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Meeting KP, a diplomatic blunder by Holmes

Just when Sri Lanka appeared to have been successful in thwarting a discussion at the United Nations Security Council, on the ongoing conflict in the North, comes the news that Kumaran (‘KP’) Pathmanathan, the so-called ‘international representative’ of the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) has met with United Nations Humanitarian Chief John Holmes, and appealed to the latter, to broker a cease-fire in the ongoing war.
There are many shocking aspects to this incident, and there doesn’t seem to be any doubt that it happened - there have been no strident denials, since the event received wide publicity in the media, after it was raised by the Jathika Nidahas Peramuna (JNP), now a partner of the ruling United Peoples’ Freedom Alliance (UPFA).

To grasp the magnitude of this diplomatic blunder by Holmes, one must put in perspective Pathmanathan’s ‘impressive’ curriculum vitae. This is a man who has an Interpol alert issued on him, and is a wanted individual in several countries. He has many aliases, and is believed to travel under the cover of two to three dozen identities. He is also believed to be the kingpin behind the mammoth fundraising machinery of the LTTE - a provider of financial lifeblood to the Tigers.

Pathmanathan, therefore, is no ordinary Tiger cadre. In terms of real value to the now depleted Tiger leadership, he is second only to Velupillai Prabhakaran. More importantly perhaps, if the Tiger leader and his son Charles Anthony were to perish in the final onslaught in the North, it could possibly be Pathmanathan who takes over the remnants of the LTTE.

As UN Humanitarian Chief, John Holmes could not have been unaware of KP’s gory background; in fact, he would have been extensively briefed of it. Yet, despite the obvious negative connotations it conveys, Holmes has chosen to make contact with Pathmanathan, among the world’s most wanted men - a criminal, a fugitive and a terrorist, if ever there was one.

Worse still is the role played by Norway. This ‘friendly’ nation, once brokered the now infamous cease-fire between the Government of Sri Lanka and the LTTE. Although that cease-fire agreement (CFA) was hailed at that time by many, as a singular achievement, in hindsight, it is now apparent that the Tigers used it merely to regroup and rearm themselves. The man, who, in all sincerity, signed the deal with the Tigers for the government, Ranil Wickremesinghe is still paying politically, for his error in judgment.
All that of course, is not Norway’s fault. But, it was quite apparent during the latter stages of the cease-fire, where Norway’s sympathies were. The CFA was often violated blatantly by the LTTE, but the Scandinavian nation was quick to spring to its defence. In the very last stages of the CFA, Norway’s envoy, Eric Solheim, was little more than a mouthpiece for the Tigers. Therefore, Norway’s bona fides were always in question, at least in the eyes of the public of Sri Lanka.

Now, Norway has chosen to facilitate contact between Holmes and Pathmanathan. The erstwhile peace broker, although it has no formal role at present, in the Sri Lankan conflict, doesn’t seem to tire of poking its finger in any pie that it can cook up; hence, the ‘facilitation’ of the meeting between the UN official and the terrorist.
Colombo has been understandably aghast. The Foreign Ministry had summoned Oslo’s envoy in Colombo, Torre Hattrem, and demanded to know “why the meeting was arranged without consulting the Sri Lankan Government”.
As we see it, this issue involves much more than ‘consulting the Sri Lankan Government’. For example, doesn’t Norway have an obligation to hand over a man to the relevant authorities, when he is on Interpol’s ‘most wanted’ list, and they have an opportunity to nab him?

This does raise the issue of double standards among these so-called international do-gooders, who masquerade as protectors of human rights and saviours of the oppressed. Are they the well intentioned Messiahs that they often proclaim to be? Or, are there one set of rules for the rich and powerful nations of the West, and another for smaller, poorer nations such as Sri Lanka?

It certainly appears to be so. Would, for instance, John Holmes rush to talk to Osama Bin Laden, if the opportunity were offered to him? And, would Norway facilitate such a contact, if it had the opportunity to do so? And, had Holmes been naive enough to have done that, would he still be holding his rather responsible job today?

Sri Lankans, who know the obvious answers to these questions, would be angry and annoyed, that their country is being treated as a plaything for international heavyweights to toss around at their pleasure. They would probably be disappointed that Colombo did not do more to redress the insult.

The fact that, the JNP, an ally of the government, raised the issue, and then demanded the severing of diplomatic relations with Norway, is an indication of the real sentiments in the corridors of power in Colombo regarding this incident. Nevertheless, especially, at this critical juncture in the war, when Sri Lanka needs all the diplomatic help that it can muster, it is obvious that, it can do no more, except, grin and bear the insult.
But the ‘KP’ incident provides us with an interesting insight into international relations: might is right, whether we like it or not, but smaller countries such as ours, must therefore, take a second look at the rules we play by, instead of pandering to every whim and fancy of some rich or arrogant superpower.