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Is the so called ‘Moragoda Doctrine’ of 2002-2004 on International Cooperation still valid?

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by a special correspondent

From time to time, organizations and individuals have attempted to examine measures taken by Sri Lanka relating to international relations and national security through the social media. The current hype about the role played by former minister Milinda Moragoda in relation to foreign relations and national security is one such example. Those who are trying to dissect what took place decades ago in the sphere of international relations and security could very well mean well. However, it is debatable whether the knowledge of events, at least some of them possess, match the interest they have on the topic of discussion.

With the advent of the Internet and social media in the 20th century, such as the ‘You Tube’, ‘Face Book’, Twitter etc., those who have access to smart phones with Subscriber Identity Modules, popularly known as SIM cards, desktops or laptops with access to the Internet, suddenly found themselves empowered, which provided them with platforms to comment on any subject, irrespective of their knowledge, expertise or experience. The end result of this phenomenon is that the general public is being subjected to relentless bombardment of news, points of view, solutions to issues of national importance, as well as mundane matters. In this process, the public is also being supplied with ‘fake news’ or manufactured news by interested parties. This is an entirely a new phenomenon that surfaced during the latter part of the last century and seems to be thriving in the 21st century.

One of the issues that has recently surfaced is the Sri Lanka – US agreement signed in November 2002 relating to the International Criminal Court (ICC). ICC is a permanent judicial body established by the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court in1998 to prosecute and adjudicate individuals, not states, accused of genocide, war crimes, and crimes against humanity. On July 1, 2002, after ratification by the requisite number of countries (60), it entered in to force .

There are two avenues for prosecution by the ICC. One, a State Party may invite the Court to prosecute an offender, and the other is for the UN Security Council to initiates a case. However, it is also possible for Office of the Prosecutor to initiate an investigation. In doing so, there is a need to satisfy whether the offender/s are being prosecuted by the national government. Only if there are shortcomings on the part of such national processes that the ICC has the authority to extend its jurisdiction.

On May 6, 2002, the Bush Administration announced that the United States does not intend to become a Party to the Rome Statute of ICC and informed the UN of its decision, despite the fact Washington had signed the Rome Statute on December 31, 2000. Meanwhile, Sri Lanka too decided against becoming a Party to the Rome Statute.

ICC Statute is not a legal instrument adopted and implemented by the United Nations. Instead, it is a legal instrument that has been negotiated by individual states, who later signed and ratified it. The treaty has neither enforcement powers, nor a police force to implement its judgements. Such responsibilities are entirely in the hands of the signatories. This may be the reason why one of its judges (Italian) described the ICC as a “giant without hands and legs”. Consequently, Sri Lanka was within its rights to decide not to become Party to the Rome Statute.

Following bilateral consultation Sri Lanka had with the United States, both sides signed the Agreement by which they agreed not to transfer a person of the other Party to a third country, when each country decides to extradite, surrender or otherwise transfer a person, without the expressed consent of the government of the United States or Sri Lanka.

It may be recalled that this bilateral agreement was signed in November 2002, at a time when Sri Lanka was having robust political, security and economic relations with the US. Signing of Trade and Investment Framework Agreement (TIFA) was one of the important developments that took place around that time, which gave rise to the expectation that the US would look favourably at concluding a Free Trade Agreement with Sri Lanka. It is a well-known fact that Moragoda played a pivotal role in concluding the TIFA. That was also the time when Colombo was trying to free itself from restrictions imposed by the US Congress against sale of military hardware, including spare parts to service SLAF aircraft.

Cascading effects of the improved relations between Washington and Colombo resulted in the decision taken by the Bush administration to gift Sri Lanka Navy (SLN) ‘USS Courageous’ in early 2005, a coastguard cutter that was once part of the US 7th Fleet. It is no secret that that warship became a useful asset during the final confrontations the SLN had with LTTE several years later, thousands of nautical miles away from the Sri Lankan shores. Congressional restrictions against sale of military hardware to Sri Lanka were also lifted soon thereafter, which facilitated Sri Lanka Navy to acquire 30 mm Bushmaster cannons to be mounted on Navy platforms, which provided an advantage over the LTTE firepower at sea. Finally, intelligence provided by the US and India enabled SLN to locate and destroy LTTE vessels that were used for storage and transport of military hardware.

These developments were taking place at a time when the LTTE was taking steps to move away from the peace process alleging that the government was casting an international safety net designed by Minister Moragoda to restrict freedom of operation by that organization. It is therefore clear that the government in Colombo, realizing the machinations of LTTE, recognized the need to improve political, military and economic relations with Washington. One step in that direction was to build a like-minded group of countries that would take steps to assist each other, when cooperative action was required to safeguard their national interests. Credit of establishing that likeminded group has also been rightly assigned to Moragoda.

It may be against such a backdrop, when Sri Lanka was accused of alleged human rights violations, Minister Moragoda, who was closely associated with the peace process, saw the merits of signing an agreement with the US refusing to extradite alleged offenders to be tried by the ICC, based on biased and spurious allegations brought out by outfits such as Diaspora groups that supported LTTE. However, since the Ranil Wickremesinghe administration suffered an electoral setback at the general election held in 2004, the kind of coalition his administration was trying to build up with a group of likeminded countries failed to materialise. The idea behind the thinking could have been not to counter the policies of the Non-aligned Movement, but to build a new coalition that would give priority to national interests of the nascent group.

 

Is the so called…

 

At the time of signing the bilateral agreement, Colombo may not have expected the UN system to bring members of the armed forces etc. before international tribunals or engage services of international prosecutors etc., to try them as demanded by the Human Rights Council years later. If the policy of building a ‘like-minded group’ pursued by Colombo had succeeded, Sri Lanka would have stood a good chance in signing bilateral agreements with several other countries, such as the one it signed with the US on surrender of persons to the ICC. All that is now long forgotten, as the adage says, ‘water under the bridge’.

It may be recalled that from time to time the US administration assisted Sri Lankan armed forces in a number of ways. Way back in 1994, the Office of Anti-terrorism Assistance of the US Department of State undertook a ‘Survey and Evaluation of Dignitary Protective Security’. Years’ later, in 2002 the US Department of Defence undertook a study on SL’s military preparedness and submitted a report to the government. However, it was looked at seriously only during the tenure of Gotabaya Rajapaksa then Secretary of the Ministry of Defence. It was the time when Sri Lanka depended on the intelligence provided by the West, particularly the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) of the US. Small wonder then, why the US intelligence personnel sat down and conferred with their local counterparts. Their support and cooperation were sought by the government and in providing such cooperation, the US intelligence officials developed a close working relationship with their local counterparts. Such close cooperation with the US intelligence services continued during the presidency of Mahinda Rajapaksa. Defence Secretary Gotabaya Rajapaksa, coming as he did from a military background, would have understood the importance of military to military relationship with the US. Signing of the Acquisition and Cross Service Agreement (ACSA) in 2007 by Secretary Gotabaya Rajapaksa was the result of the close rapport Sri Lanka enjoyed with the security apparatus of the US.

Sri Lanka is indeed a ‘land like no other’. Velupillai Prabhakaran, Thamil Chelvam and Anton Balasingham who took Sri Lanka on a three-decade long roller coaster ride are no more. Karuna Amman, the chief Lieutenant of the LTTE leader, ended up as a Junior Minister in the Parliament. Prof. G. L. Peiris, who led the Sri Lanka delegations to the peace talks with the LTTE left the UNP, rejoined the SLFP and later helped establish SLPP, which won the 2020 general election handsomely, is a minister in the current parliament. Milinda Moragoda, once credited with creating a standoff between LTTE supremo and Balasingham and many other developments associated with the peace process will be Sri Lanka’s next envoy to New Delhi. President Mahinda Rajapaksa, who fought the war to a conclusion and defeated the LTTE, has once again become the Prime Minister of the island and his brother and former Defence Secretary, Gotabaya Rajapaksa has become president of the country with wide popularity. Strangest of all is, after a lapse of 45 years since the assassination of Alfred Duraiappah, a SLFP member has been elected by the voters in Jaffna, the former bastion of the LTTE, as their member of parliament. Much has definitely changed. However, those who made a living by disseminating scurrilous and frivolous news and fake stories, continue to ply their trade with gay abandon.

Sri Lankans are no better. Myopia is something that they all seem to have been afflicted with. One decade after defeat of the LTTE, they appear to have forgotten the wretched three-decade long war the country had to face and the endless sacrifices the people of Sri Lanka and members of the armed forces had to endure. The cease-fire agreement Ranil Wickremesinghe administration signed with the LTTE may not have been the smartest move of that administration. However, Sri Lankans seems to have forgotten that that agreement was the first nail on the coffin of the LTTE, which turned the tide against that organisation. The second was Karuna Amman’s estrangement with V. Prabhakaran and his defection, which made the LTE held Eastern Province vulnerable to the extent it fell into the hands of the government forces lead by Rajapaksa brothers. The rest is history. Not surprisingly, Sri Lankans seem to have forgotten the root causes of the armed conflict as well. They suffer from short memory as well, as amply demonstrated by the forgetfulness of the critical support Sri Lankan military received from India and the US, during the closing phase of the Eelam war.


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Islamophobia and the threat to democratic development

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There’s an ill more dangerous and pervasive than the Coronavirus that’s currently sweeping Sri Lanka. That is the fear to express one’s convictions. Across the public sector of the country in particular many persons holding high office are stringently regulating and controlling the voices of their consciences and this bodes ill for all and the country.

The corrupting impact of fear was discussed in this column a couple of weeks ago when dealing with the military coup in Myanmar. It stands to the enduring credit of ousted Myanmarese Head of Government Aung San Suu Kyi that she, perhaps for the first time in the history of modern political thought, singled out fear, and not power, as the principal cause of corruption within the individual; powerful or otherwise.

To be sure, power corrupts but the corrupting impact of fear is graver and more devastating. For instance, the fear in a person holding ministerial office or in a senior public sector official, that he would lose position and power as a result of speaking out his convictions and sincere beliefs on matters of the first importance, would lead to a country’s ills going unaddressed and uncorrected.

Besides, the individual concerned would be devaluing himself in the eyes of all irrevocably and revealing himself to be a person who would be willing to compromise his moral integrity for petty worldly gain or a ‘mess of pottage’. This happens all the while in Lankan public life. Some of those who have wielded and are wielding immense power in Sri Lanka leave very much to be desired from these standards.

It could be said that fear has prevented Sri Lanka from growing in every vital respect over the decades and has earned for itself the notoriety of being a directionless country.

All these ills and more are contained in the current controversy in Sri Lanka over the disposal of the bodies of Covid victims, for example. The Sri Lankan polity has no choice but to abide by scientific advice on this question. Since authorities of the standing of even the WHO have declared that the burial of the bodies of those dying of Covid could not prove to be injurious to the wider public, the Sri Lankan health authorities could go ahead and sanction the burying of the bodies concerned. What’s preventing the local authorities from taking this course since they claim to be on the side of science? Who or what are they fearing? This is the issue that’s crying out to be probed and answered.

Considering the need for absolute truthfulness and honesty on the part of all relevant persons and quarters in matters such as these, the latter have no choice but to resign from their positions if they are prevented from following the dictates of their consciences. If they are firmly convinced that burials could bring no harm, they are obliged to take up the position that burials should be allowed.

If any ‘higher authority’ is preventing them from allowing burials, our ministers and officials are conscience-bound to renounce their positions in protest, rather than behave compromisingly and engage in ‘double think’ and ‘double talk’. By adopting the latter course they are helping none but keeping the country in a state of chronic uncertainty, which is a handy recipe for social instabiliy and division.

In the Sri Lankan context, the failure on the part of the quarters that matter to follow scientific advice on the burials question could result in the aggravation of Islamophobia, or hatred of the practitioners of Islam, in the country. Sri Lanka could do without this latter phobia and hatred on account of its implications for national stability and development. The 30 year war against separatist forces was all about the prevention by military means of ‘nation-breaking’. The disastrous results for Sri Lanka from this war are continuing to weigh it down and are part of the international offensive against Sri Lanka in the UNHCR.

However, Islamophobia is an almost world wide phenomenon. It was greatly strengthened during Donald Trump’s presidential tenure in the US. While in office Trump resorted to the divisive ruling strategy of quite a few populist authoritarian rulers of the South. Essentially, the manoeuvre is to divide and rule by pandering to the racial prejudices of majority communities.

It has happened continually in Sri Lanka. In the initial post-independence years and for several decades after, it was a case of some populist politicians of the South whipping-up anti-Tamil sentiments. Some Tamil politicians did likewise in respect of the majority community. No doubt, both such quarters have done Sri Lanka immeasurable harm. By failing to follow scientific advice on the burial question and by not doing what is right, Sri Lanka’s current authorities are opening themselves to the charge that they are pandering to religious extremists among the majority community.

The murderous, destructive course of action adopted by some extremist sections among Muslim communities world wide, including of course Sri Lanka, has not earned the condemnation it deserves from moderate Muslims who make-up the preponderant majority in the Muslim community. It is up to moderate opinion in the latter collectivity to come out more strongly and persuasively against religious extremists in their midst. It will prove to have a cementing and unifying impact among communities.

It is not sufficiently appreciated by governments in the global South in particular that by voicing for religious and racial unity and by working consistently towards it, they would be strengthening democratic development, which is an essential condition for a country’s growth in all senses.

A ‘divided house’ is doomed to fall; this is the lesson of history. ‘National security’ cannot be had without human security and peaceful living among communities is central to the latter. There cannot be any ‘double talk’ or ‘politically correct’ opinions on this question. Truth and falsehood are the only valid categories of thought and speech.

Those in authority everywhere claiming to be democratic need to adopt a scientific outlook on this issue as well. Studies conducted on plural societies in South Asia, for example, reveal that the promotion of friendly, cordial ties among communities invariably brings about healing among estranged groups and produces social peace. This is the truth that is waiting to be acted upon.

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Pakistan’s love of Sri Lanka

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By Sanjeewa Jayaweera

It was on 3rd January 1972 that our family arrived in Karachi from Moscow. Our departure from Moscow had been delayed for a few weeks due to the military confrontation between Pakistan and India. It ended on 16th December 1971. After that, international flights were not permitted for some time.

The contrast between Moscow and Karachi was unbelievable. First and foremost, Moscow’s temperature was near minus 40 degrees centigrade, while in Karachi, it was sunny and a warm 28 degrees centigrade. However, what struck us most was the extreme warmth with which the airport authorities greeted our family. As my father was a diplomat, we were quickly ushered to the airport’s VIP Lounge. We were in transit on our way to Rawalpindi, the airport serving the capital of Islamabad.

We quickly realized that the word “we are from Sri Lanka” opened all doors just as saying “open sesame” gained entry to Aladdin’s cave! The broad smile, extreme courtesy, and genuine warmth we received from the Pakistani people were unbelievable.

This was all to do with Mrs Sirima Bandaranaike’s decision to allow Pakistani aircraft to land in Colombo to refuel on the way to Dhaka in East Pakistan during the military confrontation between Pakistan and India. It was a brave decision by Mrs Bandaranaike (Mrs B), and the successive governments and Sri Lanka people are still enjoying the fruits of it. Pakistan has been a steadfast and loyal supporter of our country. They have come to our assistance time and again in times of great need when many have turned their back on us. They have indeed been an “all-weather” friend of our country.

Getting back to 1972, I was an early beneficiary of Pakistani people’s love for Sri Lankans. I failed the entrance exam to gain entry to the only English medium school in Islamabad! However, when I met the Principal, along with my father, he said, “Sanjeewa, although you failed the entrance exam, I will this time make an exception as Sri Lankans are our dear friends.” After that, the joke around the family dinner table was that I owed my education in Pakistan to Mrs B!

At school, my brother and I were extended a warm welcome and always greeted “our good friends from Sri Lanka.” I felt when playing cricket for our college; our runs were cheered more loudly than of others.

One particular incident that I remember well was when the Embassy received a telex from the Foreign inistry. It requested that our High Commissioner seek an immediate meeting with the Prime Minister of Pakistan, Mr Zulifikar Ali Bhutto (ZB), and convey a message from Mrs B. The message requested that an urgent shipment of rice be dispatched to Sri Lanka as there would be an imminent rice shortage. As the Ambassador was not in the station, the responsibility devolved on my father.

It usually takes about a week or more to get an audience with the Prime Minister (PM) of a foreign country due to their busy schedule. However, given the urgency, my father spoke to the Foreign Ministry’s Permanent Sectary, who fortunately was our neighbour and sought an urgent appointment. My father received a call from the PM’s secretary around 10 P.M asking him to come over to the PM’s residence. My father met ZB around midnight. ZB was about to retire to bed and, as such, was in his pyjamas and gown enjoying a cigar! He had greeted my father and had asked, “Mr Jayaweera, what can we do for great friend Madam Bandaranaike?. My father conveyed the message from Colombo and quietly mentioned that there would be riots in the country if there is no rice!

ZB had immediately got the Food Commissioner of Pakistan on the line and said, “I want a shipload of rice to be in Colombo within the next 72 hours!” The Food Commissioner reverted within a few minutes, saying that nothing was available and the last export shipment had left the port only a few hours ago to another country. ZB had instructed to turn the ship around and send it to Colombo. This despite protests from the Food Commissioner about terms and conditions of the Letter of Credit prohibiting non-delivery. Sri Lanka got its delivery of rice!

The next was the visit of Mrs B to Pakistan. On arrival in Rawalpindi airport, she was given a hero’s welcome, which Pakistan had previously only offered to President Gaddafi of Libya, who financially backed Pakistan with his oil money. That day, I missed school and accompanied my parents to the airport. On our way, we witnessed thousands of people had gathered by the roadside to welcome Mrs B.

When we walked to the airport’s tarmac, thousands of people were standing in temporary stands waving Sri Lanka and Pakistan flags and chanting “Sri Lanka Pakistan Zindabad.” The noise emanating from the crowd was as loud and passionate as the cheering that the Pakistani cricket team received during a test match. It was electric!

I believe she was only the second head of state given the privilege of addressing both assemblies of Parliament. The other being Gaddafi. There was genuine affection from Mrs B amongst the people of Pakistan.

I always remember the indefatigable efforts of Mr Abdul Haffez Kardar, a cabinet minister and the President of the Pakistan Cricket Board. From around 1973 onwards, he passionately championed Sri Lanka’s cause to be admitted as a full member of the International Cricket Council (ICC) and granted test status. Every year, he would propose at the ICC’s annual meeting, but England and Australia’s veto kept us out until 1981.

I always felt that our Cricket Board made a mistake by not inviting Pakistan to play our inaugural test match. We should have appreciated Mr Kardar and Pakistan’s efforts. In 1974 the Pakistan board invited our team for a tour involving three test matches and a few first-class games. Most of those who played in our first test match was part of that tour, and no doubt gained significant exposure playing against a highly talented Pakistani team.

Several Pakistani greats were part of the Pakistan and India team that played a match soon after the Central Bank bomb in Colombo to prove that it was safe to play cricket in Colombo. It was a magnificent gesture by both Pakistan and India. Our greatest cricket triumph was in Pakistan when we won the World Cup in 1996. I am sure the players and those who watched the match on TV will remember the passionate support our team received that night from the Pakistani crowd. It was like playing at home!

I also recall reading about how the Pakistani government air freighted several Multi Barrell artillery guns and ammunition to Sri Lanka when the A rmy camp in Jaffna was under severe threat from the LTTE. This was even more important than the shipload of rice that ZB sent. This was crucial as most other countries refused to sell arms to our country during the war.

Time and again, Pakistan has steadfastly supported our country’s cause at the UNHCR. No doubt this year, too, their diplomats will work tirelessly to assist our country.

We extend a warm welcome to Mr Imran Khan, the Prime Minister of Pakistan. He is a truly inspirational individual who was undoubtedly an excellent cricketer. Since retirement from cricket, he has decided to get involved in politics, and after several years of patiently building up his support base, he won the last parliamentary elections. I hope that just as much as he galvanized Sri Lankan cricketers, his political journey would act as a catalyst for people like Kumar Sangakkara and Mahela Jayawardene to get involved in politics. Cricket has been called a “gentleman’s game.” Whilst politics is far from it!.

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Covid-19 health rules disregarded at entertainment venues?

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Believe me, seeing certain videos, on social media, depicting action, on the dance floor, at some of these entertainment venues, got me wondering whether this Coronavirus pandemic is REAL!

To those having a good time, at these particular venues, and, I guess, the management, as well, what the world is experiencing now doesn’t seem to be their concerned.

Obviously, such irresponsible behaviour could create more problems for those who are battling to halt the spread of Covid-19, and the new viriant of Covid, in our part of the world.

The videos, on display, on social media, show certain venues, packed to capacity – with hardly anyone wearing a mask, and social distancing…only a dream..

How can one think of social distancing while gyrating, on a dance floor, that is over crowded!

If this trend continues, it wouldn’t be a surprise if Coronavirus makes its presence felt…at such venues.

And, then, what happens to the entertainment scene, and those involved in this field, especially the musicians? No work, whatsoever!

Lots of countries have closed nightclubs, and venues, where people gather, in order to curtail the spread of this deadly virus that has already claimed the lives of thousands.

Thailand did it and the country is still having lots of restrictions, where entertainment is concerned, and that is probably the reason why Thailand has been able to control the spread of the Coronavirus.

With a population of over 69 million, they have had (so far), a little over 25,000 cases, and 83 deaths, while we, with a population of around 21 million, have over 80,000 cases, and more than 450 deaths.

I’m not saying we should do away with entertainment – totally – but we need to follow a format, connected with the ‘new normal,’ where masks and social distancing are mandatory requirements at these venues. And, dancing, I believe, should be banned, at least temporarily, as one can’t maintain the required social distance, while on the dance floor, especially after drinks.

Police spokesman DIG Ajith Rohana keeps emphasising, on TV, radio, and in the newspapers, the need to adhere to the health regulations, now in force, and that those who fail to do so would be penalised.

He has also stated that plainclothes officers would move around to apprehend such offenders.

Perhaps, he should instruct his officers to pay surprise visits to some of these entertainment venues.

He would certainly have more than a bus load of offenders to be whisked off for PCR/Rapid Antigen tests!

I need to quote what Dr. H.T. Wickremasinghe said in his article, published in The Island of Tuesday, February 16th, 2021:

“…let me conclude, while emphasising the need to continue our general public health measures, such as wearing masks, social distancing, and avoiding crowded gatherings, to reduce the risk of contact with an infected person.

“There is no science to beat common sense.”

But…do some of our folks have this thing called COMMON SENSE!

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