Russias 9/11 and CBKS defining
by Dayan Jayatilleka
The fatal flaw of both the Sri Lankan political class and the intelligentsia
across the ideological spectrum has been their incapacity for strategic
let alone Grand strategic thinking.
The iconic editor emeritus of The Times (London), William Rees Mogg,
a man of magisterial pronouncements on behalf of the Establishment,
is not given to sensationalism. His comment on the massacre of Russian
schoolchildren by Chechen separatist terrorists bears the caption "
a tragedy of historic proportions and flow-on effects". Classing
it with Pearl Harbour and 9/11 he says: "Potentially it changes
everything `85 Strategically Beslan pushes Russia, which is a major
power and a nuclear one, towards working with the US against terrorism
and in the Middle East. China and India have similar motives and a similar
form of terrorism".
Now for Gods sake, dont drop this catch as well. We fumbled
the 9/11 catch with President Kumaratungas speeches at the LSE
and in Delhi where she wimped out, declaring that "terrorism cannot
be solved by military means `85 blah, blah, blah". If she had said
military means alone, she would have been right, but she didnt.
Of course the catch was well and truly- and deliberately grassed
and her bad timing dwarfed into insignificance, by Ranil Wickremesinghes
criminal treachery, when he functioned as a human shield for Prabhakaran
during the US global war on terror and sabotaged our finest counter-terrorism
instruments, the DMI, the LRRP/LRP and their Tamil assets.
Second Chance: CBK at UN
Now we and she have a second chance. And it is the last
chance we shall get. Much can be achieved during President Kumaratungas
UN visit. It is a defining moment in her presidency and the Lankan crisis.
She can turn the whole international situation in her and our
- favour if she gets it right. There is no margin for error. The trick
is not to spend time reassuring the world that everything is fine and
dandy with Sri Lanka, the peace talks will resume, the Tigers wont
go to war (she thought the same in 1995!), the JVP is for power sharing,
only the UNP is being horrid etc. etc. The thing is to be frank and
honest before the world, win it over, in her speech and (hopefully)
numerous media appearances. As Amilcar Cabral said: "Tell no lies,
claim no easy victories. The best propaganda is the truth".
She must seize the moral high ground with her General Assembly address,
which must be as memorable as those by her father in 56 and mother
in 71. Ride the new anti-terrorism wave. Reiterate the case made
so brilliantly by Foreign Minister Kadirgamar in his Eastern European
speech months before 9/11, of the indivisibility of the fight against
terrorism, an address that had a ring of all for one, one for
all. Develop it by making the point that the propaganda against
the war on terror, namely that it is a crusade against Islam, can only
be countered by the example of firm stand against a non-Islamic terrorist
army like the Tigers, which has exploded more suicide bombs that all
the Islamic fanatics put together, has a pirate navy which potentially
threatens international commerce and oil transport through the Indian
Ocean, and is responsible for murdering Rajiv Gandhi, a man who had
addressed that august assembly and the son and grandson of two illustrious
leaders who had done so.
President Kumaratunga must directly appeal to her audience of fellow
leaders: the Tigers killed Sri Lankas President Premadasa and
strove to kill her, blinding her in one eye: if there are no commensurate
consequences for the Tigers who have targeted more heads of state than
any other terrorist group, then every terrorist group will consider
it open season on the worlds leaders her UN audience. She
must call for the global war on terror to be driven by a global strategic
alliance as in World War 2 and undergirded by a second tier of regional
collective security arrangements.
Make a firm commitment to the Oslo agreement on federalism, state our
case, lay it out, show the intransigence of the Tigers, explain why
the ISGA is unacceptable in its present form, and set out the substantial
autonomy reforms she is offering, expose the Tigers horrid violations
of the rights of their own people especially the children (in this post-Breslan
moment), point out resumption of suicide bombings, underscore the dangers
to the volatile region and the world, and then ask for support.
Seek support in two forms: advice and assistance to restart the peace
process and this time manage it more successfully. This can take the
form of joining the process, turning the facilitation/mediation into
a multilateral exercise or supplementing the facilitator with a mediator.
Having thus convinced them of her sincere commitment to a negotiated
peace, she must simultaneously seek help in a sweeping series of meetings
with heads of state (who must not be kept waiting!) for the strengthening
our defences against surprise attack. This means strategic alliances
with the US, Russia, China and India; advisors, training, equipment,
a variety of joint working groups and defence protocols in the face
of the threat of terrorist war; and active support in the event of one.
The Norwegian Question
We never liked the facilitator, whoever it was. Remember G. Parthasarathy,
Prime Minister Indira Gandhis envoy? He wasnt a "white,
Western, Christian, imperialist", far from it - and yet, there
was this huge outcry from exactly the same quarters, against him and
the agreement he stitched together, Annexure C. Remember the break-up
of the All-Parties Conference of 1984? If we had implemented Annexure
C in 84, we wouldnt have experienced the airdrop of 87
and the Indo-Lanka Accord, or be facing the ISGA today.
It was smart to get a facilitator. It was dumb to get the Norwegians.
They are now almost as much a part of the problem as of the solution.
But we cant throw them out except at great risk to us. Yet we
have to do something about it. Can we? Yep. We needed a facilitator
because the two sides werent talking and we needed to show the
world we were ready to explore all possibilities of a negotiated solution.
Why did we need to show the world? Because we needed the money, stupid
- and we still do.
Why were the Norwegians a bad choice? Because they could not possibly
be neutral umpires: in 1987 they co-sponsored a resolution against us
at the UN Human Rights Commission in Geneva. In 1987 mind you, not 1983
when it would have been amply justified. By 1987 the Government of Sri
Lanka was willing to negotiate and had agreed to the devolution of power.
By 1987 the Tigers had burned hundreds of Tamil youth alive in the streets
of Jaffna, attacked pilgrims at Anuradhapura.
Norway could not be a neutral umpire for structural reasons: it had
a large and powerful Tamil lobby. Yet President Kumaratunga in her wisdom
picked Norway out of several dozen countries that had stepped forward
as facilitators! The Tigers had turned down the French, but Colombo
made no mileage out of that by exposing it to the outside world as evidence
of the LTTEs inflexibility. But Ill say one thing for the
Kumaratunga administration: it was capable of course-correction. When
Eric Solheim was manifestly tilting, Foreign Minister Kadirgamar successfully
lobbied to dilute his pernicious role by getting a higher-ranking Norwegian
representative to handle the facilitation. Under Prime Minister Ranil
Wickremesinghe though, it got way out of hand.
Brother, Can you Spare a Kroner?
I do not know whether the Norwegians imparted military instruction to
the LTTE, and I think the jury is still out on that one. Thats
not the main point. Let us for a moment accept the Norwegian explanation.
Could they kindly tell us (with some evidence please) whether they extended
the same courtesy to the PLO and the Guatemalan URNG guerrillas, before
a settlement, while they were playing their facilitating role and negotiations
were on? And if not why not?
The Americans played a far more successful role in ending protracted
armed conflict El Salvador and Ireland. Can you imagine for a moment,
the Salvadoran FMLN being gifted radio equipment and touring a US military
facility before they were decommissioned and while Secretary of State
James Baker III was still negotiating? Or the IRA being given satellite
equipment and touring a US army installation while Senator George Mitchell
was brokering the Good Friday agreement? Cmon, gimme a break.
So either the Norwegians are perfidious or they are plain stupid, and
whichever it is, it doesnt qualify them for a decent facilitation
effort. But we cant kick them out. The umpire may be a hora, a
crook, but we cant invade the field and throw him out. We cannot
afford to. What we need are the third umpire and the match referee.
Meaning we have to do some damage control and dilute the Norwegian role
by putting some one alongside or atop them or both.
See You Later, Facilitator
The Kampuchean crisis was resolved by a multilateral exercise, ASEAN
plus China. We should be able to interest some countries in helping
resuscitate a negotiation process by being co-facilitators/mediators.
Id suggest South Africa. It has already engaged on the margins,
with Ebrahim Ebrahim, Senior advisor to the Vice President, visiting
Sri Lanka fairly often, talking to the Tigers while helping both the
Presidents and (then) Prime Ministers advisory staffs during
the Mano-Malik talks. Ebrahim was very senior in the ANCs military
and intelligence apparatus, spent 16 years on Robben Island with Mandela
and is a man of great integrity. South Africas Justice Albie Sachs,
a highly respected ANC activist and architect of the countrys
new constitution, who lost an arm in a bomb attack by the apartheid
regimes secret police, has also visited Sri Lanka twice, in relation
to the peace process. Former Defence Minister Roelf Meyer, who was the
apartheid regimes chief negotiator with the ANC during the historic
transition to freedom, is thoroughly acquainted with our crisis, as
is Prof. Nick Haysom who is an advisor on the Sudanese peace process.
While the ANC has relations with the Tigers, thats a reason that
the Tigers will find refusal costly. It has not played fast and loose
as Norway has, and most of these South African personalities have good
relations with President Kumaratunga and Foreign Minister Kadirgamar.
Thats one way to go. Theres another. Pick one or more Eminent
Persons as a superstructure or penthouse atop the Norwegian effort.
Nobel Prize winner John Hume has already volunteered, and he can swing
the funds. He heads the bloc of Socialist MPs in the European parliament,
the biggest single bloc within it. At a meeting convened by his Lankan
host and the only civil society peace activist whose integrity,
sincerity and non-mercenary nature I tend to trust, inpacts Tyrol
Ferdinands (who is also Ebrahim Ebrahims Lankan link), he told
a small group of us that his friend Fernando Solana could fund the effort
on behalf of the EU. Hume has an excellent relationship with both Delhi
and Oslo, so there shouldnt be a problem.
If one is not enough, we can constitute an Eminent Persons Group: John
Hume, ex-President Jimmy Carter, East Timors Foreign Minister
and Nobel Prize winner Jose Ramos Horta (a personal friend of Colombo
Universitys Prof. Laksiri Fernando who is on a presidential peace
advisory panel) are names that come to mind. Interfacing with Lakshman
Kadirgamar and Jayantha Dhanapala (with his top level UN negotiating
experience), this would be a powerful peace-making team.
Interim Modus Vivendi
What would be the purpose of such a project? At the Alliance for Progress
founding conference in Punta Del Este, Uruguay in 1961, Ernesto Che
Guevara and Richard Goodwin, John F. Kennedys advisor had a long
discussion. Che said that an understanding between the two states was
impossible but that Cuba would like "a modus vivendi, or at least
an interim modus vivendi" (Gleijeses: 2002, p 15). If it was good
enough for Che, just months after the Bay of Pigs, in regard to Yankee
imperialism which he considered not only Cubas but humanitys
great enemy and gave his life fighting against, it should be good enough
for any of us in relation to the Tigers.
The Cuban initiative never succeeded, and the US is a democratic imperialist
state unlike the LTTE, which is an armed totalitarian movement. So what
if Prabhakaran refuses? Theres no downside for us. The Tigers
would thereby betray their true nature to the whole world - all we have
to do is blow the whistle. The international media would pick it up
anyway. That would put us on a much better footing in a war.
And yes, despite the whistles in the dark and ostrich postures of analytically-challenged
columnists, veteran diplomat Nanda Godage (The Island, Sept 07) is right:
there is a danger, a threat of war in the face of which we must not
be provocative (or I might add, provoked), but resolutely prepared.