18 February 2014

CPA, NPC and TI is about bucks (big ones!)

It's election time again.  That's 'election monitoring time' for buck-strapped, cause-less NGOs.  This was written three years ago.  The usual suspects. They are also Geneva-bugged these days.  Worth a re-visit.

On the sidelines of the media conference following the conclusion of talks between the Government of Sri Lanka and the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam in February 2006, Jehan Perera of the National (sic) Peace Council, when asked how many people he could count on if all funding was withdrawn, said ‘to be honest, none’. 

Two years later, his erstwhile comrade-in-arms (and friendly competitor for the same donor dollars) in the peace cum federalism cum Tiger-whitewashing business, Paikiasothy Saravanamuttu (of the Centre for Policy Alternative), expressed grave concern about agitation by the National Movement Against Terrorism (NMAT) against I/NGOs in an article in the Sunday Leader.  He said, if I remember right, ‘The NMAT counts among its membership prominent academics, professionals, politicians and members of the Buddhist clergy’. 

The truth is that the NMAT at that time was essentially run by half a dozen people with a zero bank account.  There were no politicians or bikkhus; there were 2 professionals (a lawyer and a doctor) and one academic (who happened to be the lawyer).  The ideology of the NMAT prevailed over that of the CPA and NPC.  The NMAT played a small but decisive and effective role in building consensus about taking on and defeating the LTTE militarily.  The point is that it was not just about money.  The federalists had their day and it was a long, long day which in fact ran into years and a decade and a half.  They had the private and state media to play with, the ear of the country’s President (and later the Prime Minister) and also the green-light and protection these things entailed. They failed.   

Just the other day, Jehan Perera’s outfit declared that Saravanamuttu had been chosen as the first recipient of something called ‘Citizens Peace Award’.  That’s rich coming from an organization which openly admits that the only people it can call upon to stand with it at any point are those who can be purchased.  No one needs to be surprised when those who are thick-as-thieves scratch each others’ backs and helps stretch curriculum vita with a view to future pickings from like-thinking or naïve money-givers with similar agenda (read ‘anti-Sri Lanka’, ‘anti-Sinhala’ and ‘anti-Buddhist’, i.e. rabidly opposed to substantiating claims of homeland, traditional or otherwise, with historical, geographic and demographic data, and strangely fixated with a multi-ethnic and multi-religious thesis that suspiciously refuses to give number-breakdown).  Friends help friends, after all.

What is interesting to note is the amount of money these people had to play with.  The NMAT depended solely on the personal funds of its key decision-makers and contributions from friends, never once going over Rs.50,000.00.  Contrast this with what the CPA, NPC and their best-buddy-in-the-business, Transparency International received after the conclusion of the war: a staggering sum of 618.33 million rupees!

The CPA, NPC and TI received Rs. 272.31 million, Rs. 171.23 million and 174.79 million respectively, it was reported in ‘The Island’ of March 5, 2011.  This is peace-time bucks, folks.  If they got Rs. 618.33 million in three peace-years or roughly over Rs 200 million a year, one can only imagine how much money they wallowed in during the height of the war!  Since they are all into transparency and accountability, I challenge these outfits to take out full page ads in all the main newspapers detailing how much they got from whom and when and what it was spent on.  I am sure they have ad-budgets and even if this weren’t so, they can consider it part of their commitment to transparency-accountability advocacy.   We will know for sure then who got what and how much of the dollars went to pay overheads, salaries included.  They would have to list for consumption by the readership of all newspapers (and not just web browsers) all these details plus the names of all board directors who are by omission or commission complicit in all the nefarious designs and activities of the people who run these organizations.  This might reveal that there’s an unholy and telling commonality in the composition of the respective boards of directors.  They should come out with all this. If they have the guts, that is.  

These three outfits are guilty of selective myopia, engagement and interference in national political processes and desperate attempts to give legs to an ailing LTTE after spending years and millions on giving legitimacy to that organization and even parity of status (in use of language, terms of negotiations and supporting claims).  This is well documented.    

The Island report lists the following donors: Meyers Norris Penny Ltd RM (Canada), Canadian International Development Agency, Berghof Foundation (Germany), Facilitating Local Initiatives for Conflict Transformation (Germany), Stichting Cordaid (The Netherlands), Norwegian Embassy, Commission Des Communautes (Norway), ICT for Peace Foundation (Switzerland), Dep. F. Auswaert, Angelegenheiten (Switzerland), Swedish Embassy, Swedish International Development Agency, Goldman Sachs Grant (UK), Minority Rights GRP Ltd BCA (UK), European Commission, Transparency International Division (UK), Catholic Agency for Overseas Development (UK), European Union, Diakonia (US), Forum of Federations/Forum Des (US), International Media Support (US), the Ford Foundation (US), Fredskorpset Bergen (US), National Endowment for Democracy (US), Partnership for Transparency Fund (US) and Academy for Educational Development (US). 

Whether or not these people knew what the recipients of their generosity were up to is not relevant.  In general though, one notes that the Golden Rule is ‘He/she who has the gold, makes the rules’.  In this sense and to the extent that these donors’ decisions are influenced by anti-Sri lankan elements, especially the pro-LTTE Sri Lankan Tamil Diaspora and rabidly anti-Buddhist church organizations fiercely pushing cultural erasure in the name of evangelist pursuits whose methodologies are an insult to the teachings of that exceptional earth-citizen, Jesus of Nazareth, the CPA, NPC and TI are mere lackeys in a larger global design.  Their backers have chosen poorly but then again maybe these individuals and organizations are the best of the pick. 

Of Rs. 618.33 million received by the CPA, NPC and TI during the three-year period, over Rs. 111 million had been donated by various other sources. The CPA has received Rs 59.9 million, NPC Rs. 11.40 million and TI 40.00 million.  Who gave this money. We need names, people.  

Norway, interesting, has been the largest single donor.  The European Union has been the best funding friend of the CPA, apparently.  It is not coincidental that Norway was the biggest backer of the LTTE and its agenda and suckered in successive governments to treat that country as a ‘neutral’.  The EU used, unethically and against all reason, the GSP Plus facility as instrument of coercion to submit the Government of Sri Lanka to alter national policy according to EU tastes. 

Enough is enough.  These funding agencies and so-called civil society organizations are directly interfering in the affairs of our country.  They need to be held accountable.  I am sure that these organizations abide by regulations with regard to the transfer of money from outside sources into bank accounts.  I am not sure if audits are required or if they whether these are scrutinized carefully and relevant questions asked. My suspicion is that the legal framework and monitoring mechanisms are either absent or weak.  We know that COPE has all kinds of flaws. Few however would say ‘do away with COPE’ because public enterprises should be run efficiently and without corruption.  The same goes for I/NGOs. 

This is the most pertinent fact: they are not answerable to the citizens of the country, but to their donor friends whose credentials as neutrals are suspect and moreover the history of their engagement in things Sri Lankan have shown a pernicious tendency (putting it mildly) to support forces that have destabilized the country, perpetrated genocide and ethnic cleansing and sought to compromise the territorial integrity of Sri Lanka. 

We want a list. Messers Perera, Saravanamuttu and Weliamuna (and/or his successor) need to tell us who they partnered with, all the organizations, all the individuals and the where, when, how and what of their activities.  IMMEDIATELY.  In the name of TRANSPARENCY and ACCOUNTABILITY.  

Malinda Seneviratne is the Editor-in-Chief of The Nation, and can be reached at msenevira@gmail.com