Britain's ex-Defence Secretary Dr. Liam Fox who resigned on October 14 was a victim of personal indiscretion and in part back-stabbing by forces, some of them within his own ranks.
Dr. Fox was his own man. In a sense, it is correct that he ran his own foreign policy -- for he was not burdened by the weight of his constituents who may have formed part of the Sri Lankan Diaspora nor was he smarting over a snub from the Sri Lankan Government.
He was a friend of Sri Lanka and rare among the current breed of British politicians for he swam against the tide. He brokered an agreement between Sri Lanka's then President and the Leader of the Opposition so that neither would undermine the other's efforts depending on who was in office when negotiating with the LTTE. We had criticized this agreement, not so much for its content, nor did we question the bona fides of Dr. Fox, but because after fifty years of Independence from the British, our leaders had to fall back on a then British Junior Minister to come to a basic political understanding at home.
Unlike those who don't know about Sri Lanka but speak on the country in the British Parliament, Dr. Fox knew what he was saying. He understood the gravity of the problem. What the British press did not say was that whenever Dr. Fox met the Sri Lankan President or a Minister he would impress upon them the need for good governance but the advice was given as a friend and never had the traces of imperial imprimaturs of a bygone era.
He honoured a friend when he came to Colombo to deliver the Lakshman Kadirgamar memorial lecture despite all attempts by his colleagues at No. 10 Downing Street and the Foreign Office to scuttle the trip. He proved that he was not a man of straw.
The reasons for his resignation earlier this month week are perfectly understandable though Sri Lankan ministers must surely be wondering what on earth the fuss is about if one of their friends or relatives cannot make a buck or peddle influence selling their name.
Sri Lanka has lost probably the only influential friend it had in the British Cabinet. Government leaders in Colombo were wont to milk the natural affinity Dr. Fox had for this country irrespective of whether it was detrimental to or compromised Dr. Fox himself.
From all accounts, Dr. Fox's political career is not over. There was kudos for the way he handled his portfolio and there were no findings of moral turpitude against him.
With the ganging up of what is known as the 'white Commonwealth' against Sri Lanka on the eve of next week's CHOGM (Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting) in Perth, the departure of Dr. Fox from a seat of influence in the British establishment is an added blow to Sri Lanka.
After Gaddafi, testing time for Libya
In the killing of Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi, there are largely two lessons for dictators. First, they cannot rule for ever against the people's will by distorting democracy and manipulating elections. Secondly, they need to know the limits of their power. Whatever power they wield internally is not enough to withstand or confront the Western powers, especially those with imperial designs.
Although a majority of Libyans seem to be happy that Gaddafi was killed, he was a friend of Sri Lanka (though Dr. Fox will hate the comparison), Gaddafi was a powerful voice within the once-politically powerful Non-Aligned Movement and a campaigner against neocolonialism and apartheid in South Africa. So much so, in recognition of his support, South Africa's elder statesman Nelson Mandela, the likes of whom are a rarity in the Western political landscape, named his grandson Gaddafi. Our commitment to non-alignment and our opposition to imperialist designs in whatever form, make us pay him an element of respect at his death in so far as his longstanding support for Sri Lanka was concerned even though a large section of his country's population and the Western world are jubilant over it.
The fault of Gaddafi and Saddam Hussein of Iraq was however non fundamentalist Islamists they were, they gave moral and sometimes financial support to terrorist campaigns to bring the West to heel. But mostly, they were sitting on too much oil, the very mention of which makes the multinationals that rule the world salivate.
Though in the wake of the 9/11 attacks, Gaddafi opened up Libya for these multinationals to do business, he was an irritant because he did not let them exploit the country's national wealth on their terms. He kept on earning the wrath of the powerful both at regional level - especially the Saudi ruling family, whom he publicly ridiculed as puppets of the US - and global level until the powerful invested in the growing dissent within the country and brought about his downfall. The victory the Libyans are celebrating today is not theirs alone. If not for the help of the NATO, Gaddafi would have long crushed the rebellion. So it is also a NATO victory. The West's military intervention in Libya was not because it wanted to bring about democracy or it loved the Libyans. The fact that similar interventions were not forthcoming in support of pro-democracy movements in Yemen, and Bahrain - also Syria which draws only condemnations despite more than 3,000 deaths -- underscores the sinister moves of the West.
Now that Gaddafi is history, Libya's future is uncertain. Signs are that the country under the National Transitional Council, a motley group of people with conflicting political ideologies, may end up like another Middle Eastern vassal state - with the country in its geographical location but its sovereignty at an altar in Washington. Or will the Islamists, some of whom share the jihadi ideology of the al-Qaeda, try to gain control? The real testing time for Libya is beginning only now.