It is unfortunate that Sri Lanka was hammered at the UNHRC session over the war crimes allegations. Things would have been sorted out through diplomacy, but unfortunately some of the decisions of the Government seem to have been actuated by emotional logic.
The war victory brought about by the President, Defence Secretary and Army Commander was a unique one where the entire organisation of the LTTE was decimated on the ground. We cannot at the same time confront our traditional allies as they too have helped us in banning the LTTE as a terrorist organisation thanks to the effective diplomacy of our late Foreign Minister Kadirgamar.
The LTTE was at one stage considered as freedom fighters and they were introduced to world as ‘our boys’ until the so-called boys turned guns at their own leaders who spread the seeds of hatred and separatism in Sri Lanka. No doubt this victory brought about a sea change in domestic politics. The UNP even dropped its stance over a ‘federal solution’ and political parties began to dilute from within and polarisation and fragmentation of political ideologies and parties are still in vogue.
As Ambassador Dayan Jayatilake rightly says that we have fought “a hot war for 30 years”, however an altogether different cold war is now being waged overseas. Unfortunately, to face this threat there does not appear to be any cohesive strategy in place. Mobilising mass support or political rhetoric meant to placate the constituency will not show results overseas but only meant to complicate the situation.
The actions of the Government are closely being monitored by the international community and never in our history has the credibility of a Government being so abysmal. Some senior ministers at policy making level have said that Sri Lanka does not need the support of the West for economic development and that Asia is the engine of growth.
One must keep in mind that Asian economies are trading with US as the dominant market. Unnecessary intrusion of Chinese activities in Sri Lanka would tend to tilt the balance of power in the region. The Government must be mindful of the region’s strategic balance that would threaten Indian and US interests in the region.
The primary responsibility of the Government is to evince its actions within the ambit of a civil government which strictly adheres to international norms of governance and this aspect is totally lacking due to marked deterioration in the law and order situation.
Now the LTTE has been wiped out and the Government’s alleged involvement in extra judicial measures must be stopped. It is paramount that rule of law must be upheld by Government institutions. The Judiciary too will have rise above partisan politics.
Every citizen of this country is subject to certain rights and privileges guaranteed by the Constitution. One way of gaining credibility is to stick to the Constitutional order. Other way is to set a code of conduct for ruling party politicians and threats on journalists or other civil society activist must be stopped.
All these remarks have a negative impact on the Government’s credibility. Prof. G.L. Pieris had the courage to denounce such statements publicly.
The pro-separatist lobby is very much active in foreign countries. The reason being that there is absolute media freedom in these countries and institutions that nurture practice of democracy are very much active and independent in Western countries.
There are organisations whose primary responsibility is to lobby governments and have permanent offices in Washington, London and Brussels and there are professionals involved in the art of lobbying. The Government must look at this whole picture and devise a strategy to face this situation.
We need to strengthen Sri Lankan organisations overseas and that would require monetary and other assistance from the Foreign Ministry. The techniques of lobbying have been developed over the years and professionals who are versed in the art of lobbying must be employed in devising an overall strategy.
It would be futile to find fault with politicians having allied with the separatist lobby because we have failed to identify the machinations of constituent politics of these countries.
The Tamil Diaspora lobby is formidable as it has sympathy from Tamils all over the world. It garners support in the form of public display of sympathy by organising mass movements and material and financial support.
We as a country must have an institution along the lines of American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC). AIPAC is the largest lobbying organisation in Washington and does its work on behalf of the State of Israel. AIPAC’s lobbying efforts are independent of Israeli Embassy in Washington. We should draw a lesson or two from AIPAC in order to be able to understand the nature of the power of lobbying in western countries.
The LLRC was appointed by the Government of Sri Lanka and it has now given its findings in the report. A special committee should now be appointed to look into the modalities of implementing its recommendations. There are measures calculated to strengthen the Government’s credibility.
There are press reports both in Sri Lanka and in India which suggest that the Government has favourably looked into the full implementation of the 13th Amendment to the Constitution. This is a touchy and tendentious issue as far as the Government’s coalition partners are concerned.
There has been a steady rise in criticisms from within the Government support base and one such remark came from Gomin Jayasiri. Jayasiri said that the Government should have had the foresight to have done more on the ground as it knew long before that the UNHRC conference in Geneva would be an uphill task.
Yet another veiled remark came from Dr. Gunadasa Amarasekara, who said that there were many issues about which they had serious concerns yet they were compelled to support the Government because of the US resolution against Sri Lanka.
All these tend to manifest lack of cohesion within the Government. Perhaps a special committee of cabinet ministers and selected members of the Government Parliamentary group would be ideal to address this situation overseas.
(The writer is a freelance journalist and a political lobbying and government relations consultant.)No Name