Heh, heh. No, this is not a humour column, but to start with some laughter is necessary – mandatory – given the serious import of what is sought to be stated here, so, brace, BRACE…
At this moment, in this country, there are a great many greybeards and pundits who volunteer a gamut of solemn opinions on what they say is important to us in these testing times. Some of these people are legalistic in what they say, some extremely sincere and convinced about their views, and some less so. But in the main, most of these people posit theories, and these theories are founded upon their individual belief systems. Before I bore you to death with this, let me try to at the least, excite you with some apposite examples. The lettered NGO types would most probably tell you that this country is doomed if we do not do certain things that are being ‘mandated’ to us by the United Nations.
Bordering on the outlandish
People such as myself have been telling you that it is outrageous that despite all this regime’s faults, the international community, so called, is unfairly targeting this country in furtherance of various gains – both material, and sometimes the more intangible, of a geo-political sort…
There are various others, some espousing arguments in-between the above contrasting viewpoints, and some somewhat distanced from both. For example, some scholars have theories bordering on the outlandish, such as those that hold that there are no countries in today’s world in which everybody is supposed to be governed by a set of international rules among cooperating players.
Every theory is passionately argued, except in the case of say Jehan Perera, who somehow manages to be excruciatingly boring and pedantic each time to the extent that he is a guaranteed boon to morning insomniacs — but that’s just a fun detail in this mix. In the main, though, my point is that everybody has his or her own individual take that’s pegged to one or more of the prevailing orthodoxies of current thought, for example that ‘there is no escape for Sri Lanka from international strictures,’ or the contrary view that all outside pressures can and should be ignored. And yet some others have still more different views…
What none of these people including yours truly so far have been able to tell you, is the truth. It is the plain truth, and is somewhat easy to relate. It is the simple truth that what’s happening today with regard to our external affairs – for want of a better word – is a battle of wits.
The Tamil diaspora lobby, it is almost obscenely clear, is trying to further its own cause, which is to make Sri Lanka pay for crushing the LTTE, and to keep Sri Lankan problems on the boil so that there will be a permanent ticket for Tamils in the Western world, which situation will then, preferably lead to a Tamil Eelam in Sri Lanka one day.
The diaspora is willing to use any trick in the books to further this cause, and there is nothing legalistic or proper or morally tenable in this bid, and they know it.
Ditto, any power that is willing to destabilize us, be it at the behest of the diaspora or any other domestic or international entity. There is nothing moral in any of their methods; there is expediency, and the convenience of using international law, the UN, or what have you, as cover.
The Sri Lankan state has to counter, or cave in. The regime therefore uses every trick in the book, and there is nothing legalistic or proper or morally tenable in this bid, and the regime knows it.
Now that it is clear what exactly is going on, and that there are no rules in this game, except those that both parties pretend to swear by, to what end is this confrontation, this gigantic battle of manipulated ideas?
Keep up the charade
It should be clear by now. The cleverer party wins, and that is all that there is to it, when everything is reduced to the basics.
It is therefore good to remember now that there is clarity on the fundamentals, that all those articles that promise solemnly that international law is bound to catch up with us, are in fact keeping up the charade that this ‘law’ is at the whim of various powers, and can be bent. Those of us who say on the other hand that the Sri Lankan state has been given short shrift may not always be perfectly right, but we are cognizant of the fact that the Sri Lankan state has to deceive if the deception of the other side is to be outwitted.
In order that the foreign forces and the diasporic fronts are defeated in their deception, the Sri Lankan state for example might have to, to take just one example, play the patriotic card. Yes, it is a card. There is manipulation in it. But in a battle of wits, either we manipulate, or we surrender – and in a game with shifting ground rules and moving goalposts, we surely have to keep our wits about.
The regime may think that consolidation of essentially family-centric rule is crucial in this battle of wits. The regime may otherwise reason plainly that “when we have the power our family has to consolidate it.’’ In the battle of wits, this may be detrimental to the regime, and one day it may have to pay for it.
But what’s important and has been forgotten is that despite everything that’s being argued on both sides of this case, there is nothing that is sacrosanct about any of the markers that are cited — be it the UN, the international legal system, accountability or even patriotism.
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