Interfering in the Internal Affairs of Sovereign Sri Lanka by US & Indian Envoys
Shenali D Waduge
How aware are the Governments of the US & India that their two envoys are going overboard with or without their knowledge in the interference into the internal affairs of Sri Lanka? An unprecedented number of Indians have been roped into America’s diplomatic service and at times we can but wonder whether they are serving the US interests or a greater Indian hegemony that India is now eyeing believing it is on par with the likes of China & West. However, the manner that the US & Indian envoys have been blatantly violating every protocol in the manner they behave and issue statements is appalling. It is nothing that the public of Sri Lanka like or appreciate and it only embarrasses and exposes the spinelessness of the government in power as well as reduce any respect for both US & India in the eyes of the citizens.
The first visit of every foreign delegation that arrives in Sri Lanka is to the North/East & to see only Tamil or Muslim politicians. This is becoming a real joke to observe. LTTE killed all communities. Military offensive was against LTTE terrorists not minorities. Majority of victims were Sinhalese. Why have Sinhalese & Muslims been left out of any post-conflict dividends? Why is India & US blatantly violating all protocols of diplomatic behavior?
The Vienna Convention of 1961 provides a clear framework for diplomats in carrying out their duties.
Article 41 clearly outlines how a diplomat should deal with internal matters of the ‘receiving country’.
1. ‘not to interfere in the internal affairs of the State’
3. ‘premises of the mission must not be used in any manner incompatible with the functions of the mission’
How does this correspond to the manner the US envoy declared it would assist in helping Sri Lanka draft a new constitution & partner with its military?
Atul Keshap in 2014 (before becoming US envoy) in an interview declared “It’s been five years since the war ended and I haven’t seen any meaningful discussion or movement along the lines of a meaningful negotiation of the very tricky political issues related to federalism.” http://www.asiantribune.com/node/86881
The US through USAID using local NGOs like CPA have been running workshops to promote federalism throughout Sri Lanka since 2005 and these are the very players tasked to draft the new constitution http://asiantribune.com/node/91202
The US envoy even uses his official message statement to interfere in internal affairs “We support efforts to promote needed constitutional reform” (July 2016 - https://lk.usembassy.gov/u-s-sri-lankan-relations-historic-high-july-4th-message-u-s-ambassador-atul-keshap/)
In August 2017 following the arrival of a US Congressional delegation the US envoy declared “Across the three branches of the U.S. Government, we will continue to support Sri Lanka’s commitments to constitutional reform, reconciliation, justice, and economic prosperity.” http://colombogazette.com/2017/08/11/us-congress-backs-political-reforms-in-sri-lanka/ all these are violations of the Vienna Convention.
In September 2017 the US envoy held meetings with the leader of the GTF whose organization was proscribed as a LTTE front under UNSC Resolution 1373 in April 2014 & removed in 2015 by the present government on the flimsy excuse of reconciliation. This is what US envoy tweeted following the meeting “Pleased that Father Emmanuel is striving to secure lasting equality, peace, justice, & happiness for all in a united, reconciled #SriLanka,”
On 13 February 2018 both US & Indian envoys called on the President & Prime Minister of Sri Lanka. Hectic discussions to salvage the outcome of the Local Government election sent shockwaves to both countries that helped steer regime change. The US supporting the international propaganda campaign against the previous government through the UNHRC Resolutions plus diplomatic demarches & influence over local NGOs & media while the Indian exerted its might tapping its trigger points in Tamil vote base, Estate Tamil vote base, politicians, political parties, & ‘academics’ on Indian payroll.
In 2013 the Swarnahansa Foundation sent a letter of complaint to the US envoy against a US diplomat who had visited Navatkuli to question the Sinhalese who returned to their original homes. This was the same diplomat who was exposed by the Sunday Leader newspaper for links with Sun Master of the TNA to whom an unrehabiliated LTTE cadre had been supplying signed but blank UNHRC submission forms to submit to the OHCHR & OISL investigators.
USAID ‘Election Support through Voter Education Program’ in July 2014 would have helped the regime change that took place in January 2015. Rs.190m had been allocated for this program to be rolled out through NGOs. It fitted well into Ranil’s one-month grooming stunt in the US the same month. The Sunday Times editorial on February 8 2015 noted: “It is an open secret that the former US Ambassador in Colombo reached out to the Opposition, especially the then Leader of the Opposition [Wickremesinghe]” and moved away from engagement with former President Rajapakse. The 100 day program was a clear giveaway of US sponsored regime change.
In 2016 some 50 research assistants from the Sri Lanka Parliament was sent for training to a workshop organized by USAID for which Rs.73m had been allocated – what does this all eventually add up to?
The setting up of the YouLead youth program echoes other initiatives that were part & parcel of US destabilizing operations – same USAID funded Cuban musicians in a covert program set to create a network of youth to be their ‘change’ operatives. ZunZuneo was Cuba’s Spring. In Ukraine, USAID partnered with Omidyar Network to kickstart the Kiev Spring. USAID has also ‘trained’ 100,000 Brazilian police in 1960s and many died as a result, USAID and the National Endowment for Democracy began pouring funds into opposition groups opposed to Haiti’s Aristide in 1990s, USAID donated $35m for mass sterilization program in Peru in 1990s, in 2006, the Washington Post revealed a covert $2 million USAID helped the “moderate” Palestinian Authority’s election bid against Hamas. Is it no surprise that Russia closed down USAID in 2012?
Knowing the nature of USAID, some of its operations in Sri Lanka should raise more than a few eyebrows when $60m has been allocated for 2015-16 alone especially when the present USAID head was formerly working in Kosovo the newly created independent state. Former Times of Ceylon journalist Hassina Leelarathna revealed that USAID had allocated $3.4m towards UNP victory in August 2015. http://srilankaexpress.org/usaid-3-4m-support-unp-2015-elections Rajapakse himself is on record to say the US had spent $650m to get rid of him.
In August 2017 the trade unions were up in arms against the intention of the Ministry of International Trade & Development Strategies to work with USAID to advise on changing Sri Lanka’s labor laws & worker rights. In US many a worker commit suicide on account of their hire & fire schemes when after arriving to work they discover they have no job!
In a crass interference in internal affairs the US envoys tweet is self-explanatory "Conveyed warmest #Pongal greetings to Chief Minister Wigneswaran and had a good discussion on Northern Province issues as well as the need for #SriLanka to fulfill its Geneva commitments to ensure lasting national reconciliation and a brighter future for all its citizens," Mr Keshap tweeted.
The interference of foreign envoys brings to mind the 1991 expulsion of the British High Commissioner David Gladstone by the Premadasa Govt for interfering in local elections.
The role of India in destabilizing Sri Lanka is nothing new and a factor Sri Lanka’s Governments have taken too lightly. Its scope of influence has only enlarged making India exert influence in virtually all spheres of life in Sri Lanka. Ajit Doval is said to have been the main driver of India’s role in the recent regime change.
India suffers a misconception that Sri Lanka can be used as India’s punching bag as and when it pleases. We have not forgotten or will forgive India for the 30 year suffering caused to the citizens by helping and fanning LTTE terrorism allowing Tamil Nadu to be used as a logistics hub by LTTE over the years and allowing Tamil Nadu politicians to exert unwarranted calls for a Tamil Homeland in Sri Lanka when ideally it should be in Tamil Nadu where 98% of world Tamils reside.
India has been exerting influence through its various deputy missions in Jaffna, Kandy, Hambantota culturally, economically, socially and even diplomatically. The pressure exerted to sign the ETCA allowing Indians to live, work & set up businesses in Sri Lanka is detrimental to the demography of the country which Sri Lanka’s politicians & advisors seem not to have the brains to realize. Imagine a country with over 1.3billion population being allowed to arrive live, work in Sri Lanka with a population of just over 20million? Already we are being dumped with everything India wants to throw away. Sri Lanka has become the garbage yard for India. India has exerted control over the government in many ways – Sampoor was simply a farce, Mattala airport was to turn it into an Indian airbase, Trinco oil tanks was merely to turn a very strategic area into an Indian naval base, Colombo port was also to stifle Sri Lanka’s development. Do our leaders have an iota of brains to understand that a fully functional Colombo & Hambantota Port would reduce profits for Chennai & Singapore ports, isn’t this why they want to have stakes in Sri Lanka so that they can mitigate and reduce Sri Lanka’s capacity to develop on its own?
How is it that large caches of arms & ammunition are suddenly appearing after the regime change culminating in an entire bus getting burnt following a grenade/bomb explosion a few days back resulting in armed forces personnel getting injured too. LTTE cadres are even being recruited to the Sri Lankan Army! Let’s not forget that the Tamil Nadu Liberation Army continues to exist in India.
The manner that India allows its fishermen to blatantly violate the international territorial boundaries using banned bottom trawlers thus stealing Sri Lanka’s fish and destroying Sri Lanka’s maritime areas goes unnoticed under the façade of diplomatic pressure exerted on Sri Lanka using Tamil Nadu filmstar politicians. It has become a joke to see Indian fishermen getting arrested enjoying free food and then being released while they make off with the profits and Sri Lanka is forced to enter discussions to come to an agreement where the violations of India are completely ignored. It is no different to the manner India is now interfering & meddling into the internal affairs of both Nepal & Maldives.
In fact none of India’s neighbors can boast to have any good relations with India and whose fault is it? India as a result of its own self-elevated superior attitude, has created for itself diplomatic debacles one after the other in all of the South Asian countries that surround it. Instead of being jealous of development of other countries and trying to stifle them is it not better for India to improve India’s own poverty & other ills first? How can India complain of other countries interfering into India’s internal affairs when India is doing exactly that in other countries!
The US & India may have brought this government to power & are trying their best to keep this government in power but the local government elections together with the postal votes reveal that not only the general public have lost confidence in the government but the public sector has too & the results are a clear denunciation of the government & the interferences by US, West & India into Sri Lanka’s internal affairs.
The manner that US & India behave is no different to a child throwing tantrums just because he cannot get the candy he wants.