The attempt by a New York court to serve summons on Sri Lanka’s Deputy Permanent Representative to the UN Major General Shavendra Silva is short-sightedness at its worst. To begin with, as pointed out by the Sri Lanka Foreign Ministry, this is a glaring violation of the laws and conventions governing the treatment of the diplomatic representatives of member states of the UN.
The court action is in clear violation of the time-honoured norm of immunity from legal action, usually enjoyed by a country’s diplomatic representatives abroad and could have a deeply destabilizing impact on the West’s relations with Sri Lanka.
It was mentioned in some quarters that the initiators of the court action meant it to be a ‘test case’ of some sort. Implied in this perception is the awareness that the summons had a questionable legal foundation and that the court action was launched on an experimental or hit-or-miss basis. If this is so, we could only conclude that the authorities in question have been acting in a most irresponsible fashion. For, the illegal nature of the act of serving summons should have right along been seen and ruled out as a possible course of action in the circumstances in question. If this is a matter of ‘testing the waters’ we are left with the reflection that no stone is being left unturned by anti-Lanka elements in their search for ways to humiliate and harass Sri Lanka.
On the face of it, the most fundamental of laws pertaining to the treatment of diplomatic representatives by states are being violated by actions of this kind that fly in the face of the finest norms of inter-state courtesy.
Moreover, the Sri Lankan state is ever willing to provide our diplomats abroad with all the assistance required in these situations and our diplomats could rest assured of the staunchest backing of the state.
President Mahinda Rajapaksa in his recent address to the UN General Assembly pulled no punches when he warned against ‘discriminatory approaches’ and partiality in the treatment of states by the more powerful actors of the current global political order. We too lend our voice to that of the President in warning against discriminatory treatment of the less powerful states of the world by those states which are in positions of influence in the global power structure.
The adoption of Janus-faced policies could prove extremely harmful for two reasons at least. One, the Rule of Law is stood on its head. Two, extremist political forces are greatly strengthened and emboldened by the unlawful treatment of law-abiding states.
It is highly ironic that the Darusman Panel Report had its origins within the UN system. This is because the sovereign equality of states is a foundational principle of the UNO. In terms of this cardinal principle, every state enjoys the right to defend itself and to protect its territorial integrity against separatist forces. This is exactly what the Lankan state did when it took on the LTTE and saw to its disempowerment and defeat. Any legally-constituted state in Sri Lanka’s situation would have been obliged to do what Sri Lanka did and Sri Lanka, for one, would never begrudge them this inalienable right.
Why are some of the powerful of the world ganging-up against Sri Lanka, then, and that too in the most oppressive fashion? The most intelligible answer that we could arrive at is the irrepressible need of the powerful to have compliant, submissive states in particularly the Third World. Sri Lanka proved that it could put down the Tigers without the help of the West and this has perhaps aggravated the general animosity of the powerful against a resourceful and independent state in the developing world, which Sri Lanka proved to be.
Apparently, the powerful are willing to bend, distort and even abandon the core principles of International Law for the purpose of holding the whip-hand over the up and coming states of the developing world.
But it should be realized by the more unscrupulous powers of the West that the results of such actions could be greater international anarchy and lawlessness. In an anarchic world no one would be secure and the powerful in the international political system ought to know this by now. Here too, the tragic myopia of the powerful could be amply seen.
But, as we have warned in this commentary time and again, the brow-beaters of the West could be only giving a much longed for fillip to the extremist racist political forces in both Northern and Southern Sri Lanka and their backers abroad by their continued efforts to victimize Sri Lanka.
This is the second reason why double standards by the West are harmful. Is this the desired result? If so, the result could be extremely disquieting for all concerned. For, the forces of communalism will not only prove divisive in Sri Lanka but breed countless law and order issues for the West, so that the powerful would ‘sleep no more.’