03 March 2014

Geneva is a distraction Sri Lanka can do without

To plan for year, they say, you have to plant rice.  To plan for a decade you have to plant trees and to plan for a century, you have to teach the people. I believe that’s a Chinese saying.  Politicians think of the next election while statesmen think of the next generation.  That’s common knowledge across time and space.  In Sri Lanka whatever is planned it is marked from one session of the UNHRC to the next, especially the ones in Geneva.  

‘Geneva Talk’ begins in December. It is followed by drivel from Channel 4 and partners in the crimes of mischief.  Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch chips in.  One can count on statements from the USA, UK and Canada.  Then there’s Navi Pillai drawing from sources that have drawn from sources that have cited sources that quote unreliable ‘witnesses’.  It’s annual.  We also have agitation on the part of the Government, some chest-beating ‘bring it on’ cries, some appeasing moves and brave-fronting.

But what is a country that staggers from one outcome-known confab to the next if not a country that does not plan for its longer tomorrows?  What is really funny in this business is that people advocate one strategy or another as though getting through Geneva without a scratch is going to determine for now and forever the future of this country. Obviously such advocates have short memories and short-term focus.  This country has had its ups and downs, golden as well as shameful moments. It has suffered 500 years of subjugation where insult and humiliation went hand in hand with cultural erasure and genocide.  It has known down-days but have had the civilizational legs to stand up with dignity. Unbowed. 

Geneva, though, we are told is all about getting our perspective on India right.  Right! 

What’s India?  Well, the last we heard, Tamil Nadu and the Central Government can’t decide who has the last word on justice.  The last we heard the union is festering at its seams and we are not talking about Telangana only.  India is a country that owes its existence to the British and we can only conclude that it is everlasting gratitude to that colonial master that has made that country retain the colonial name.  There were of course moment in history when vast swathes came under one ruler, but that only affirms that territorial integrity has always been the harvest of yielding to conqueror.  In short, it is a country waiting to fall apart, sooner or later.   Indeed, it can be offered that India’s problem with a solid, unitary neighboring state, is a reflection of its own national angst about the future of its own territorial integrity.  

So what’s the logic of putting all our Geneva eggs in an Indian basket?  And what does this Indian basket consist of if not a) submitting to Indian hegemony, b) confirming by legislative writ the lines that seek to turn chauvinistic and separatist myth into inalienable fact (we are talking the 13th Amendment here, by the way) and c) unending inter-ethnic wars well into the future.

The argument though is that all of it is better than a US-led ‘independent inquiry’ into alleged war crimes. Well, when did the US ever need an excuse to invade a country, bomb it into the Middle Ages and such (all in the name of democracy, peace and ‘in the best interest of the people’ – doesn’t the sanctimony nauseate?) and even evict entire populations if it serves ‘US interests’?   India, however, some believe will stop the USA from bullying Sri Lanka.  What that means is this: if Sri Lanka picks India as its chosen bully, then the USA will back off.  Masochistic, what? 

Sri Lanka has not got its house in order.  This is correct.  Sri Lanka has been badly remiss in certain matters and areas, it is pointed out, quite correctly.  On the other hand, these ‘wrongs’ are pretty benign aren’t they, compared to the malignancies that countries like the USA and India have spawned both within and without their national borders? 

Geneva has its uses for both regime and its detractors.  Geneva is everyone’s leverage to secure benefit to political vision.  Geneva is a moment in time, not a city or an assembly.  Perhaps Sri Lanka’s biggest problem is that it has looked at Geneva for so long that Geneva appears bigger than Sri Lanka and the likes of Navi Pillay seem bigger than the Sri Lankan citizenry.  The same can be said of Delhi and the likes of Jayalalithaa and Manmohan Singh. 

It is time for the wider sweep of gaze, across regions and beyond moment.  Let us not get carried away, either way, by Geneva.  More importantly, let us not let ‘Geneva’ blind us to the machinations of those who have a stake in bringing Sri Lanka under the Indian heel, one way or another.