It is a pleasure to be here today, when the University resumes postgraduate work in English and Education which we first embarked on over 20 years ago. The presence of a Professor on English Language Teaching from Kelaniya makes clear that the concept has now been mainstreamed, which is a cause for great satisfaction.
Twenty years ago, this was not the case. Our initiative was looked at askance, as indeed was the initiative which Prof. Arjuna Aluwihare engaged in as UGC Chairman to make degrees in English more widely available. Those were the days in which the three established Departments of English in the University system, at Peradeniya and Kelaniya and Colombo, were unbelievably conservative. Their contempt for his efforts made him turn to Sri Jayewardenepura, which did not even have a Department of English then and only offered it as one amongst three subjects for a General Degree.
Ironically, the most dogmatic defence of this exclusivity came from Colombo, where the pioneer in English teaching had been Prof. Chitra Wickramasuriya, whose expertise was, in fact, in English teaching. But her successor, when I tried to suggest reforms, told me proudly that their graduates could go on to do postgraduate degrees at Cambridge. I suppose that, for generations brought up on idolization of E. F. C. Ludowyke, that was the acme of intellectual achievement.
I should note that the sort of idealization of Ludowyke, the then academic establishment engaged in was unfair to a very broadminded man. It was the Kelaniya establishment that claimed that he ‘maintained high standards, but was rarefied and Eurocentric and had an inhibiting effect on creative writing’. This was quite preposterous coming from someone who removed all Sri Lankan and other post-colonial writing from an Advanced Level English syllabus. That syllabus, I should mention, began with Jacobean poetry about the cherry-cheeked charms of Englishwomen. And such a characterization of Ludowyke totally ignored his roots in Sri Lanka, his work in drama which helped Sarachchandra so much, and his writing including ‘Those Long Afternoons’, which I am delighted that a former Sabaragamuwa student, C K Jayanetti, hopes to resurrect.
I have gone at some length into the situation in the nineties because I notice that your syllabus includes in the very first semester study of ‘Paradigms in Sri Lankan English Education’. This is an excellent idea, something which we did not have in our long-ago syllabus. But that was perhaps understandable since there was little to study then except a history of increasing exclusivity, and a betrayal of the excuse for getting the additional funding those English Departments received. They claimed to be developing teachers of English for the nation; complete nonsense, since those who were knowledgeable about cherries ripening in a face were not likely to move to rural areas in Sri Lanka to teach English. It was left to the products of Aluwihare’s initiative to undertake that task.
Another absurdity of that period, which seems so far away now, was resistance to training for teaching within the university system. When I restarted English medium education in the state system in Sri Lanka, in 2001, and realized what an uphill struggle it was to find competent teachers, I wrote to all the universities asking that they introduce modules in teacher training. I met condign refusal from all except, I should note with continuing gratitude, from the University of Sri Jayewardenepura, where Paru Nagasunderam introduced it for the external degree. When I started that degree, I had taken a leaf out of Kelaniya’s book and, in addition to English Literature and English Language, taught as two separate subjects given the language development needs of students, made the third subject Classics. But in time I realized that was not at all useful. Thankfully, that left a hole which ELT filled admirably at the turn of the century.
The title of your keynote speaker today, Professor of English Language Teaching, is clear evidence of how far we have come from those distant days, and how thankful we should be that a new generation of practical academics such as her and Dinali Fernando at Kelaniya, Chitra Jayatilleke and Madhubhashini Ratnayake at USJP and the lively lot at the Postgraduate Institute of English at the Open University are now making the running. I hope Sabaragamuwa under its current team will once again take its former place at the forefront of innovation.
To get back to your curriculum, I have been asked to teach for the paper on Advanced Reading and Writing in English. I worried about this at first since it is a very long time since I have taught, and I feel the old energy and enthusiasm are rapidly fading. But having seen the care with which the syllabus has been designed, I thought I should try to revive my flagging capabilities.
However, I have suggested that the university prescribe a textbook for this course since I think it is essential, if the rounded reading prescribed is to be done, that students should have ready access to a range of material. One of the reasons I began while at the British Council an intensive programme of publications was that students did not read round their texts. If a novel was prescribed, they read that novel and nothing more. If particular poems were prescribed, they read those poems and nothing more. This was especially damaging in the latter case since the more one read of any poet the more one understood what he was expressing.
Though given the short notice I could not prepare anything, I remembered a series of school textbooks I had been asked to prepare about 15 years ago by International Book House for what were termed international schools offering the local syllabus in the English medium. Obviously, the appalling textbooks produced by the Ministry of Education in those days for the rather primitive English syllabus were unsuitable for students with more advanced English. So, I put together more sophisticated readers which proved popular. I was heartened too by a very positive review of these by Dinali Fernando, now at Kelaniya, whose approach to students has always been both sympathetic and practical.
I hope then that, in addition to the texts from the book that I will discuss, students will read other texts in the book. In addition to poetry and fiction the book has texts on politics and history and law and international relations, about which one would hope postgraduate students would want some basic understanding.
Similarly, I do hope whoever teaches about Paradigms in English Education will prescribe a textbook so that students will understand more about what has been going on. Unfortunately, there has been little published about this but at least some students will I think benefit from my book on English and Education: In Search of Equity and Excellence? which Godage & Bros brought out in 2016. And then there was Lakmahal Justified: Taking English to the People, which came out in 2018, though that covers other topics too and only particular chapters will be relevant.
The former book is bulky but I believe it is entertaining as well. So, to conclude I will quote from it, to show what should not be done in Education and English. For instance, it is heartening that you are concerned with ‘social integration, co-existence and intercultural harmony’ and that you want to encourage ‘sensitivity towards different cultural and linguistic identities’. But for heaven’s sake do not do it as the NIE did several years ago in exaggerating differences. In those dark days, they produced textbooks which declared that ‘Muslims are better known as heavy eaters and have introduced many tasty dishes to the country. Watalappam and Buriani are some of these dishes. A distinguished feature of the Muslims is that they sit on the floor and eat food from a single plate to show their brotherhood. They eat string hoppers and hoppers for breakfast. They have rice and curry for lunch and dinner.’ The Sinhalese have ‘three hearty meals a day’ and ‘The ladies wear the saree with a difference and it is called the Kandyan saree’. Conversely, the Tamils ‘who live mainly in the northern and eastern provinces … speak the Tamil language with a heavy accent’ and ‘are a close-knit group with a heavy cultural background’’.
And for heaven’s sake do not train teachers by telling them that ‘Still the traditional ‘Transmission’ and the ‘Transaction’ roles are prevalent in the classroom. Due to the adverse standard of the school leavers, it has become necessary to develop the learning-teaching process. In the ‘Transmission’ role, the student is considered as someone who does not know anything and the teacher transmits knowledge to him or her. This inhibits the development of the student.
In the ‘Transaction’ role, the dialogue that the teacher starts with the students is the initial stage of this (whatever this might be). Thereafter, from the teacher to the class and from the class to the teacher, ideas flow and interaction between student-student too starts afterwards and turns into a dialogue. From known to unknown, simple to complex are initiated and for this to happen, the teacher starts questioning.’
And while avoiding such tedious jargon, please make sure their command of the language is better than to produce sentences such as these, or what was seen in an English text, again thankfully several years ago:
Read the story …
Hello! We are going to the zoo. “Do you like to join us” asked Sylvia. “Sorry, I can’t I’m going to the library now. Anyway, have a nice time” bye.
So Syliva went to the zoo with her parents. At the entrance her father bought tickets. First, they went to see the monkeys
She looked at a monkey. It made a funny face and started swinging Sylvia shouted: “He is swinging look now it is hanging from its tail its marvellous”
“Monkey usually do that’
I do hope your students will not hang from their tails as these monkeys do.
Little known composers of classical super-hits
By Satyajith Andradi
Quite understandably, the world of classical music is dominated by the brand images of great composers. It is their compositions that we very often hear. Further, it is their life histories that we get to know. In fact, loads of information associated with great names starting with Beethoven, Bach and Mozart has become second nature to classical music aficionados. The classical music industry, comprising impresarios, music publishers, record companies, broadcasters, critics, and scholars, not to mention composers and performers, is largely responsible for this. However, it so happens that classical music lovers are from time to time pleasantly struck by the irresistible charm and beauty of classical pieces, the origins of which are little known, if not through and through obscure. Intriguingly, most of these musical gems happen to be classical super – hits. This article attempts to present some of these famous pieces and their little-known composers.
Pachelbel’s Canon in D
The highly popular piece known as Pachelbel’s Canon in D constitutes the first part of Johann Pachelbel’s ‘Canon and Gigue in D major for three violins and basso continuo’. The second part of the work, namely the gigue, is rarely performed. Pachelbel was a German organist and composer. He was born in Nuremburg in 1653, and was held in high esteem during his life time. He held many important musical posts including that of organist of the famed St Stephen’s Cathedral in Vienna. He was the teacher of Bach’s elder brother Johann Christoph. Bach held Pachelbel in high regard, and used his compositions as models during his formative years as a composer. Pachelbel died in Nuremburg in 1706.
Pachelbel’s Canon in D is an intricate piece of contrapuntal music. The melodic phrases played by one voice are strictly imitated by the other voices. Whilst the basso continuo constitutes a basso ostinato, the other three voices subject the original tune to tasteful variation. Although the canon was written for three violins and continuo, its immense popularity has resulted in the adoption of the piece to numerous other combinations of instruments. The music is intensely soothing and uplifting. Understandingly, it is widely played at joyous functions such as weddings.
Jeremiah Clarke’s Trumpet Voluntary
The hugely popular piece known as ‘Jeremiah Clarke’s Trumpet Voluntary’ appeared originally as ‘ The Prince of Denmark’s March’ in Jeremiah Clarke’s book ‘ Choice lessons for the Harpsichord and Spinet’, which was published in 1700 ( Michael Kennedy; Oxford Dictionary of Music ). Sometimes, it has also been erroneously attributed to England’s greatest composer Henry Purcell (1659 – 1695 ) and called ‘Purcell’s Trumpet Voluntary (Percy A. Scholes ; Oxford Companion to Music). This brilliant composition is often played at joyous occasions such as weddings and graduation ceremonies. Needless to say, it is a piece of processional music, par excellence. As its name suggests, it is probably best suited for solo trumpet and organ. However, it is often played for different combinations of instruments, with or without solo trumpet. It was composed by the English composer and organist Jeremiah Clarke.
Jeremiah Clarke was born in London in 1670. He was, like his elder contemporary Pachelbel, a musician of great repute during his time, and held important musical posts. He was the organist of London’s St. Paul’s Cathedral and the composer of the Theatre Royal. He died in London in 1707 due to self – inflicted gun – shot injuries, supposedly resulting from a failed love affair.
The full title of the hugely famous piece known as ‘Albinoni’s Adagio’ is ‘Adagio for organ and strings in G minor’. However, due to its enormous popularity, the piece has been arranged for numerous combinations of instruments. It is also rendered as an organ solo. The composition, which epitomizes pathos, is structured as a chaconne with a brooding bass, which reminds of the inevitability and ever presence of death. Nonetheless, there is no trace of despondency in this ethereal music. On the contrary, its intense euphony transcends the feeling of death and calms the soul. The composition has been attributed to the Italian composer Tomaso Albinoni (1671 – 1750), who was a contemporary of Bach and Handel. However, the authorship of the work is shrouded in mystery. Michael Kennedy notes: “The popular Adagio for organ and strings in G minor owes very little to Albinoni, having been constructed from a MS fragment by the twentieth century Italian musicologist Remo Giazotto, whose copyright it is” (Michael Kennedy; Oxford Dictionary of Music).
The classical super-hit known as ‘Boccherini’s Minuet’ is quite different from ‘Albinoni’s Adagio’. It is a short piece of absolutely delightful music. It was composed by the Italian cellist and composer Luigi Boccherini. It belongs to his string quintet in E major, Op. 13, No. 5. However, due to its immense popularity, the minuet is performed on different combinations of instruments.
Boccherini was born in Lucca in 1743. He was a contemporary of Haydn and Mozart, and an elder contemporary of Beethoven. He was a prolific composer. His music shows considerable affinity to that of Haydn. He lived in Madrid for a considerable part of his life, and was attached to the royal court of Spain as a chamber composer. Boccherini died in poverty in Madrid in 1805.
Like numerous other souls, I have found immense joy by listening to popular classical pieces like Pachelbel’s Canon in D, Jeremiah Clarke’s Trumpet Voluntary, Albinoni’s Adagio and Boccherini’s Minuet. They have often helped me to unwind and get over the stresses of daily life. Intriguingly, such music has also made me wonder how our world would have been if the likes of Bach, Handel, Haydn, Mozart, Beethoven, and Schubert had never lived. Surely, the world would have been immeasurably poorer without them. However, in all probability, we would have still had Pachelbel’s Canon in D, Jeremiah Clarke’s Trumpet Voluntary, Albinoni’s Adagio, and Boccherini’s Minuet, to cheer us up and uplift our spirits.
The Tax Payer and the Tough
By Lynn Ockersz
The tax owed by him to Caesar,
Leaves our retiree aghast…
How is he to foot this bill,
With the few rupees,
He has scraped together over the months,
In a shrinking savings account,
While the fires in his crumbling hearth,
Come to a sputtering halt?
But in the suave villa next door,
Stands a hulk in shiny black and white,
Over a Member of the August House,
Keeping an eagle eye,
Lest the Rep of great renown,
Be besieged by petitioners,
Crying out for respite,
From worries in a hand-to-mouth life,
But this thought our retiree horrifies:
Aren’t his hard-earned rupees,
Merely fattening Caesar and his cohorts?
Lanka exposed on eve of Geneva sessions for being taken for a USD 6.5mn ride in trying to influence US
By Shamindra Ferdinando
One-time Sri Lanka’s Permanent Representative to the United Nations at Geneva Tamara Kunanayakam says the country has no other option, but to oppose the Core Group’s Resolution by calling for a vote when it is tabled at the 46th session of the Geneva-based United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC).
The Core Group, led by the UK, includes Germany, Canada, North Macedonia, Montenegro and Malawi. Kunanayakam, who served in Geneva (2011-2013) emphasized: “If the Resolution is adopted with Sri Lanka accepting, either directly by co-sponsoring or indirectly by not calling for a vote, it will reinstate the notorious HRC Resolution 30/1. By doing so, Sri Lanka will validate its underlying logic that legitimizes the use of illegal unilateral coercive measures against sovereign states; undermine Sri Lanka’s own sovereignty and the UN Charter-based multilateral order, guarantor of that sovereignty; deprive our allies in the Global South of the opportunity to express their views on a precedent-setting resolution that threatens their own sovereignty; and, isolate Sri Lanka, making it more vulnerable than it already is to foreign intervention and aggression. And that will only benefit Washington’s global ambitions for a unilateral world order under US hegemony.”
The then UNP-led coalition co-sponsored the Resolution on Oct 1, 2015. The then Sri Lanka’s PR there Ravinatha Aryasinha was ordered by Colombo to accept the Resolution on Sri Lanka’s behalf after he initially raised objections to it.
Kunanayakam, who had been Sri Lanka’s top envoy in Havana (2009-2011) asserted: “In fact, under today’s conditions, such a resolution will be worse than the 2015 resolution which could easily be dismissed on the basis that the then Foreign Minister Mangala Samaraweera had acted without authorization and there had been widespread opposition within the country, especially from political parties. This time, it will be interpreted as there having been not only an international consensus, but a national consensus, with the added argument that the Government in place was elected with a near two-thirds majority.”
The foreign affairs analyst was responding to the writer’s query as to what should be Sri Lanka’s response? And how could the country avoid a vote on the Core Group’s resolution?
UK succeeds US
The UK took command of the Core Group in the wake of the US quitting the UNHRC alleging the Geneva body was a cesspool of political bias. Having succeeded the US, the UK, prodded on by an influential Tamil group of Sri Lanka origin, has mounted a despicable political project meant to humiliate post-war Sri Lanka. The failure on Sri Lanka’s part to counter Western propaganda facilitated their operation. The current administration is no exception. Sri Lanka pathetically failed to exploit disclosures made by Western ‘sources’ since the successful conclusion of the conflict in May 2009 to the chagrin of the oft repeated Western refrain that the Sri Lankan security forces were incapable of crushing the almost invincible military machine of the LTTE. Sri Lanka’s pitiable handling of the Geneva affair certainly made the British project easier.
Sri Lanka should be eternally grateful to Lord Naseby for exposing the British project. The Conservative Party member recently revealed how the British conveniently suppressed information which might have helped the UNHRC to establish the truth. The UK withheld information in spite of it being a member of the 47-nation UNHRC. The availability of such information was made known to the world on Oct 12, 2017 thanks to Lord Naseby.
A parliamentary query raised by Lord Naseby recently revealed the suppression of diplomatic cables from the UK High Commission in Colombo in 2009. If revealed, the cables could have disputed the very basis of the unsubstantiated war crimes allegations leading to Sri Lanka co-sponsoring the 2015 Geneva Resolution against itself.
Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon of the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office on Feb 16 answered Lord Naseby’s written parliamentary question, tabled on Feb 4.
Lord Naseby asked the government whether the UK supplied to the UN Human Rights Council any (1) censored, and (2) uncensored, copies of dispatches written by Lieutenant Colonel Anthony Gash, the former Defence Attaché of the British High Commission in Sri Lanka about events in that country between 1 January and 18 May 2009, relating to the civil war.
Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon said that the UK Government had not received any request from the UN Human Rights Council for copies of dispatches written by the former Defence Attaché at the British High Commission in Sri Lanka, Lieutenant Colonel Gash, about events in Sri Lanka related to the civil war, and had not provided any.
Appearing on ‘Face the Nation’ anchored by Shameer Rasooldeen on Feb 15, defence analyst and lecturer Nilanthan Niruthan explained the British duplicity in handling accountability issues. Responding to Rasooldeen, Niruthan didn’t mince his words when explained the rule of law meant that those responsible for crimes should be promptly and fairly prosecuted. Yet the UK government, while seeking to punish the Sri Lanka military, was pushing for a new law – the Overseas Operations Bill – that would make it nearly impossible to prosecute British soldiers for torture and other war crimes committed overseas, Niruthan said. The British actions showed contempt for the rule of law, violation of the UK’s international commitments to prosecute the worst crimes, and risks creating impunity for grave abuse, the programme was told.
The writer on Monday (22) sought a further clarification from Chennai, born Niruthan as regards the British position to the accountability issues. “The British position,” Niruthan, whose parents fled the Jaffna peninsula sometime after the 1983 anti-Tamil riots, said: “… is like a rat accusing a squirrel of being a pest. The UK has been found responsible for systematic war crimes by the ICC prosecutor but the court could not proceed because the UK refused to cooperate with any further investigations. Worse, the UK is now working on a law that will make its own soldiers immune to the very same international prosecutions they are trying to push against the Sri Lankan military. The fact that they are leading the charge against Sri Lanka is evidence of how hypocritical and corrupt the system is. There is a difference between justice and politics. The UK sponsoring the resolution makes it undeniable that all this is much more about politics than anything related to justice. I hope Sri Lankans of all communities are paying attention to these double standards.”
Niruthan contributes to ‘The Journal of Military Operations and Small Wars’ as well as Asia-Pacific magazine called ‘The Diplomat’. Questioning the response of some countries with vested interests to terrorism and post-conflict Sri Lanka, Niruthan referred to the assassination of his grandfather Rajasundaram Vaithalingam, of Vaddukottai, Jaffna by the TELO (Tamil Eelam Liberation Organization). At the time of Vaithalingam’s assassination in 1985, he had been the SLFP organizer for Jaffna.
Western powers turned a blind eye to Indian intervention causing mayhem here in the 80s. India sponsored terrorist groups, including the TELO, engaged in terrorist acts with impunity. They created an environment conducive for the deployment of the Indian Army here (July 1987-March 1990). India lost nearly 1,500 officers and men during the IPKF (Indian Peace Keeping Force) deployment. Nearly 3,000 others received injuries and the rest is history.
Today India represents the UNHRC. Foreign Secretary retired Admiral Prof. Jayanath Colombage on Feb 19 revealed to Hiru TV Sri Lanka’s request to Indian PM Narendra Modi’s backing at the UNHRC. India never bothered at least to apologize for causing massive death and destruction in Sri Lanka though New Delhi from time to time reminded Colombo of its obligations towards the Tamil community.
Indian role in bringing war to an end
Ironically, we have to acknowledge the support provided by India during the Eelam War IV (August 2006-May 2009) as it became patently unable to stomach Tiger insolence to its former patron, for turning its guns on the IPKF and especially after the assassination of its ex-Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi. It would be pertinent to underscore what one-time Indian High Commissioner J, N. Dixit stated in 2004. Dixit, in his memoirs, ‘Makers of India’s Foreign Policy,’ says that he preferred to call India’s interference in Sri Lanka during 1980-1990 period as ‘Indian involvement.’ Dixit asserted that the decision to give active support to Sri Lankan Tamil militants could be considered one of the two major foreign policy blunders made by the then Indian Prime Minister Indira Gandhi. But Dixit strongly defended the Prime Minister’s action, while asserting Gandhi couldn’t have afforded the emergence of Tamil separatism in India by refusing to support the aspirations of Sri Lankan Tamils [Chapter 6:An Indo-centric Practitioner of Realpolitik-Makers of India’s Foreign Policy].
Dixit failed to explain how the Prime Minister hoped to achieve her twin objectives by recruiting, training, arming and deploying thousands of Sri Lankan Tamil youth. India also helped Sri Lankan terrorists establish contact with international terrorist groups.
Indian action caused irrevocable damage to Indo-Lanka relations. The Maldives, too, suffered due to Indian intervention in Sri Lanka. Dixit totally ignored the Maldivian factor, though Indian trained PLOTE (People’s Liberation Organization of Tamil Eelam) was responsible for a coup attempt in the Maldives in Nov. 1988. India had to send in troops to thwart sea borne Sri Lankan terrorists, who mounted the attack on Male. The UNHRC (previously Commission) or Western powers never showed any interest in the suffering of the northern public until the Sri Lankan military eradicated the LTTE.
However, the war could never have been brought to a successful conclusion without New Delhi’s backing. Sri Lanka also needs to understand the US-Japan-India-Australia axis to meet the growing Chinese challenge as it walks a diplomatic tightrope against the backdrop of Colombo’s continuing dependence on Beijing. The Western moves in Geneva, in a way, reflect their overall strategy to undermine China.
Since the end of the conflict in May 2009, the Western powers pushed hard for an accountability process that enabled them to bring Sri Lanka under their domination. They exploited a joint statement issued in the wake of UNSG Ban Ki moon’s visit to Colombo to initiate a direct intimidation process that kicked off with the accusation of killing 40,000 civilians on the Vanni east front by a virtual kangaroo court handpicked by the UNSG and called the Panel of Experts, whose findings neither could be questioned nor can the accusers be cross examined at least for two decades or more. (Report of the Secretary General’s Panel of Experts on Accountability in Sri Lanka released on March 31, 2011).
Gathering evidence the UN way
In the absence of a steady stream of complaints, the Centre for War Victims and Human Rights launched an online campaign to gather war crimes complaints. The petition was launched about a week before the expiry of the first deadline (Dec 15, 2010). The deadline was subsequently extended to Dec 31, 2010. The organizers posted a detailed communication from the Secretariat to PoE/PoE on a website named ‘Stop Sri Lanka State Terrorism’, obviously giving away the ultimate aim of the project. Interestingly, those who had complained cannot be examined in view of a confidentiality clause that prevented scrutiny of such for a period of 20 years (from March 2011 to March 2031). What is really surprising is that Sri Lanka never challenged the confidentiality clause. Sri Lanka owed an explanation why it continuously failed to take up contentious matters, such as the confidentiality clause or wartime US Defence Advisor Lt. Col. Lawrence Smith’s defence of the Sri Lankan military at the first post-war defence seminar conducted in 2011. Let me reproduce verbatim what the US official said. Smith was responding to Maj. Gen. (retd) Ashok Mehta (IPKF) who queried about the alleged battlefield executions. Query directed to the then Maj. Gen. Shavendra Silva, No 2 in New York was answered by the American.
This is what the American had to say: “Hello, may I say something to a couple of questions raised. I’ve been the Defense Ataché here, at the US Embassy, since June 2008. Regarding the various versions of events that came out in the final hours and days of the conflict – from what I was privileged to hear and to see, the offers to surrender that, I am aware of, seemed to come from the mouthpieces of the LTTE – Nadesan, KP – people who weren’t and never had really demonstrated any control over the leadership or the combat power of the LTTE.
“So their offers were a bit suspect anyway, and they tended to vary in content, hour by hour, day by day. I think we need to examine the credibility of those offers before we leap to conclusions that such offers were in fact real.
“And I think the same is true for the version of events. It’s not so uncommon in combat operations, in the fog of war, as we all get our reports second, third and fourth hand from various commanders, at various levels, that the stories don’t seem to all quite match up.
“But, I can say that the version presented here so far in this is what I heard as I was here during that time. And I think I better leave it at that before I get into trouble. “
The US State Department disassociated itself from Lt. Col. Smith’s statement. State Department’s Deputy Spokesman Mark C. Toner responded to questions raised on the basis of The Island report.
I have one on Sri Lanka. The senior Defense Attaché at the U.S. Mission in Sri Lanka went public in the newspapers (inaudible) that he questioned the credibility of surrender offers made by senior LTTE leaders who was the head of the (inaudible) last year. Does this reflect any change in the U.S. position on the war crime victims?
Right. You’re talking about remarks that were made at a conference in Colombo?
Well, just to clarify, the U.S. did decline invitations to participate in that conference as either a conference speaker or panelist. My understanding is that the Defence Attaché was there as an observer and a note taker. His comments reflected his personal opinions. There’s no change in the policy of the United States, and his remarks do not reflect any change in our policy.
So that was a personal opinion?
Personal opinion. The United States – and just to reiterate that policy – remains deeply concerned by the allegations in the panel of experts report, and we’re committed to seeing a credible accounting of and accountability for violations of international human rights law and international humanitarian law. And we believe that the Sri Lankan Government must act quickly and credibly to address these allegations.
Who was the attaché?
I don’t have his name.
Is he still the attaché? (Laughter.) Was there any discussion —?
I believe he’s still there, but I’ll try to get an update.
Smith’s statement contradicted the very basis of the war crimes allegations. For a decade, Sri Lanka conveniently failed to exploit US statements whereas resolutions were moved in Geneva on the basis of unsubstantiated allegations. Resolutions were passed against Sri Lanka in 2012, 2013 and 2014 before the US backed change of the Rajapaksa administration that paved the way for the US to move the 2015 resolution. Sri Lanka never took any notice of the US State Department declaration that the US spent USD 585 mn to restore democracy in Myanmar, Nigeria and Sri Lanka. If just one third of that amount had been allocated for the Sri Lanka project in addition to funds made available by the USAID in 2015, who were the recipients? The Geneva project can never be really examined without studying the US political designs here. Backing of General Fonseka and Maithripala Sirisena at 2010 and 2015 presidential polls exposed the US strategy. Wikileaks proved that.
The writer had an opportunity to discuss the accountability issue on ‘Sirasa’ ‘Pathikada’ anchored by Asoka Dias. The programme aired live, hours before Foreign Minister Dinesh Gunawardena addressed the 46th sessions of the UNHRC, dealing with the failure on the part of successive governments to respond properly to the Western strategy. The squandering of a staggering USD 6.5 mn in 2014 for a harebrained project to prevent the US pushing Sri Lanka on the human rights front captured front-page attention of some print media a few days before the beginning of the Geneva sessions. The absence of overall strategy, too, was highlighted with scheduling of Pakistan PM Imran Khan’s visit to Colombo amidst Geneva sessions and ongoing controversy of cremation of Muslim victims of Covid-19. But, the cancellation of Khan’s address to Parliament on the alleged fears of him raising the Kashmir issue after making a grand announcement underscored the pathetic state of affairs.
American of Indian and Pakistani origin Imaad Zuberi, who had donated heavily to Democrats before former President Donald J. Trump’s election, pleaded guilty to charges related to a $900,000 donation to Trump’s inaugural committee, the US media reported last week. Having promised to save Sri Lanka for a sum of USD 8.5 mn, Zuberi received USD 6.5 mn in a deal negotiated through the Sri Lanka Embassy in Washington. In the following year, the US not only played a key role in the change of government in Colombo, it got the UNP-SLFP administration to co-sponsor a Resolution against Sri Lanka’s wartime political leadership and the military.
In 2019 New York Times quoted Zuberi as having said: “To open doors, I have to donate. It’s just a fact of life.”
The smooth operator had donated heavily to Democrats, including committees supporting President Barack Obama and then Hillary Clinton’s 2016 campaign, before abruptly switching allegiance to Republicans in the wake of Trump’s victory.
The Yahapalana government never made a genuine effort to probe the controversial deal with the American. Investigations revealed that the political agent who had received a 12-year jail term spent vast amounts of Sri Lankan taxpayers’ money to sustain his luxurious lifestyle. Those who had benefited at the expense of Sri Lanka perhaps will never be punished though the military is in the dock. US declaration of Army Chief Gen. Shavendra Silva a persona non grata in the US is a case in point. The same fate befell Field Marshal Sarath Fonseka and Maj. Gen. Chagie Gallage.
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