Does Sri Lanka have to report to India? by Shenali Waduge

Based on the premise that Sri Lanka is, has been & ought to be a sovereign nation, Sri Lankan’s need to demand to what extent spokesman for the Government has any right to jeopardize that sovereign status especially in the context of joint press releases made that compromises & leaves room to crucify Sri Lanka. Given that our leaders are elected by us & only for a term, they need to first answer the question of why we need to send officials to explain status of affairs in Sri Lanka & why Sri Lanka needs to give India any assurance on any matter related to Sri Lanka’s internal affairs. India certainly will not entertain Sri Lanka’s interference in Indian affairs so why should we?

As a small nation, it is true Sri Lanka cannot dictate to larger & more powerful nations. But, that does not mean Sri Lanka needs to bend over knees to please & humiliate itself either. No country gives unless that “giving” has something in it for them. It is so for all countries that is presently encircling Sri Lanka with “gifts”! The only difference with some countries is that while they give & they do take (may be later) they do not suddenly pull up issues like human rights, IDPs, accountability, responsibility & such other present day googlies thinking that while giving they can further encircle Sri Lanka. This is where the giving aspect changes from country to country.

Though a small nation, the world must not forget that we braved over three decades of terrorist activity to which legal & illegal establishments all conspired. Powerful nations, powerful leaders must all feel ashamed & guilty of their own role in allowing terrorist activity to prevail in Sri Lanka, watching silently while innocents were killed but demanding action when terrorists were about to be cornered. They speak of accountability when they could easily have used the documented violations numbering over 3000 compiled by the Sri Lanka Monitoring Mission (Nordic peace keepers) against the LTTE. This would have been ample reason to take action against the LTTE. Yet documented evidence has no meaning for despite LTTE’s child recruitment for over 3 decades nothing was done beyond compiling reports & holding expensive conferences the world over chaired by a special rappateur who herself is a Tamil & who should have taken a proactive stance to put an end to LTTE terrorism knowing herself how brutal the LTTE was. That she did not again questions her own ethics and her own self-interest in the matter.

Nevertheless, terrorism has today become a means to dislodge governments, change regimes, overthrow democratically elected leaders in efforts to ensure sustainability for their own nations. That is why terrorists to some are freedom fighters and that is why the United Nations shies away from defining terrorism. That is why those holding powerful positions can do nothing other than to play lipservice to the desires of those who want terrorism to prevail & by doing so gain personal privileges for themselves…should we expect a second term for the UNSecretary General on these grounds…he certainly has pleased the establishments by his inaction therefore he has more than the criteria to remain.

When it comes to Sri Lanka’s problem it is nothing that can be explained in a few words. It was after over 500 years of colonial divide & rule policy that Sri Lanka was given independence. That independence came with a bagful of catch-22 situations. Both India & Sri Lanka like all other post-independent nations struggled to harmonize the repercussions of the divide & rule. Already India was speaking of “separatism” in deep south & many forget to juxtapose this with the formation of the Federal party of Sri Lanka (original name clearly reads as separate nation for Tamil eelaam) Therefore far before Prabakaran began any fight or even thought of a separate eelaam, separatist thoughts were not only brewing, a political party had been formed to realize this initiative probably with the blessings of its Indian counterparts. India naturally was quick to take action & if separatism was the requirement they were ready to give it but not in India & thus India helped to train elements to start the eelaam struggle in Sri Lanka. We all know to what extent things prevailed thereafter. What confused matters were the role played by Indian intelligence & how far these members worked in cohesion with the Indian Government. That intelligence outlets often end up functioning as shadow governments is nothing knew & the US is a perfect example & this may be one reason why LTTE went ahead to assassinate the former Indian premier Rajiv Gandhi. Yet, India’s desire to continue LTTE in Sri Lanka was far greater than punishing LTTE for Rajiv Gandhi’s death which is why LTTE prevailed & which is why even his widow did not want LTTE to be eliminated.

Sri Lankans in general are all in agreement that while Sri Lanka cannot completely cut ties with India for its duplicity vis a vis the LTTE factor, all Governments of Sri Lanka holding power for a period must be alert & ready to overcome whatever traps India tries to throw upon our nation. This is lesson number one & this is something that even an ordinary laymen will be mindful of – once bitten twice shy they say…& this should be Sri Lanka’s foreign policy with India at all times. India will never stop peddling into Sri Lanka’s affairs & it is only likely to get worse if Sri Lankan politicians do not know how to deal with these high-handed Indian efforts.

India is presently showering Sri Lanka with housing, transport, rail facilities & what not. Its citizens are setting up companies & some are even employed soon. Colombo will have double the Indian populace. Yet unless Sri Lanka is prepared to & has thought of the influx & has a set of remedial actions to counter these factors, Sri Lanka is likely to be economically entrapped & Sri Lankans are likely to face employment issues as well. Whatever we receive as beneficiaries we must be clear that while accepting we do not sacrifice ourselves as a nation.

Why are we allowing Indians to interfere in our internal affairs? Do we tell the Indian Government to enter discussions with the Maoists, do we tell India to treat Dalits like humans, do we tell Indians to stop gender discrimination or stop child labor…& will India even welcome any suggestion from Sri Lanka on any matter it feels is solely the right of its Government to decide & not for external parties to interfere? If so, why are we always running across the Palk Strait to explain things to India? Can we as a nation behave with more integrity! If our politicians can behave all-powerful infront of the Sri Lankan populace but meek & compliant infront of Indian officials it is a crying shame! I can think of only one difference & that is the manner in which Israel has power over the US despite its size & how far Israel interests are controlling policies made by the US.

As a nation most politicians have become pray to astrological advice & expecting the Gods to be providing them the answers to the nations problems. This is the case with Government & Opposition politicians alike. When foreign leaders or other representative’s make requests it is rather callous to think that we can shrug these outcomes hoping that a few patriotic marches or slogans will put their desires against our nation aside. We must all recall the origins of the UN Panel of Experts to a suggestion mooted by the UNSG & agreed to by our leaders which later despite much objections went ahead & is now the primary reasons why all of us are attempting not to have Sri Lanka taken to any war crimes tribunal. What Sri Lanka’s external affairs minister has done is a repetition of almost the same suggestion. If we have done no wrong during the final stages of the war, why are we agreeing to Indian suggestion to have an investigation! It is tantamount to accepting wrong doing & will obviously lead to greater & far more serious implications as this would be the second phase of the move against Sri Lanka, the first being the Expert Panel report. Former IMF chief Dominique Strauss-Kahn should seriously rethink of how far plans have succeeded to frame him using his weakest point & our politicians should also be wary of their weak points which are likely to be similarly used against them.

What features on the minds of most of us ordinary laymen is whether spokesman for the Government especially on international platform have an iota of patriotism in them or whether they are just doing their job…because there is more than a thin line between the two. Yet the present press release issued following a three day visit by Sri Lanka’s External Affairs Minister gives us reason to believe otherwise. He is afterall one of the key architects of the 2002 ceasefire agreement which almost handed over Sri Lanka on a silver platter to the LTTE & this is the very person who went globally praising the clauses of that agreement! Can Sri Lanka not find fine men & women who can function with a proper conscious & who love the nation? Given the manner he praised the 2002 CFA juxtaposed with the present set of statements one really wonders what he sincerely believes in.

Firstly, we must as a nation all be united in the stand that our military did not commit any acts that violates the Geneva Convention…let it be reminded that Geneva Conventions do not apply to terrorists and LTTE is defined a terrorist outlet by more than 32 nations. It behoves these nations to then explain to their own citizens why they have gone overboard in allowing LTTE to prevail …some nations now need to explain why it even assisted LTTE leaders to escape Sri Lanka.

The supposed Experts reports have been compiled on hearsay & have no evidence to prove each & every statement made. These statements even conflict with the heads of UN staff who commended the armed forces for their humanitarian operation, most of these incidents of relief efforts immediately broadcasted to public while they were taking place. If any nation expects a brutal terrorist outfit like the LTTE to be eliminated without a single civilian perishing has to really be dreaming (the Sri Lanka military have ample proof to show that they have saved so many Tamil lives & that 300,000 came to the side of the military is the best example) Can supporters of LTTE explain why the LTTE have been systematically killing off all Tamil moderate thinking politicians, Tamil civil society leaders, Tamil clergy who were against terrorist activity. The absurdity of civilian numbers the military are accused of killing by foreign experts is farcical in deed. Given Sri Lanka’s population is 20m, Tamils account for 12% (2.4m) of this number 1m are living overseas. The remaining 1.4m divided throughout Sri Lanka. If 800,000 live outside North & East that leaves just 600,00 to be divided between the North & East. It is puzzling that 300,000 escaped the LTTE & seriously questions for how long Indian Tamils must have been setting residence in Sri Lanka over the years since much of the North was under LTTE rule…because in a population of 20m with 12% Tamils making 2.4m it is extremely difficult to even dream of the deaths that these foreign sources are quoting as having been killed by the military.

Attorney General Eric Holder speaking on the killing of Osama bin Laden says “"It was justified as an act of national self-defense,".This is what the CIA director Leon Panetta had to say "The authority here was to kill bin Laden," he said. "And obviously, under the rules of engagement, if he had in fact thrown up his hands, surrendered and didn't appear to be representing any kind of threat, then they were to capture him. But they had full authority to kill him." So the US enters a sovereign nation, kills the man they hold responsible for the deaths of US citizens of 9/11, & scatters his remains to sea & then only announces the death of Osama to the world feel justified why cant the US & other nations not understand that Sri Lanka has lost more lives throughout 30 years. US holds a grudge against a man they built & nurtured but Sri Lanka spent 30 years of holding peace talks, negotiations & cease fires before actually going all out to eliminate the LTTE…Sri Lanka should be now allowed to build some peace instead of attempting to revive the LTTE.

Those pointing fingers at Sri Lanka must first explain how many civilians the US killed in Iraq before getting Saddam Hussein, how many Afghans & Pakistani civilians had the US & NATO troops killed before getting Osama & how many NATO troops have killed civilians in Libya while accusing Gaddafi of purposely attacking his own people yet accusing Gaddafi of war crimes. NATO has struck over 2600 times upon Libya & what excuse has NATO to give to the civilians it has killed.

One of the mistakes Sri Lanka’s politicians continue to make is that without a proper foreign policy & simply believing that Sri Lanka can ride on the luck of our astrogical charts we cannot steer hostility nor can we find answers to brave the storms that come our way. We are far more vulnerable now as a nation for we are now a nation living in peace. While many Tamils openly feel happy, some are reluctant though inside their own conscience will tell how freely they are to travel to North or East any time they wish to. Yet, with the geographical significance of Sri Lanka the economic interest will certainly push western & eastern interests towards Sri Lanka therefore whatever “gifts” (monetary & otherwise) that come our way must be accepted with great apprehension & with an action plan in place to ensure our sovereign status is never compromised.

Sri Lankans would be at peace if those tasked to represent the nation are men & women who have integrity & certainly not those who have been jumping from one political party to another purely for their own self interest. The risk factor is far greater for we will always wonder whether they will end up committing our country to adverse actions following discussions with foreign counterparts.

As citizens we are not ready to suffer more years of hardships simply because suitable officials are not appointed.

Shenali Waduge

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