South Africa taken for a ride by President Rajapaksa

| by S. V. Kirubaharan

( July 23, 2014, Paris, Sri Lanka Guardian) The present desperate situation of Rajapaksa’s regime has compelled it to seek the friendship of some popular and powerful countries. They have tried everywhere from NEWS – North, East, West and South, but are unable to find the right ones. They have found China, Cuba, Iran, Pakistan, Russia, Venezuela, etc., but these are in the same boat as the Rajapaksa regime, on human rights, war crimes or crimes against humanity.

If we summarise the recent foreign visits by President Rajapaksa and his Minister of External Affairs, Prof G. L. Peiris, we see that they cover a very small circle of powerless countries – Bahrain, Bangladesh, Belarus, Bolivia, Indonesia, Kazakhstan, Kenya, Maldives, Seychelles, etc.

Among the countries whose friendships were sought by Rajapaksa are South Africa and India as well. These two countries are part of the Commonwealth, the Non-Aligned Moment - NAM and both are members of the UN Human Rights Council. When the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting - CHOGM took place in Sri Lanka in November 2013, Rajapaksa used maximum influence and his usual bogus promises, pleading with the Heads of States of South Africa and India to be present. But India has burned its fingers several times in the past, and this time did not get into Sri Lanka’s trap. The Prime Minister, Head of state of India did not attend the CHOGM in Sri Lanka.

Even though the South Africans are smart, unfortunately they believed the crocodile tears shed by Rajapaksa. The South African President Jacob Zuma attended the CHOGM. Rajapaksa’s strategy did not work out as he expected though! He thought that if the South African Head of state attended, all the other Commonwealth countries from Africa would do the same. However the Heads of States of Botswana, Ghana, Kenya, Malawi, Mauritius, Mozambique, Nigeria, Sierra Leone, Uganda and Zambia didn’t participate in the CHOGM. They sent their representatives.

Soon after the CHOGM, the 25th Session of the UN Human Rights Council – UN HRC was about to take place in Geneva. Rajapaksa used South African’s influence with the African members in the UN HRC. Here also Sri Lanka faced the same fate as in the CHOGM. Five African states including South Africa, ‘abstained’ during the voting on the resolution on Sri Lanka, rather than voting against it.

Sri Lanka used South Africa

While international pressure was mounting against Sri Lanka on matters related to accountability and reconciliation, Sri Lanka used South Africa as a vanguard for a new initiative. They secretly informed a few countries that they were closely working with South Africa on reconciliation and that they were learning from the South African experience and its model of conflict resolution.

To please South Africa, they requested Jacob Zuma to be involved in the reconciliation. This led to Jacob Zuma appointing his Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa as his special Envoy to Sri Lanka.

Yet Rajapaksa’s regime portrayed South African involvement in reconciliation, to the people of the South of the island, in the same way as they had managed the portrayal of negotiations with the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam - LTTE, in the past. On one hand the Rajapaksa regime negotiated with the LTTE in foreign countries, while telling the locals that the LTTE was a terrorist organisation with whom they would never negotiate. They informed neither the Cabinet nor their coalition partners about the South African role in reconciliation.

However, South Africa took everything very seriously and did their initial preparations, inviting the government representatives as well as sole representatives of Tamils, the Tamil National Alliance - TNA to South Africa and conducted a thorough study on the political situation in Sri Lanka.

When the South African government had completed its preliminary work, they informed President Rajapaksa of their willingness to visit the island. As soon as the South Africans informed him of their intention to visit, he motivated his coalition partners –National Freedom Front – NFF (Jathika Nidahas Peramuna – JNP) and National Heritage Party (Jathika Hela Urumaya – JHU) to speak out against South African involvement.

Arrival of South African delegation

Even at this stage South Africa did not understand that Rajapaksa was simply using them to prevent international pressure. However after a few cancellations and postponements, eventually the South African delegation, led by Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa, arrived in Sri Lanka on 7th July for a two-day visit.

While they were in Sri Lanka, the government spokesperson, the Media and Information Minister Keheliya Rambukwella who has broken the world record on telling lies, said there was “no agenda or official programme” for the South African Envoy’s visit!

This was followed by the Minister of Housing and President of the National Freedom Front – NFF, Weerawansa, telling the press that the “South Africans were coming as tourists.” The General Secretary of another coalition partner, the National Heritage Party, Minister Champika Ranawaka, said “there would be serious consequences if there was foreign involvement.”

While all these were happening, President Rajapaksa’s siblings, the Secretary of Defence, Gotabhaya Rajapaksa and the Minister of Development, Basil Rajapaksa, who were supposed to meet the South African delegation, kept away from meeting them.

In fact, disasters and humiliation faced by the South African Vice President and his delegation were well manipulated by President Rajapaksa himself. For Rajapaksa, the impending Presidential elections are far more important than the reconciliation process and the South African initiatives.

South Africa learned a lesson

Now a South African high level delegation has seen and experienced the seriousness which the Rajapaksa regime places on a reconciliation process. Also they have heard many facts and realities from the horse’s mouth. It is a pity that South Africa spent so much money, energy, time and manpower on Sri Lanka to earn so much embarrassment and humiliation.

However they must be thankful to Rajapaksa for not allowing them to face the same humiliation and insults that the late Prime Minster of India, Rajiv Gandhi earned on 30 July 1987. When Rajiv Gandhi went to Colombo to sign the Indo-Lanka accord, a naval soldier tried to kill him with his Lee-Enfield rifle.

Now South Africa is another country which has followed India and Norway in knowing the actual thinking of the Rajapaksa regime about his political solution, which is none other than the Colonisation and Sinhalisation which the regime has in mind for the Tamils in the Island.

Therefore, now it is time for South Africa to tell the truth of its involvement in Sri Lanka to the international community. If Jacob Zuma is really interested in peace and reconciliation in Sri Lanka, South Africa should speak out about the realities his delegation has seen and experienced.

This is the only constructive path South Africans can take to contribute to reconciliation in Sri Lanka.

If the visit of Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa was regarding reconciliation, soon after meeting with President Rajapaksa, there would have been a press release by both or at least by President Rajapaksa. But as this never happened; now everyone is confused. Why were Cyril Ramaphosa and his delegation in Sri Lanka? A ridiculous news item contradicting what was said by the government spokesperson, the Media and Information Minister, appearing in the official website of the Sri Lanka President, about the visit of the South African delegation, is given below.

South African Deputy President calls on President Rajapaksa

Official Website of the Sri Lanka President, Tuesday, July 08, 2014 – South African President Jacob Zuma's special envoy to Sri Lanka, Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa called on President Mahinda Rajapaksa at Temple Trees last evening (July 7).

Ramaphosa arrived in Colombo yesterday on a two-day official visit to meet Sri Lankan government, and opposition officials and discuss Sri Lanka's reconciliation process.

“What we are going to do there, we are going to listen to the Sri Lankans,” Deputy South African President said before leaving for Sri Lanka.

Mr. Ramaphosa is accompanied by the Deputy Minister of International Relations and Cooperation, Ms Nomaindia Mfeketo.