Think Sri Lankan: Don’t invite (foreign) trouble | Sunday Observer

Think Sri Lankan: Don’t invite (foreign) trouble

The dissolution of Parliament is the most democratic way of solving the current political imbroglio. Accordingly, President Maithripala Sirisena issued the gazette notification calling for general elections.

We Sri Lankans earnestly hope this would stop the meddling by Western powers in our internal affairs.

We are not an ungrateful nation and we remember with gratitude that it was British rulers who introduced to us, democracy and adult franchise way back in 1931.

Now, we hope they would allow us to practice democracy and distance themselves from our internal politics.

Sri Lanka, a nation with a proud history of managing its affairs successfully, was the envy of many other countries. Our leaders held their heads high and fought the foreign invaders valiantly and refused to be subjugated even after the surrender to European imperialist forces. That was the past and what do we find today?

Although international attempts to meddle in Sri Lanka’s internal affairs continue unabated, there is a clear change of the tone in recent days. Gone are the days of arrogant utterances such as, “restore the legitimate Government of Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe” and “we demand immediate reconvening of Parliament”.

Today, it is more a game of ‘watching the political developments with concern’.

First to put the record straight, was the United Kingdom. When the opposition MP Emily Thornberry, who is also the shadow Foreign Secretary asked Monday (6) whether the British Government recognizes Ranil Wickremesinghe as the Prime Minister of Sri Lanka, UK Minister of State for Asia and the Pacific Mark Field said the position of the UK is that it recognizes states and not governments.

After pointing out that he had earlier called on all parties to ensure that the Constitution is respected and due political and legal process upheld, he went onto say that UK has not withdrawn any funding to Sri Lanka. That included the funds allocated to Sri Lanka for the period of 2016-2019 through the Conflict, Stability and Security Fund (CSSF) of UK. The British Minister announced an additional British Sterling Pounds One Million (Sri Lankan Rs 225 million) funding through the CSSF to support the resettlement of families displaced by war in the north and east.

Minister of State for Asia and the Pacific Mark Field’s clarification that UK ‘recognizes States’ is a rebuke to former Foreign Secretary Sir Hugo Swire’s demand that UK should recognize Wickremesinghe as Prime Minister. Sir Hugo Swire, speaking in the House of Commons earlier, asked the Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt to point out to the Sri Lankan President that the international community recognizes Ranil Wickremesinghe as the legitimate Prime Minister of Sri Lanka and only a vote in Parliament can change his status.

Commenting on the political situation in Sri Lanka, British Parliamentarian Lord Naseby has said, he was unhappy that former British junior minister put down a question suggesting what happened in Sri Lanka was unconstitutional.

“That is not the law, I believe, of the UK Parliamentarian. You have your own Constitution. I have been very careful in my fifty years of service. I have never been supporting any one party or doing any business. I would suggest to my colleague that they should do exactly the same,” he said.

The other country to soften the earlier ‘concern’ was India. “India is closely following the recent political developments in Sri Lanka. As a democracy and a close, friendly neighbour, we hope that democratic values and the constitutional process will be respected,” said the Spokesman of Indian Ministry of External Affairs.

He added that India would “continue to extend developmental assistance to the friendly people of Sri Lanka.”

China and Russia came out openly to support Sri Lanka and categorically state that this was an internal issue of Sri Lanka and did not warrant any foreign intervention or interference.

China said that it is the internal affairs of the country and hoped that the relevant political parties can resolve their differences through dialogue and consultations. Asked about China’s stand on the current political crisis in Sri Lanka considering that Beijing has made huge investments in the island nation, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Lu Kang said, China is following the crisis closely. “China and Sri Lanka are friendly neighbours. We are closely following the changes in the situation in Sri Lanka,” he said.

China, he said will always follow the principle of non-interference in the internal affairs of other countries. “The changes in Sri Lanka are her internal affairs. We believe the Sri Lankan Government, political parties and people have enough wisdom to deal with the internal situation,” he said.

The reference to Mahinda Rajapaksa as the “new Prime Minister” by the Chinese spokesman was seen as significant by the observers in view of Ranil Wickremesinghe’s position that he is still the Prime Minister and urged the international community to recognize him as the Prime Minister.

Foreign diplomats describe the current political development as a ‘constitutional crisis. They seem to be unaware or are deliberately ignoring the fact that they have no authority to interpret the Constitution. As an editorial pointed out, they can shout for or against the recent change of Government till they are blue in the face, but their views lack legal validity.

Will the United States, United Kingdom, European Union or India allow foreign diplomats based in their territories to make public statements and give opinions on how to interpret the clauses in their Constitutions?

Will the US allow any foreign envoy to tell the Congress or the House of Representatives to change the policy with regard to the immigration laws on family reunions? Will the UK allow our envoy to suggest that the way the Scotland referendum was conducted was unconstitutional? For that matter will India allow the new High Commissioner designate in New Delhi, Austin Fernando to challenge the special provision for Jammu and Kashmir in the Indian Constitution?

The only body that can interpret the Constitution is the Supreme Court. No diplomat or foreign spokesperson has come up with the suggestion that the advice of the Supreme Court should be sought instead of taking up the collective cry of ‘Reconvene Parliament’.

Any national political party that encourages foreign interference must understand the danger of taking a loan from Shylock. The repayment is a pound of flesh.

The country has already lost a Port City, a vital international port and is on the verge of losing an international airport and cannot afford to lose other vital assets. 

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