Geneva: Have we botched the show?
Have we compromised our case by the way in which we have handled the charge against Sri Lanka at (and by) the UNHCR? I think we have. First, we have taken a course suggestive of a Nation that avoids facing an issue by postponing the day of reckoning by seeking repeated deferments. The charges are serious.
Having been co-signatories to the original Resolution (along with the US), we backed down! Does this speak well of us? We were unique as a country that sponsored a Resolution, virtually against its own Armed Forces and its administration! Had the USA not reversed its intent to leave the UNHCR, characterizing the UN body as a “cesspool of bias”, we would have been left holding a (fatherless) baby!
Much argument revolves around the status and powers of the UNHCR, and the limits of its capacity for further actions. It is debatable, because so much damage can be done by individual states to cause problems, even if collective action is not legally possible. The GSP facility could be one, as also traffic rights, freezing of assets, prosecution, trading and investments (FDI), and all other disabilities of a “Pariah State”. Bravado would not be the path to tread. After all, our valiant fighters are being charged with breach of human rights. Armed Forces were quelling an insurrection challenging the integrity and very existence of Sri Lanka nation as an undivided country.
I do agree that merely citing the horrors committed by the enemy may not have sufficed. It would be a childish game of “He hit me first “or other emotional ‘tit-for- tat’ approach. The simplest would have been a simple query from our detractors. “What would you have done in similar circumstances?”
All wars are ugly, and all combatants would be guilty of excesses in the eyes of their opponents. No army is noted for carrying heavy tomes of Rules of Combat, Human Rights, Conventions, etc., into the field of battle. If only our delegations briefed themselves on the writings of the late S.L.Gunasekara and the “Route to Nandikadal” by our present Secretary of Defence, Kamal Gunaratne, and numerous other unbiased sources, like the bulletins of the UTHR, it might have made a difference. SLG painstakingly documented the myriad of LTTE atrocities and KG gave a vivid picture of the hardships, horrors and endurance of our troops who virtually marched the breadth of our land from Mannar to Mullaitivu.
The UNHCR, as other UN bodies, is charged with responsibilities of Member States to place “Maintenance of Peace and Honouring of Human Rights” as their key obligations. The UNHCR must not be viewed as a hostile demon, but as a benevolent force sincerely engaged in fulfilling its mandate through co-operation. Churlish reactions against its efforts and mandate, is counter-productive. Nit-picking and verbal gymnastics destroy the spirit and barely capture the intent. To throw up our arms and moan the astute promotion of their case (which probably they are genuine about) by the LTTE Diaspora is no help. Everybody has a right to entertain and promote their beliefs. If untrue, it is the business of the opposing party (in this case, The Sri Lankan State) to address or refute the LTTE Line.
One of the most amazing displays of gross miscalculation, has been the attitude towards the valiant efforts made by Lord Naseby to defend us. By his dogged pursuit of internal exchanges and dispatches, between the UK Embassy in Colombo and the Home Office in London, it is very clear that political compulsions, have gravely reversed the UK’s reputation for probity and fairness. No complicated arguments will suffice to convince any right-thinking person, that we have dropped a very easy catch. I was shocked when a worthy in Parliament declared that we will use it “at the Proper time”. Obviously, this worthy meant “Propitious Planetary position”. Meanwhile we are in “Nonagathe” until the “Nekatha”presents itself. As the pithy Sinhala saying goes, “Peddhi harenakota, Perahera pitathavela”
As a “side”, when somebody held that the casualty figures of innocent Tamil civilians fleeing the area of final battle was 140,000, one wonders how such numbers could have been surreptitiously buried, when a minute fraction of Moslems dying of Covid-19 has created such a huge backlash. Has somebody got his figures wrong?
Dr Upatissa Pethiyagoda
Russian Ambassador clarifies
Comparing special military operation in Ukraine with the presence of the limited contingent of the Soviet Army in the Democratic Republic of Afghanistan is not correct. If the author of the article “‘Containment Theory’ returns to West’s ties with East” in The Island of 18 May does some serious research of the pre-military period of the conflict in Afghanistan, he will discover that the Soviet Army was invited to Afghanistan by the legitimate government formed by the People’s Democratic Party of Afghanistan. It was not an invasion. Our soldiers fulfilled their international duty and did so with dignity.
Instead of disturbing the memories of our fallen soldiers, the author, I guess, should inform his readers why Americans, who occupied Afghanistan for 20 years, didn’t reach any positive results outside Kabul? Why didn’t they create at list one new facility to improve the life of the citizens of one of the poorest countries in Asia? Why after their disgraceful defeat they even didn’t do anything to help those people who trusted them? Why the production of opium increased several times? There are no answers. Only silence on the part of the State Department and Pentagon.
Let the author explain, as well, what were the reasons of American failure in Iraq. By the way, was that invasion endorsed by UN Security Council?
During the Soviet1 military presence in Afghanistan soldiers not only from Russia, but also from Ukraine, Baltic States, Caucasus and other parts of the USSR fulfilled their international duty.
Now we are fighting for our future. The tragedy of the current conflict is that Ukraine and the Ukrainian people have been turned into an instrument of Western policy to destabilise Russia. The great hate, a real hysteria was created from the time of illegal coup-d’etat in 2014. We are two parts of one people, and the West did its best, as usual, in making split.
The special military operation is not aimed against civilians in Ukraine. The goal is to demilitarise and denazify Ukraine, as well as bring to trial those who perpetrated numerous bloody crimes. After the referendums, held in accordance with the International law, Ukraine must recognize that these regions are integral part of Russia. This operation will last till all its aims mentioned by our President Vladimir Putin are reached. Our cause is just, and we will win. No doubt!
Ambassador to Russia in Colombo
‘Unworthy worthies’, ‘dishonourable honourables’
The recent detection of gold and Smart phones in the personal luggage of a Smuggler- MP returnee from Dubai has raised several issues. The elevation of the status of Smugglers, Political interference in legal process, entitlement to VIP Lounge, exemptions from Customs checks, breach of procedures in determining the size of fines by Customs and money laundering.
Two matters are of interest. (a) who are entitled to “Diplomatic Passports and the associated privileges (including the VIP Lounge and exemption from personal Customs and Immigration formalities,) and (b) Penalties imposed by Customs on persons detected while attempting to smuggle dutiable goods.
In a recent instance, Ali Sabry Raheem, MP from Puttalam District, was detected attempting to smuggle in 3.5 Kilograms of gold and a large number of fancy mobile phones, together valued at some Rs 78 million. It is on record that he sought interference by several powerful authorities (including The Speaker of Parliament), to extricate himself. Having failed, the Customs confiscated the booty and imposed a fine of Rs 7.4 million, which was promptly paid. One understands that in such cases, the stipulated fine is three times the estimated value, while here it was even less than even one-tenth of the value of contraband. Why? The feeble tale that the contraband belonged to someone else, a fellow passenger, should alert the sleuths to follow this trail. The alacrity with which with the fine was paid suggests that such handy “ready cash”, points to previous undetected instances, How often has this intrepid traveler been abroad lately? The “Icing on the cake” is that this man left for Dubai, just three days later, to Dubai! VIP departure lounge charges, and perhaps even his airfare may have been met the State? Nothing surprises us anymore.
Clearly our Government has been less than conscientious in the issue of “Diplomatic or Official” Passports. The most scandalous instance was when Karuna Amman (Karuna of the LTTE), defected and was promptly appointed a Minister, and travelled to the UK, presumably on a Diplomatic Passport but had to spend a fortnight in prison, for overstaying his visa. A sad reflection on the discretion of the State’s exercise of a privilege.
Immunity does not imply impunity.
An appreciation: Ambassador Jayantha Dhanapala
I was saddened to learn that our friend and Sri Lanka’s prominent diplomat Ambassador Jayantha Dhanapala has quietly closed the door of life and departed from us. To me, a sorrow that is deep and personal. I have known Jayantha since we were two of three finalists for the Herald Tribune essay contest for a traveling scholarship to the United States in the late 1950s; he from Trinity, and I from Richmond, and he won out. Since then, he never stopped shining on the international stage, culminating in his narrow loss in the competition for the Secretary General of the United States post.
In the meantime, he had served Sri Lanka as a foreign service member in countless capitals and as Ambassador to India, China, the United States and the United Nations, and Washington. He also served as Under-Secretary-General of the United Nations Department of Disarmament, during which he led the U.N. team to investigate the nuclear sites in Iraq just before the Iraqi war and later headed the U.N. Institute of Disarmament Research (UNIDIR).
I had the privilege of working closely with him on joint U.N. projects and traveling to various cities, including Ulan Bator, Mongolia, during which we nearly escaped an airline disaster over the then-Soviet Union. Whether it was in the course of official work or the relaxed evenings we spent after a full day of work, it was highly congenial to be in his company. At work, he knew the art of negotiation of being firm while being most congenial, no mean talent that took him to the summit of international diplomacy. He also served Sri Lanka as Foreign Secretary, Head of the Peace Secretariat, and finally as Senior Advisor to the President of Sri Lanka. Few Sri Lankans have ever reached those dizzy heights.
The loss of my friend profoundly saddens me, and I join the diplomatic world that will mourn the death of a diplomat par excellence and a Gentleman to the hilt who served Mother Lanka well! Adlai Stevenson, the U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations, once commented about a man and his contribution: “It is not the years in a life that counts; it is the life in the years.” By that measure, Jayantha Dhanapala is a shining star that lived! We will miss him, and may he find peace!
Former Deputy Director-General, United Nations & Director U.N. Office for Outer Space Affairs.
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