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Challenges to Pohottuwa in Geneva – I

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By Austin Fernando

Due to pressure from the European Union, which has, in keeping with UNHRC resolution, in March 2021, decided to consider, the withdrawal of GSP+, action is pursued back home to adopt countermeasures. Justice Minister Ali Sabry has launched a website of the Office of National Unity and Reconciliation, and the Cabinet has approved policies and guidelines for the Office for Reparation, and the government opened an Office of Missing Persons (OMP) in Kilinochchi. Too little, too late!

However, the appointment of an Advisory Board, by President Gotabaya Rajapaksa to recommend and advise as regards what action should be taken in respect of the persons imprisoned or detained over terrorist activities, should be appreciated. Speculation is that some of the detainees may be released soon, as an initial response. The government seems to be softening its stand following the US Ambassador’s lunch with Minister Professor GL Peiris (PGLP) and MP MA Sumanthiran, which has loaded energy to sprint. MP Sumanthiran’s interest for the US to intervene, become the “third faction” (Daily News-.31-8-2021) also shows sprinting from the other end

Complaints that the government is using the Prevention of Terrorism Act to suppress people’s rights, and its alleged interference in judicial decisions will aggravate Sri Lanka’s problems in Geneva.

 

Commitments to UNHRC

The Government of Sri Lanka (GoSL) committed to Transitional Justice (TJ) by unilaterally placing UNHRC Resolution 11/1 and co-sponsoring Resolution 30/1. These commitments matched the ‘Four Pillars of TJ/ Reconciliation’ – seeking truth, justice, reparation, non-recurrence. Its implementation was:

Establishing the OMP, and the attempt to establish a Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) through Cabinet Memorandum by PM Ranil Wickremesinghe (October 18, 2018), which failed with the ‘Constitutional Coup’ of October 26, 2018.

Study of Accountability Mechanism (AM) by a Working Group during the Yahapalana regime; no legislation was undertaken.

Yahapalana government establishing the Office for Reparation.

The expectation of non-recurrence through Constitution-making failed during the Yahapalanaya, and Pohottuwa looking forward to Romesh de Silva Committee.

The AM seems ‘dead’, though it is the most sought for, and alive among victims, their spokespersons, and internationals. Hence, AM will be addressed to understand its implications.

Accountability Mechanism

In terms of UNHRC Resolution 30/1, GOSL has acknowledged that accountability is essential to uphold the rule of law and build community confidence in the justice system. The GOSL proposed (30/1) to establish a judicial mechanism with a Special Counsel to investigate allegations of violations and abuses of human rights and violations of international humanitarian law. The credible judicial process included independent judicial and prosecutorial institutions and affirmed the importance of participation in a Sri Lankan judicial mechanism, including the Special Counsel’s office, of Commonwealth and other foreign judges, defense lawyers, authorised prosecutors, and investigators.

Yet, the AM has not been put in place by the nationalist Pohottuwa, and the undecided Yahapalanaya governments for political reasons. The victims, politicians, and the Diaspora demanded the AM on humanitarian and political grounds.

The unacceptability of the AM is based on several concerns:

(i) After the war victory, the soldiers deservedly became ‘war heroes. The terrorists who egregiously violated human rights and humanitarian laws were not affected by TJ, due to death, migration, etc. Therefore, a justifiable argument was put forth against prosecuting only military officers. The UNHRC wanted action against every violator.

(ii) Many are those who claim that the AM proposal is an attempt by the Diaspora and LTTE supporters to launch a witch-hunt against the military. We overlooked that our international friends also support accountability, as recently expressed by Lanka-friendly Lord Naseby when inquired (Pathfinder Foundation Zoom Meeting) whether he precluded ‘war crimes investigations’ having quoted the White Flag incident.

(iii) Even a deadlock could happen if the soldiers do not respond to AM summons. Such a situation could bring the military and the judiciary on a collision course. An AM, that is put in place with the ground reality being factored in, will fail.

(iv) There are two schools of thought as regards TJ: the ‘legalists’ and ‘realists.’ The ‘legalists’ argue prioritising judicial accountability to promote sustainable peace. In contrast, ‘realists’ argue for the prioritisation of restorative justice, for example, TRCs or Reparation Offices. Some question the UNHRC’s preoccupation with the ‘legalist’s viewpoint’.

(v) Existing domestic legal provisions conflict with AM implementation.

(vi) Overall, it was politically unsound.

 

Validation of AMs

Public validation of AM was orchestrated by Prince Zaid Al Hussein, the former UNHRC’s High Commissioner at a press briefing in Colombo. He declared: “Virtually every week provides a new story of a failed investigation, a mob storming a courtroom or another example of a crime going unpunished. Sexual violence and harassment against women and girls are particularly poorly handled by the relevant State institutions — especially when the alleged perpetrators are members of the military or security services — and, as a result, it remains all too widespread.” This had made the UNHRC suggest international participation in AM, he said. The Tamil Diaspora’s and victims’/ spokespersons’ mindsets remain unchanged even today.

Another view was that alleged violators would be hauled before the International Criminal Court. At the briefing, Prince Hussein declared that it was not expected, and difficult, probably knowing our ability to muster a veto at the UN Security Council.

Answering a journalist, Prince Hussein affirmed that the UNHRC wished that any decision-making was the sovereign right of Sri Lankans. He cautioned that whatever the recommendations, we must finally make victims feel that justice had been delivered to them. This balancing act is one of the challenges before PGLP.

As for TJ, no order was given for establishing any institutions. Hence, first establishing the less controversial TRC, OMP, and Reparation Mechanism, allowing the public to understand the non-destructive nature of TJ was preferred. But, for political popularity, the victims’ spokespersons thought differently and demanded AM.

Prince Hussein wished the AM was established according to Sri Lankan laws. Most of the majority community members detested the establishment of AM. The victims called for an AM to severely punish the military personnel, and they ignored the LTTE’s crimes. Some legalists spoke of the potentiality of worst consequences such as universal jurisdiction if TJ is disrespected.

I quote an Attorney justifying an accountability process, as anticipated by the UNHRC. She argued:

(i) A credible accountability process against those most responsible for violations and abuses of human rights and humanitarian laws will safeguard the reputation of those, including within the military, who conducted lawfully.

(ii) An accountability process is essential for non-recurrence, as unredeemed violence is one of the greatest contributory factors for recurrence.

(iii) The only way to prevent recurrence is by combating the causes of conflict, which can be done only through a process that properly addresses past violations.

(iv) The GOSL needs to fulfill its constitutional obligation to investigate and prosecute past crimes. To renege on that will not only taint the credibility of the GOSL in the eyes of the international community, but it will also erode public confidence instilled in the government concerning its commitment to uphold human rights, including combating impunity.” (Sri Lanka’s Time to Try: Editors – Dr. Isabelle Lassee/ Zahabiya Husain [SLTT] Page 135: ‘Dealing with the past’: Prashanthi Mahindaratna)

Her arguments are difficult to counter and were repeated. I quote Attorney Achala Seneviratne: “By punishing real criminals we create an opportunity to prove that we do not favor criminals because they are war heroes. Hiding criminals make the whole military criminals.”

Additionally, Mahindaratna stated the existing legal means. Quote:

“In fact, in terms of the Commissions of Inquiry Act, the Attorney-General is permitted to institute criminal proceedings solely based on the findings of a commission of inquiry appointed under the said Act, and in terms of the Code of Criminal Procedure (CCP), a police officer is required to ‘forthwith’ communicate to the magistrate having jurisdiction, or to his superior, ‘any information which he may have or obtain respecting’ (a) the commission of or attempt to commit any offense; (b) a sudden or unnatural death or death by violence; and (c) recovery of a dead body where the cause of death is unknown. Thus, by law, the police are required to initiate an investigation into an alleged crime upon learning of its commission by whatever means. As such, the oft-repeated justification for inaction that a criminal investigation could be initiated only where there is a formal complaint filed by a complainant is without merit.” (Ibid: Page 122).

Though this validation is acceptable, literature speaks negatively about its operability. Quote:

“While some international observers believe the new government (2015) should be generously afforded the time and space to develop its own mechanisms, the reality is that Sri Lanka’s record of domestic accountability throughout its post-independence history has been characterized by a lack of political will, lack of capacity, political interference, and chronic failure. To expect victims to put their trust in familiar domestic mechanisms that have failed time and again is unfair and unwise.” (SLTT- Page 139: ‘A hybrid court: Ideas for Sri Lanka – Rhadeena de Alwis and Niran Anketell).

The Special Rapporteur on the Independence of Judges and Lawyers (June 2017) also noted serious drawbacks in our judicial mechanism. It highlighted: “… the inadequacy of the constitutional jurisdiction of the Supreme Court; lack of independence of the judiciary; lack of clear and transparent process for the appointment of judges, AG, and State Counsels; and the language barrier in making justice accessible to the Tamil community.” (SLTT – page 108: ‘Extraterritorial Prosecutions and Transitional Justice: Seeking Criminal Justice in and outside Sri Lanka’- Kalika Metha, Raquel Saavedra, Andreas Schuller)

Mahindaratna also quoted previous instances where justice had not been served, for example, Black July, JVP insurgency, the killing of journalists like Richard Zoysa, Lasantha Wickramatunga, lethargy on bringing to book Bond Scam perpetrators, the ethnic cleansing of the Muslims, no-action against Kumaran Pathmanathan, Kattankudy mosque attack and killing of 600 policemen in Kalmunai. (SLTT: Pages 123-125t). The foregoing proves that legalists are not partisan to any political or ethnic, or religious group when discussing accountability. As such, any government that does not accept the legalists’ standpoint is likely to play into the hands of the UNHRC.

Recent events

It appeared that de Alwis and Anketell agree with Mahindaratna’s thinking. The issue is that with such legal provisions being in place because investigations, prosecutions, and punishments do not follow. Instead, some recent events exhibited legal laxity.

The pre-Geneva pressure is still on from those such as the parents of the eleven youth, allegedly abducted and made to disappear allegedly by the Navy Intelligence. The parents have filed a complaint against the Attorney General (AG) for action taken to temporarily not proceed with the case against a former Navy Commander. (Morning Leader – August 13, 2021). However, the latter has reportedly obtained an interim order. This is the parents’ initial step, certainly not expecting success.

The second step was taken concurrently, seen from the statement of the Regional Director of Amnesty International, Yamini Mishra (ibid.). The issue has left our shores, on way to Geneva! Mishra claimed: “Since Sri Lanka has the world’s second-highest number of enforced disappearances this case was an opportunity for the Sri Lankan authorities to deliver justice for crimes under international law, by ensuring that those reasonably suspected of criminal responsibility, including those implicated for aiding and abetting and acting under the principle of command responsibility, are brought to trial.” Mishra endorses Attorneys Mahindaratna and Seneviratne.

Without a trial, Amnesty has prejudged ‘reasonable suspicion on the crimes’ ‘aiding and abetting’ and ‘command responsibility.’ Not being a lawyer, I refrain from commenting on factual legal nuances but agree with Amnesty’s principle that Sri Lanka’s commitment to ‘deliver justice’ could be established by court inquiry. It will show judicial integrity and genuineness.

Incidentally, Resolution 46/1 of March 23, 2021, under item 6 stated: “accountability for crimes and human rights violations in ‘emblematic cases. This is an ‘emblematic’ case, like Trinco Five and ACF Killings. Certainly, Amnesty International is helping the UNHRC Geneva to argue that total immunity is granted by quoted action, and, therefore, the onus is on the UNHRC to rachet up the pressure. Over to PGLP!

Foreign judges, special prosecutors

The most sensitive issue is adjudication by non-citizens. Some have interpreted Resolution 30/1 wording, arguing that foreign judges don’t need to mandatorily adjudicate; others fear compulsory adjudication. Some have contended that there are no legal constraints for it. They are of the view that no reference is made to citizenship under the Constitution – Article 107 in the appointment of the Supreme or Appeal Court Judges. However, Constitution – Article 107(4) and Judicature Act – Section 6(2) require Supreme Court or Appeal Court judges and Primary Court judges respectively to take and subscribe to the prescribed oath or affirmation, at appointment. It is assumed foreigners would not do so.

Jurisprudential pronouncements of the Supreme Court infer that a ‘Sri Lankan judicial mechanism’ cannot be manned by a non-citizen. The quoted judgment is Edward Francis Silva vs. Shirani Bandaranayaka, where the Court remarked the appointment of a non-citizen judge lacks qualification.

Constitution – Articles 31 and 91 state that citizenship is required for the appointment of the Executive and Parliamentarians. Citizenship is not an issue for enjoying certain rights under Article 10, torture (Article 11), equality (Article 12), and freedom from arbitrary arrest or detention (Article 13). Freedom of speech, assembly, and association under Article 14 is guaranteed only to citizens. The Constitution stipulating citizenship for Executive and Legislature appointments, being silent on the judiciary, permits space to argue that foreigners could be appointed to the judiciary. Contrarily, one may argue if citizenship is a requirement for the Legislature, a judge adjudicating Legislature’s actions should be a citizen.

Article 151 (3) of the Draft Constitution – 2000 specifically stated that citizens and Attorneys at Law must be appointed to the Judiciary. However, the absence of this constraining qualification in the 1978 Constitution and twenty amendments thereto weakens the argument for disqualifying foreigner appointments to the judiciary.

The 20th Amendment empowers a Dual Citizen President with the power to appoint judges. A Dual Citizen can become a Premier or legislator. In that spirit, one could argue that Dual Citizens could be appointed as judges. Opening for PGLP.

De Alwis and Anketell have discussed international experiences in the appointment of judges in Special Courts. Certain foreign Special Courts have appointed a higher number of non-citizen judges (Sierra Leone, Lebanon) and some lesser number (Cambodia). It would have happened due to the non-availability of judges qualified in international law and practice, and the same argument is raised here too. Some disagree. In Bosnia and Herzegovina, the composition of judges was changed from original over time. At the commencement (2005), each panel comprised two international judges and one national judge and in 2008 it was reversed. This gives a lead if foreign judges are engaged. Since foreign experts have served in Udalagama and Paranagama Commissions, similar service to AMs is justifiable. (Part II of this article will appear tomorrow)



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The wonder of youth

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By Dr Upul Wijayawardhana

The wonder of youth was best on display in the evening of 11 Sept., when two hugely talented teenagers, both unseeded, gave an amazing display of tennis in vying for the US Open title. Of course, I wanted Emma Raducanu, who represented GB, to win but had lingering doubts as her opponent, Leylah Fernandez was more experienced and had defeated players ranked 3, 16, 5 and 2, to reach the final. This was only the second Grand Slam Emma has played in, having to withdraw during the fourth-round match in Wimbledon due to breathing difficulties which made some wonder whether she had the mental grit to stand the rigours of tough competitions. She proved them wrong in a spectacular manner, reaching the final in an unprecedented way. She had to win three rounds to get into the tournament as a qualifier, and won the next six rounds, reaching the finals without dropping a set in any of the matches. By then, she had missed the return flight to the UK which she had booked as she never expected to be in the competition so long!

Sports are so commercialised that many Brits without Amazon Prime subscription were going to miss seeing the first British woman to play in a Grand Slam final after 44 years. Fortunately, in one of its rare good deeds, Channel 4 paid for screening rights and we could join over 9 million Brits on the edge of their seats for two hours. It was well worth it, as Emma won the final again in straight sets, creating yet another record by being the first qualifier ever to win a Grand Slam! In another rare gesture, Amazon had agreed to donate the fee for advancement of tennis for girls.

Emma Raducanu’s spectacular win was witnessed by Virginia Wade, the first winner of the US Women’s title in the open era in 1968, Arthur Ashe winning the Men’s. She was also the last British woman before Emma to win a Grand Slam; Wimbledon in 1977. Fortunately, Sir Andy Murray was able to break the even longer drought in Male Tennis by winning the US Open in 2012, 76 years after Fred Perry’s 1936 Wimbledon win.

It was very sad that Emma’s parents could not be there in person at the proudest moment of their lives due to quarantine regulations. Whilst shedding a tear of joy for Emma Raducanu’s ‘impossible’ victory, I was saddened to think of the wasted youth in Sri Lanka. How things changed for the worse in my lifetime continues to puzzle me.

We belong to a fortunate generation. We had excellent free education which we made full use of. We had good teachers, not ‘private tuition masters’! We could plan our future as we knew we could get a place for higher education as long as we got the required grades. Our progress in universities was not hampered by student’s unions controlled by unscrupulous politicians with warped thinking. I started my practice of medicine a few months after I turned 23 and was a fully qualified specialist by the time I turned 30. I was not one for sports but did writing and broadcasting. Therefore, I can look back at my youth with a sense of satisfaction.

Unfortunately, we lacked a political class with a vision. Perhaps, this happened because most of the politicians except those at the time of independence took to politics by exclusion than by choice. Lucky politicians got ministries, not because of competence or education, but on the basis of caste, creed, religion, etc. There were no shadow ministers in the Opposition and with the change of government another set of misfits became ministers. For some time, the status quo was maintained by senior administrators who were trained for the job after being selected following a highly competitive examination.

Anti-elite campaigners succeeded. Permanent Secretaries became secretaries and Ministers became permanent as long as they did not upset their bosses! No proper planning was done and the slippery slope started. Then came the terrorists; the JVP destroyed a generation of Sinhala youth and the LTTE destroyed a generation of Tamil youth. Now, there is a greater danger affecting some youth the world over––Islamic extremism.

When I started training postgraduate trainees from Sri Lanka in Grantham Hospital, the first thing I noted was their age and started diplomatically finding out why it had taken them so long to get into PG training. I was shocked at the unwarranted delays they faced which were not due to any fault of theirs. All of them were brilliant but the system had failed them. We need to reinstall discipline so that we have schools and universities functioning properly, ensuring valuable years in life are not wasted.

Perhaps, we need to get out of our insular attitudes. There may be some lessons to learn from studying the background of these two talented players. Leyla Fernandez, born in September 2002 in Quebec, Canada has an Ecuadorian father and a Filipino mother. Emma Raducanu was born in November 2002 in Toronto, Canada but moved to the UK when she was two years, with her Romanian father and Chinese mother. Three months before winning the US Open, she got an A star in Mathematics and A in Economics, in the A level examination whilst attending a state school.

These two teenagers, 23 years old Naomi Osaka, whose father is Haitian and mother is Japanese and 25-years-old Ashleigh Barty, whose father is of indigenous Australian descent and mother is of English descent, joined to form a ‘fab-four in women’s tennis, dawning a new era in tennis as the era dominated by the fab-four; Roger Federer, Rafael Nadal, Andy Murray and Novak Djokovic of the men’s game is drawing to an end. Considering their dexterity, women’s tennis may become more popular than men’s. Who knows!

It is well known that mixing of genes has an enhancing effect. It is also well established that inbreeding leads to many genetic defects. Perhaps, this is another reason why we should get rid of artificial divisions like caste. Although one would have expected that we would have a more enlightened attitude, the matrimonial columns of any newspaper give enough evidence that archaic institutions are still strong.

It is high time we stopped protecting archaic systems and moved forward. This will give an opportunity for the talents of our youth to be displayed and it is our duty to harness the wonder of youth for the advancement of the country.

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A neutral foreign policy in current context

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By Neville Ladduwahetty

During a recent TV interview, the Host asked the Guest whether Sri Lanka’s Foreign Policy is in “shambles”. The reason for the question was perhaps because of the lack of consistency between the statement made by the President and the Secretary to the Foreign Ministry relating to Foreign Policy. For instance, the first clear and unambiguous statement made by the newly elected President during his acceptance speech delivered in Sinhala in the holy city of Anuradhapura in which the only comment in English was that his Foreign Policy would be Neutral. This was followed during his address to Parliament titled: The Policy statement made by Gotabaya Rajapaksa, President of the Democratic Socialist Republic of Sri Lanka at the inauguration of the Fourth Session of the 8th Parliament of Sri Lanka on January 3, 2020, in which he stated: “We follow a neutral foreign policy”.

However, the Secretary to the Foreign Ministry has on different occasions stated that Sri Lanka’s Foreign Policy is “Neutral and Non-Aligned”. Perhaps, his view may have been influenced by the President’s Manifesto, “Vistas of Prosperity and Splendour”, that stated that out of 10 key policies the second was “Friendly, Non-Aligned, Foreign Policy”

The question that needs to be addressed is whether both Neutrality and Non-Alignment could realistically coexist as policies to guide Sri Lanka in the conduct of its relations with other Nation-States. Since neutrality is a defined policy that has a legal basis and has a history that precedes Non-Alignment, there is a need for the Neutral State to conduct its relations with other States according to recognised codified norms with reciprocity. On the other hand, Non-Alignment was essentially a commitment to a set of principles by a group of countries that had emerged from colonial rule and wanted to protect their newly won independence and sovereignty in the context of a bi-polar world. The policy of Non-Alignment therefore, should apply ONLY to the members of the Non-Aligned Movement (NAM). Thus, Non-Alignment, being only a set of principles adopted by a group of like-minded sovereign States to protect and preserve their common self-interests, its conduct in respect of States outside the Non-Aligned Movement becomes unstated and therefore undefined. Neutrality instead is a clear policy that defines how a neutral country such as Sri Lanka conducts its relations with other countries, and how other countries relate with Sri Lanka primarily in respect of the inviolability of its territory.

NON-ALIGNED and the NON-ALIGNED MOVEMENT

A statement dated August 22, 2012 by the External Affairs Ministry of the Government of India on the historical evolution of the Non-Alignment Movement states:

“The principles that would govern relations among large and small nations, known as the “Ten Principles of Bandung”, were proclaimed at that Conference (1955). Such principles were adopted later as the main goals and objectives of the policy of non-alignment. The fulfillment of those principles became the essential criterion for Non-Aligned Movement membership; it is what was known as “quintessence of the Movement until early 1990s” (Ministry of External Affairs, Government of India, “History and Evolution of Non-Aligned Movement, August 22, 2012).

“Thus, the primary objectives of the non-aligned countries focused on the support of self-determination, national independence and the sovereignty and territorial integrity of States; opposition to apartheid; non-adherence to multilateral military pacts and the independence of non-aligned countries from great power or block influences and rivalries; the struggle against imperialism in all its forms and manifestations; the struggle against colonialism, neocolonialism, racism, foreign occupation and domination; disarmament; non-interference into the internal affairs of States and peaceful coexistence among all nations; rejection of the use or threat of use of force in international relations; the strengthening of the United Nations; the democratization of international relations; socioeconomic development and the restructuring of the international economic system; as well as international cooperation on an equal footing” (Ibid).

These commitments did not deter countries such as India from violating the very principles India committed to in Bandung. To start with, India undermined the security of Sri Lanka by nurturing and supporting the training of non-state actors in late 1970s. Having made Sri Lanka vulnerable, India proceeded to coerce Sri Lanka to accept the Indo-Lanka Accord under which India was committed to disarm the militants. Having failed much to its shame, India violated the principle of the right of self-determination when it compelled Sri Lanka to devolve power to a merged North-East Province. All these actions amounted to a complete disregard and the mockery of the lofty principles of NAM undertaken to protect India’s self-interest. What is clear from India’s actions with regard to Sri Lanka is that when push comes to shove, self-interest overrides multi-lateral commitments.

In a similar vein Sri Lanka too, driven by self-interest, voted in support of UK’s intervention in the Falklands because of the debt owed by Sri Lanka to the UK for the outright grant given to construct the Victoria Hydro Power Scheme, although conscious of the fact that by doing so Sri Lanka was discrediting itself for not supporting the resolution initiated by NAM to oppose UK’s actions. These instances demonstrate that Non-Alignment as a Foreign Policy is subservient to self-interest thereby underscoring the fact that it cannot be a clear policy to guide how a State conducts itself in relation to other States.

Commenting on the issues of limitations imposed by being a Member of NAM Shelton E. Kodikara states: “For Sri Lanka as indeed for many of the smaller states among the non-aligned community, membership of the Non-Aligned Movement and commitment to its consensual decisions implied a widening of the institutional area of foreign policy decision-making, and collective decision-making also implied a limitation of the area of choice among foreign policy options…” (Foreign Policy of Sri Lanka, 1982, p. 151).

Therefore, arrangements with common interests such as those by the Non-Aligned Movement (NAM) or Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) or any other group of countries with common interests, are mechanisms whose support and solidarity could be sought when needed to advance causes, as for instance when Sri Lanka advanced the concept of making the Indian Ocean a Zone of Peace, and later in 2009 did so in Geneva. Notwithstanding such advantages, the hard reality is that Non-Alignment does not represent a clear statement as to how a State conducts its relations with Nation-States outside the Non-Aligned Movement. Therefore, it follows that Non-Alignment cannot be considered a statement of Foreign Policy by a State.

THE CURRENT CONTEXT

The statement by the Foreign Affairs Ministry of India cited above that the “quintessence” of the principles of the Non-Alignment lasted until early 1990s, was because the bi-polar world that was the cause for the formation of NAM had ceased to exist with the territorial break-up of one of the power blocks – the USSR. Consequently, the USSR lost its influence as a global power. In this vacuum what exists currently is one recognized global power with other powers aspiring to be part of a multi polar world. In the absence of recognized power blocks the need to align or not to align does not arise because Nation-States are free to evolve their own arrangements as to how they conduct their relations with each other. Consequently, the concept of Non-Alignment individually or collectively is a matter of choice depending on the particularity of circumstance, but not as a general Foreign Policy to address current challenges.

With China attempting to regain its lost territory and glory as a civilizational State following its century of shame, the geopolitical matrix has changed dramatically. The economic gains of China the likes of which are unprecedented alarmed the Western world to the point that the US deemed it necessary to adopt a policy of Pivot to Asia thereby making the Indian and Pacific Oceans the focus for great power engagement. This shift of focus has caused new strategic security alliances such as the Quad to emerge to contain the growing influence of China among the States in the Indian and Pacific Oceans. With the Maldives joining India as the latest members of Quad, Sri Lanka has become isolated; a development that has brought Sri Lanka’s location in the Indian Ocean into sharp focus as being of pivotal strategic interest to great and emerging powers.

It is in this newly formed geopolitical context that Sri Lanka has to formulate its Foreign Policy that necessarily must be fresh if Sri Lanka is to equip itself to meet the new challenges created by a coalition of States to contain the rise of China. One option is to join the Quad. This could mean Sri Lanka distancing itself from engaging with China. The other option is to engage with China to the exclusion of the Quad. Either of these options would cause Sri Lanka to lose its independence and the freedom to protect its core values and interests. Therefore, the choice is not to settle for either option.

These unprecedented circumstances and challenges cannot be countered by harking back to the glory days of Non-Alignment, because major influences of the movement (NAM) such as India, have recently abandoned the original principles it subscribed to when it became a part of Quad. Therefore, although NAM still represents a body of likeminded interests with the ability to influence causes limited only to resolutions that further the interests of its members, it is not in a position to ensure the inviolability of the territory and the freedom of a State to make its

A neutral

own hard choices. It is only if a Nation-State proclaims that its relations with other Nation-States is Neutral that provisions codified under the Hague Conventions of 1907 that would entitle Sri Lanka to use the inviolability of its territory to underpin its relations with other Nation-States. Therefore, the Foreign Policy statement as made by the President to Parliament should guide Sri Lanka in its relations with States because it is relevant and appropriate in the geopolitical context that currently exists.

CONCLUSION

The Foreign Policy of a State is greatly influenced by its History and Geography. Historically Sri Lanka’s Foreign Policy has been one of Non-Alignment. Furthermore, Sri Lanka participated in the Conference in Bandung in 1955; a date recognized as the beginning of the Non-Aligned Movement. Thus, although the geographic location of a State is well defined, the significance of its location could dramatically be transformed by geopolitical developments. The staggering economic revival of China from early seventies under the leadership of President Deng Xiaoping whose philosophy was to hide capacity, bide time and never claim leadership, was perhaps the reason for China’s tremendous transformations both economic and social, to proceed relatively unnoticed.

It was only with the announcement of President Xi Jinping’s policy of the Belt and Road Initiative announced in 2013, that the world came to realize that the power and influence of China was unstoppable. This policy resulted in China establishing its footprint in strategically located countries in the Indian and Pacific Oceans by funding and constructing infrastructure projects. Sri Lanka happened to be one such country. The need for the U.S along with India, Australia and Japan to form a security alliance to contain the growing power and influence of China in the Indian and Pacific Oceans was inevitable.

India’s alliance with the US has shifted the balance in Asia causing China to be the stand alone great power in Asia. As far as Sri Lanka is concerned this new dynamic compels Sri Lanka to make one of four choices. One is to align and develop relations with the US and its allies. Second is to align and develop relations with China. The third is be Non-Aligned with either. The fourth and preferred option is to be Neutral not only with the Quad and China, but also with all other States, and develop friendly relations individually with all States.

The policy of Non-Alignment by a State is an external declaration of intent that a nation would not align itself with either a collective or individual center of power such as the Quad or China, in the conduct of its relations. Neutrality by a State, instead, means not only a statement that it would be Neutral when conducting relations with collective or individual centers of power and other States, but also how such a State expects all States to respect its Neutrality; a policy that would be in keeping with Sri Lanka’s unique strategic location in South Asia. Thus, while the former works outwards the latter works both ways. More importantly, how Neutrality works is governed by internationally codified laws that are in place to guide reciprocal relations.

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Comments on bits of past news; never forget 9/11 and welcome multiculturism

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The Sunday Island of September 12, thank goodness its print copy, showered grist on my waiting-to-word-process wrist. Hence first a couple of comments on titbits gathered from that paper; notwithstanding of great import.

Nuggets of news

‘President to attend 76th session of UN General Assembly’. Good that it is announced, as we dislike being made aware first along the vine of gossip, of visits of VVIPs overseas, which when not made publicly known, smack of underhand secrecy: Whatever for? The page one news item quoted above goes further: “The President has decided to undertake the visit with a least number of delegates in line with his principle…First Lady Ioma Rajapaksa will join the visit at her own expense.” Bravo! Great! Good example to set but hardly followed!

We heard the PM too went a-sojourning, breaking journey here and there. And then we saw pictures of him delivering a keynote address and later at lunch flanked by wife Shiranthi, GL opposite, a few others and second son. His destination? His task? His keynote address could easily have been zoomed as the meeting itself, an interreligious one, was virtual. Contingent? Said to be around 17. Methinks a visit to His Holiness, the Pope was envisaged but there is many a slip between the cup and the lip. No kissing the holy hand for Roman Catholic Mrs MR.

We well remember tales relayed of the huge contingent that accompanied Prez Mahinda Rajapaksa in chartered flights to the Big Apple and cars hired to take most in the group to their various pleasures or business spots. This car-hire alone enriched a Sri Lankan over there. The scattering sojourners would meet at cocktail parties and when the Prez of SL addressed the UN General Assembly. And we poor grounded persons paid for these junkets via taxes extracted.

How we wish the now Prez who sticks to his principles and lives, travels and advocates a simple life of non-extravagance, would extend that sensibility to his Cabinet, for instance. First, slash and send home most of them. Keep around 15, more than enough for a small country like ours, instead of creating separate ministries by divisions such as Batik and clay works, which offered state ministership to another loyalist, when they could come under the Ministry of Industry and Commerce. That is a way of saving money for Sri Lanka.

Another way to reduce forex spending

Sanjeewa Jayaweera who knows what he is talking about, his father Stanley Jayaweera having been an outstanding Sri Lankan ambassador, offers very sound advice when he states, “Sri Lanka should close down most of our overseas missions as a step towards reducing public expenditure.” Cass wonders why this has not been thought of and advocated by opposition groups. The vociferous SJB should drop their stupid lament about banning the import of underwear and talk of a sensible step as advocated by Sanjeewa J: Reduce the number of overseas embassies often created to accommodate supporters and relatives or for personal benefit. An embassy or High Commission was opened during the presidency of Mahinda R in the Seychelles. There is a Bank of Ceylon Branch in that island, Cass believes, with a handful of resident Sri Lankans. How many Sri Lankans are over there? Cass quotes dear departed Sunil of ‘Gypsies’ fame when she mourns: ‘I don’t know why’. But Sunil may have known, with many others, hence his laments in song.

Karu, the statesman, speaks

‘Karu urges President to seize opportunity to rebuild the country together with the Opposition.’ A fairly long write up of what Karu Jayasuriya said, backed by The National Movement for Social Justice, chairman of which he is, succeeding Ven Maduluwawe Sobitha Thera, appeared in the said newspaper. If half the issues Karu sensibly raises are considered and implemented, more than half of Sri Lanka’s woes could be eliminated.

Paid for striking

The teachers’ strike which only helped immensely to spread COVID-19 while they, with nobodies joining in the spree, went protesting all over the island at a most ill-opportune moment on an issue two decades old. They were given full salaries during their long strike of work, work which was greatly reduced for some engaged in online teaching. Curse them Cass swears, all over again, and more their Stalinist leader.

Never forget

Nearly 3,000 people were killed on that day; wars were launched, and the carefree, fearless mood of the US changed with fear creeping in accompanied by a new mood: Islamophobia. This happened on September 11, 2001, on a sparkling morning when men of Al Qaeda hijacked four American commercial flights and two of them ploughed into the upper floors of the twin towers of the Trade Centre in Manhattan. One dove fairly innocuously into the Pentagon and the fourth, domestic flight 93, crashed into a field in Shanksville, Pennsylvania, the hijackers tackled by crew and passengers.

Solemn, dignified ceremonies were held in all three sites of disaster for the anniversary, with Prez Biden and First Lady attending. In Manhattan, pairs of those who lost loved ones read out names and one in each pair expressed personal loss.

I watched the five-part Netflix documentary ‘Turning Point: 9/11 and the war on terror’ directed by Brian Knappenberger; stunned, saddened, and filled with admiration. TV critic Inkoo Kang rates this the best, “most honest and exhaustive retrospective”, of many produced for the 20th anniversary of the event.

Disasters, mostly of terrorism, must not be forgotten. Not only are they historical, but their impact can hardly ever be erased. It is the same with our Easter suicide bombing of churches. 9/11 in America has been avenged, wrongly or justifiably, mostly the latter, in the case of the killing of Osama bin Laden, the brilliant mind turned completely aberrated by a rabid corruption of Islam. Who could think up a plot to ram aeroplanes full of innocent passengers into iconic American buildings?

Bright sparks of joy and celebrations

Cursing, quibbling, prophesying Cassandra of the bitter tongue has been, of late, introducing snippets of glad tidings to her Friday conversation. Here’s one: A boost to multiculturalism which has added colour to the sports field and very much to the tennis court. Two teenaged dahlings played it out at the US Open Women’s Final. (Note: Cass did not use the usual term: ‘battled it out’. No, since the two obviously charming girls played fine tennis, smiling most of the time and exhibiting later they were friends). British Emma Raducanu, from Bromley, Kent, won the cup while Leylah Fernandez carried away the silver tray, both sweetly smiling all the way. They looked real girlish and unsophisticated for western late teenagers. Maybe it’s the mix of blood, and half of it eastern, that makes them so.

Emma Raducanu (born November 13, 2002) moved with parents Ian Raducanu of Bucharest, Romania, and Renee of Chinese descent from Canada to Britain when she was two years old. She skies and races and engages in other sports and seems intelligent too, earning two distinction passes in math and economics at her AL exam. She speaks Mandarin. World ranked at 338, she came up to the quarter-finals at Wimbledon.

Leylah Annie Fernandez, 19, too is of mixed parentage and lives in Quebec. Her father is Ecuadorian and a soccer player and her mother Filipino Canadian. She too is absolutely charming.

Brilliant spot

We are so proud of Dr. Malik Peiris who very recently won the 2021 Future Science Prize dubbed ‘China’s Nobel Prize’, with another Hong Kong-based scientist. The prize carries a cash award worth USD 1 million but more importantly, it was awarded for ground-breaking research on SARS-CoV-2.

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