| by Gamini Weerakoon
(October 31, Colombo, Sri Lanka Guardian) Is it: The Time of Reason or Treason, The Time of Light or Darkness, the Time of Humanitarianism or Barbarism or The Time of Democracy or Hypocrisy?
All that we can say is that we are living in interesting times.‘May you live in interesting times’ is a Chinese curse, and you may not have a choice in the matter.
These are indeed interesting times whether in this blessed island or in the rest of the world.
Sri Lanka in these times is setting the pace, as you will realise.
Wars and humanitarian wars
You may have read about the wars of Attila the Hun, Genghis Khan, Persian, Greek and Roman conquerors, the Crusaders, Arab conquerors English and European colonialists and American neo colonialists.
But have you heard of any of them waging a ‘humanitarian war’? No. They had straightforward purposes for war – plunder, murder, plain grabbing of land and property, robbing the temples of their gods, killing natives by cutting their necks and throwing them to the crocodiles,etc.
Sri Lanka was the first to declare a ‘Humanitarian War’ and now the world powers are going in for such humanitarian wars. Take the example of Libya. The United Nations adopted a Resolution to enforce a No-Fly-Zone over Libya purely for humanitarian purposes. They wanted to save poor innocent Libyan civilians from being massacred by their beloved leader Muammar Gaddafi.
NATO forces comprising the Americans and Europeans bombed Libya back into the Stone Age or even beyond into the ages before such as the Mesozoic and Paleolithic ages just to save poor Libyan civilians being massacred! And now the Libyans are said to be dancing on the streets in joy after being liberated but bombed into the Stone Age or even beyond. Collateral civilian damage? Yes, but that is inevitable in such a humanitarian war, as its proponents say.
Western nations and their media, the doughty defenders of human rights saw no violation of human rights of the Libyan leader. Gaddafi was better dead than alive, says The Economist in its latest issue and suggests that whoever who pulled the trigger on Gaddafi should be considered a hero and not investigated as a war criminal!
No such honour has been proposed for those who pulled the trigger on Velupillai Prabhakaran but charges of war crimes are being attempted on Sri Lankan army personnel who are alleged to have pulled the trigger on Prabhakaran’s cohorts by Western powers! A stunning explanation is provided by The Economist for the double standards of the doughty defenders of human rights. ‘Different standards apply to the superpower and its allies. They seek to assert such standards as being universal.
This is a demonstration of Western arrogance, democracy and hypocrisy at its best.
But there are a few glitches even in a humanitarian war on Libya. No war can be – even in this Hi-Tech Age – all 100 percent clean surgical strikes. There will be few bloody messes such as what happened to Muammar Gaddafi.
NATO fighter planes attacked the Libyan leader’s convoy presumably to prevent him from escaping and Gaddafi had to flee in his vehicle. Then some non- humanitarian freedom fighters captured him and we all know about his ghastly end.
Ban Ki-moon and the UN, Western powers and even Third World nations are aghast at what happened. Laws of Western civilization say that you can hound a man to death in the most inhuman way but his body must be disposed of in a humanitarian way. Even in Sri Lanka there were many outspoken critics such as Alavi Moulana and Rauf Hakeem about the way Gaddafi was killed. They were his friends and perhaps their political organisations were beneficiaries of Gaddafi’s munificence.
But it was not only them. The government and the UNP too for once were in agreement in the condemnation of the treatment accorded to Gaddafi in his last moments. The UNP for once got it right when they went further and said that before condemning and calling for an investigation into the death of the former Libyan leader, the government should call for an investigation into the killing of their colleague Bharatha Lakshman Premachandra.
The UNP’s contention it appears is that like charity, humanitarianism too should begin at home.
Time of reason
Mahinda Rajapaksa, a great friend of Gaddafi, once journeyed to the Libyan Desert to exchange fellow revolutionary greetings. It was rumoured that the latter had pledged a $ 500 million loan during our troubled times but that it had not materialized. Despite friendship with Gaddafi, the Rajapaksa regime has recognised the Interim Government of Libya that threw out Rajapaksa’s friend. That indeed is correct diplomacy. In international relations between nations there are no permanent friends, only permanent interests.
While on the subject of diplomacy we wonder whether Sri Lankan diplomacy is traversing through the phase of the Time of Reason. A prime objective of diplomacy and the purpose of diplomats we are told is to make friends and influence people and countries with which we have diplomatic relations.
But it is indeed paradoxical that some of our diplomats are the causes of furores and uproars at places where they have been stationed. A great part of their efforts is spent on denying allegations of war crimes.
True, LTTE fellow travellers are behind it all but is the purpose of dispatching diplomats to foreign countries at great cost, to provoke implacable enemies of a country? It is like adding fuel to fire. Is it diplomatic and does it stand to reason? Attempting to reason it out is however fraught with the danger of being accused of treason for we are dealing with something sacrosanct: war heroes.
‘Living in interesting times’ may not be a curse as the Chinese believe, all of the time. The many events taking place with rapidity in this once sleepy island may be considered a blessing to the Rajapaksa government. For instance, this is budget time and for whatever government it is a time when promises that were made are recalled in rupees and cents.
Our cricketers now playing against Pakistan in the desert sands have been a disaster and not provided the anticipated euphoria to distract attention from broken promises such as increased pay hikes for public servants. The doctors are demanding a five-fold salary hike and that should have set the others in motion.
Fortunately Duminda Silva has provided the fireworks and that have gripped the nation. If that fails to hold public attention till budget blues are over, we can have the ever ready entertainer Mervyn Silva. He can hitch up his sarong and make demands as he has done on TV: Threaten to cut off the arms of butchers who sell meat; remove animals meant for sacrifices to gods by force; ban liquor sales in ‘his electorate’ and as and when he pleases; threaten the media when they embarrass him while also telling parents and teachers that whatever happens in schools, should have his approval.
And what do spokesmen for the law abiding democratic government of Sri Lanka say: It is the fault of the people for electing such representatives!
But why does the all powerful party leader select him as an MP and let him run riot? Democracy or hypocrisy?