Yesterday Sri Lanka recorded its first ‘fuel queue death’ since April, a little over a month after UNP leader Ranil Wickremesinghe (MP) was sworn in as President Gotabaya Rajapaksa’s second Premier, to revive the island’s flagging economy.
But, if Wickremesinghe expects the West to bail him out, like what it did when his uncle and then UNP leader J.R. Jayewardene swept to power 45 years ago, in July 1977, UK’s Roving Ambassador for Human Rights (HR) Rita French, speaking at the UNHR Council Sessions in Geneva on Tuesday, indicated otherwise.
French, speaking of the country’s current socioeconomic plight, restricted it to a mere one sentence by saying, “We recognise the significant challenges that Sri Lanka has been facing over recent months, causing great hardship for the
Sri Lankan people.”
But going by the most of her speech, donors (West) today are more in a hurry to see that Sri Lanka fixes its failing democratic commitments and obligations, rather than preventing starvation in the island.
Of French’s eight sentence speech on Sri Lanka in Geneva, the opening sentence or paragraph was by way of an introduction, while six of the remaining seven sentences were devoted to HR and corruption concerns and only one, on the country’s present socioeconomic morass, which, however, comprised her second para.
To quote the totality of her speech, as found on the UK Foreign Office website, “Thank you Mr President.
“This statement is by the Sri Lanka Core Group comprising Canada, Germany, Malawi, Montenegro, North Macedonia, the UK and the United States.
“We recognise the significant challenges that Sri Lanka has been facing over recent months, causing great hardship for the Sri Lankan people.
“We note that protesters have exercised their rights to freedom of peaceful assembly and association, and freedom of expression in recent months. We are deeply concerned by violent attacks on peaceful protestors and subsequent violence against Government-aligned politicians and supporters. Those responsible for this violence must be held to account.
“We stress the crucial importance of upholding democracy, human rights and the rule of law, and maintaining independent institutions. We also urge the Sri Lankan authorities to address long-standing impunity and corruption, and underline the need for Good Governance and sound economic policies.
“Our concerns over surveillance and intimidation of civil society persist and we stress the importance of protecting civil society space.
“The Core Group calls on Sri Lanka to cooperate with the High Commissioner and her Office and is ready to support
Sri Lanka on the implementation of HRC Resolution 46/1.
It’s clear that the West’s aid to Sri Lanka at this critical juncture will only be forthcoming if the country first fixes its HR issue vis-à-vis the closing stages of its war with the LTTE, in particular in May 2009; the 9 May 2022 mayhem committed by Government goons on peaceful protesters and corruption, the latter being the primary cause for the island’s present plight.
A start to fulfil Sri Lanka’s May 2009 “obligations” is to ask for foreign judicial support, a sore requirement by the Core Group. On the 9 May 2022 mayhem, charging former DIG Western Province for dereliction of duty and on corruption, opening the KMPG forensic report on Treasury (T) Bond issuances covering the period 1998 to 2016.
Wickremesinghe is also the Finance Minister under whom the Central Bank of Sri Lanka, which issues and administers T-Bonds on behalf of the Government, functions. Start with “reopening” the KMPG forensic file, only then will Western aid flow.
In contrast, when UK Premier James Callaghan visited India in January 1978, six months after Jayewardene was swept to power, he announced British aid to build the Victoria Hydro Electric Power Project (VHEPP), an adjunct of the accelerated Mahaweli Development Project funded by the West, which, according to Indian author Rahul Mugdal, in his book titled ‘Poverty Alleviation and Rural Development’, he described the Victoria HEPP “as the largest British foreign aid project ever, where donors were in competition and so in a hurry to be committed.”