Saturday, February 28, 2009

Gloves on at UN to beat mounting pressures of Tiger lobbies

By H. L. D. Mahindapala

(February 27 , Melbourne, Sri Lanka Guardian) Pressure is mounting at the UN to put the humanitarian crisis in Mullativu – the last outpost of the Tamil Tigers -- on the agenda of the Security Council. The objective is to get the Security Council to call for a ceasefire. Pro-Tiger NGOs and lobbies, and also the noted Mathew R. Lee, the only blogger given accreditation at UN, (more about him later) are button holing delegates and urging them to put Sri Lanka on the Security Council agenda at today’s meeting.

Sri Lanka is waging a strenuous battle in the labyrinthine corridors of international power, to stave off any UN intervention or censure. Early in February Mexico, a new comer to the Security Council, asked the Council to be briefed on Sri Lanka. Russia stepped in and said that it would be improper. Russia, however, added that it could be raised at the General Assembly. The Japanese Ambassador, Ukio Takasi, the current President of the Security Council, also said earlier that “at the moment there is no strong request” for the Council to be briefed on the Sri Lankan issue, according to Mathew Lee who questioned Takasi. In any case, in early February the general consensus was to await the return of Sri John Holmes from his Sri Lankan tour. Even the British Ambassador to UN, John Sawers, did not back the Mexican delegate even though Britain was pressing Sri Lanka to accept Prime Minister Gordon Brown’s Browne as a special envoy to Sri Lanka.

The British failure to back the Mexican move was also raised in the House of Commons. Replying to Mr. Edward Davey (Kingston and Surbiton) (LD)) who asked why Britain didn’t back the Mexican delegate at the UN, the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs , David Miliband told the House of Commons: “ I am sorry to hear the hon. Gentleman talk in that way, because he knows that a failed resolution—one that faces a veto—is worse than no resolution at all, and it would strengthen precisely the forces that he and I oppose. I can assure him that our diplomats, whether in New York or in the region, are all working off the same script, which is one that has been set by the Prime Minister and me.”

Sri Lanka has played his card straight by placing the hard facts before the key delegates. Sri Lanka is also backed by Russia and China. Their veto power is going to be the trump card. Russia and China have been protective of Sri Lanka’s interests. Their supportive stance arises partly from their own global interests and partly from separatist threats to their respective nations.

The influential role of Russia was echoed even in the House of Commons as seen in the following question and answer: Mike Gapes (Ilford, South) (Lab/Co-op): Can the Foreign Secretary confirm that the problem in the Security Council is not the UK Government, but the Russian Government, who refuse to support the Security Council resolution? Therefore, unlike in Gaza, we are unable to get the Security Council resolution that is so needed.

David Miliband: There certainly is a blockage at the UN. That is why the UN has not been able to opine on this issue.

The Security Council is expected to take up the issue today but it is unlikely to succeed. Mathew Lee’s Inter City Press quoted President Takaso of saying that the “humanitarian issue in Sri Lanka is played up by the Tamil Tigers for political benefit.”

Having failed to get at Sri Lanka through foreign offices of Western countries the NGOs and the pro-Tiger lobbies are trying desperately to push their luck through the UN. Sri Lanka’s quiet diplomacy has worked to block the aggressive lobbying to get the humanitarian issue on the Council’s agenda.The pro-Tiger lobbies and NGOs have mounted a massive campaign, both inside and outside the UN, hiring agents on sale like Bruce Fei(g)n, former Attorney-General who argued the case for the Sri Lankan when he was on its pay roll and now arguing for the Tamil Tigers who are paying him handsomely for his services to argue against his own case he put up for Sri Lanka.

President Mahinda Rajapakse’s bold move to reject the Prime Minister Brown’s special envoy is a necessary strategic move that has serious implications for the future domestic and foreign policies of Sri Lanka. Though Brown’s move has some inklings of a superior tone of an ex-colonial master knowing what is best for the natives the issue goes deeper. It is a clash of two domestic interests surfacing as foreign policies. Britain is reacting primarily to its Tamil electorate. The debate in the House Commons demonstrates this amply. Every MP, mainly in the Labour Party and the Liberal Democratic Party, are raising issues in the House, to make them visible in the eyes of the Tamil voters. Invariably when these MPs raise the Sri Lankan issue in the House of Commons they cite the exaggerated complaints made to them by the Tamil voters. The pro-Tigers manipulators in the Tamil diaspora, are using this political clout to put pressure on the Sri Lankan government through their local MPs. This gives them the false notion that they can dictate their pro-Tiger policies to Sri Lanka through the foreign offices in London, Canberra, Washington etc. President Rajapakse’s rejection is a clear signal to the Tamil diaspora that they can’t dictate to Sri Lanka through foreign offices in the countries of their domicile.

Non-Tamil Sri Lankans in the diaspora are quite pleased with the decisive move of President Rajapakse to nip the budding pressures of the Tamil disapora and the NGOs by manipulating Western powers. They believe that the message should have been sent earlier.

President Rajapakse’s rejection of Brown’s Browne is a slap in the face not so much of Britain as in the faces of the manipulative NGOs and Tamil diaspora. The NGOs and the Tamil diaspora depend entirely on influencing Sri Lankan domestic policy by manipulating their political bases abroad. In his timely action President Rajapakse has stood up for the interests of all communities and not just that of one armed group terrorizing all communities, mostly the Tamils.

In the meantime, a new phenomenon against Sri Lanka has emerged at the UN -- Mathew R. Lee of the Inter City Press. As an accredited media representative he holds a unique position: he is only a blogger with no leading newspaper establishment to back him. He does not have to worry about newsprint, staff, printing presses and other administrative expenses. He is the one-man band who is bent on pushing the UN to dance to his tune. The accreditation given to him has given him access to UN delegates and officials. He has been badgering the delegates to the Security Council UN officials, the Secretary –General, Ban Ki-Moon and his officials questioning them as to why Sri Lanka has not been put on the Security Council agenda. He feels frustrated because the general consensus is that Sri Lanka is not in the same category of other crisis-ridden trouble spots.

Lee, however, argues that Sri Lanka should be listed because Darfur and Congo have been on the Security Council agenda. John Sawers, the British Ambassador, put him in his place when he said that he was comparing apples with oranges. His partisan line of questioning has been so transparent that it is easy see through from where he comes. Obviously, the NGOs and the Tamil lobbies are feeding him with pictures and one-sided stories which he peddles without any qualm.



-Sri Lanka Guardian

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