Tag Archives: LLRC

Sri Lanka’s Tamil Diaspora in the middle of its ‘Old’ and ‘New’ Friendship battle

President Rajapakse has been maintaining a healthy relationship with China since he came into power in 2005. During the first few years of his term of office neither India nor the US was too worried about this new friend of Sri Lanka.

“Although Sri Lankan President Rajapaksa trumpets the importance of Sri Lanka’s friendship with China, the relationship is very lopsided in terms of trade. For example, in 2008 Chinese exports to Sri Lanka constituted 96% of total bilateral trade. In terms of investment, Hong Kong has become a key source of foreign direct investment to Sri Lanka, while China proper focuses on direct government aid. In contrast, Sri Lanka investment in China consists of a few tea shops. Though at times the Government of Sri Lanka (GSL) asserts it does not need the U.S. and the West since it can turn to new friends such as China, there is no indication that China can replace Western export markets. In terms of investment and trade importance, Sri Lanka’s new friends cannot compete with her old ones in the United States and EU.” -the US Embassy Colombo informed Washington in 2009 on http://www.colombotelegraph.com/

However, the question lies whether Sri Lanka’s new friend actually commenced competing with its old one unexpectedly. As a middle income country that doesn’t continue to be a ‘donor darling’ further was rescued by China’s massive development loans not only from the international economic pressure but also from human rights abuses and other International pressure. By 2011, China became the biggest lender to Sri Lanka by 2011 pledging more than $3bn for infrastructure development, maintenance and other projects, BBC Sinhala Service reported. This novel relationship brought an unexpected state for China in terms of Sri Lankan affairs.

USA and India; good old friends of Sri Lanka that never expected such consequence were disheartened by the whole scenario and were looking forward for means and ways to regain their significant influential capacity in terms of Sri Lankan affairs. The critical question that I raise in this regard is whether the US resolution that was brought-up at the 19th UNHRC session using the support of the Tamil Diaspora was another such attempt to regain their influential power and in the presence of the USA’s scapegoating, whether the Tamil Diaspora also gave up their initial demands for an Independent International Investigation on Sri Lanka’s war crimes.

From the inception of LLRC the Sri Lankan Tamil Diaspora had been extremely critical about each and every aspect of the commission: its members, its structure, the hearings, the interim-report etc. including its final outcomes. Their demands were strongly in line with an International Independent Investigation on war crimes committed by the Government of Sri Lanka as recommended by the UNSG’s Panel Report on Sri Lanka. This whole paradigm shift is a dilemma for me as yet. How did this shift in the thinking and believes of the Tamil Diaspora go through such a sea-change within such a short period? I can think of two main aspects to it: it could be because anything against the government of Sri Lanka keeps the Sri Lankan Tamil Diaspora motivated or it could have been that USA was extremely smart enough to manipulate their strong network and worldwide political communication for the benefit of their cause. Was this whole drama on ‘UNHRC resolution on Sri Lanka’ actually created to stop the whole wave and demand for an Independent International Investigation on Sri Lanka that would have imposed allegations on the Defence Secretary and the then Army Commander who are also citizens of the USA on one hand and to regain the trust of the Sri Lankan government? In this whole context, have ‘Sri Lankan Tamil Diaspora’ been fooled in the middle of diplomacy and politics?

However, at the end of the drama I see the ties between Sri Lanka and its old friends re-gaining…, but are they strong enough to compete with her new friend, China as yet?

TNA is confused …

I remember reading Asanga Welikala’s analysis on TNA’s (Tamil National Alliance) response to the LLRC on http://dbsjeyaraj.com/dbsj/archives/4439 few weeks back and he had rightly mentioned

Without conceptual clarity as to both how Tamil nationalism is politically articulated as well as the substantive constitutional claims it seeks to make, the TNA’s political strategy, in dealing especially with a recalcitrant and triumphalist regime in Colombo, risks confusion in theory and disarray in practice”

I wish to draw the attention of those who read this to highlight the utter confusion that TNA is in with regard to its position on LLRC and the need for an accountability process on the war crimes committed during the last phase of the war. While TNA has described the LLRC’s observations on constitutional reforms as “exceedingly vague” and “mostly rhetorical” they have not set out a serious critique of the overarching constitutional measures and “modest” proposals for the post-war Sri Lanka.

Let me not confuse you further on TNA’s confusion. TNA’s position on the recommendations of the LLRC, particularly on an accountability process highlighted that,

“…the need for an accountability process that meets international standards while delivering on the right of victims to truth, justice and reparations (including guarantees of non-recurrence) is an urgent and important one. Given the government’s failure to institute a process that meets these benchmarks, the TNA calls on the international community to institute measures that will advance accountability and encourage reconciliation in Sri Lanka in keeping with the recommendations of the UN Secretary General’s Panel of Experts.”   

Irrespective of that position, TNA expressed its fullest support (http://www.adaderana.lk/news.php?nid=17263) to the draft resolution tabled by the USA at the UNHRC last week and it mainly includes,

“Noting with concern that the LLRC report does not adequately address serious allegations of violations of international law,

1. Calls on the Government of Sri Lanka to implement the constructive recommendations in the LLRC report and take all necessary additional steps to fulfil its relevant legal obligations and commitment to initiate credible and independent actions to ensure justice, equity, accountability and reconciliation for all Sri Lankans,

2. Requests that the Government of Sri Lanka present a comprehensive action plan as expeditiously as possible detailing the steps the Government has taken and will take to implement the LLRC recommendations and also to address alleged violations of international law,

3. Encourages the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights and relevant special procedures to provide, and the Government of Sri Lanka to accept, advice and technical assistance on implementing those steps and requests the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights to present a report to the Council on the provision of such assistance at its twenty-second session.” [http://transcurrents.com/news-views/archives/9147]

 This confusion raises few questions. Is TNA’s political agenda for Tamil Nationalism a mere strategy to gain power leaving them mere signifiers of ‘identity politics’ [Kaldor Mary in her essay on ‘The politics of New Wars’ use the term ‘identity politics’ to mean movements which mobilize around ethnic, racial or religious identity for the purpose of claiming state power]. Or is it that TNA is merely scapegoated by the diaspora leaders who fix the agenda for them as their financial supporters? Either way, TNA’s confusing position at this juncture put Tamil Nationalist struggle at a greater threat, a risk in the presence of a triumphalist ruler in the South.

The history has showed us that power politikal agendas have scattered the dreams of Tamil Nationalism. I only hope TNA will not repeat the same mistake once again.