Foreign missions’ failure to correct Sri Lanka’s tarnished image Tamil Diaspora vilifications

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By 2018-01-22

By Shivanthi Ranasinghe

It is astonishing that the Joint Opposition had not picked on State Minister for Foreign Affairs, Wasantha Senanayake's, bitter observation that Sri Lanka's foreign policy is being crafted overseas. Senanayake made these remarks whilst speaking at a public function commemorating his great-grandfather F.R. Senanayake.

He revealed that the Foreign Ministry must now work with those determined to enact the Geneva Resolution that is inimical to Sri Lanka. Those very same, he said, were attacking Lord Naseby for revealing that the civilians killed during the last phase of the war against terrorism was about 7,000-8,000 and not 40,000.

His remarks coincided with the sudden removal of Sri Lanka's Permanent Representative in Geneva Ravinatha Aryasinha. He had been representing Sri Lanka for many years and was one who strongly opposed the draft resolution in 2015. Still the Government co-sponsored the Geneva Resolution unheeding his concerns. Aryasinha's transfer will come into effect on 28 February, two days after the Geneva session is scheduled to commence. His place will be taken by diplomat A.L.A. Azeez.

The incumbent crafters of Sri Lanka's foreign policy, to shape the internal affairs, starting with the Constitution, did not begin with the present Government. Their so-called recommendations strangely echo the demands of the Tamil Diaspora. This extremist group had been active in the West for decades. They gained a dubious legitimacy in the aftermath of 1983.

The failure of successive Governments, to set the record straight regarding the 1983 attack, allowed the Tamil Diaspora to build on the falsehood that the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam were freedom fighters and not terrorists. Not a single Government countered the adverse propaganda with simple facts that this was not an ethnic clash for many Sinhalese came out to protect their Tamil brethren. Furthermore, in the subsequent years when terrorism gained its brutal momentum, many of the Tamils moved to other parts of Sri Lanka to live among the Sinhalese.

It is equally disheartening that none of the many Tamils who were thus protected from hooligans had spoken up their real and complete experience. Instead, they too had allowed world opinion to view a complex issue superficially and erroneously. Their silence gained easier entrance to the West, as asylum seekers, when in reality they were just economic migrants.

Thus, the misconception continued to propagate that terrorism took root after 1983 as a desperate call to fight for an oppressed minority community. In reality, Tamil politicians in the North and East had been egging Tamil youth to take up arms since the '50s. By the late '60s, there were few loosely connected groups of twos and threes.

Alfred Duraiappah

Most poignantly it is ignored that Alfred Duraiappah was Prabhakaran's first human target. Prabhakaran and another of his associates were sent with a powerful Tamil politician's henchman to end Duraiappah. He was killed on 27 July 1975. However, attempts on his life began from the early '70s. His crime had been that he disregarded cast and worked for all people in the peninsula to uplift their lives and earnings. Throughout this period, the Tamil politicians who were losing votes to him, kept calling him a traitor on public forums and promised that "the boys" will mete out a just punishment for him. His death was an immense loss to the people in his electorate and was deeply mourned.

In the next decade, Prabhakaran ensured the very Tamil politician who nurtured and justified terrorism against Sinhala civilians and the Sri Lanka Government joined Duraiappah. The message was well received by the remaining Tamil politicians, who not only acknowledged the LTTE as the sole representative of the Tamils, but also agreed to act as the LTTE's political proxy. As the LTTE dehumanized Tamil civilians trapped in terrorist infested areas, all Tamil politicians could do, was look away. Tamil politicians could not speak up even when children as young as eight and nine were dragged away from their pleading parents to become cannon fodder.

Successive Sri Lankan Governments' failure to cohesively and consistently counter the Tamil Diaspora ultimately resulted in the LTTE winning the propaganda war; even when they were annihilated militarily. The Tamil Diaspora could never have humbled Sri Lanka on its own, but for the support of powerful nations such as the US and the West.

Unlike the lethargic Sri Lanka Foreign Service the Tamil Diaspora, over the years, built relationships strong in their host countries; with powerful and influential individuals, in the respective Parliaments, foreign officers and non-governmental organizations. They focused on issues that the Sri Lanka Government dismissed as non-essential.

The question, however, is how did the Tamil Diaspora become the source of influence, when these Governments had their own credible sources of information. This was revealed by Lord Naseby. Up until the very end, except for the very last week, the British Foreign Office knew exactly what was taking place in the Vanni front, because of the diligent dispatches sent by Lt. Col.

Anton Gash, their defence attaché at the time. It is from these dispatches, that Lord Naseby pieced the truth that the Sri Lankan military or Government never targeted the Tamil civilians deliberately and the actual figure of casualties is nowhere near the exaggerated figure carelessly bandied about.

Yet, keeping these dispatches in locked vaults as secret documents, these governments have behaved as if the Tamil Diaspora is the legitimate source of information, expressing a legitimate grievance. The UN, resourced largely with US funds became a willing appendage to create disinformation, despite their own reports collaborating closely with Gash's dispatches. In that context, the British royalty participating in our Independence celebrations as "our traditional friends" is not only ironic, but also distasteful.

Project federalism

According to respected writer Daya Gamage, the project to push Sri Lanka to federalism started in early 2012, "under the auspices of the Office of the Under Secretary-General of the United Nations (Political Affairs) B. Lynn Pascoe, one time senior career diplomat at the US Department of State...to start a process of restructuring several developing Third World nations' constitutional arrangements to promulgate federalism as an answer to ethnic minority grievances."

This led to "a number of closed-door meetings and seminars at which the partition of UN member states has been discussed. Most of the meetings have been held under the direction of the UN Interagency Framework for Coordination on Preventive Action (the Framework Team or FT). The control of the FT fell into the domain of the current Under-Secretary-General of Political Affairs (the second most influential position next to the Secretary-General) Jeffrey Feltman, another retired senior State Department, career diplomat, who took over from Pascoe in June 2012."

As Gamage points out, "when a former American diplomat occupies the Number Two slot in the UN, the State Department has extensive leverage over the operation of the United Nations, and it has been seen that both branches, the Department of Political Affairs and the US State Department, work together to achieve common objectives."

Therefore, Senanayake was not exaggerating when he said that our Foreign Ministry had been hijacked by foreign elements.

Tamil Diaspora had given the West, particularly the US, the excuse to sink their tenterhooks in Sri Lanka. They are not here to solve a minority's issue, but fulfil a geopolitical interest. That is why the JO must put their full weight behind Senanayake who declared that he would fight for Sri Lanka. This is not the time to be divided on party politics.

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