The Sunday Leader

Tamil Nadu Checkmated?  

If Colombo’s political manoeuvrings in the past week are to be an indicator, it looks like it has successfully checkmated Tamil Nadu. With the visits of two global economic giants, Japanese Premier, Shinzo Abe, and Chinese President, Xi Jinping, proving an opener to Sri Lanka’s current tryst with the Western world, one could say the Colombo administration won the first round quite impressively. It was clearly a jubilant Mahinda Rajapaksa who went to New York, and an even more confident President who addressed an assembly of some of his most critical of observers this week. He, no doubt, made a convincing plea for understanding and time to deal with issues back home.

The President asked the UN for ‘consistency of standards’ across the board without any perception of selectivity or discrimination.

He questioned the use of ‘human rights as a tool to implement motivated agendas’ with no understanding or appreciation of the complexity of issues in the countries concerned.

“Human rights should be recognised by all as a moral and ethical concept rather than as a political tool. External intervention without adequate consideration of the structures in a society, and cultural traditions of the countries where such intervention takes place, inevitably results in destabilisation, which is very much in evidence today, in most parts of the world,” he said.

He noted that post-conflict Sri Lanka has also become an ‘unfortunate victim’ of ill-conceived agendas of some in the Human Rights Council, who pay scant regard to the substantial progress achieved by Sri Lanka, in reconstruction, rehabilitation and reconciliation within a short span of five years.

“There is an obvious lack of balance and proportion in the manner in which my country is being targeted today, disregarding these significant achievements. This is in sharp contrast with the approach to deeply disturbing situations involving humanitarian emergencies elsewhere,” he said.

The President asked that the process involve ‘de-politicisation of the UN systems and mechanisms’ and they must ‘stop being hostage to different forms of funding.’

UN bodies must find ways to work with governments through dialogue ‘instead of strong arm tactics’ he reiterated.

No doubt the moral support of regional friends who came a calling days before the President left for New York, helped address the issues at hand.


Green light of support

Taking over from the country’s biggest trading partner – the United States – China’s lendings to the country has increased to a $ 490 million in 2012 (an approximately 50-fold increase). It was clear that Colombo had received the green light of support from its immediate neighbour before they left the shores for the UN sessions. Xi’s visit succeeded in fulfilling every strategic dream, be they political or economic of the neighbours. The visit could not have been more timely where Colombo was concerned.

Indian support was made clearly evident on the UN floor when it questioned UNHRC’s credibility in view of the lack of a transparent methodology in the investigation ‘in the absence of cooperation’ from the country concerned. The composition of the OHCHR investigating team, its work methodology and sources of funding, have also not been shared with this Council. We would urge the High Commissioner to do so in order to maintain the credibility of the report.’

India further maintained that the implementation of the LLRC report would ensure the concerns of reconciliation and accountability in Sri Lanka.

It is in a greatly changed regional dynamic that India today stands firmly supportive of Colombo. At this crucial juncture it serves every one of Modi’s interests to engage China in the most positive manner possible. And nothing serves any interest more in the current dynamic than economic. Given that China came carrying $100 billion to invest in India, it is certainly in India’s every ‘strategic’ interest to join forces. This is money Modi needs currently – it is crucial that he gives the domestic economy the jolt it needs. Such help can come also from the $34 billion of Japanese assistance.

India’s clear attempts at baiting China through the use of Japan are both clever and timely. It is certainly what modern day global diplomacy is made of – one that Colombo seems to effectively have made use of. It has the potential to appease a Washington that is getting notably agitated over India’s growing closeness to China, as well as look after its own border issues.

Therefore it becomes of interest to all regional players to maintain the status-quo achieved. Nevertheless, Colombo must not lose sight of its commitment to the neighbouring giant. India, it must be noted, has sought the implementation of the 13th Amendment as a tool of support. Delhi cannot be expected to appease Tamil Nadu, which can still remain a concern for Modi during polls and else times. Modi, now geared for fast tracking the economy, will not favour having to deal with its South at every crucial juncture, and certainly not for Colombo’s benefit.

Until and unless there is sufficient ground reality of meeting the needs of the Tamil community in the North and the East, Colombo can continue to struggle between this difficult equation. It is therefore to Colombo’s interest, both in securing long term support from India as well as winning over the peace with her own minority community, to address these issues. While it is laudable that the government has begun sittings on the disappearances committee, it is crucial that these concerns not remain mere political tools.


Mindful of the implications

Granted, it is not an enviable position that Colombo holds, especially in an election year, when it has to convince its administration’s communal-minded alliance partners who will demand its pound of flesh. How the President will balance the two diametrically opposing views will no doubt make for some interesting observation!

In the immediate aftermath of the local polls, it is also important for Colombo to remain mindful of the implications of losing the local ground support in seeking global recognition. While it makes political sense, and at certain junctures survival of the administration to hold a greater foothold globally, the necessity to remain attuned to the local electorate cannot be emphasized more.

If the government was willing to read the Uva election result in the right spirit, it would not be impossible to note that much remained undone where the rural masses were concerned. While impressive infrastructure facilities are a clear must for a progressing developing country, it is important that the issues of a more humanitarian proportion are not ignored. It is not to the credit of the administration to neglect the concerns of a post-war economy in the face of other international considerations. For a severely drought-hit Uva Province, the newly laid roads, airports and harbours seemed to hold little interest. More importantly, even the war victory held little significance. It is therefore imperative that the government be mindful that its abilities to sell the war may finally be reaching its end.

It is in this arena that the government will have to strategize its electioneering for a Presidential bid. Much will have to be done to show better economic indicators before it can hope to meet the electorate again. While the President still holds the personal popularity over others, it is crucial that there is a better plan to meet the people’s concerns more effectively than mere rhetoric.


2 Comments for “Tamil Nadu Checkmated?  ”

  1. Nawaz Dawood

    More balanced article. However, your projections are not quite true. The UNP and other political parties in the opposition have not reformed even a bit. They have not apologize their pervious conduct in favour of a more patriotic approach had never happened. While suggesting to the government so many things you have never suggested to the opposition how they should improve. I think that is more important than trying to give advise to the government.

  2. Sangaralingham

    Wrong japan is one country ore or less. belong

    t to one unified community of people one. We. We must appreciate thank japan for the effort to bring social harmony. China other hand dictatorial regime. Racial harmony in parts s of the country which the writershouldknowDoing all wonderful thingis away to open itch financial prosperity country experiencing Diue to hard working people working in,s manufacturing industry not all are dignified some must be regarded as a form of slavery. As they are ambitious hard working people they are for this reason tolerating the government See HonkKong .readHonkKonghappening lastfewweksstill in turmoil yes Hong!ongbelongto china

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