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Timidity takes US nowhere, well done Ambassador

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The Island newspaper recently carried a most interesting report under the caption Sri Lanka responds to International Crisis Group criticism at European Parliament. The EU Parliament’s Sub-Committee on Human Rights had been used as a platform by LTTE apologists to discredit Sri Lanka by launching scurrilous unsubstantiated attacks on our country at meetings of the Sub-Committee. The last meeting of the Sub-Committee had been no different from those before and when the Ambassador had sought the Right of Reply, this right has been denied by the acting Chairperson of the Sub Committee. This alone shows their prejudice and exposes how partial they are.

The Ambassador has not taken this lying down and had lodged a strong protest and re-canvassed the decision of the Chair. He had been permitted to circulate a statement in response to the comments made at meetings of the Sub Committee. Had he not lodged his strong protest, they would have ridden rough shod over us and the diabolical lies would not have been refuted. The LTTE Diaspora would have used the minutes of the Sub-Committee to propagate untruths and half truths to damage the image of our country.

The Ambassador has circulated a comprehensive Statement in response to the comments made during this "Exchange of Views on Human Rights in Sri Lanka in the post conflict period". The GOSL has thereby refuted the lies and set out the true position.

The Communications Director of the International Crisis Group, Andrew Suoehleim, had made an astounding statement. He had claimed that "the GOSL has been imprisoning without charge over a quarter of a million Tamils displaced in the conflict, that the state has locked them in internment camps in the north of the country" and that "all talk of release and resettlement was nonsense". These are the kind of people ranged against us. (It would be recalled how the ICG sought subtly and surreptitiously to create an awareness to have R2P invoked to stop the war).

Groups such as ICG, at the instance of the Diaspora no doubt, will not refer to the tremendous work done by the GOSL to resettle these unfortunate people and that only a very small number have still not been able to return to their homes because their areas of habitat are yet been declared ‘mine free’ by international standards. The issue of displaced persons in Sri Lanka is being used as a political tool to harm the country. Of the 295,136 IDPs at the end of the conflict only 19, 490 remained at the end of December 2010. But these people, who are bent on finding fault and may be paid to do so, will never acknowledge the good work done by the government.

It is indeed sickening to see how these hired hands have labored to damage the image of this country. They use respectable institutions to do their dirty work, quite a few pose off as persons committed to humanitarian service, but in actual fact they are mercenaries and work for the money. We do not have to suffer these hostile elements although quite often our timidity has sent a wrong signal to our detractors. In this regard Ambassador Aryasinha should be commended for his effort. I am certain that he has drawn inspiration from our President who refused to cave in to the bullying by the West to stop the war. The President and the Secretary of Defence have set the example I do hope that Ambassadors Palihakkara, Dayan Jayatilleke and Ravinatha Aryasinha would write of the pressures and threats we faced to stop the war and of how the President stood steadfast against these forces. The public of this country should be made aware of what took place during that crucial period. But it must be said that we too need to get our house in order without any further delay.

By our delaying a consensus political solution to our problem we are giving space to the hostile Tamil Diaspora to harm us. The Tamil Diaspora have not given up on their efforts to harm this country after the defeat of the LTTE; if at all they have intensified their efforts. I do hope that the government’s intelligence arm abroad is not staffed with friends but with professionals. There is nothing more important than good intelligence to deal with the threats and challenges facing our country.

The government must keep itself aware of the LTTE’s overseas operations. It does not seem that the lobbyists retained at great expense have had the desired impact. If they had, we should by now had a strong pro-Lanka lobby in the UK in particular, for the countries of the EU take the cue from the UK when it comes to issues relating to Sri Lanka. The eight or ten left loonies who are dependent of Tamil votes in their marginal constituencies in the UK have been having a field day and have been able to hold five meetings of the House of Commons to malign Sri Lanka. Surely the House of Commons has 256 members, most of whom are not hostile to our country with which Britain has had relations for over 150 years. As for the European Parliament, though it is an elected body, it is different to other Parliaments in that it was no legislative power of its own. It is more a consultative body and quite unwieldy as it has 627 members representing the 27 countries of the EU. Its decision making is consequently quite chaotic. The Parliament represents all shades of political opinion in Europe. The Conservative right and the Socialists are the two main political groups, the Greens and the Communists are peripheral and are parties in search of a cause to ‘champion’. The power centers of the EU are the European Commission which is the executive arm and the Council of Ministers of the European Union.

We need to relate to these bodies with care. As for the European Parliament, during my eight years in Brussels the Parliament adopted no less than 18 Resolutions, all of them initiated by British Labour members of the EU Parliament, on the situation in Sri Lanka. This was at the instance of the Tamil Diaspora, but these Resolutions had no impact and did not influence the foreign policies of the member states. This does not however mean that we should ignore the European Parliament which could influence opinion towards our country.

We have a problem here; let us first accept the fact that at least four of the 27 countries of the EU –led by the UK and the British Labour Party’s Ashton, who is now heading its foreign policy establishment, are hostile towards this country. As for the Common Foreign and Security Policy, it exists more in name for it is a fact that countries of the EU have their own foreign policies headed by their own ministers. For 27 countries to have a Common Foreign Policy is a dream.

The EU as a body led by four, has in recent years been adopting a hostile attitude towards us to please the Tamil Diaspora living in their countries. We cannot forget the fact that they are still smarting from the defeat they suffered in the UN Security Council, when they failed to get the UNSC to direct the GOSL to stop the war; they also failed at Geneva; but they have not given up as would be seen from this effort in the EU Parliament.

They of course hurt us by denying us GSP Plus and no doubt sought to influence the electoral process in this country, and failed there too.

We need to have a strategy to deal with this situation. We need, in the first instance, to engage with the 27 countries of the EU and by this I do not believe in calling them together and lecturing to them. That will not work. The articulate minister must meet each and every one of the EU Ambassadors posted in Colombo and Delhi individually and most importantly hear them out. Then he must meet their arguments and canvass their support for this country. Lecturing or hurling abuse at them as some do, is a meaningless exercise. Fortunately this minister relates to our critics in a civil manner.

Let us next get India and our other friends on board to help us. We need them and this is very important, for the hostile attitude of a few countries of the EU has not helped anybody and must not be allowed to prevail. Let us invite our detractors to judge our government and country not with prejudice but to be fair and judge us with an open mind and play a positive role and become partners in the political and economic development of the country.

Before I conclude I wish to place on record my appreciation of the fact that the Ambassador stood up and took on the EU Parliament’s Sub Committee’s acting Chairperson, who refused him the right to respond to their effort to denigrate our country. The Diaspora and their friends have sought and will continue to seek to use the European Parliament as a platform to harm us. We have for too long turned the other cheek; we have no doubt made mistakes but those who point fingers at us are doing so forgetting that they are themselves not without sin.

Let us correct our misdeeds, reach out to all our people and sort out their grievances. But let us also not at the same time take any muck thrown at us lying down; let us stand up and do what is right and not give our detractors ammunition to harm us.

~ www.island.lk ~ By K. Godage

 

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