'Shocked at US envoy's statement in Geneva' - Prof. Rajiva
"Whether the LLRC report is good or not, we will get you in March" -
US representative in Geneva to Sri Lankan envoy
I was shocked last evening to be told that this was what the US
Permanent Representative to the UN in Geneva had told her Sri Lankan
counterpart last in September 2011. The occasion was when she was trying
to persuade the latter to accept an Interactive Dialogue on Sri Lanka,
which I believe the Canadians were advancing at the time.
I suppose I should not have been surprised. The United States has
been pursuing an extraordinary campaign against us, which has saddened
me, because I remember the very positive approach that US officials
evinced in the period in which others were resentful of us for having
got rid of the LTTE from the East.
The US Aid Director Rebecca Cohn, the Public Affairs Officer Jeff
Anderson, led a team under then Ambassador Bob Blake which helped us
considerably in rebuilding efforts.
In 2009 however something changed. Bob was supposed to have told a
former American State Dept employee that the reason was he served a
different government, but I suspect things went deeper.
A clue was provided when, in August, Rebecca did something she should
not have done, which she later told me she thought was unwise, but which
her superiors had wanted.
This was to write on her own to Minister Basil Rajapaksa, to say the
same thing I had indicated, at a meeting with regard to the Displaced
that was held at Minister Rishard Bathiudeen's office. I thought, given
what seemed to us delays, that I should suggest to Mr Rajapaksa that we
needed to move more quickly on returning the displaced, and I did so the
I was called almost immediately by Mr Rajapaksa, who was
uncharacteristically harsh and asked me what made me think he would not
live up to his commitment.
He said he had promised to return a large number of the displaced in
six months, and he would do so, though it might take a couple of months
Six months did not mean half in three months, he said, noting what he
had accomplished in the East, and that I should tell this to my friends.
I did not know what he meant by this last point, and asked, and he
said he had received a similar letter from Rebecca. Naturally he had
assumed we were acting in concert.
I was shocked, and made it clear to him that I was quite capable of
thinking and acting on my own, though I suspect that to this day he has
a lingering doubt that I am influenced by external forces.
When I called up Rebecca and reprimanded her, she was suitably
contrite, but I realized then that not only does the United States want
certain results that most of us would want, it requires desperately to
take the credit for this.
I saw something of this a bit later too when I had been arranging
some cross-party discussions, many of which the current US ambassador
hosted. It was then suggested that she invite the Secretary of Defence
too on the same model, to have direct discussions with NGOs, but she
claimed that the Secretary had not wanted me included.
Only one such discussion took place, I believe because soon
afterwards she also hosted a discussion on the Darusman Report with a
highly selective list of invitees, including personnel from the UN
(without informing the then UN Coordinator) and some NGOs which were
scathing about the government and the Secretary of Defence.
I was told, in fact by an NGO activist who can be very critical of
the government but is I believe fundamentally moral, that the attacks
were harsh, but were not supported by the diplomats who were present.
Running with the hares and hunting with the hounds seems to be a
strategy that the States has developed over the years, as Colonel
Gaddafi found to his cost when he finally decided to cooperate with
certain elements in the West.
It is because President Rajapaksa, while certainly welcoming American
advice and assistance on the model we had before 2009, as represented
most obviously perhaps by its Defence Attache Colonel Smith (whose
positive comments on reported incidents at the end of the War the State
Department so quickly repudiated), refuses to be dominated, that now the
gloves are off.
And so we have the current resolution, watered down it seems from
what was originally intended, when it was realized that the vast
majority of countries were unwilling to put us in the doghouse for no
Now we have what purports to be acceptance and encouragement of the
LLRC Report, but as my colleague Dayan Jayatilleka, who understands
Geneva so well, has explained clearly, this is a lie.
Apart from the elements in the resolution that contradict this
position and introduce suggestions totally at odds with the principles
on which the United Nations and more recently the Human Rights Council
were set up, the current US position is largely at odds with its initial
relatively harsh criticism of the LLRC report, as compared with the more
positive reactions of other countries.
I fear now that some of the Europeans, including the British, have
been persuaded to support the current resolution, and are indeed
lobbying for it actively with all the resources they can muster (or not
muster, as the case might be).
But obviously we need to be wary of what is claimed to be love for
the LLRC report coming from those who criticized it initially.Sadly this
included the TNA, which I believe is being torn asunder by its
hardliners, aided by those elements in the US embassy who have also now
made a hero of Sarath Fonseka, when they fingered him by name in the
initial report to Congress on incidents during the conflict.
For them now, as for the TNA when they supported Fonseka in his
Presidential campaign, and for Mangala Samaraweera - one of whose
websites first raised the issue of Fonseka's claim about ignoring orders
from higher up about sparing surrendees - Fonseka is just another tool
to be used in the campaign to get rid of the Rajapaksa government.
This it seems is the aim of all the systems that have been lined up
for the effort. The Channel 4 film combined with the humourless Sam
Zarifi from Human Rights Watch/Amnesty International, to specifically
connect Mahinda and Gotabaya Rajapaksa with possible war crimes when
there was not a shred of evidence for this, certainly nothing like the
royal command view the American President and his Secretary of State had
of the execution of Osama bin Laden.
But standards and principles do not matter, when prestige and power
are at stake. So, as Eileen Donohue said to Tamara Kunanayagam, we will
get you, whatever the LLRC Report says. Of course it is possible that
the lady said something in the heat of argument that she did not mean,
it is even possible that she was not heard clearly.
But will journalists who call themselves independent investigate?
Will the State Department, if it did not authorize such a statement,
check, and suggest to its representative that perhaps a less obviously
prejudiced approach would be more helpful, to the United States as well
as to Sri Lanka?