Sri Lanka’s Strategy to Foil the Hounding
By Shivanthi Ranasinghe
The new UNHRC Resolution A/HRC/46/L.Rev.1 passed against Sri Lanka may be legally non-binding, but nevertheless needs to be taken very seriously. It is not for nought that the US and UK worked so hard to have this Resolution passed. Therefore, instead of grasping at the semantics Sri Lanka must study the motivation behind the Resolution.
It is a futile exercise for Sri Lanka to be harping on the double standards of the West or to be complaining of the shortfalls at the UNHRC. We can list out the atrocities of the West - past and present - until we are blue in the face but no one will care. The Bengali famine, firebombing of Japan or two atomic bombs dropped on civilian settlements that did not have any military significance, the chemical warfare in Vietnam or the Iraq invasion on bogus allegations are unfortunately only historical anecdotes.
Other than a criticism and a frown, no one had managed to halt these atrocities, take steps to ensure non-recurrence, bring culprits before justice or at least bring relief to the victims. Today, human rights organisations as Human Rights Watch, Amnesty International and the UNHRC are powerful bodies. Yet, instead of viably addressing the real issues before people, these entities are engaged in driving a wedge between the people and their governments that the West looks upon unfavorably or nsympathetically.
These organisations resolutely refuse to acknowledge the difficult challenges before these governments. Instead of the much needed support that these organisations can provide, they throw a mighty tantrum every time that these governments fail to cross a ‘t’ or dot an ‘i’. Instead of studying the whole picture, these entities have become experts in cherry picking incidents that will support their half-baked narratives - whether it be ‘marginalising minorities’, ‘stifling media freedom’, ‘draconian laws’, “oppressive regimes” or ‘worsening human rights conditions’.
It is this same paint brush that rakes Sri Lanka over hot coals over baseless allegations without focusing or appreciating a single positive step or outcome achieved by Sri Lanka. Yet, not a single human rights advocate has so far admonished India for its role in funding, arming or training militants to fight against the Sri Lankan State and people. Likewise, none had pressured the West to tighten laws to protect its Tamil ethnic citizens from extortion and intimidation, as funds for terrorism in Sri Lanka were been collected by LTTE front organisations. The LTTE ideologists regularly hold public events in capitals of Western countries, boldly displaying paraphernalia of the proscribed terrorist organisation without a single human rights activist protesting - not even when these demonstrators trample and desecrate the Sri Lankan national flag.
Therefore, the current attempt to highlight the hypocrisy or unfairness of the situation Sri Lanka is forced into a futile exercise. Even if the current situation deteriorates and the diplomatic battles ends in a foreign military intervention, the world at large would not care. They did not care when India invaded our airspace in 1987. History will not change in this aspect if it repeats. We cannot blame the world for we cannot expect another country to fight our battles and defend us - unless they have a strategic interest in our country. Therefore, we need a drastic change in our strategy to defend ourselves.
Understanding that human rights have been weaponised to be used as a political weapon is important, but that realisation alone will not save us. Had we just stopped from further action upon realising that the LTTE was not interested in a negotiated settlement nor were freedom fighters we would still be under LTTE’s terror. Instead with that realisation, we decided on a military intervention. Ultimately, it was that decisive action on our part that ended the terror era of nearly three decades.
Likewise, as it is clear that the issue is not at all about human rights, Sri Lanka must now effectively end the hounding with the correct strategy. A key step in identifying the solution lies in identifying the real cause for powerful countries to gang up against this small nation. After all, a peaceful nation as Sri Lanka does not pose a threat to any other nation - not even an islet of Maldives.
At a recent interview with Derana, Foreign Secretary Admiral Jayanath Colombage noted that recent UNHRC Resolution adopted against Sri Lanka is so broad that its objectives are unclear. He confessed, “we don’t know how to react to this honestly.”
If this statement is true, then it is a grave concern indeed. The Gotabaya Rajapaksa Administration came to power on the pledge of strengthening national security. However, as past events proves, national intelligence is paramount in ensuring national security. President Gotabaya understands the importance of national security, perhaps better than any other individual in the country. After all, it was he as Defence Secretary who developed the intelligence units, especially the Military Intelligence, into a highly advanced body.
Until Gotabaya Rajapaksa took over as Defence Secretary, these intelligence units were hardly functioning effectively. It was Gotabaya who gave due importance to the functions of intelligence units and had them trained and equipped to become one of the best in the world. Their contribution greatly helped not only to win the war, but also sustain the peace afterwards.
It must be noted that the threat to the country, even during the height of LTTE’s terrorism, was more from outside than within. It was the extremist group, the Tamil Diaspora, that funded the LTTE and justified its crimes. After the war, the Tamil Diaspora repeatedly attempted to revive the LTTE but failed because of the superb work of Military Intelligence. As the Diaspora was functioning outside Sri Lanka, notably in the West, Sri Lanka’s intelligence also had to establish its covert presence in the West to monitor and preempt the Diaspora’s diabolical game. This presence was established in the most ingenious manner.
When the US installed puppet regime, Yahapalana Government, came to power, the Military Intelligence became a prime target and entire units, especially those monitoring the events in Western countries, were exposed and detained for months in remand prisons over allegations so baseless that the investigators could not even file a B-Report. Thus the networks that were cultivated carefully over the years to monitor terrorism and extremism movements were destroyed within months. During their four and half years in power, the Yahapalana Government under the dictates of the West and Tamil Diaspora severely weakened the intelligence of the country, plunging the country into darkness.
One of the first steps taken by President Gotabaya was to strengthen the Ministry of Defence. The purview under this ministry had been broadened so that information sharing between different intelligence entities is done effectively leading to better analysis and understanding of ground realities.
Therefore, Admiral Colombage’s statement that the objectives of the UNHRC Resolution is too broad based and that as a Government we do not know how to react to it is more curious than alarming. After all, President Gotabaya understood the dangers to sovereignty posed by the Millennium Challenge Corporation Compact. The team that worked closely with him before and during the presidential election and now hold powerful positions in the Administration too shared his concerns. This team led by Gotabaya identified the threats by understanding the overall implication that could be effected via the sister agreements, ACSA and SOFA.
The ACSA and the SOFA had the potential to turn the entire Island into a US military base. While our military bases and other resources would be obliged to serve and service the American forces, the visitors would have the freedom to act with impunity. The MCCC had the potential to destroy our rural economy, which is still the backbone of the country.
However, these three contracts did not suddenly or arbitrarily spring into life. These would not have been possible had US failed in its “regime change” operation in 2015. Having failed in 2010, they managed to scrape a win in 2015. Alarmed by the unexpected sympathetic wave that rose for ousted President Mahinda Rajapaksa, the US bit its tongue at the UNHRC March session on the pretext of giving the newly installed Yahapalana Government time to settle. However, that same year at the September session the new Government co-sponsored the UNHRC Resolution against Sri Lanka.
These resolutions against Sri Lanka have been entertained by the UNHRC ever since Sri Lanka ended terrorism on its soil. Dr. Dayan Jayatilake, who was the permanent representative to the UN in 2009 brilliantly defeated the first resolution with a counter resolution that ended with Sri Lanka being commended for achieving the near impossible. It is most unfortunate that Dr. Jayatilleka’s personal agenda clashed with the Government’s mandate, putting the country into a very difficult position.
Undeterred by their failure to shame Sri Lanka’s victory into a war crime the West had continued to hound Sri Lanka. Though Sri Lanka was not successful in the subsequent resolutions, it was only after the Yahapalana Government co-sponsored the UNHRC Resolution 30/1 that the real intentions behind the allegations came to light - including attempts to change the Constitution to weaken the Central Government and empower the provinces into semi-autonomous entities.
Studying these events would and should give the Foreign Ministry a fair understanding of the strategy behind the UNHRC Resolution. However, the Ministry must also understand the motivation behind the Resolution. It must be understood that different countries have different agendas, though they must be supporting the same strategy. Identifying these agendas is crucial in this endeavour. While our good relationship with China is suspected to be the cause, it must not be forgotten that the foreign interference in our internal matters proceeds the Chinese factor.
It bleeds the ears to hear the Foreign Secretary appreciating India for abstaining from voting at the UNHRC. Even as India allowed the Tamil Nadu political parties to use Prabhakaran’s images as propaganda material Admiral Colombage sought to interpret India’s abstaining as a support. This kind of naive pronouncements only serve to discredit the Administration, which is both unfair and unwarranted.
Admiral Colombage must understand the pivotal role he plays in this Administration. Therefore, he must not let his mouth run as he has allowed it during his short tenure as Foreign Secretary. He embarrassed President Gotabaya and Sri Lanka by announcing at a press conference that President has already written to India for their support at the UNHRC. This shows a remarkable lack of understanding of the situation with India and the uncomfortable position the Indian Government too must have faced domestically as well as bilaterally.
Ever since India took to the sidelines after the LTTE assassinated Rajiv Gandhi, the West with the US at the helm had tried to intervene in Sri Lanka’s internal matters. It was only after 9/11 that the US showed a keen interest in dismantling the LTTE, but never annihilating the terrorist unit. Even as US extended support for Sri Lanka to fight the LTTE by providing vital coordinates and other intelligence, America maintained the buzz on human rights violations. The volume increased after Obama’s regime came to power. The question before Sri Lanka is the reason for US and the West to bully the Island nation. This question becomes even more pertinent when their own records expose their falsehoods as revealed by Lord Naseby and Wikileaks.
The Foreign Secretary especially must get his act together for his personality plays a crucial role in our counter strategy. He must make sure to be well informed as nothing can be more damaging than a Foreign Secretary ignorant of issues pertaining to the country.