by The Nation
British High Commissioner, John Rankin, has openly challenged a statement made by President Mahinda Rajapaksa regarding scaling down of military presence in the North and East. Rankin has stated that the LTTE is no longer engaging in military activities and as such questioned the logic of a military presence in these areas that is of a magnitude not seen in other parts of the country.
We can forgive the man for being ignorant about the needs for surveillance and (re) educate him about the well-known English phrase ‘Better safe than sorry’, pointing out the following: a) military consolidation is necessary in the aftermath of a 30-year long war, b) the road from relative calm to all out conflict is short, and the World is not lacking in governments that are ever ready to provide guns and money to further their interests, through ‘regime-change’ efforts and/or fueling bloody conflicts, (General Wesley Clark confessed that Middle Eastern destabilization was planned way back in 1991!), and c) LTTE-backers in the West have not given up on their dream of a separate state and neither have they dropped their principal operative stance: By any means necessary.
It would better to tell him that we know what he knows but keeps silent about. Britain continues to have a military presence in Cyprus, Falkland Islands, Gibraltar, Sierra Leone, Pakistan, Belize, Brunei and Canada. ‘At the behest of rulers,’ they might say. Half a decade after the Northern Ireland conflict was ‘resolved’, British troops remain. Why? The United States of America maintains a military presence in over one hundred countries with no talk whatsoever of ‘scaling down’ even though, unlike Sri Lanka, there is not even a shadow of a threat to those states from terrorists or other ill-willed entities.
Can anyone be blamed therefore for saying ‘What gumption, Mr. Rankin!’?
All of the above, however, are of peripheral concern and mentioned just so he knows we know what’s happening in the World. What is more important is that this individual, either out of ignorance or, more likely, arrogance, has overstepped the boundaries of diplomatic protocol. We are not a British colony and Mr. Rankin is not a viceroy. He is out of order. He is incompetent and has to be considered a threat to the security of this country. We can pretend he didn’t say all this, but that’s clearly not going to earn us any favors from this nation, which is still a monarchy, admits that it invaded Iraq illegally, has scripted torture into interrogation manuals and has aided and abetted the USA in monumental crimes against humanity all over the World.
John Rankin has overstayed his welcome. He needs to go.
The importance of disclosure
The Leader of the Opposition, Ranil Wickremesinghe, made a very valid point in Parliament this week. Referring to the mysterious ‘Plan of Action’ that Minister of External Affairs, G.L. Peiris is said to have submitted to US Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton, Wickremesinghe said that it is the right of the people in this country to know what kinds of plans the Government has about anything and especially (as in this case) when it comes to matters such as reconciliation and resolving of antagonisms. Wickremesinghe must be applauded without reservation for demanding disclosure and the Government must be faulted without hesitation for doing this behind-the-backs-of-the-people number, especially considering the unfriendly behavior of the USA towards Sri Lanka in Geneva in March.
Wickremesinghe’s patriotism, however, needs to be taken with a pinch of salt, for he signed a Ceasefire Agreement with a terrorist without any by-your-leave of the people on February 22, 2002. Neither did he object when his uncle and then president, J.R. Jayewardene palmed off sovereignty to Rajiv Gandhi on July 29, 1987 without informing the people, and hiding parts of the documents when presenting it in Parliament and bulldozing through objections using an illegally obtained (through the 1982 Referendum) two-thirds majority. He may have matured or it may have been lip-service as is typical of those in opposition, i.e. self-righteous objection that slips into matter-of-fact capitulation when in power.
He is correct, even though he may lack the moral authority here for he is yet to confess to errors of omission and commission on the issue of disclosure. He may not have the moral authority, but we, as citizens, certainly do. We can and must ask, ‘What is this “Plan of Action”?’ We can and must object: ‘No, not behind our backs, for we’ve suffered much on previous occasions’. We can and must remind: ‘This is a democracy, not a monarchy!’ The ball is in the Government’s court and the fact that Wickremesinghe tossed it is incidental. This Government didn’t seek US approval for executing the military strategy that resulted in the eradication of terrorism, and such it is legitimate for people to ask why sorting out post-war issues as well as addressing grievances that contribute to the conflict require ratification, shall we say, of the US Government.