‘It could have been worse’ is not a victory claim. It is but the whimper of someone who believes he got a consolation prize. President Maithripala Sirisena says ‘it could have been hundreds of thousands of times worse had Mahinda Rajapaksa won on January 8.’ He was referring to the US-sponsored resolution on Sri Lanka. This was a week ago.
He is correct. The final draft is not as odious as the one circulated a few days ago and even that one would appear to be less ‘serious’ that what one might have expected following UN Report on rights violations and other matters during the last stages of Sri Lanka’s struggle against terrorism.
The hurrahs, of course, have to wait until the measurement of the content against implications for sovereignty. Sure, in the 21st Century we can only speak of ‘degrees of sovereignty’, but then again there is a bottom line to everything. Take the people out of the equation of decision-making and it amounts to capitulation to the country that poses the greatest threat to world peace, the USA. There are no ‘degrees’ there.
The watered down version, so-called, raises several questions. First of all the fact of watering-down implies that these exercises are fraught with integrity deficits. The entire process was flawed and this has been well established. However, if one assumes that politics and outcome-preferences did not color report-writing then watering-down implies ‘deals’. In other words terms such as truth, justice, retribution and such are but sanitizers for what is essentially a game about control. It’s about interest and those who are willing to play along. Ask Noam Chomsky — he will tell you what US foreign policy is all about.
So what do we make of this watered-down resolution? First of all, in both preamble and operative articles that compromise the whole notion of a ‘domestic inquiry’. Sure, as Ranil Wickremesinghe says, judges have to be appointed by the President or the Constitutional Council, but let us not be fooled into believing that his role would be anything more than rubber-stamping US nominees from the Commonwealth and other countries. The resolution would have Sri Lanka pass retroactive legislation notwithstanding the fact that the US constitution specifically prohibits ex post facto legislation. The point will not be made, we can rest assured. We have, after all, a Foreign Minister who called the UN Report ‘fair and balanced’ and as such can never be sure which side he’s batting for!
Secondly, as Dayan Jayatilleka points out, ‘we are asked to try and punish those who saved us from terror and reunified our country in Special Court with foreign judges; those who gave weapons and equipment to the Tigers will decide the fate of those who fought them and gave political leadership to that fight.’
Thirdly, if what Dayan envisages does materialize a dangerous precedence is created that makes human shields a far more potent instrument for terrorist all over the world.
Fourthly, it will do nothing to concretize inter-communal harmony and national reconciliation. The Tamil National Alliance (TNA) is saluting this resolution. The TNA speaks of victims. The TNA doesn’t seem to understand that every citizen of this country was a victim and even those unborn at that time are victims; terrorists not only engaged in mass murder but also wrecked the country’s economy. The TNA, as mouthpiece and the legal voice of the LTTE, is listed in the perpetrators’ column, as are the 11,000 plus LTTE cadres released without trial in the previous regime’s ‘general amnesty’ in all but name.
Finally, and most worryingly, is the decision by the Government (if we go by US State Secretary John Kerry’s assertion) to co-sponsor the resolution. Co-sponsorship in effect amounts to an affirmation of the preamble and an undertaking to operationalize these.
The President is correct in saying that things could have been worse. The previous regime erred and it’s President Sirisena’s unfortunate lot to make the best out of a bad situation. He should learn, then, from the errors. Co-sponsorship would be an error because it promises what is patently impossible to deliver. In the end operationalizing has to happen within the framework that is made of the constitution, the Parliament and the sentiments of the people. The last of course can be ‘obtained’ by presumption, but not the first two.
So let the Resolution come. Let us not panic. Let us engage, by all means. But let us not agree to rule out meaningful engagement by the very fact of co-sponsorship.