In the latter half of the 20th century, the Non-Aligned Movement played an important role at a time when East-West tensions were running high. In August 1976, Sri Lanka hosted the 5th Non-Aligned Summit in Colombo. This was one of the high points in Sri Lanka’s international relations. Here, we publish an extract from Leelananda De Silva’s autobiographical volume – The Long Littleness of Life – his Memoir of Government, the United Nations, family and friends.
Sometime in 1973, Mrs. Bandaranaike, the Prime Minister, directed that I should be in charge of the economic side of the Non Aligned Summit (NAS), to be held in 1976 in Colombo. She was anxious to attach a high profile to economic issues in non aligned discussions. This was for two reasons. The first was that she wanted to make the NAS clearly more non-aligned, getting rid of the extreme anti western rhetoric of previous conferences, which was partly due to the focus on political issues. Talking economics, specially at a time when the North-South dialogue was a dominant feature in international relations made great sense. The second reason was that she felt that greater attention to international economic issues would better relate the Summit proceedings to Sri Lanka’s own economic interests. As I advised her, it was necessary to focus on relevant economic issues for Sri Lanka, instead of merely following earlier Non Aligned economic agendas where issues like transnational corporations and the New International Economic Order were focused upon. These issues were pushed by countries like Cuba and Algeria, as these were aimed at attacking the United States and other Western countries. Thereafter, my engagement with non aligned issues became my central task, during my Planning Ministry years. Between 1973 and 1977, 1 was working as much with the Foreign Ministry as with the Planning Ministry.
The Fifth Non Aligned Summitheldin 1976 was the culmination of a long process which started with the Fourth Summit in Algiers in 1973. The Prime Minister led the delegation to Algiers and the other members were Felix Dias Bandaranaike, Mrs. Lakshmi Dias Bandaranaike, Shirley Amarasinghe (Permanent Representative to the UN in New York), W.T. Jayainghe (Permanent Secretary of Foreign Affairs), Susantha De Alwis (Permanent Representative to the UN in Geneva) and myself. This delegation constituted many of the key persons who were responsible for the substantive preparations of the Colombo Summit. The other two persons who were not there were Arthur Basnayaka and Izeth Hussain. The Algiers Conference was a grand affair and was held in a newly constructed palatial conference hall. One of the things that struck me most was that the Conference was not organized well. During the week we were there, the conference sessions were held in the night, and during the day we had our rest. This made most of the delegates very tired. Mrs. Bandaranaike suggested to the delegation that we should observe the way in which the Conference was organized in Algiers. There was nothing much to learn from them.
I was looking after the Economic Committee and it was being chaired by Ambassador Hernan Santa Cruz of Chile, a leading personality of the time in international affairs. I remember working closely with the Ambassador from India, K.B. Lall, who was later to lose out to Gamani Corea, in the UNCTAD Secretary General stakes. The work of the Economic Committee was dominated by Algerian pressures to obtain support for the Opec oil price hike which had just occurred, raising the price of oil from US $4 to $13. This was a great shock to poorer developing countries. The Algerians and other oil suppliers manipulated the Summit to obtain a clear endorsement of the Opec position, although it was the poorer developing countries which paid a heavy price for the oil price hike. Opec promised that they would support schemes to obtain better prices for other commodities, but this- never happened, apart from unrealistic resolutions to change the world economic order. The Opec countries started to push for a New International Economic Order which was later adopted by the United Nations in 1974. Layachi Yaker, the Algerian Minister of Trade was the key figure organizing this Opec campaign in the non aligned context (he was later to be the head of the UN Economic Commission for Africa).
The great event of the Conference, in effect, took place outside Algiers. Salvador Allende, the President of Chile was overthrown and killed in a coup led by General Pinochet during the week of the Conference. Chile under Allende had emerged as an icon standing up to US hegemony in Latin America and generally in the third world. Many of the non aligned delegations were shocked by what happened in Chile. Hernan Santa Cruz, who was chairing the Economic Committee, was the living embodiment of the Chilean crisis and he was not to go back to his country fora long time. One unforgettable memory that I have of this Summit was our departure from Algiers airport. Waiting for our respective planes, along with Mrs. Bandaranaike, were Emperor Haile Selassie of Ethiopia and President Houari Boumedienne of Algeria was there to wish us goodbye.
The most important objective for Sri Lanka at Algiers was to get the Summit to endorse Colombo as its next venue. Whether this would be done was not at all certain. To the great delight of Mrs. Bandaranaike, the Algiers Summit confirmed Colombo as the venue for the Fifth Summit. This was the start of the preparatory process. Mrs. Bandaranaike was anxious that economic issues, particularly in a North- South context, should be equally placed with political issues on the NAS agenda. This was my task in the next four years, and those preparations were pursued largely in UN multilateral forums, which were then brought into convergence at the NAS. The story of my involvement with these North- South issues will be related in another chapter. Here, I will confine myself to non aligned forums.
After the Algiers Summit and prior to the Summit in Colombo, I attended three non aligned meetings held in Dakar (Senegal), Lima (Peru) and Algiers. The Dakar and Lima meetings were at Foreign Ministers level. Apart from myself, others on the delegations were Felix Dias Bandaranaike, Shirley Amarasinghe, and Arthur Basnayaka. The Dakar meeting was held outside the main city in a newly built conference hall, in the middle of nowhere. One night, Shirley Amarasinghe, Arthur Basnayake and I had to go in a car assigned to us by the government fora late night meeting. The relations with our driver was pretty bad as he was using the official vehicle assigned to us for his own purposes. This night, on our way to the conference hall, he stopped the car in the middle of a jungle saying there was no petrol and that he was going to leave us and go to collect some petrol. This was a frightening experience. We had to forget our status and had to plead with the driver offering him some goodies to take us to the conference hall somehow. About half an hour later, he said that he had some petrol in the car and that he would use it. Anyway, we got to the conference hall and we did not see the driver again.
I was to work closely with Shirley Amarasinghe on Non Aligned issues, although he was in New York and I was in Colombo. We travelled together for many meetings and met often in New York and in Colombo. I enjoyed working with Shirley Amarasinghe. Shirley had held the highest offices of government, being appointed as Secretary to the Treasury at the age of 47. One day in Dakar he told me that when Felix Dias Bandaranaike had to leave the Finance Ministry in 1962, he also had to leave his post of Treasury Secretary. He had thought of retiring from the public service and his brother Clarence who ran the leading motor firm Car Mart had asked him to come and take over the running of the company. He was seriously considering moving to the private sector. At this point, Mrs. Bandaranaike and N.Q. Dias who was the Secretary of the Ministry of Defence and Foreign Affairs had asked him whether he would like to move into the diplomatic service and proceed to New Delhi as High Commissioner. His whole life changed with that decision to go to New Delhi at the age of 50. For the next 17 years until his death, he was a leading figure in UN circles and latterly as Chairman of the Law of the Sea Conference.
I remember another amusing incident. Over the weekend in Dakar, Arthur Basnayake, whose academic background was geography, wished to go to the interior of Senegal by train. He wanted to go alone, and there was a train going to that place. So I accompanied Arthur to the railway station. The Dakar main railway station was totally deserted and there was no train in sight. We walked down the long platform and there was a man seated at the end of it, smoking a cigar. We asked him whether we could see the station master. He said he was the station master. We asked him about the train, which was scheduled to leave that morning. He told us that was a good question, as yesterday’s train had not yet left. He suggested to us that we take the bus outside the station to our destination, as that will get us there sooner. The bus was run by the station master’s son, and to get business for the bus, it was in the interest of father and son to see that the trains were delayed.
The meeting at Lima, Peru had the usual agendas and the usual speeches. What was more interesting was the coup that took place while we were in Lima. On the Monday morning of the conference, it was ceremonially opened by General Morales, the Military Dictator of Peru. On the Wednesday morning, as we were leaving for the conference, we were informed that we should stay in the hotel as a coup had taken place and there was a curfew. The conference met again the day after and it was wound up on the weekend. When it was wound up, the new military ruler came to declare the conference closed. The host Government Peru insisted that the former dictator Morales’s name should not be mentioned in the communique and he should not be thanked for opening the conference. This was non aligned politics at its best.
The mechanism for pursuing non aligned agendas was the Coordinating Bureau of the Non Aligned Countries Meeting at Foreign Minister’s level. I attended a meeting in Algiers of the Bureau in early 1976. The task of the Sri Lankan delegation was to keep the Bureau informed of our preparations in Colombo. I remember this meeting for one poignant reason. Although Chile had a military government now, the Non Aligned Bureau, still recognized the Allende government of Chile. Its Foreign Minister Orlando Letelier, suave, elegant and the perfect diplomat, was there in Algiers. I had a cup of tea with him and discussed the forthcoming Conference in Colombo, which he expected to attend. About a month later, he was gunned down in the streets of Washington D.C. in broad daylight, a murder which had ramifications the world over.
Let me now briefly set out my observations of the NAS in Colombo. I was appointed by the Prime Minister to be Secretary of the Economic Committee of the Conference. By virtue of my position, I chaired an inter-ministerial committee on economic issues for the NAS in Colombo. We met a few times but it was not productive in shaping an economic agenda from Sri Lanka’s point of view. This had to be done by the Planning Ministry. One of the first things I had to do was to provide an input into the Prime Minister’s speech for the Conference. After discussing with the Prime Minister and with Felix Dias Bandaranaike, I submitted two proposals- one for a Countervailing Third World Currency and the other for the establishment of a Third World Commercial and Merchant Bank. The first proposal for a third world currency was a political one, to please radicals like Cuba. The second proposal was one I had developed and discussed with the Prime Minister. She liked the proposal which was pragmatic, and this was included in her speech. The Summit adopted the proposal and was later to be followed up by UNCTAD. I was asked by UNCTAD to come over to Geneva to prepare a paper on this proposal which I did in May 1977.
I am proud of this proposal, with which Mrs. Bandaranaike agreed. She wanted a high profile for economic issues, as they related to her own domestic concerns. People could relate to food and agriculture and pharmaceuticals in a way that they do not relate to Arab- Israel or East West political confrontations. The proposal fora Bank, which had merchaht banking functions, was modelled on the experience of the Crown Agents in London. Most developing countries at the time did not have the expertise and the skills to get the best terms from exporting and importing transactions. It was found at that time that Sri Lanka was purchasing commodities like oil, rice and wheat, when prices were high in a volatile world market; and full of stocks locally when the prices were low in world markets (at a time when we should be buying). A central facility for developing countries would enable them to obtain large gains through combined purchasing and other means. The bank could also handle many financial transactions of borrowing and obtaining export credits. An institution of this kind is still relevant in today’s world for many of the smaller developing countries.
Prof. Senaka Bibile had made his mark through his proposals for rationalization of pharmaceutical supplies and the purchase of non- branded, generic products for national health services. Such arrangements reduced the costs of medical supplies. Senaka Bibile was known to Mrs. Bandaranaike. She suggested to me that I should have him on the delegation to work with me in the Economic Committee to develop his ideas through a resolution which would then be applicable to the developing countries in general. Senaka Bibile worked with me at the Conference to get the resolution drafted, and we had to do some lobbying among the delegations. I found that most countries welcomed the proposals on pharmaceuticals and there was no problem in getting a strong resolution adopted. This is a resolution which had clear implications for health policies in countries like Sri Lanka. It was a delight to have worked with Senaka Bibile.
The NAS was a historic event and it should be remiss of me if I did not mention the others who were associated closely with the NAS, as I had personal knowledge of the event. In organizing an NAS on this scale, Sri Lanka was punching above its weight in international relations. Mrs. Sirimavo Bandaranaike, the Prime Minister, was primarily responsible for the success of the Summit. She personally supervised many of its key aspects. Felix Dias Bandaranaike and Shirley Amarasinghe were actively engaged in most of the preparatory work between 1973 and 1976. They were persons of international standing and were highly respected, and with Mrs. Bandaranaike, were responsible for a highly acclaimed Summit. W.T Jayasinghe , the Foreign Secretary, Arthur Basnayake, Director General of the Foreign Ministry and Izeth Hussein, Director of the Non Aligned desk at the Foreign Ministry were key figures in the preparations on the political side. Susanta De Alwis who was our ambassador in Geneva, was the secretary of the political committee, and he and I being secretaries of the two committees had to interact closely to avoid possible conflicts in conference proceedings and resolution drafting. Neville Kanakarathne can be added to this list. Izeth Hussein made a distinctive contribution in drafting what was considered an outstanding Political Declaration which captured the essence of Non-Alignment.
Dr. Mackie Ratwatte, was the man in charge of the organizational side of the Conference. He was assisted by several Foreign Office officials, specially Ben Fonseka. Manel Abeysekara managed a flawless protocol operation with finesse and flair. This aspect of the Summit was crucial, as delegations with Heads of Governments and State are sensitive to their treatment by the host country. Vernon Mendis, who was then the High Commissioner in London, was brought to Colombo to act as Secretary General of the Conference, as W. T Jayasinghe and Arthur Basnayake declined to undertake that role, Vernon’s role was to assist the Prime Minister during the Conference proceedings. Dharmasiri Peiris, Secretary to the Prime Minister, worked behind the scenes over this entire four year period and was guide and adviser to the Prime Minister on many NAM issues, and ran her office at the Conference, where many questions had to be addressed on an urgent basis. He was associated with Nihal Jayawickrama, Secretary to the Ministry of Justice and Sam Sanmuganathan, Secretary to the Ministry of Constitutional Affairs On the economic side I received much assistance from Wilfred Nanayakkara, Deputy Director of the Economic Affairs Division in the Ministry of Planning. Lakdasa Hulugalle, an outstanding economist working with UNCTAD and an authority on North South issues was in regular contact, and was a great source of advice during the Summit. Havelock Brewster, a well known Caribbean economist from UNCTAD worked with the Economic Committee, at my request. He was actively involved in the drafting of the large number of economic resolutions which came up at the Conference.
Let me divert here to record my recollections of two episodes connected with the Summit as they are instructive and should not be forgotten. First was Mrs. Bandaranayaike’s decision to vacate ” Temple Trees” so that Mrs. Gandhi, the Prime Minister of India could occupy it during her visit to Colombo. At this time, Indo- Sri Lanka relations were at a low ebb, due to Sri Lanka’s assistance to Pakistan during the Bangladesh crisis. Mrs. Bandaranaike wanted to signal her closeness to India and also her personal regard for Mrs. Gandhi by this gesture. That was a master stroke in bilateral relations. The second was with regard to Kurt Waldheim, the Secretary General of the UN. He was in Colombo accompanied by Dr. Gemini Corea, who was Secretary General of UNCTAD. He expected to address the Non Aligned Summit, of Heads of Government. There were many who were opposed to Waldheim addressing the Summit and preferred him to address the Foreign Minister’s Conference the previous week. It is my recollection that Waldheim in the end addressed the Summit. In 1976, the Secretary General of the UN was not regarded as an equal to Heads of Government.
The Colombo Summit was attended by over 60 Heads of Government and I remember seeing most of them either in the Conference hall or outside. There were Anwar Sadat of Egypt, Gadaffi of Libya, and Marshall Tito of Yugoslavia. Yugoslavia was one of the key countries in Non Aligned and Third World organizations, and it is astonishing that 20 years later Yugoslavia is no more. I remember standing next to Tito as the national anthem was being sung to bring the Summit to an end. He had gone out of the hall and had just come in and I happened to be standing next to him. Apart from the Heads of Government, there were many other Foreign Ministers and high officials I came in contact with in the course of my work on the Economic Committee. It is a long time and I forget their names.
After the Summit, in early 1977, Felix Dias Bandaranaike, Sherley Amarasinghe, Arthur Basnayake, Izeth Hussein and I were the delegation to the Non Aligned Foreign Ministers meeting in New Delhi. Mrs. Gandhi had lost the election and there was a new BJP government. Mrs. Bandaranaike had asked the Sri Lanka delegation to meet with Mrs. Gandhi, informally at her residence. This was not at all appreciated by the new Indian Government. That was the last time I was to see Mrs. Gandhi, having seen her on many occasions in the last 6 years. This was also my last non aligned meeting, as Mrs. Bandaranaike lost the election later in the year and a new government came in.
The Gem and Jewel of Pohottuva governance
What a gem of a minister he is!
Who else, State Minister Lohan Ratwatte, the gem and jewel of today.
He resigned from his Prison Portfolio, not having done anything wrong, as he says it. He has gone beyond the stuff of any politician. He truly deserves to be given the highest regard by the Saubhagya Strategists. Just think of any politician of today, especially from the Pohottuva Team, who will resign from a portfolio for not having done anything wrong, when those who have done so many blatant wrongs, keep glued to their portfolios?
What do you think should follow?
Surely, it is so simple. Get promoted to the Cabinet. Take the “State” off his ministerial title and swear him in as the Minister of Prison Reforms, etc,, and Gem and Jewellery Industry.
Do you think that is the strategy of the Vistas of Prosperity and Splendour of the Gotabaya Politics?
Why not? Promotion, elevation or unearned freedom is the very stuff of today’s Rajapaksa governance. We don’t forget the pardoning of former Staff Sergeant Sunil Ratnayake, convicted with death sentence, for the murder of eight Tamil civilians inlcuding three children, affirmed by the Supreme Court.
Come on. That is just one Saubhagya move.
OK. The next Saubhagya move was the pardoning and release of Duminda Silva, sentenced to death along with four others, over the murder of a rival politician and three others. He has also been appointed the Chairman, National Housing Development Authority.
Keeping with that trend of Saubhagya-Rajapaksa politics and governance, is it wrong to soon promote Lohan Ratwatte as a Cabinet Minister, giving him back the power over all prisons and prisoners, and the gem and jewellery industries, too.
But what about all these complaints about this Lohan man? Flying to the Anuradhapura Prison by helicopter, getting Tamil prisoners held there to kneel before him, holding this revolver against two of them ….
He says he has done nothing like that. He has visited the prison as the minister in charge, and never even touched a Tamil prisoner … Shouldn’t we believe such Ratwatte words? Should we not forget that the first public report on this came from a Tamil MP, Gajendrakumar Ponnambalam. Should we forget how the Ponnambalams have opposed the Sinhala Only politics of Sri Lankan progress?
Then what about all this talk of this Lohan minister’s visit to the Welikada Prison?
C’mon, why must you believe such gallery nonsense, when there is no report from the Prison authorities?
It is not gallery nonsense, but the Stuff of the Gallows, with a beauty queen or cosmetics queen in his company.
Just remember that he went there too as the Minister of Prisons. As he says, he could go there at any time. That is the power of even a State Minister. The man who stopped the prison from burning, as he says it!
But, what about the gallows, of wanting to show it to his beauty/cosmetics queen?
I’m sure that Lohan R would have seen the opportunity to use the Welikada Gallows as a new tourist attraction.
What tourist attraction?
We are now in the process of reviving tourism, especially from Ukraine and Russia. They may like to see real gallows, and how it functions too. He may have been thinking of adding the Welikada Gallows as a special tourist attraction – where persons sentenced to death could be really hanged. There are many who applied to be hangmen when President Sirisena wanted the gallows to function again. They remain unemployed. Shouldn’t the gallows be revived to give more employment to future hangmen?
Just see the Saubhagya opportunity if the Welikada Gallows is promoted as a tourist attraction. How much would a ticket cost in dollars? Think how this would help Ajith Nivard Cabraal in his new plans to bring in more foreign exchange. This surely is the stuff of Lohan Ratwatte, apart from his continued interest in gems and jewellery.
But, surely didn’t he know that the UNHRC is now in session in Geneva. Has he not known anything about Michelle Bachelet, who is raising questions about Human Rights violations in Sri Lanka?
Now, now, don’t move into unwanted terrain. Human Rights and the Prevention of Terrorism Act are all being handled by Foreign Minister GL Peiris, with punditry of increasing question. You mustn’t try to put Lohan Ratwatte to the same rank of political and diplomatic punditry.
Just remember that Lohan Ratwatte is an elected SLPP – Pohottuva – politician. He is certainly one who likes both Gems and Jewellery. He was ready and fast in giving up Prisons and Prison Reforms, with no charges framed against him. There were only allegations about him, made by a Tamil and other Opposition MPs and such persons. Our system of governance and justice is far removed from what is known as the Rule of Law. It is the Rule of Power.
Let’s forget detainees in prisons (for many years), the so-called reports of a drunken minister with friends and beauty/cosmetic queen, just think of the Rule of Power – just now it is the Power of Lohan and Gotabaya.
When the President received Lohan’s letter of resignation from the Prison Sector, he was not asked to leave the Gem and Jewellery Sector too. He could look after and promote Gems and Jewellery, and remain the stuff of Pohottuva.
This is the Gem and Jewellery line of Rajapaksa Governance. Lohan Ratwatte has displayed his love for gems and jewellery. With his promotion to Cabinet status, will he be known as the “Muthu-menik Lohan Amathi, Sir”? The true Gem of Pohottuva Politics and Governance!
The wonder of youth
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.
A neutral foreign policy in current context
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
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.
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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