| by Upul Joshep Fernando
Courtesy: Ceylon Today
( December 12, 2012, Colombo, Sri Lanka Guardian) It is common knowledge that the Chief Justice (CJ), Dr. Shirani Bandaranayake, was slapped with an impeachment motion in Parliament purely due to the Supreme Court, headed by her, finding the government’s Divi Neguma Bill in violation of certain provisions of the Constitution. She could have been motivated by the fact the said Bill was an obstacle to the functioning of Provincial Councils set up under the 13 Amendment.
Provincial Councils are, to all intents and purposes, Rajive Gandhi’s baby. He had to pay for it with his life. The Divi Neguma Bill, which sought to usurp certain powers devolved to Provincial Councils, was refused approval by the Supreme Court, headed by the CJ. This led to a clash between the government and CJ culminating in an impeachment motion.
In an objective analysis it becomes quite clear that this not a clash between the Judiciary and the Executive or the Legislature; it is about devolution of power to Provincial Councils. In other words, it could be considered a pre-emptive action to stave off a threat to devolution of power under the 13 Amendment.
Considered in light of above thinking, the punishment being considered for the CJ could well be interpreted as a punishment of sorts for India. However, what is strange in this scenario is India’s total silence. If it was a BJP Government at the Centre in India, its silence would be understandable, but with a Congress Government with Rajiv Gandhi’s widow, Sonia, at the helm of the Party, this silence is surprising.
Delving into Europe’s history just prior to World War II, it becomes clear that more than anything else, it was British Prime Minister Chamberlain’s weak governance that led to the phenomenal rise of Hitler. His ignominious action of bowing down to Hitler was reported in the Daily Mail then, as follows:
“British Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain held secret talks with Hitler’s henchmen to work out ways of making the Nazis look more sympathetic to ordinary Britons, classified documents released last week reveal.
The cloak-and-dagger meetings in London came shortly after Chamberlain signed his disastrous appeasement deal with Hitler in Munich in September 1938, declaring ‘peace for out time’ on his return to Britain.
The meetings were held without the knowledge of the Cabinet and Foreign Office. Foreign Secretary Lord Halifax only learned of them later because of an MI15 mole in the German Embassy.
Two newly-declassified documents show Chamberlain was ready to make more deals with Hitler after Munich, which would have the ‘happiest and most far-reaching effects for the relationship between the two countries’.
The papers reveal Chamberlain told Hitler that it would have ‘the greatest effect on public opinion in England’, if in the event of war, they had a pact in place not to use poison gas, not to bomb each other’s civilians and to spare the cities with cultural treasures.
The meetings took place between Chamberlain’s Press Secretary George Steward and his counterpart at the German Embassy, Dr. Fritz Hesse.
MI15 monitored a two-hour meeting between the two on 23 November, 1938. When Hesse returned to the German Embassy, he prepared a memo for the German Foreign Minister, Joachim von Ribbentrop.
A copy of the memo was smuggled out of the German Embassy by the MI15 mole and given to Sir Alexander Cadogan, Permanent under-secretary at the Foreign Office.
The translated document and Cadogan’s memo on it were released last week by the National Archives.
India left no stone unturned to help Rajapaksa to defeat the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE). When Rajapaksa was put under severe pressure to agree to a ceasefire at the latter stages of the war, India went all out to shore up his position to resist it. Simultaneously it kept America at bay and UN action on hold, during the hectic last days of the war, thus making a war victory for Rajapaksa inevitable
In his subsequent memo, Cadogan agonizes over whether he should tell Lord Halifax about the clandestine meeting. He fears it might make Halifax resign and cause the government to collapse, forcing a General Election at a time when the Nazis are poised to wage war across Europe.
Cadogan writes: “Supposing however that the PM was forced into having a General Election, what would happen then? It is extremely probable that if the S of S (Secretary of State Lord Halifax) resigned on a ‘Defence of the West’ policy, or something like it, coupled with a real rearmament effort…. a substantial number of ministers would resign with him.’
In the smuggled MI5 memo, Hesse tells von Ribbentrop that Chamberlain wants to finalize a deal personally with Hitler, which could ensure ‘complete secrecy on the English side’ until the agreement is signed.
Eventually Cadogan did tell Halifax about the meeting between Steward and Hesse. Halifax confronted Chamberlain, who appeared ‘aghast’ and said he would ensure such meetings never happened again, said historian Richard Cockett, author of a book on Chamberlain’s media manipulation.
But Cockett added that the just-released documents reveal that Steward had been authorized by Chamberlain to hold such meetings.
“If Steward was not acting under orders from Chamberlain, he was probably guilty of treason,” he said.
‘If he was acting under orders, then he was just a dupe.’
He said Halifax was also an appeaser but was eventually ‘changed’ by the Foreign Office and became sceptical about the policy.
Fellow historian Andrew Roberts said: “It is not surprising Steward was having these meetings. He was always very loyal to Chamberlain and did his bidding. Also, Steward himself was an appeaser. It is not surprising in the least bit that Chamberlain was going behind the Foreign Office’s back and holding such talks. They were sceptical of appeasement all along.’
Steward is credited as being No. 10’s first spin doctor, spending a large part of his time trying to influence newspapers into writing stories that suited the Chamberlain Government.
Chamberlain’s appeasement policy failed utterly. On 1 September 1939, Britain declared war against Germany after it invaded Poland. Eight months later, Chamberlain resigned when Labour and the Liberals refused to enter a wartime coalition with him.”
Though Mahinda Rajapaksa is no Hitler, his rise to power too has the Manmohan Singh Government’s active involvement behind it. Singh’s Government gave supported him whenever needed. Singh, by any standard is an ineffective leader. Just as Chamberlin offered various inducements to placate Hitler and avoid a war, Singh also lavished many an inducement to Rajapaksa, to push him towards a political solution to the Tamil problem.
In 2006, when the government launched an operation to manoeuvre 17 UNP MPs to join the government, India also performed a significant role behind the scene to help the crossing over. India, at this stage nursed the idea that as long as the Rajapaksa Government had to depend on JVP and JHU support in Parliament, a political solution to the ethnic problem would remain a remote possibility. With the additional support of the UNP breakaway group in Parliament, India felt it would be fairly easy to go for a political solution as desired by them, irrespective of opposition from JVP and JHU.
But the biggest mistake India made under the circumstance was to overlook the damage of splintering the UNP, thus rendering it weak. At the 2008 vote on the Budget in Parliament, when UNP was about to pull a coup to defeat it, India helped Rajapaksa avert it and render the strength of JVP and JHU in the government expendable with the additional support drawn from the UNP. India expected all this would soon lead to a political solution to the ethnic problem.
India left no stone unturned to help Rajapaksa to defeat the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE). When Rajapaksa was put under severe pressure to agree to a ceasefire at the latter stages of the war, India went all out to shore up his position to resist it. Simultaneously it kept America at bay and UN action on hold, during the hectic last days of the war, thus making a war victory for Rajapaksa inevitable. Clearly India’s premeditated action plan to let the Sri Lanka Government crush the LTTE was a direct result of a promise extracted from the President to bring in a political solution to the ethnic problem after the war.
After winning the war, Rajapaksa was able to convince India that he needed to hold and win a Presidential Election before working on a political solution. India helped him again and went all out to ensure a victory for him. In fact , all Indian media and think tanks came in force to help Rajapaksa’s win, declaring it as an essential step towards a solution to the ethnic problem. After the election victory, Rajapaksa fed India a bait, which it swallowed hook line and sinker. He said for the successful implementation of a political solution to the ethnic problem he needed a strong Parliament with a 2/3 majority. India waited patiently while he cobbled together a 2/3 parliamentary majority; yet the political solution still remains as distant as ever.
However, on many occasions Prime Minister Singh invited Mahinda Rajapaksa to India to make him agree to the political solution and gave much publicity about the Sri Lankan President’s solemn undertaking to a political solution, just like Chamberlain declared after signing the Munich Agreement that he brought peace to Europe.
The Indian Government and media were jubilant about the advent of the much awaited political solution. Like the British in that distant past, the Indians gradually realized that they too have fallen for a lark. Waiting for Godot, is nearer the mark when talking about Sri Lanka’s political solution. Leaving Singh aside, the Indian south bloc which dictates Indian policy on Sri Lanka, is well-aware of what is going on here. Yet India maintaining an uncharacteristic silence on the two grave matters which could have some bearing on the country, conjures up the spectre of great danger to the Sri Lankan regime in the days ahead.
( The writer, a senior journalist and political critique with the Ceylon Today, a weekly based in Colombo)