Cohesive diplomatic strategy needed

The Moon saga, it seems, will not end in the near future. As Sri Lanka braces itself for a decisive tussle with United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-moon, the stage is being set nationally and internationally for a high intensity drama that will be played out in the coming days.
Moon announced this week that he is unable to act on the recommendations of the advisory panel he arbitrarily appointed to probe the last days of the Eelam war, unless Sri Lanka agreed or member states of the UN mandated him to do so.
This statement is ominous. In effect it indicates that Moon is now seeking approval from a recognised UN body such as the Security Council to initiate a war crimes probe against Sri Lanka. And it will be the Sri Lankan political and military leadership that will be in the dock.
On paper the war crimes allegations are both against the Sri Lankan state and the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) but that is of only academic interest because the latter does not exist anymore in any substantial form for anyone to answer those charges.
The possibility of an international war crimes probe cannot be wished away or summarily dismissed. That is because Moon has the backing or rather, is being pressurised by, key states such as the United States (US) and the United Kingdom (UK) to constitute such an inquiry.
Both the US and the UK this week formally
welcomed the release of the report and called upon Sri Lanka to respond favourably to its recommendations which include an independent mechanism to probe the alleged war crimes allegations.
Sri Lanka will be hoping that its allies, Russia and China, will stand by it in its hour of need and veto any such proposal. Indeed, diplomatic efforts are underway to secure this support. However, whether these countries will do so at the expense of annoying the western bloc is a moot point.
This week, the Indian factor also came into play. Our giant neighbour’s role was highlighted by former UN spokesman Gordon Weiss who entered the fray suggesting that India was also responsible for the final stages of the war, as it provided tacit military support to Colombo.
Then, the leader of the Indian political party PMK (Pattali Makkal Katchchi), S. Ramadoss went a step a further and suggested that India should help in the creation of an Eelam, just as it had supported the birth of Bangladesh from East Pakistan in the early seventies.
The UN did disown the remarks of its former spokesman, but the Indian can of worms had already been opened. Over the last few days it was clear that Colombo would seek assistance from Delhi on the issues that arise from the Moon panel report. That is only to be expected.
What is needed at this juncture however is a cohesive diplomatic strategy to avert any possible disastrous consequences. Playing to the gallery of the Sri Lankan public and burning Moon in effigy can be done, but it must not be at the expense of speaking with one voice.
Just this week, we had Minister Keheliya Rambukwella telling us that there will be protests against Moon. Minister Wimal Weerawansa announced that Colombo expected a favourable response from Delhi. And Minister G.L. Peiris said the government did not encourage protests!
Moreover, at the opposite end of the political spectrum, the Tamil National Alliance (TNA) has welcomed the Moon report and the United National Party (UNP) has appointed a committee to ‘study’ the report before announcing its formal response!
This is not the chorus of a nation speaking with one voice. In fact it is noise of the bleating of political opportunists who come in many forms and infest both government and opposition ranks. And the best they can do at this juncture for the sake of their country is to remain silent.
This issue is now not about the United Peoples’ Freedom Alliance (UPFA), the UNP or the TNA. It is about whether Sri Lanka should have defeated the LTTE and its reign of terror in the manner that it did. And we know that the answer to that question is an overwhelming ‘yes’.
If that is so, it is indeed deplorable that opposition political parties should try to steal a march over the government using this crisis. It is also a sorry sight to see ministers trying to outdo each other, engaging in Moon bashing, just to appear politically macho in the eyes of the public.
We must leave it to the policy makers in politics and diplomacy to figure out the best way to ease Sri Lanka out of its current predicament. Until that is done, it is best that petty politics takes a back seat for patriotism these days has given refuge to many a scoundrel.
The time has come for ruling party politicians and more importantly, opposition political parties to realise that if they do otherwise, they will be helping only one man: Ban Ki-moon. Saner counsel, we hope, will prevail in the days ahead.