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'Lanka should win over three blocs'

2014 Feb 12

By Manjula Fernando

Former Sri Lankan Ambassador and political scientist Dayan Jayatilleka who fought Sri Lanka's interests at the UN Human Rights Council during the height of the humanitarian operation in 2009, as the then Ambassador to UN in Geneva warned even if the US wants a moderate resolution against Sri Lanka this time, the UK could influence it to be a tougher one to gratify secessionist networks of Tamil Diaspora which is a decisive vote base in Britain.
 

The excerpts of the interview:

Q: The US has said in the third resolution they will not be calling for sanctions against Sri Lanka in the third resolution and it is also believed that this resolution would be a moderate one so as to get the support of majority members. What is your take on these reports?

A: The US has said that it does not envisage sanctions 'at this point of time'. That is a qualified statement, not an unqualified one. This does not mean that sanctions will not be triggered in the foreseeable future, downstream from and as a result of a resolution this March. Such a scenario is borne out by the leading journal 'The Economist' (UK) which in its latest story on Sri Lanka says that 'international sanctions cannot be ruled out'. As for the resolution in March being a moderate one, my own assessment is that it will be far stricter and more dangerous than the ones passed in 2012 and 2013. Even if the USA wants a relatively more moderate resolution, it will be influenced by the UK, its oldest ally, into moving a stronger one. Since 2007, it has been the UK that has been the driving force of the diplomatic campaign against Sri Lanka, especially in Geneva, due to the electoral pressure of the secessionist networks of the UK Tamil Diaspora.

Q: Why should we fear this resolution? There have been many resolutions against Israel but they don't seem to care.

A: If the resolution calls for an international inquiry into allegations of war crimes, and if it is passed by a majority of votes, such an inquiry mechanism will indeed be established either in the form of a UN Special Rapporteur, an Independent Expert or a Commission of Inquiry. This mechanism will proceed to function with or without the cooperation of Sri Lanka. It will produce a report which will be one-sided and a frame-up. It will have a UN mandate and the status of a UN report. This will then have punitive legal implications and could result in economic restrictions, even without having to be taken to the UN Security Council in New York.

Emboldened by a UN Resolution and an UN War Crimes inquiry, the Tamil ultra nationalists will initiate a provocative and escalating campaign of non-cooperation, protests and agitations against the Sri Lankan state. Any crackdown by the Sri Lankan state will trigger external moves against the country under the doctrine of Responsibility to Protect (R2P). Intrusive and even coercive action against Sri Lanka by states or a combination of states, far and near, could be taken against Sri Lanka under cover of the UN resolution and the UN War Crimes Inquiry Report.

As for Israel, this is what I call the double Israeli delusion. Some think that the Israelis can and will defuse the US campaign on Sri Lanka. They also assume that Sri Lanka can behave as obdurately as Israel and that China's commitment to Colombo is the equivalent of Washington's to Tel Aviv. These assumptions are nonsensical.

Israel does not control US policy making, not even in the Middle East, as it learned when the US ignored Netanyahu and entered the diplomatic track with Iran on the issue of nuclear power. Certainly in Asia, the role of India is far more influential in US thinking than that of Israel. Therefore it takes a particularly low brow intellect to think that Sri Lanka's road to Washington DC lies via Tel Aviv rather than New Delhi. Thirdly, China's support to Sri Lanka is nothing like, and cannot be anything like, the US security guarantee for Israel.

The last time anyone of importance in Colombo thought that we can imitate Israel or be inspired by the Israeli example, it was Minister Lalith Athulathmudali in 1984-1987, which culminated in the puncturing of that delusion when Indian airplanes intruded into Sri Lankan airspace, followed by Indian troops projected onto Sri Lankan soil, without a single voice protesting on our behalf in the UN Security Council.

If we repeat the same mistake in the 21st century, this time, the Tamil Nadu factor could trigger a 'pincer' type Indo-US power projection and draw a line across our North and East which results in a Cyprus or Kosovo type separate entity under UN 'protection'. That entity will eventually become Tamil Eelam, either as a part of an expansionist Tamil Nadu or a separate state under international military and diplomatic protection.

Q: "...without a single voice protesting on our behalf in the UN Security Council". In reference to the above comment, don't you think the situation today has changed vastly with countries like China and Russia throwing their weight behind Sri Lanka in the UN HRC?

A: In the UN HRC in Geneva there are no vetoes. This is why the West chose to move against us in 2009 in Geneva rather than New York, where Russia and China would protect us. In Geneva, where every member state has a single vote, Sri Lanka has to get a majority of votes to defeat a resolution or to carry one in our favour as we did in 2009.

As for Russia and China, they may help us to stave off pressure from the West but they will not move when India is on the other side. In 2009, we enjoyed the support of both China and India in Geneva. Indeed we had the support of India and Pakistan, China and Russia, Brazil and South Africa. We no longer have that broad, supportive consensus. The Geneva Consensus of May 2009 has broken down. The Geneva Consensuses of 2012-2013, and perhaps 2014, are negative towards Sri Lanka. This is a drastic inversion. There is no longer a Cold War. Instead there is a complex interdependency between the USA, Russia, China and India.

In the 21st century our neighbour is one of the most influential powers in the world, be it with the USA or the BRICS or the Non Aligned, or Latin America. That neighbour should be our buffer. This is how Zimbabwe survives intense external pressure-by the strength of its ties to neighbouring giant South Africa.

Q: Do you think Latin American and African blocks and India will support Sri Lanka this time?

A: India supported Sri Lanka in Geneva from 2007 to 2011 and voted against Sri Lanka in 2012 and 2013. There is no reason to think it will support Sri Lanka in March 2014 especially given the electoral pressure from Tamil Nadu. Even to secure India's abstention, it will be necessary for Sri Lanka to institute what Delhi has repeatedly called for, namely a 'structured dialogue mechanism' between the Sri Lankan leadership and the TNA and Northern PC, which will initiate and take forward a political process for political reconciliation on the basis of the full implementation of the 13th amendment.

Important Latin American states, including progressive ones, which voted for us in 2009, voted against us in 2012 and 2013. They are not likely to return to their 2009 stand. They will also look at India's stand when they take theirs.

As for Africa, many will look at how South Africa votes. It must be comprehended that in the international system, the regional sub-systems such as Africa, Latin America and Asia tend to vote, not on the basis of what the USA tells them, but on the basis of what the regional sub-superpowers or pivotal powers do. In Asia, these are India and China, in Africa it is South Africa and in Latin America it is Brazil followed by Chile and Argentina. I see no sign that we have persuaded these regionally influential states to vote for us. I am not sure we can get the unanimous support of the BRICS - Brazil, Russia, India, China, South Africa- which we succeeded in obtaining as a solid bloc of supporting Geneva in 2009. The BRICS do not vote according to what the USA or UK tells them. However, already two of these states have voted against us, and this time, I am worried that South Africa may abstain rather than vote for us.

Q:What would be your advice to the Geneva team and our campaign this time?

A: Sri Lanka should certainly get its act together. The stakes are very high. Getting its act together means having the correct analysis, a correct strategy, credibly pledge a program of domestic reform and have the best persons representing and defending Sri Lanka in the most crucial places.

We got it right in Geneva in 2007-2009, when we scored three victories, not just one: in 2007, we got the West to remove its draft Resolution of 2006 from the UNHRC agenda, we prevented a 'stop the war Resolution' in March 2009 at the 10th session of the UNHRC and we passed our own resolution with 29 votes in May 2009 which is a figure that the the world's sole superpower the USA has still not been able to secure for its resolutions against Sri Lanka! This shows that when we have got the above factors right, we have won in Geneva against the UK-US and Madame Navi Pillay's offensive.

Therefore if we get it right once again, we can prevail, especially because 34 out of the 47 votes- that is 72% of the votes- come from the three regions of the Asia-Pacific, Latin America and Africa. The West has only 13 votes out of 47 in the UNHRC, so the 'ground' is potentially favourable to us.

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