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
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
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
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
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
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.