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Post-mortem on Geneva

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Post-mortem on Geneva
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We have to face up to the fact that the Sri Lankan Government suffered a serious set-back at Geneva. We can of course argue that adding the abstentions to the votes against the US Resolution shows that we lost only by one vote. That kind of statistical casuistry will take us nowhere. In fact the refusal to face up to ugly facts that motivates such casuistry could prove to be dangerous. It could even lead to the international isolation in which Sri Lanka found itself under the Jayewardene Government in 1987, as acknowledged by JRJ himself. It is true that two powerful countries, namely China and Russia, voted on our side. During a spell of service in Moscow from 1995 to 1998 I found that the strong Indo-Soviet bonds forged during the Cold War remained just as strong as ever, and my guess is that in the last resort, sometime in the future, Russia will side with India against us. We must acknowledge Sri Lanka’s vulnerability.

In coping with the post-Geneva situation we must first of all acknowledge Sri Lanka’s vulnerability, instead of resorting to arguments that befit the school debating society. Next, we must try to achieve as precise an understanding as might be possible of what the US Resolution signifies – the why and the wherefore of it, and what it portends. It is only then that we can fashion responses that can meet the post-Geneva challenges that will be arising, challenges to the political unity of Sri Lanka and even to its territorial integrity. In realistically assessing those challenges we must stop giving excessive weightage to the backside of the LTTE – the backside that is usually referred to as the LTTE rump. Instead, we must give weightage to something that is infinitely more powerful, namely India, and what it might perceive as threats to its primordial interests arising out of Sri Lanka’s unsolved ethnic problem, as I have argued in earlier articles.

In trying to understand the significance of the US Resolution we must first of all pose a question: Why has the US, the sole super-power in the world with so many other serious preoccupations, given so much importance to the relatively unimportant situation in Sri Lanka? This country does not belong to the US sphere of interest and the US itself would regard it as India’s turf. The human rights situation in Sri Lanka certainly needs correction, but comparatively speaking it is not of so horrendous an order as to require a country-specific resolution at Geneva. Sri Lanka, after all, is a functioning democracy, flawed and showing a trend towards the dynastic and the dictatorial but still, indisputably, a functioning democracy. As for the arguments that the Resolution has behind it US and Western chagrin over the fact that we would not stop the war at the crucial final stage, and that we unlike them have defeated terrorism, I will not deal with such arguments as they are not worth serious address. As for the argument that the West is annoyed by the fact that we don’t toe the Western line, it seems to me that the Government’s foreign policy is still Non-Aligned and it is certainly not anti-Western to the point of provoking hostility. I can think of only two plausible reasons for the Resolution: the US wants to advance the New World Order and it wants to oblige India.

At the time that Ban Ki-Moon decided to appoint his Panel of Experts I argued that he was doing so at the behest of the US which was engaged in a "benign conspiracy" to exert pressure on the Sri Lanka Government to make it really move towards a political solution of the ethnic problem. I postulated a convergence of interest between the US and India. A new world order has to be instituted by the US and India together with some other powers. In helping solve the ethnic problem the US would be making a contribution, albeit a small one, to the new world order. Far more important is that it would also be helping India get rid of a problem that could come to threaten its primordial interests, meaning its political unity and even – in a worst-case hypothesis – its territorial integrity, as I have argued elsewhere. In a more recent article I pointed out that there was good reason to believe that a strong Indo-US nexus had been formed in the ‘eighties and that that was a factor behind the Indo-Sri Lanka Peace Accords of 1987. In terms of the arguments that I have been developing in recent weeks, India’s volte-face in unexpectedly voting for the US Resolution should have been expected. A convergence of interests had led inexorably to a convergence of votes.

The twin purposes behind the "benign conspiracy" have been advanced significantly at Geneva, though with only partial success in advancing the new world order. The major problem has been the veto power at the Security Council – a point emphasized in a recent article by my former colleague Bandu Silva – a veto power that the US and its allies want to circumvent. A way forward has been shown by the Darusman Report. The Panel of Experts did not have the decision of any UN body behind it, but its Report has been given the imprimatur of the UN. It is something more than just another document that can be used by the powers that want to put the SL Government in the dock. Now, at Geneva, the UNHRC has been given virtual monitoring powers, something that far exceeds its mandate. It looks like a usurpation of the functions of the Security Council. Here, however, the success has been partial because G.L. Peiris and others have done an excellent job in showing up the dangers inherent in that success. The powerless in the international community have been alerted to those dangers, for which the Sri Lankan Government deserves credit.


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