Sri Lanka: Beware the Ides of March

Guest Column by Dr Kumar DavidDated 19-Nov-2013 “Do not dictate to me, I m not ready to ta!e orders "rom ot#ers$ %e #ave a tradition and culture o" over 2&00 years and a time tested le'al system to'et#er (it# a la( en"orcement )rocess to address any issue*$ +#is (as ,resident -a#inda .a/a)a!ses an'ry retort to 0ritis# ,rime -inister David Cameron s t#reat in t#e C12G- con"erence #all and at a ne(s con"erence3 “4et me be very clear, i" an investi'ation is not com)leted by -arc#, t#en I (ill use our )osition on t#e 5N 1uman .i'#ts Council to (or! (it# t#e 5N 1uman .i'#ts Commission and call "or a "ull, credible and inde)endent international in6uiry$* 1o(ever, des)ite t#is bravado .a/a)a!se (as actually soundin' a retreat because #e (ent on to say3 “+#is is not somet#in' you can do overni'#t$ 7ou must res)ect our vie(s (it#out tryin' to )us# us into a corner, so )lease be "air$* 1e #as conceded t#at an in6uiry into t#e alle'ations is needed8 #e is only ar'uin' about t#e time"rame$ It seems t#at by #oldin' C12G--2013 in Colombo, 4an!a #as s#ortened t#e road to +#e 1a'ue, t#at is i" Cameron is as 'ood as #is (ord and "inds su))ort in t#e 5N-1.C$ It (ill be di""icult to bac! o"" (#en 9not “i"*: .a/a)a!se "rustrates every inde)endent in6uiry, as #e #as done since 2009$ 0ut (#et#er enou'# votes in 5N-1.C (ill 'o alon' (it# Cameron is moot$ In t#e unli!ely event t#at matters come to suc# a )ass in -arc#, one !ey )layer (ill be Del#i$ Not#in' can be said at t#is sta'e about (#at India (ill do since 'eneral elections are due at t#at time$ %#et#er Con'ress is re-elected or not, t#e uncertainty remains$ ; ne(ly elected Con'ress administration, no lon'er constrained by +amil Nadu sentiment, may return to 'amin' on Colombo s side, as it #as "or t#e last "ive years - e<ce)t recently$ +#ou'# t#e 0=, #as been #ars#er on Colombo, in (ords at least, t#ere is no !no(in' (#at it (ill do i" elected to o""ice$ 1ence, it is a "air to say t#at Del#i s a))roac# to t#is matter, a"ter t#e elections, is a 'reat un!no(n$

>rom victory to distem)er
5) to t#e end o" 2ctober many commentators, includin' t#is one, assessed C12G- as a trium)# "or ,resident .a/a)a!se since #e #ad succeeded in 'ettin' a 'reat ma/ority o" Common(ealt# leaders to attend, and (ar crimes and #uman ri'#ts concerns seemed to #ave receded$ It seemed #e (ould )ull o"" a ,. cou) and en#ance #is international standin'$ +#is is (#at I said in a ne(s)a)er article in late 2ctober3 “?o "ar C12G- #as been a trium)# "or ,resident .a/a)a!se and t#ere is no reason to su))ose t#at t#ere (ill be some sudden c#an'e o" "ortunes*$

+#is turned out to be san'uine8 t#in's be'an to unravel (it#in a (ee! and t#e outcome (as di""erent$ I (ould not 'o so "ar as to say t#at C12G- (as a disaster, but it #as been a )ublic relations setbac!$ It (as assumed t#at i" e<tremists created trouble t#ey (ould be smas#ed, but .a/a)a!se "ailed to ta!e command o" t#e situation or to 'ain control o" e<tremists (#o ran amo! durin' t#e Con"erence$ +#ere (ere numerous mob incidents8 I (ill name a "e($ 1arassin' 00C and C#annel @ ne(s-teams by )ro-'overnment mobs led by 0udd#ist mon!s #as been re)orted internationally8 t#e 'overnment )anic!ed and aired "la'rantly incendiary +A )ro'rammes a'ainst "orei'ners8 it t#reatened to lync# civil society )ersonalities8 it closed universities8 it closed do(n NG2 seminars$ In sum, it (as international )ublic relations c#aos$ 2ne reason (#y ,resident -a#inda "ailed to come o"" (it# "lyin' colours is t#at De"ence ?ecretary and brot#er Gotaba#aya is t#e )atron o" ?in#ala-0udd#ist e<tremism$ +#e mobs "elt t#ey could do as t#ey )leased (it# im)unity$ +#ey (ere not dis)ersed or dealt (it# "irmly$ ;not#er reason is t#at -a#inda #imsel" is c#auvinist, to a de'ree, and it 'oes a'ainst #is 'rain to disci)line "anatic mon!s and racist trouble ma!ers$ -anmo#an ?in'# #as been luc!y8 by !ee)in' a(ay #e #as saved #imsel" t#e embarrassment o" bein' in 4an!a (#ile c#auvinists baited con"erence dele'ates and attac!ed )ress and civil society 'at#erin's runnin' in )arallel (it# C12G-$ +#e international media, )articularly t#e 00C, 'ave )ublicity to t#ese incidents$ Bner'ised c#auvinism at #ome and bad 'lobal )ublicity turned C12G-, (#ic# it (as #o)ed (ould im)rove .a/a)a!se s ima'e, into a setbac!$ It (as not all bad #o(ever8 t#e ,resident 'ot t#e o))ortunity to advance a stron' ar'ument t#at by eradicatin' terrorism #e #ad saved t#e most im)ortant #uman-ri'#t, “t#e ri'#t to li"e*$ 1e also made #is case t#at de"eatin' t#e 4++B (as essential "or 4an!a and insisted t#at (anton e<cesses #ad not been committed by #is armed "orces$ +#is too (as carried (orld(ide by t#e 00C in "air covera'e$ -uc# more si'ni"icant #o(ever is t#at #e #as en#anced #is )o)ularity amon' ?in#ala nationalists, and t#ey are many, (#o loved #is tal!in' tou'# to Cameron and #is re"usal to be co(ed by (#at t#ey see as intimidation o" (#ite im)erialists and old colonial master$ 4ocal television C one and all, de "acto 'overnment mout#)ieces - and )anic!y ne(s)a)ers )layed u) t#e nationalist "ervour$

Im)ortance o" t#e IC
+urnin' to anot#er as)ect, a crucial ar'ument t#at I #ave been )ressin' "or some years #as been decisively con"irmed by t#e turn o" events$ +#is is t#e immense im)ortance o" t#e international community 9IC:$ I (ould li!e to re)eat t#e "ollo(in' remar! "rom a )revious essay3 “+#e )o(er o" t#e international community 9IC: over local )olity is "ar 'reater t#an analysts #ave been )rone to 'rant$ +#e IC must !ee) u) relentless )ressure till t#e 4an!an re'ime is com)elled to end #uman ri'#ts violations and sto) tram)lin' on /udicial inde)endence*$ +#e demonstrations and t#e #ooli'anism durin' t#e Con"erence )roved conclusively #o( im)ortant t#e IC is in t#e eyes o" all cate'ories o" local actors$ Demonstrations in =a""na durin' Cameron s visit s#o(ed mot#ers be''in' t#e outside (orld to intervene$ +#eir cry (as t#at somet#in' be done about t#e #undreds, i" not t#ousands, (#o #ave disa))eared8 t#at is abducted and )robably !illed by state security "orces$ +#is demand too! )recedence over economic and develo)ment matters$ +#e cry o" sout#ern e<tremist mobs (as )recisely t#e )olar

o))osite3 “Don t tal! about (ar crimes and #uman ri'#ts8 don t accuse t#e military8 don t inter"ere in disa))earances*$ ?ri 4an!a (as#ed its dirty linen in "ull vie( o" t#e (orld$ -obs and su))licants ali!e !no( t#at international o)inion is crucial8 t#e re'ime is des)erate to )ut its )aria# status out o" vie($ C#ina s ne( 91D November: a))roac# is re"res#in'$ It #as not raised #uman ri'#ts concerns e<)licitly, but t#e C#inese (#o are masters o" 'esture and innuendo, are (ell a(are t#at t#e >orei'n -inister s statement (ill be read as si'nallin' a s#i"t$ %#at interests me is (#et#er t#is is a "ollo( u) o" t#e +#ird ,lenum o" t#e CC,-CC #eld last (ee!$ I" so it (ill #ave im)lications beyond 4an!a in C#ina s stand on ot#er "orei'n )olicy debates as (ell$

+#e Ides o" -arc# dra(s nearer
+#e atmos)#ere inside t#e #all (as di""erent "rom )revious C12G-s$ 5sually t#ese are bland and borin' 'at#erin's (#ere niceties are trotted out$ +#e e<ercise is an o))ortunity "or leaders and syco)#ants to en/oy >irst Class air travel and lu<ury accommodation at )ublic e<)ense$ Not so t#is time8 t#e atmos)#ere at times (as acrimonious and rancid, #ars# (ords (ere e<c#an'ed$ %#en Cameron demanded an inde)endent international (ar crimes )robe and )romised to ta!e t#e matter u) at t#e 5N1.C i" t#is is not done, 'overnment mout#)ieces res)onded t#at #e (as )layin' 5K )olitics in a Colombo con"erence #all to s#ore u) +amil votes "or #is )arty at 5K elections$ +#is very li!ely is true, but s#inin' t#e s)otli'#t on 4an!a s (ar crimes and #uman ri'#ts concerns at a leadin' international "orum #as #ad an electric e""ect, (#atever Cameron s motives$ I need to )ause "or a moment to debun! a lo'ical "allacy$ Its common "orm is t#is3 %#en develo)in' country leaders are accused o" misconduct, instead o" re"utin' t#e c#ar'es )er se, t#e de"ence ta!es t#e )osition3 “+#e ;mericans did suc# and suc#, t#e >renc# t#is and t#at, t#e 0ritis#, t#e .ussians, etc, suc# crimes in t#e )ast*$ +#is de"ence is )ervasive in 4an!an media and (ebsites$ It is "la(ed on t(o counts$ >irst, it im)licitly concedes t#e alle'ed crime$ ?econd, t#at t#e 0ritis#, t#e >renc# and (#oever else did suc# and suc# is no de"ence$ Ima'ine a murder sus)ect )leadin' be"ore a /ud'e “7es your #onour, I did murder t#e victim$ 0ut Colonel 0lim) o" t#e >usiliers murdered an innocent )erson in 191& and (as not convicted because #e #ad in"luence$ +#ere"ore I too s#ould be )ardoned$* +#is "allacy, called a non se6uitur, is (ides)read (#en (ar crimes and #uman ri'#ts violations are debated in 4an!a$ Irres)ective o" Cameron s, Canadian ,- 1ar)er s, and t#e -ada'ascar ,- s motives, t#at t#e (ar crimes can-o"-(orms (as o)ened at an international con"erence is o" si'ni"icance$ Irres)ective o" colonialist and im)erialist crimes, and t#ey are many, i" t#ere is a )rima "ace case t#at (ar crimes may #ave been committed in ?ri 4an!a, t#en an inde)endent international investi'ation cannot be avoided$ I" eventually, and t#is may ta!e 6uite a (#ile, investi'ations a'ainst 4an!an leaders, t#e military and t#e 4++B, are initiated it (ould be t#e most si'ni"icant outcome o" C12G--2013$ I say t#is (it#out )re/ud'in' t#e outcome o" a )robe$ >or t#e #istorical record and "or )osterity s sa!e, t#ou'# some not all 4++B leaders are dead, its alle'ed crimes must also be )robed and res)onsibility assi'ned, albeit )ost#umously in some cases$

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