Respect Lanka as a sovereign nation

The corridors of power were abuzz last week because of a diplomatic furore in the making - the alleged attempt by the United States Department of Homeland Security to question the Chief of Defence Staff, General Sarath Fonseka while on a visit to that country.

The General now at the centre of a political storm in Sri Lanka as well did return unscathed and unencumbered, but not before raising some serious questions about the bona fides of the Government of the United States of America vis-à-vis Sri Lanka.

The recent turbulent relationship between the two nations is too well documented to merit repetition here. It suffices to state that the United States was among those western powers which strongly advocated a ‘peaceful’ or ‘negotiated’ settlement in Sri Lanka’s conflict with the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE).

With the government of President Mahinda Rajapaksa opting to ignore this line of thinking and pursuing a militaristic strategy against the Tigers and eventually succeeding, Western governments adopted an increasingly hostile attitude towards Colombo alleging human rights abuses, first in the final stages of the Eelam War and thereafter in the treatment of Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs).

So far, Colombo has refused to blink, leave alone yielding to the multi-pronged pressures exerted by the Western powers and other influential sections of the international community. That however has not stopped the latter from flexing its collective muscles against Sri Lanka, the most recent instance being attempts to barter GSP concessions in return for this country’s compliance with imposed conditions.
We would venture to suggest however that the attempt to ‘interrogate’ General Sarath Fonseka goes one step further. It is not only an attempt to intimidate Sri Lanka; it is also a deliberate insult to the integrity and independence of this country.

There were also reports that the attempt to question General Fonseka was also a ruse to implicate Defence Secretary Gotabhaya Rajapaksa. If that is indeed so, then it is an even more serious matter.

Whatever his personal views may be and wherever his latest political inclinations may take him, General Fonseka is the highest ranking military officer in the country. As such he should be accorded due respect even by the so-called most powerful nation in the world. By so doing, the United States is not respecting General Fonseka per se, they are respecting Sri Lanka as a sovereign nation.

If the United States believes that by intimidating General Fonseka, they can score a brownie point in the eyes of the international community, it only speaks volumes for the double standards they adopt and the charade they proclaim as democracy in their own country.

The attempt to embarrass General Fonseka, if one were to draw a parallel, is akin to a State Counsel from the Attorney General’s Department in Hulftsdorp trying to question George Bush (Snr.) on the atrocities committed by the United States in its first war with Iraq over the invasion of Kuwait, while Bush (Snr.) was visiting Sri Lanka after the Tsunami disaster. Ridiculous though this comparison may appear, the present attempts to lure General Fonseka are no less absurd.

Thankfully, Sri Lanka has had the courage to withstand these overtures until now. Whether Colombo can continue to do so remains to be seen. Nevertheless, it is time that Colombo clears the mist in its foreign policy skies and takes a fresh look at its allies and adversaries. After all, with ‘friends’ like the United States, who needs enemies?

Police indiscipline

It was only a few weeks ago that there was a public outcry against the Police after incidents at Malabe and Angulana where the long arm of the law appeared to have acted with no respect whatsoever for the very laws that they claim to uphold.
If those incidents were shocking, then this week’s incident of a mentally ill person being clubbed to death at Bambalapitiya until he drowned, in broad daylight and while being watched by hundreds of onlookers borders on the abominable.

It took a private television station renowned for its frank discourses on current events to expose the event to the country. The culprits will be brought to justice, we have been assured.
The incident however must prompt several pertinent questions. When will the Police ever learn and when will these officers begin to behave like gentlemen instead of taking the law into their own hands? And what must be done to curb this indiscipline and irresponsible attitude of the Police?

Deterrents are surely called for. And the only viable deterrent is to deal with the miscreants in a fitting manner so that their peers get the message that they cannot be a law unto themselves.

The Police Department recently welcomed a new Inspector General of Police. We must wish him luck for he will need all the luck that he can get if he is to transform this service into one that once again enjoys the confidence of the general public.
But we must also confess that we are not waiting with bated breath for that to happen, not in the near future, anyway.