­tor be­cause the com­mun­i­ty that sus­tained that non-state ac­tor through all its fas­cis­tic dep­re­da­tions is far more sig­nif­i­cant than the com­mun­i­ties which sus­tained just as ruth­less or even far less ruth­less non-state ac­tors in oth­er con­flict sit­ua­tions.

Faced with a foe of such in­ter­na­tion­al ca­paci­ty, the Sri Lan­kan state had —and still has— one of three ways to go.

1. It could have in­creased its de­pend­ence on, com­pli­ance with and ca­pit­u­la­tion to the West.

2. It could have re­lied al­most ex­clu­sive­ly on strength­en­ing its ‘hard pow­er’ grip on the is­land, most es­pe­cial­ly its North and East — which is what the Ra­ja­pak­sa re­gime sought to do, driv­en by its Sin­ha­la hard-line fac­tion and/or dom­i­nant im­pul­ses.

3. It could have ju­di­cious­ly re­in­forced its lead­er­ship of the is­land (the DS Sen­a­naya­ka strat­egy) while ex­pand­ing its space and in­creas­ing its com­pet­i­tive­ness glob­al­ly. With var­ia­tions, this is the line of SWRD and Sir­i­ma Ban­dar­a­naike, Ra­na­singhe Pre­ma­da­sa and Laksh­man Ka­dir­ga­mar. So­ma­wan­sa Amar­a­singhe and Til­vin Sil­va can at­test, as can Nir­u­pam Sen and I, from long con­ver­sa­tions with an alien­ated and anx­ious Laksh­man Ka­dir­ga­mar, that this was not the line of Chan­dri­ka Ku­mar­a­tun­ga in the last (PTOMS) years of her pres­i­den­cy. 

It is the third per­spec­tive lis­ted here that was al­so the pol­i­cy prac­tice that en­a­bled Sri Lan­ka to pre­vail de­ci­sive­ly in Gen­e­va in May 2009 while West­min­ster was blocka­ded by thou­sands of Tam­il dem­on­stra­tors and the traf­fic in Gen­e­va was snarled up by tens of thou­sands of Ti­ger flag wav­ing dem­on­stra­tors block­ad­ing the Pal­ais de Na­tions (one of whom im­mo­la­ted him­self in full pub­lic view).

Stra­te­gic blun­ders
The mul­ti­ple yet in­ter­con­nec­ted stra­te­gic blun­ders of the pres­ent ad­min­is­tra­tion were:
a.    To for­get the po­lit­i­cal po­ten­tial of the in­ter­na­tion­al re­serve ar­my of Tam­il se­ces­sion­ism  em­bed­ded in Tam­il Na­du and the Tam­il Di­a­spora)

b. To be­lieve that it could be coun­tered with­out ei­ther the po­lit­i­cal em­pow­er­ment of the gov­ern­ment’s own Tam­il al­lies or a po­lit­i­cal rap­proche­ment with the ad­mit­ted­ly in­con­sis­tent and vol­a­tile mod­er­ates of the TNA.   

c. To be­lieve that the glob­al ge­o­stra­te­gic weight of the off­shore Tam­il com­mun­i­ty could be coun­ter­vailed with­out main­tain­ing the war­time al­li­ance with Del­hi and in­deed while re­neg­ing on the pledges made to In­dia dur­ing the war and just af­ter it.

The Tam­ils for­got both the ge­o­stra­te­gic weight of the Sinh­al­ese on the is­land and the ex­is­ten­tial re­al­i­ty that they had no­where to re­treat, and took them on fron­tal­ly in war. The Sinh­al­ese for­got the ge­o­stra­te­gic weight of the Tam­ils off the is­land and sought to re­or­der the po­lit­i­cal space of post war Sri Lan­ka in a man­ner that went be­yond a nat­u­ral and le­git­i­mate re­in­state­ment of Sin­ha­la lead­er­ship but sought to im­pose Sin­ha­la-Bud­dhist dom­i­na­tion out­side their nat­u­ral dem­o­graph­ic and cul­tur­al zone.  

Com­ing home to roost
In Gen­e­va this month, to quote Mal­colm X, “the chick­ens are com­ing home to roost”. That how­ev­er, is nei­ther a cause for grim sat­is­fac­tion at a come­up­pance nor is it the end of the story. The West is on the verge of get­ting it wrong as it did dur­ing the en­tire pe­ri­od of the Nor­we­gian ne­go­tia­tions and more es­pe­cial­ly the Cease­fire Agree­ment (CFA)— just as In­dia did in an ear­li­er ava­tar. It is one thing to seek to re­store equi­li­bri­um by con­tain­ment of the Sin­ha­la tri­umph­al­ism of the Sri Lan­kan re­gime and state. This would re­quire an even-hand­ed ap­proach. It is quite an­oth­er to shift from con­tain­ment of Sin­ha­la ex­cess to hu­mil­iat­ing roll-back and a man­i­fest tilt to­wards the Tam­ils, trig­ger­ing col­lec­tive mem­o­ries of col­o­nial bias and re­in­forc­ing old­er ones of South In­di­an ex­pan­sion­ism.

Just as the is­land’s South —and the South driv­en or South­ern cen­tric state—re­sis­ted and re­versed the hu­mil­iat­ing re­treat of the CFA years, the over­whelm­ing ma­jor­i­ty will sim­ply not coun­te­nance over-lord­ship by the West, Tam­il Na­du, and the Tam­il di­a­spora lob­bies even in the form of the Of­fice of the High Com­mis­sion­er of Hu­man Rights.     

The lat­est Chan­nel 4 vid­eo with its sick­en­ing­ly bes­ti­al nec­ro­phil­ic sex­u­al abuse, seems au­then­tic to me— but it comes from the same part of the mo­ral in­fer­no as  the vid­eo of US sol­diers un­zip­ping them­selves and pee­ing on dead bod­ies of Ta­li­ban ter­ro­rists. These crimes must be ex­posed and pun­ish­ed some­day, as they have been from Bra­zil to Ban­gla­desh— by the so­ci­ety it­self at a his­tor­i­cal time of its choos­ing.

Any kind of in­ter­na­tion­al in­qui­ry must be re­gar­ded as non–ne­go­tia­ble by any Sri Lan­kan ad­min­is­tra­tion. How­ev­er, the tech­ni­cal sup­port of the Of­fice of the High Com­mis­sion­er for Hu­man Rights may be sought for a ro­bust, credi­ble na­tion­al proc­ess.

Mood shift
If the UNHRC res­o­lu­tion con­tains the com­po­nent of an in­tru­sive ex­ter­nal in­qui­ry, the mood of the Sin­ha­la ma­jor­i­ty, with or with­out the Ra­ja­pak­sas, will be ‘the res­o­lu­tion be damned!’ The mood shift will be con­du­cive to more rad­i­cal shades of na­tion­al­ism. The re­sults of the up­com­ing pro­vin­cial coun­cil elec­tions will be in­ter­est­ing in this re­gard, not least as the re­spec­tive cam­paigns of the gov­ern­ment and the main op­po­si­tion are be­ing led from the front, by Ma­hin­da Ra­ja­pak­sa and Ra­nil Wick­re­me­singhe re­spec­tive­ly.

An in­tru­sive UNHRC res­o­lu­tion will see the is­land state evolve in­to a hedge­hog, how­ev­er short-lived that ava­tar may be. Since the TNA and NPC lead­ers have es­chewed the smart op­tion of play­ing good cop to the di­a­spora and Tam­il Na­du’s bad cop, open­ly call­ing for an in­ter­na­tion­al in­ves­ti­ga­tion and there­by paint­ing them­selves as an­ti-na­tion­al and pro-West­ern (as in the days of the col­o­nial com­pact), the psy­cho-po­lit­i­cal space for dia­logue and rec­on­ci­li­a­tion will nar­row rath­er than wi­den af­ter the pas­sage of an in­tru­sive res­o­lu­tion. This at­mos­phere and set­ting will be par­tic­u­lar­ly in­hos­pit­a­ble for any at­tempt at po­lit­i­cal rec­on­ci­li­a­tion by an in­com­ing ad­min­is­tra­tion in Del­hi and/or a con­cerned South Af­ri­ca.

In Gen­e­va to­day, Sri Lan­ka must be re­al­is­tic above all else. To­geth­er with its friends, it must ne­go­ti­ate flex­i­bly, cre­a­tive­ly and sin­cere­ly, mak­ing all com­pro­mi­ses nec­es­sa­ry to re­move any ref­er­ence to an in­ter­na­tion­al or ex­ter­nal in­qui­ry by any agen­cy what­so­ev­er. If how­ev­er, the Res­o­lu­tion is en­dorsed while it con­tains such an ag­gres­sive­ly in­tru­sive com­po­nent, there can be no ques­tion of com­pli­ance or co­op­er­a­tion, cer­tain­ly with that as­pect, what­ev­er the cost. Sri Lan­ka will just have to take the hit, or, as El­more Leo­nard wrote (in­tro­duc­ing his hero Mar­shal Ray­lan Giv­ens, the pro­tag­o­nist of the TV ser­ies ‘Jus­ti­fied’), we’ll just have to “ride the rap; that’s all any­one has to do”.

Not a vic­tor’s peace
In 2009, Jus­tice CG Weer­a­man­try right­ly warned that a vic­to­ri­ous Sri Lan­kan state must avoid the bad ex­am­ple of the big pow­ers at Ver­sailles who im­posed a vic­tor’s peace on a de­fea­ted Ger­ma­ny on­ly to wit­ness the rise of Naz­ism. The Sri Lan­kan re­gime ig­nor­ed his ad­vice and now we have the re­sur­gence of the Tam­il se­ces­sion­ist proj­ect and the pros­pect of the en­cir­cle­ment of Sri Lan­ka. To­day, if it ca­pit­u­lates to the in­ter­na­tion­al hu­man rights NGOs, the Tam­il na­tion­al­ists, the West will make yet an­oth­er blun­der in its long line of blun­ders in Asia. A Trea­ty of Ver­sailles in re­spect of the de­fea­ted was hor­rif­ic in its re­sults, but to seek to im­pose a Trea­ty of Ver­sailles on a vic­to­ri­ous side— or to hold a Nur­em­burg Lite on the equiv­a­lent of the vic­to­ri­ous Al­lies rath­er than the de­fea­ted Na­zis— would be cata­stroph­ic in its con­se­quence. Since the JVP is no lon­ger au­di­tion­ing for the role of na­tion­al lib­er­a­tion or re­sist­ance move­ment, the agen­cy of re­sist­ance could be the very tar­get of the call for an in­ter­na­tion­al in­qui­ry. This time the South­ern/Sin­ha­la back­lash could shift the cen­tre of grav­i­ty to a rath­er more prae­tor­i­an pa­trio­tism. Un­sus­tain­a­ble though it will be as a proj­ect, it may serve as a hold­ing ac­tion and tran­si­tion.

It will al­so be but a symp­tom of a far more per­ma­nent re­al­i­ty which the West and the Tam­il na­tion­al­ists of­ten ig­nore: the two thirds of a stra­te­gi­cal­ly sig­nif­i­cant is­land are in­habi­ted by an eth­nic com­mun­i­ty that con­sti­tutes two thirds of its pop­u­lace.

Order Gifts to Sri Lanka. See Kapruka's top selling online shopping categories such as Toys, Vegetables, Grocery, Flowers, Birthday Cakes, Fruits, Chocolates, Clothing and Electronics. Also see Kapruka's unique online services such as Sending Money,Online Books, Delivery Service, Food Delivery and over 700 top brands. Also get products from Amazon & Ebay via Kapruka Gloabal Shop Sri Lanka

  Comments - 0

Order Gifts to Sri Lanka. See Kapruka's top selling online shopping categories such as Toys, Vegetables, Grocery, Flowers, Birthday Cakes, Fruits, Chocolates, Clothing and Electronics. Also see Kapruka's unique online services such as Sending Money,Online Books, Delivery Service, Food Delivery and over 700 top brands. Also get products from Amazon & Ebay via Kapruka Gloabal Shop Sri Lanka

Add comment

Comments will be edited (grammar, spelling and slang) and authorized at the discretion of Daily Mirror online. The website also has the right not to publish selected comments.

Reply To:

Name - Reply Comment

Order Gifts to Sri Lanka. See Kapruka's top selling online shopping categories such as Toys, Vegetables, Grocery, Flowers, Birthday Cakes, Fruits, Chocolates, Clothing and Electronics. Also see Kapruka's unique online services such as Sending Money,Online Books, Delivery Service, Food Delivery and over 700 top brands. Also get products from Amazon & Ebay via Kapruka Gloabal Shop Sri Lanka

Health System in the emergency room

Sandya Kumari from Kotahena has been experiencing chest pains since 2015 and

Canada’s targeted sanctioning of Gota and Mahinda

History was made last week when two former executive presidents of Sri Lanka

SC judgement on Easter attack: Court rules negligence stood in the way of avoiding most heinous crime

“On the ill-fated day of 21st of April 2019, this island home was awoken ru

Lasantha was a Fearless Editor who Spoke Truth to Power

Friends,Family members, colleagues, schoolmates and admirers of Lasantha Wick