Bulldozer mentality of the Western Powers | Daily News


 

Bulldozer mentality of the Western Powers

Picture by Sudath Silva
Picture by Sudath Silva

On May 27, 1991 when the British High Commissioner David Gladstone was declared persona non grata by President Ranasinghe Premadasa for ‘interfering with the country’s internal affairs’, many international watchers such as this columnist felt, though the meddling Toms should be told where to get off, Premadasa should not have taken that extreme step.

Nearly 10 years ago when President Mahinda Rajapaksa gave a patient hearing to British Secretary of State David Miliband and French Foreign Minister Bernard Kushner under the shade of a tamarind tree in Ambilipitiya and told them to mind their own business, we were happy about the stand taken by Sri Lanka, but wondered whether the way they were treated was in line with diplomatic protocol.

These two incidents came to the mind when the latest incident of eight Western envoys staying away from the first meeting with foreign envoy called by amiable new Foreign Minister Dr. Sarath Amunugama to brief them on the current political developments and constitutional provisions pertaining to recent steps taken by the government.

Since, the removal of Ranil Wickremesinghe and appointment of Mahinda Rajapaksa as Prime Minister some of the Western countries led by the United States and the European Union had been urging President Maithripala Sirisena to reconvene Parliament and let the legislature determine who should be prime minister. The President issued Gazette Notification to reconvene Parliament on November 14, but due to undemocratic developments such as influencing Members of Parliament to cross over by offering huge bribes and the Speaker Karu Jayasuriya’s peculiar behaviour of surpassing his powers and calling public servants not to follow orders, the President decided to dissolve Parliament and call for a general election.

Foreign Minister briefed foreign diplomats based in Colombo at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and clarified the chain of events that compelled President Sirisena to arrive at the decision to dissolve Parliament. He emphasized the constitutionality of the steps taken by President Sirisena and added that having being elected through a nation-wide vote, the President derives his authority directly from the people of Sri Lanka.

It is most unfortunate that diplomatic representatives of the so-called champions of democracy were not there to listen to Minister Amunugama’s stand that in the event of a conflict within the supreme democratic institution, seeking a mandate from people was the best democratic alternative available to the government.

Democratic traditions

Meddling foreign missions have failed to take note of the peaceful atmosphere that continues to prevail in Sri Lanka in the midst of internal political changes. This is to the credit of the people of Sri Lanka and re-affirms the democratic traditions of the country, Dr. Amunugama said.

President Sirisena, took the law and order machinery also into his command to effectively discharge his responsibility of ensuring the security and safety of all Sri Lankans. It is a credit to these measures that no untoward incident has taken place despite prevalent of political tensions.

While the United States and Western powers try to interfere in internal politics in a shameless blatant manner, Russia, China, Japan, Pakistan and several other countries came forward to extend fullest support to the genuine democratic efforts taken by the government, thus proving who the real friends of Sri Lanka are.

Several diplomatic representatives present at the briefing expressed their confidence in the strength of Sri Lanka’s longstanding democratic traditions in resolving this internal matter.

Those who allegedly boycotted Foreign Minister’s briefing include the ambassadors of Britain, Netherlands, Norway, France, Australia, South Africa, Italy, and Canada. However, European Union, the United States, Germany and India sent junior representatives. Twenty heads of missions turned up for the meeting including those of China, Cuba, Afghanistan, Turkey and Pakistan.

In a surprising move, the EU, instead of watching the developments to see if there will be any deterioration in the areas of reconciliation and human rights, thought it was befitting to issue a warning that it could withdraw trade concessions if Sri Lanka backs off commitments on human rights.

At the meeting Foreign Minister Amunugama said no country has said anything about cancelling grants, concessions or loans. Although, the United States supposedly holding off the proposed US$480 million infrastructure grant from Millennium Challenge Corporation (MCC) ‘until the political crisis is resolved and democratic rights are restored’, the fact is that the MCC grant will commence only in 2019 and they will be able to judge for themselves whether the human rights situation is satisfactory or not because the political crisis will well be over by then.

Answering a question earlier if there was any threat of de-recognizing Sri Lanka by any country, Dr Amunugama told media that there is no question of recognition here. No foreign Government has stopped recognizing the Government of Sri Lanka as embodied in the President of this country. Only the other day, the President accepted the credentials of Ambassadors for US, France, Japan and Afghanistan. There are daily contacts with the foreign representatives in Sri Lanka. So, there has no issue of recognizing. All are recognized and nothing has been changed. So as far as this Government is concerned, it is business as usual. In terms of the Constitution, the President has taken some decisions that are not the concern of others, Foreign Minister said.

Constitutional rights

The step taken by President Sirisena is in accordance with his constitutional rights and if foreign Governments want, they can express an opinion. However, they have no right to intervene in internal affairs of Sri Lanka, a sovereign, democratic nation.

Of course, any friendly country can express their desire for peace and calm in Sri Lanka. Now they can be satisfied that there had been no violence due to the political turmoil. What some of the media has portrayed abroad as acts of violence were matters unrelated to politics. The incident at the Petroleum Ministry was due to a clash between two rival trade unions. Since then there had not been any incident of violence.

Talking about foreign interference in local elections, let us go back to Gladstone incident. In the 1990s Britain was considered as one of the biggest aid donors to Sri Lanka. British High Commissioner, David Gladstone CMG (most Distinguished Order of Saint Michael and Saint George) was a descendent of one time British Prime Minister, William Gladstone.

During the local government elections in 1991, Gladstone went to Dickwella Police station and lodged a report that ‘having observed some irregularities during the local elections’. Such interference in an election was against all norms of diplomatic conduct and President Premadasa ordered then Foreign Secretary Bernard Tilakaratna to declare David Gladstone persona non grata and evict the diplomat from the country. Sri Lanka may have lost some British grants at that time, but London later saw the rationale of the move and resumed relations with Sri Lanka. They did not even evict the Sri Lanka High Commissioner in London.

The interfering Toms Dicks or Harrys should understand that there is a limit to a patience of a proud nation and grants and concessions are no match when it is an issue of the pride of the nation.

 


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