Destroying Confidence

| by Prof Rajiva Wijesinha 

( April 23, 2012, Colombo, Sri Lanka Guardian) Last week, I was told, a mysterious lady approached the President while he was at a funeral, knelt at his feet, and came out with a terrifying story. The person who told me the story evidently thought of the lady as she who must not be named, but she was nothing like the fictional character who could not be named. Young and rich and beautiful, I believe she had long raven locks and sparkling dimples.

President Rajapakse with Mr. Sonia Gandhi, the President of the Congress - File Photo
The story she had to tell was however a sad one, for it was a tale of betrayal. The President was told that the previous night, at the dinner given by the Indian High Commissioner, at least one senior member of his Cabinet had joined with the Indian Parliamentary delegation in criticism against him.

My interlocutor thought this upsetting news, whether it was true or not. If it was true, it would explain why the President has not moved forward in accordance with his Manifesto, since obviously he would be worried about being criticized on all sides if he took steps that were controversial. If it was not true, the matter was more upsetting, because it indicated that there were those he trusted who were deliberately creating doubt about the next tier of leadership in the party. And that of course is how many seemingly solid governments have collapsed.

Not going to funerals generally, and not certain of the identity of the mysterious dimpled young lady, I was not sure what to think. But that evening I was reminded of a similar incident that had taken place several months ago, when once again our ambassador in Paris had been under threat.

On that occasion, it had been reported, by a Cabinet Minister it seemed, that Dayan had joined with an Indian politician in criticism of the government. The story which I had heard only in a vague form at the time had struck me as preposterous, because Dayan has never made any bones about his views, and they have always put Sri Lanka and its interests first. Like his adored boss, the President, he believes that others are friends but India is a relation – and that is why we are all so sad, whatever the reasons, that India not only voted against us in Geneva but also made a statement that allowed countries less single-minded (or more sensible) than the United States to co-sponsor the Resolution; but Dayan is also clear that, even for relations, one should not sacrifice oneself, even though one should be sensitive about their concerns.

What had happened way back last year in Paris is that Dr Karan Singh, with whom a meeting for the Minister in question had been arranged, had asked that a message be conveyed to the President, namely that the Indian government was under a lot of internal pressure from politicians in Tamil Nadu, and it would be good if the President would move quickly on his commitment towards implementation of the 13th Amendment. Dayan had then it seemed chipped in to the effect that he himself believed in implementation of the 13th Amendment, but it was also important that India make sure the TNA worked on the basis of that Amendment and did not demand things in line with previous LTTE and current TGTE requirements.

Far from the Minister having conveyed the message to the President – which might have helped in making clear the urgency of Indian concerns, since this was a message from one of the most distinguished friends of Sri Lanka who had a long history of association with Lakshman Kadirgamar – instead the Minister signed a damning indictment of Dayan. I cannot believe he wrote this himself, since it was in polished English, which I suspect only Prof Pieris in the Cabinet can match. But it would certainly not have been Prof Pieris, who admires Dayan though he may not always feel strong enough to speak up for him, who would have engaged in such duplicity.

There was no young and rich and beautiful lady in Paris at the time, so it was obviously not the same person involved as in the incident at the funeral. But there does seem here to be at the very least a congruence of interests in those who wish to undermine the President’s confidence in those who have been pillars of strength to him in the past. Had the President been persuaded to dismiss his best ambassadors – and I am told that newspaper editors had confidently been assured that this would happen – and also ceased to work together with the established leadership of the SLFP, it would be easy for those who are anxious for regime change to achieve their aims. If that happens, as we have seen in Libya for instance, those who have practiced duplicity on behalf of a leader who is to be changed are the first to start practicing duplicity against that leader, and on behalf of the new authorities, when change occurs.

That is not conceivable of Dayan, that is not conceivable of the SLFP leadership that is moderate to a man, but also deeply patriotic – as for instance we noted when the General Secretary of the SLFP resisted the efforts of the duplicitous branch of the US State Department to suborn him. They are generally in favour of proceeding with the 13th amendment as pledged by government, but they would also work positively towards developing substitutes for any elements that are worrying in a changing world. The point is to address the concerns that led to the 13th Amendment, without creating further concerns. In discussions with the TNA I found their leadership quite prepared to work on this principle, in accordance with the Constitution, though obviously extremists on both sides would prefer to emphasize the points of contention rather than the many areas on which agreement would be so easy.

But if our efforts to reach consensus are going to be undermined by efforts to sow distrust amongst members of the government, and with regard to the most able public servants we have, then we will certainly have problems. I have no idea how we can find out the identity of the raven haired young lady and question her in the presence of the Ministers she criticized. But surely it will not be difficult for the Ministry of External Affairs to conduct an inquiry, with the support of the Minister whose name was used, into the effort to denigrate Dayan. That may open up a can of worms, but it is better to do that than to keep allowing them to be used as bait to entrap us all.