| by Upul Joseph Fernando

( January 29, 2014, Colombo, Sri Lanka Guardian) Secretary to the Ministry of Defence and Urban Planning, Gotabhaya Rajapaksa, has severely criticized US Ambassador in Colombo, Michele J. Sison, in a speech he had delivered recently at a public meeting in Batticaloa.

This is how ‘Island’ newspaper reported his speech; “Addressing a public gathering in the Batticaloa District on Thursday, the Defence Secretary alleged the US Ambassador in Sri Lanka was interfering in domestic affairs. The Defence Secretary was addressing religious dignitaries and civil society representatives in the Eastern Province at Hotel East Lagoon, in Batticaloa.

“Defence Secretary Rajapaksa lashed out at those who had been pushing for foreign intervention in Sri Lanka, even after the conclusion of the conflict in May 2009.

“Rajapaksa, who is also Secretary, Urban Development, said that foreigners would only make matters worse; therefore all communities should resolve to settle their problems themselves.

“An irate Defence Secretary alleged that the US Ambassador had overstepped her mandate. He said the Rajapaksas had been in politics for 75 years and they were capable of tackling post-war issues. “Emphasizing the pivotal of thwarting foreign interference in domestic issues, the Defence Secretary said that the country could proceed without advice from diplomats.”

Present Defence Secretary, in the days of his active service in the army, was an exceedingly efficient and capable officer. He always discharged his duties without fear or favour and independent of political considerations. During JR’s Presidency, his brother Mahinda was in the Parliamentary Opposition. That political configuration did not affect his official military duties as an officer at all. He was the quintessential military officer to a fault.

Possible repercussions
There is no gainsaying the fact that Gotabhaya is no politician. It is not strange, if one were to presume that he, being a non-political creature, does not fully realize the enormity of possible repercussions resulting from a possible loss of governmental power by his brother Mahinda, some day.

Generally, most politicians in power do forget about democratic principles and good governance. They are therefore disposed to conceive the US and the international community, who raise democratic and human rights issues of their country in international forums, as antagonists and condemn them roundly. When the wheel of fortune has turned away from a governing political party and find itself consigned to powerless opposition, then they begin to look up to the US and the international community to address their manifold grievances, against the government in power. Suddenly, devils turn into angels, who would help them in their hour of distress. When Sarath Fonseka was arrested and imprisoned after losing his presidential bid, his children and other interested parties petitioned the US to use its influence to help him.

Fonseka’s case is a classic example of US enemy becoming a friend, when he fell into trouble with the government. During the final stage of the war, when he was Army Commander, he vehemently rejected overtures made by the US to declare a ceasefire to protect the civilians trapped in the war zone. He labelled them as a cat’s paw of the LTTE. He even openly criticized Tamil Nadu politicians for their LTTE sympathies.

When Fonseka lost his Presidential bid in 2010 and the Rajapaksa regime arrested, charged and convicted him using legal procedures, he and his kith and kin and others turned towards the US for help. His daughters petitioned US President Barck Obama, to intervene on his behalf.

When in opposition, as opposed to when in power, the US, the Human Rights Commission and the international community become respectable entities, which could help the cause of the underdog in the political equation.

Another good example, which highlights the position that when one is in the opposition, the US, the West and the human rights organizations are treated as friends, is the following verbal exchange between John Amaratunga and Mahinda Rajapaksa, when the latter was in the Parliamentary Opposition. Amaratunga, who recently made a trip to the Middle East with President Rajapaksa, was a Cabinet Minister in the Premadasa Government.

Reversed roles
“J.A.E. Amaragunge: You were secretly carrying certain things to give them to the suddhas.
Mahinda Rajapaksa: Yes, we did so and we will do so again quite openly. Hon. Deputy Chairman, they are accusing us of carrying things to be given to the suddhas, but when they go begging aid from them, it is right. To them, there is nothing wrong in feeding on suddha’s handouts. When they demanded the withdrawal of the rice-ration coupons, you did it. Not only that, as the World Bank demanded, you privatized the Ceylon Transport Board (CTB) and all public ventures and corporations. Can anyone deny that?

Another Member: What about casinos?

Rajapaksa: When the privatization of public enterprises came up in Parliament, you voted for it quite willingly. If you can comply with the demands of your foreign aid givers, why can’t we ask them to protect human rights, a sine qua non for their aid grants?

Amaratunga: That is treachery against the country. Rajapaksa: Treachery? You must remember we are Southerners. We have never betrayed our country. Time and again we have sacrificed our life for the country. We have a right to tell this to the world. Tears of innocent grieving mothers compel us to tell their story of pain and sorrow to the world. We will do it today, tomorrow and always. Remember that. (Hansard report 25.01.1991).”

In a futuristic scenario of the Rajapaksa Government being out of power, it will be a certainty that whoever is in power will go after the Rajapaksas. It is equally certain that when they are faced with such a situation, they will surely turn to the US and the international community for help.

All those who have suffered repression under the present regime, from Fonseka to Ananthi Sasitharan, have all appealed to the US for help. Presumably, the government seems to entertain the false notion that it could and should manipulate the country’s foreign embassies in their favour as it does with the opposition. This is way off the reality. It is with this unrealistic idea that the government held two previous PC polls and is going ahead with two more PC polls in March.

The sole purpose of these elections is to show the world community and impress them that the government is enjoying popular support. It will be a costly futile exercise, to say the least. The US and the hostile international community cannot be expected to be impressed by these immature tactics. Going by most past election results, the quantum of votes polled by the opposition and the un-polled number of votes far exceeds the number of votes polled by the government.

That large number of voters, who have not voted for the government, if one were to surmise, are expecting a regime change, with some help from international community. It will not be too far off the mark.

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