Editorial

10th March 2002

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Toasts and terrorists

United States Ambassador Ashley Wills raised a glass of bubbly and toasted Velupillai Prabhakaran's health, after getting the Sri Lankan business community to rise for the occasion along with their glasses. It was a bit much this public toast to a leader of a terrorist organization banned in the United States. Seems like Ashley Wills has not come a long way since the days his ancestors who settled in the frontier towns were called "men of the forked tongue'' by the indigenous Indians. Velupillai Prabhakaran has just recently signed a ceasefire agreement, which is a far cry from ending the war that has brought untold misery to millions of Sri Lankans of all races. It is a ceasefire agreement, which, for several reasons, could be a tactical ploy. History is on our side in saying this as Mr Prabhakaran has unilaterally terminated such ceasefires four times before this. 

Mr. Wills got the go-ahead for toasting Velupillai Prabhakaran when his boss the Secretary of State Colin Powell telephoned Premier Ranil Wickremesinghe and congratulated him for signing the ceasefire agreement. Mr Powell was simultaneously carrying out his boss the President's orders to pound to a pulp the miserable Al Qaeda cadres remaining in the caves of the Afghan mountains. The logic is that when terrorism is aimed against America, Americans do not budge an inch. But the rest of the world has to make peace fast with terrorists.

In Brisbane Australia, in the meanwhile, the British Prime Minister Tony Blair was snubbed not just by African leaders, but by India and Sri Lanka as well, for wanting to punish Zimbabwe. Clearly at least half the world has had enough of this duplicitous holier-than-thou sermonizing by the other half.

Not so long ago, Pakistan, it will be remembered, faced American sanctions for going nuclear. It was asked how potty Pakistan could join a club of "responsible nuclear nations''. Then the Commonwealth expelled Pakistan from its club of nations for a military coup. Pakistan was thus turned into an international pariah state, until the war against the Taleban at which point Tony Blair led the international team to this pariah-state, elevated it to exalted status, and invited Gen Pervez Musharaff to dine at the White House and Downing Street. All sanctions were of course removed forthwith. Pakistan of course became the gateway to Afghanistan for American forces.

So it is clear that the world cannot take any US or British position on any issue at face value. Even their own allies such as the Europeans and the French are not in tow with British and American actions. The Commonwealth summit at which Mr. Blair got snubbed last week over the Zimbabwe issue is a turning point in world affairs indicating that nations are no longer prepared to rubber-stamp the vested interests of certain avaricious countries.

Even the Commonwealth secretariat headed by a former New Zealand Foreign Minister did not appreciate the problem of terrorism in the Commonwealth until September 11th, which is an admitted fact revealed in one of our issues of the recent past. So all this is worth ruminating for those who are firmly of the view that the international community will be "on our side'', when it comes to ironing out our own imbroglio with the Liberation Tigers.


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