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Editorial


IDPs and Blake’s mighty hurry

United States Assistant Secretary of State Robert Blake, more familiar to Sri Lankans as Uncle Sam’s former envoy in Colombo, doesn’t appear to have stopped dabbling in this country’s affairs, even though he has relinquished his posting here.
Blake was quoted as telling the equally partisan British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) that delays in devolving power among the different communities could lead to opportunities for the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) to regroup.

Blake doesn’t hide his impatience either. In what amounts to political blackmail, he says of the internally displaced persons (IDPs) in the North: “Our ability to provide money for reconstruction and for resettlement and livelihood...will depend a lot on the progress that Sri Lanka makes in terms of abiding by its commitment to resettle the IDPs as quickly as possible”.

Quite apart from the propriety of a middle level US bureaucrat telling a sovereign country how it should handle its internal affairs, Robert Blake needs to be reminded of some of the stark realities of the Sri Lankan circumstances. Having served in this country, if he is unaware of these issues, he would be a dunce; if he chooses to ignore them, he is guilty of hypocrisy of the worst kind.
Colombo has made its position clear on the proposed political reforms that would follow the conclusion of the separatist war. The government has already announced that any changes in the country’s legislative and administrative structure would have to await the conclusion of major elections -presidential and general - due by April next year.

Although eight months more may test the patience of Robert Blake, surely, it is not too long for a nation which waited 30 years for this conflict to end. Moreover, it makes perfect political sense to implement reforms in the aftermath of major polls, because these elections could be converted into virtual referenda on the national question.

We have experienced ad hoc and unilateral attempts to resolve this vexed problem such as the implementation of the Indo-Lanka Accord over 20-years-ago. The people’s opinion was not sought, and the result was an unmitigated disaster, both for the country and for the United National Party government which initiated it, for it gave life to and sustained a second southern insurrection by the Janatha Vimukthi Peramuna (JVP). Surely, Sri Lanka wouldn’t want history to repeat itself.

Then, Robert Blake is also is in a mighty hurry to resettle the IDPs in the North. It is easy for Blake to say that his country will loosen its purse strings only if we follow Washington’s bidding and do what they want, when they want us to. After all, it was Blake’s boss, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton who said that financial assistance to Sri Lanka from the International Monetary Fund should be deferred. The less we have of that kind of help with strings attached, the better it would be for Sri Lanka.

What Blake and his handlers ignore are the security concerns that surround the IDPs. It is no secret that many hardcore terrorists are still taking refuge within the IDP camps. A systematic weeding out of these elements is under way, and proof of that comes in the many finds of arms and ammunition in the south of the country, based on information provided by detained Tiger cadres. Even high ranking police officers have been unmasked as LTTE agents in this exercise.

Just one example would suffice to convince the rest of the world - the arrest of Kumaran Pathmanathan (KP) was made possible by piecing together information collated from many such LTTE operatives. KP’s arrest has provided the authorities with a gold mine of intelligence that can only be used to undermine the remnants of the LTTE and negate any chance of the organisation regrouping. But Robert Blake would like us to abandon this exercise for the sake of political expediency, just so that IDPs can be resettled “as quickly as possible”!

Come, Come, Mr. Blake. Who are we trying to bluff here? The LTTE- whether you like it or not - is dead. For achieving that goal which many said was impossible, Sri Lanka deserves credit. It also deserves the time and the opportunity to resolve internal grievances in a manner that it sees fit, without self appointed pundits telling it what to do. So, the less we have of your myopic views on this issue, Mr. Blake, the better it is both for Sri Lanka and for your own reputation.

Visa courtesy

The British are reputed to be a nation with a great sense of humour, despite their proverbial stiff upper lip. They probably are.
Why else would it be, when the British High Commission in Colombo summons the Attorney General of Sri Lanka for an interview, when he applies for a visa? Let us be charitable to the British and say it was all part of procedure, and that no one is an exception, shall we?

How then did notorious gangster and drug lord ‘Kudu Lal’ emplane to the United Kingdom, with nothing more than a personal escort right up to the tarmac by an equally notorious minister?
We haven’t heard that he was deported at Heathrow, so he probably had a visa, courtesy of the same British High Commission in Colombo that wanted to interview our Attorney General in person!
We must hope that Her Majesty would not want to visit Sri Lanka again. Why, God forbid, if she did, she would have to queue up at our High Commission in Hyde Park Gardens, be interviewed about her bona fides and get her visa to Sri Lanka, wouldn’t she?

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