03 February 2013

Alistair Burt has spoken, we hear

It is all about the moral high ground

British Under Secretary for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs, Alistair Burt has spoken.  He has spoken for Britain, a country he describes as ‘a candid friend of Sri Lanka’.  In the classic, hold-the-hand-and-rap-knuckles mode, Burt has clearly stated that Britain will continue to back anti-Sri Lankan moves at the UNHRC sessions later this month in Geneva.  ‘In the country’s best interest,’ of course.  ‘Being friendly,’ of course. 
Burt was speaking on the topic of ‘Sri Lanka – 2013 and Beyond’ at a seminar organized by the Lakshman Kadirgamar Institute for International Relations.   Minister of External Affairs, G.L. Peiris, in his impromptu response to the prepared speech by Burt made some valid points.  Peiris asked, politely, why this ‘candid friendship’ expressed in relation to other countries (he was obviously referring to Isreal) was being selectively ‘applied’.  Israel, as everyone knows, has in no uncertain terms told the UNHRC where to get off (as in, ‘we won’t let you get “in”’).  Sri Lanka, on the other hand, engages with the UNHRC, takes note of resolutions and participates respectfully in periodic reviews, unlike Israel. 

Burt talked of the need ‘to see individuals brought to justice in particular cases of violent attack, it simply cannot be right for the accused to be walking free’.  Prof Peiris has been diplomatic to a fault.  He could have said ‘How come you don’t surrender to the Hague, along with your entire Cabinet, Queen and PM downwards?’  That would be for perpetrating and aiding and abetting crimes against humanity. 
Prof Peiris also pointed out the dangers of using a broad brush in talking about countries with very different cultures, histories and political contexts, and moreover, if comparisons are made, the strange reluctance to unreservedly applaud the vast strides Sri Lanka has taken post-conflict.   In general, post-conflict progress is mentioned because it has to be, but is always followed by unfair and shrill shop-talk about accountability with little or no knowledge of realities faced by Sri Lanka in executing a military assault on the world’s most ruthless terrorist outfit.  Britain has never ever exercised the kind of restraint Sri Lanka demonstrated in dealing with ‘enemies’.  Britain is yet to compensate Sri Lanka for the violence it unleashed on citizen, culture and soil of this island.  The loot stayed in Britain. Burt is a beneficiary of plunder.  Scot-free and rich!

Burt is out of order.  Is Peiris ‘in order’ though?  It is no secret that the big boys and girls of the international community consistently play favorites in international forums.  Where ‘crisis’ is needed, crisis will be manufactured, this we know.   Where faulting helps, fault will be manufactured.  Mountains will be made of molehills.  The problem is that Sri Lanka is not Isreal, for Israel has the USA by its whatnots if we were to go by the number of times Uncle Sam played Israel’s one-true-friend at the UN. 
That’s the small problem though.  The big problem is that the Government sweats more over Geneva than over Thambuttegama, Paranthan and Kattankudy.  There’s progress, yes.  LLRC recommendations are being implemented, yes.  If it is ridiculous to say that there were no human rights violations in the last stages of the conflict, it is even sillier to say that all that was ‘policy’, true.  Still, it is important for Sri Lanka and Sri Lankans to come clean for Sri Lanka and Sri Lankans. 

It’s not about Burt or Blake (that’s ‘Robert the Meddler from the USA’).  It is easy to dismiss them and their loose-tongued drivel.  The difficult thing is to desist from doing the easy thing.  Easy things, plural, for ‘development’ and ‘progress in rehabilitation, reconstruction, re-settlement, de-mining etc.,’ laudable as they are, are less difficult than dealing with the anger, loss, betrayal and that which is unpardonable.  Tamil political parties have played safe, refusing to come clean on their acts of omission and commission with respect to crimes against humanity.  The Government should not wait on them to make the first move. 
This year, the Government goes to Geneva knowing well that its (so-called) friends will spare no efforts to insult and humiliate.  The Government is putting on a brave front.  There’s something missing though.  It is called ‘Moral High(er) Ground’.  Moral high ground is a relative term and can be asserted by undressing the likes of Burt.  The higher moral ground is obtained by a clean conscience.  It requires humility.  It requires penitence.  It requires punishing those whose errant behavior made it easier for the Burts of the West to piddle on Sri Lanka. 

King Dutugemunu suffered from insomnia after defeating Elara.  He confessed to the fact. There was no shame.  That was a war fought under different rules.  This was different.  The enemy was a ruthless terrorist that was holding some 300,000 people hostage.  Extreme restraint was shown and that is easily established. But humans err. And some humans err to extents that are not pardonable.  Such things happen and it is unfortunate but perhaps unavoidable.  The guilty have to be named. Punished.  That is not ‘betrayal’, for turning away is betrayal of all citizens and everything that is wholesome and laudable in our society, our history and heritage.  Do it, and the Burts of the West can howl as loud as they want, but the Government will have the full backing of all the people on either side of this ‘Geneva’ and all ‘Genevas’ to follow.  This and this alone (no, not China or Russia) is what will make the difference.     
['The Nation' Editorial, February 3, 2013]


sajic said...

You are right. But isnt it a little too late now for the GOSL to admit that there were human errors and inhuman incidents did take place; To admit that conscience is not squeaky clean-as they averred when original accusations were made?
The Tamil parties confessions are unimportant-they are the aggrieved as far as the international community is concerned. And that, apparently is their trump card.

Malinda Seneviratne said...

Never too late, I think. As for the Tamil parties, well, they have to deal with governments AND non-Tamil people, one way or the other, whatever the international community thinks. So if they really want to co-exist, they have to do stuff too, for you will not find many Sinhalese (for example)who think the TNA is made of saints.

sajic said...

Many Tamils, too I think. We remember the past too clearly. As for the GOSL admtting error: after 3 years of dithering the Govt is likely to meet the 'didnt we tell you so' kind of argument. And maybe,
'what else have you kept hidden' question. The forces against the GOSL are not altruistic- they have their own agenda.

Thrishantha Nanayakkara said...

This article amply demonstrates what a war can do to different sections of the society. Most of the true soldiers came out of the war with deeper respect for humanity, human rights, rule of law, and justice. I have had the privilege of talking to many such soldiers. They were brave enough to confess deep flaws in the Sri Lankan political system that led to a series of unfortunate situations. For them, the dawn of an era at the end of the war, where guns will be silenced, citizens will be treated equally, and justice will protect everybody’s rights equally, was a bright dream. Then, there were politicians like Rajapaksas and some media people, who rode a super wave of success on the euphoria of the gullible at the expense of the blood of soldiers and all those who suffered. The war did not make them any more mature than who they were, but made them greedier. Some of the cover up media men, like the infamous guy who ran “Thulawa” (what a name for the biased!), and those Malinda may know best, keep the rest of the innocent people uninformed about the pressing social reforms that need to be brought in to make Sri Lanka safe for all. Why bother when they enjoy a different legal system? The above Thulawa guy is hanging around freely, but on warrants!.

I am not sure how Malinda tests a friendship. For me, a friend is somebody who bothers to buy Sri Lanka’s value added finished products, for that generates employment for the skilled, and provides opportunities for broader education. A friend is somebody who is bothered about Sri Lanka’s human rights situation. If USA or UK is not bothered about the human rights record of Israel, they are not in a true friendship with Israel, but in a relationship of exploitation, that will destroy Israel in the long run. In that sense, President Obama is a better friend of Israel than many right wing republicans. A lot of my Jewish friends who are worried about the Prawar Plan, and the silence of many countries has been vocal about this. Anyway, it is upto the Jews who truly love the long term survival of Israel to worry about their country. But, I respect all those who express concerns about what is going on in Sri Lanka, the brave Sri Lankans first (those who gained higher respect for humanity during the war), and then those international friends. Malinda tries to apply the local “patriot” or “traitor” theory often used to choose one out of two diamemetrically opposite sets of laws co-existing in one country, to those international members of the UN who express concerns. They are “doing something against Sri Lanka”. So what they should do is to approve what is going on? Like the third grade tactics used to impeach the Chief Justice defying all recommendations of the Supreme Court, denying all principles of natural justice? By the way, did we see that Government efficiency in the implementation of the recommendations of the LLRC? Malinda may not notice that there is some flaw in the priority list of the Government, and the long term consequences, but people who are concerned about Sri Lanka’s future notice them to be matters to be concerned about.