( October 8, 2013, Colombo, Sri Lanka Guardian) In regard to Mahinda Rajapaksa making formal addresses at international forums, we strongly suggest he has a word to his speech writer. We are concerned that he should not fall into the predicament of a Head of a government who was allotted an hour to address a formal international gathering but he actually took two hours to complete his speech. Having realised the discomfort of the audience he summoned the speech writer and said to him: "I wanted you write a speech that would last an hour but it took two hours for me to finish". To this the speech writer replied: "I gave you two copies of the draft speech". However in the case of Rajapaksa's address to the UN assembly, we are informed that there were no dramas as fortunately he addressed mostly seats that were vacant. The fact of the matter is that he addressed the UN General Assembly.
Thanks to the Millennium Development Goals (MDG), not exactly a show piece of the UN but in order to draw the red herring across the trail from the most embarrassing human rights issues, he chose as an excellent strategy, to focus on the good work been done by the MDG being non political. Rajapaksa states: "....... my vision has been to distribute the benefits of growth across all segments of the population and prevent inequalities, social exclusion and adverse environmental effects...Despite contending with one of the most ruthless terrorist groups in the world, the 2004 tsunami and the global food, energy and financial crises, Sri Lanka's attaining the MDGs is salutary. Statistics speak for themselves".... Yes indeed.
On the matter of the Tsunami, we will go no further, than to quote a former chief justice, Sarath N Silva, corrupt at that, who said: "President Mahinda Rajapaksa would not have become the President of Sri Lanka if not for the Supreme Court ruling to release him in the Helping Hambantota case (Rajapaksa's former electorate)... Mahinda Rajapaksa would not have either been able to contest the 2005 Presidential election or come into power if the Supreme Court bench headed by him did not clear Mahinda Rajapaksa of allegations of misappropriation of Tsunami funds......There are many complaints that it was I who was responsible to bring Rajapaksa into power" (from the Daily Mirror). Further, the Auditor General in his report had stated: "The government allowed 506 vehicles to be imported duty-free into the country for tsunami relief work, but the authorities had no register of those vehicles or who was using them". Although sixty five per cent of the tsunami devastation was in the north and the east, only thirty five percent of the aid was spent there. This is why we warn Rajapaksa to be wary of speech writers for they can distort facts. In view of this the less said about the address to the UN the better.
Moving on to the Al Jazeera interview, we have to gather that the President in his element in order to keep the Sri Lankan flag flying bulldozed the interviewer in typical fashion, leaving him with signs of being taken aback, steadfastly standing his ground being overly polite in the wake of absurdities and irrelevant half truths. None the less the interview provoked much humour and but little banter.
Rajapaksa's lessons on democracy were profound. He said that he had restored democracy to the north of Sri Lanka in that eighty percent had voted at the provincial council elections and this achievement is not talked of in other countries. What actually is talked of is the courage with which the people in the north exercised their vote despite the numerous impediments placed in their way especially by the military.
On references to the remarks on Navi Pillay by his ministers, he unashamedly downplayed them by saying that being a democratic country his ministers could say anything including officers (to include his public servant brother Gotabahaya the Secretary for defence). He also said: "We allow them to do that."--as if as a matter of deliberate policy. His grouse was that Mrs. Pillay did not mention any thing to him.
What he did not mention was the plight of journalists in this democratic climate where they could be given a ride of their life in the white van or the fateful end of persons like Lasantha Wickrematunge. On being questioned about the white vans, being modest in not wishing to reveal his brother's handiwork, he comes out with a story to say that there was one stray case of a teenage girl who had been found in guest house and had gone of her own accord.
On being asked about the attacks on the places of Muslim worship, Rajapaksa states that the attacks were in an enraged response to a seven year old girl being raped. As to how and from where he pulled out this answer in defence of the extremist sections of the Buddhist clergy is baffling. Imagine the Buddhist clergy in such organised fashion being going to such extremes.
Rajapaksa's body language said it all. Rajapaksa was trying to make out that more the number of elections held the greater the democracy. Asked about Navi Pillay's observations on the harassment of some people in the north Rajapaksa's response was that she had not mentioned anything to him as if she was mandated to report to him on her work in Sri Lanka. On the question of the removal of the army from the north or even the reduction of the numbers therein his ridiculous response was that he could not accommodate them anywhere else refuting the claim that there was one soldier for every civilian. His response to the claim by Navi Pillay on the excessive number of army personnel in the north was that those army personnel seen in such large numbers was Navi Pillay's apparition of the numerous school cadets seen around! Perhaps, an illusion.
Further on the question of the military being engaged in agriculture on the lands of the peasants he completely denied this. However, it would be recalled that the government media displayed pictures of the army having harvested bumper crops of vegetables which boosted their morale. Rajapasaka went on to say that all private lands had been released to the previous owners, an outright lie typical of him. Lands have been not only been taken over for the port, the harbour etc. as claimed by him but also to erect Buddhist temples and luxury tourist hotels at the expense of the dire need for small holding of lands in the north.
On the matter of shelling hospitals during the height of the war in a war designed from the very outset to be one without witnesses he says there was no evidence, as if the dead, the sick, the infirm and the elderly could have possibly come forward to give any evidence.
Such an interview could have been performed only by a Rajapaksa. The Al Jazeera interviewer must be congratulated for his professionalism and his patience.
( The is the editor of the Eelam Nation, an online journal)