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Lanka’s foreign policy dictated by the Defence Ministry, former diplomat says

| by Sunday Times, Colombo

( February 23, 2014, Colombo, Sri Lanka Guardian) Sri Lanka can’t win in any international arena through a foreign policy strategy that is dictated by the Defence Ministry, a situation that would never have occured when the late Lakshman Kadirgamar was foreign minister, a former Sri Lanka diplomat and political scientist said.

“Lakshman Kadirgamar would never have allowed such a situation to happen,” said Dayan Jayatillake speaking at a luncheon meeting of the exclusive Colombo Club at the Taj Samudra hotel on Tuesday. The topic of his presentation was “”The forthcoming Geneva UNHRC session – the process to be followed, legal and economic implications for Sri Lanka.”

File pic of Dr. Dayan Jayatillake at a recent Sunday Times Business Club event
Dr. Jayatillake had two views on the issue; that the resolution against Sri Lanka at the UNHRC session next month is unfair while on the other hand the Sri Lankan Government should never have allowed such a situation to arise. “I occupy the middle ground. I believe the resolution is unfair, unhelpful and hypocritical. But I also believe the Government is incompetent and will face a negative outcome with serious consequences.”

He said the UN resolution (calling for an international inquiry into human rights violations) would trigger a new dynamics. “It is also unfair as there is no precedent in the world. No other country has faced such a resolution,” he said.

“On the flip side however had everything remained as it is today and if Lakshman Kadirgamar was foreign minister (even with Mahinda Rajapaksa as President), this situation would not have arisen,” said Dr. Jayatillake, who served as an ambassador in Geneva some years back and succeeded in winning support against a resolution against Sri Lanka.

He slammed the Foreign Ministry, its officials and advisors and said the country pathetic foreign policy was as a result of their (ministry) incompetence.
“Many years ago the international affairs advisor to the President was Bradman Weerakoon (an accomplished civil servant) while today the President’s advisor is Sajin Vass Gunawardene (who doesn’t have any experience in international issues),” he pointed out.

Delving into more detail about the end of the war (few months before May 2009) and the issues that surrounded it, the former diplomat referred to a Wikileaks disclosure where a plan was drafted by the UK and US, with the understanding of the Sri Lankan Government, for US marines to be inducted to help evacuate civilians trapped in the war zone.

He said, according to Wikileaks, the plan fell through because LTTE leader Vellupillai Prabhakaran refused to surrender to an outside force and also because the Government refused a proposal to evacuate some LTTE cadres.

While saying the international community was aware of these developments and that there was no deliberate targeting of civilians during the last stages of the conflict, he noted that the problem is that the Government made it possible for the situation to slide with negative actions and inaction.
“We are in a difficult situation,” he said. In May 2009 too there was an attempt to institute a mechanism to probe war crimes but that failed with Sri Lanka securing 62 per cent of the vote. In less than five years, that support has dropped and last year Sri Lanka could muster only 12 votes, he said noting that the negative situation is one ‘of our own making”.

Discussing what would happen if the resolution is passed, Dr. Jayatillake said most likely a special rapporteur would be appointed.
“Geneva should not be taken lightly,” he said warning than an ever worse scenario is if an inquiry concludes that the outcome of the war (defeat of the LTTE) is illegal which then opens legal implications, not only for the country’s leaders but also service commanders at that time.
He believed that if the resolution is passed, the centre of Sri Lankan Tamil politics will (once again) shift overseas (to the Diaspora) from the north and the Tamil National Alliance.

But he also pointed out that Sri Lanka was no pushover and any international effort would be resisted. “I see a very unhealthy situation happening domestically (after March),” he noted.

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