Battle tanks, artillery, rockets and rifles that boomed to militarily defeat Tiger guerrillas and the men behind them will go on parade next Saturday, a reminder for Sri Lankans and the world outside, for a third year in succession, how a separatist war was won.
This time, however, the event assumes greater significance. By an unexpected co-incidence, just a day ahead, Sri Lanka and the world's only superpower, the United States, will be locked in discussions over matters which are the direct outcome of the military campaign. This is when External Affairs Minister G.L. Peiris and the US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton hold bi-lateral talks. They come in the wake of the US-backed resolution against Sri Lanka adopted at the UN Human Rights Council in March.
Since May 1, at least officially, a Ranaviru or war hero's month has got under way. It comes in the backdrop of the Ministry of Defence streamlining and modernising the military apparatus countrywide. On April 4, the Cabinet granted approval for the Sri Lanka Air Force to procure 14 brand new Mi-17 transport helicopters from Russia. It came on the recommendation of President Mahinda Rajapaksa, who is the Minister of Defence. Thus, the Sri Lanka Air Force (SLAF) will have a larger fleet of these twin turbine multi-role helicopters capable of carrying up to 30 persons. The purchase will be from a US$ 300 million credit line extended by Russia. In terms of this, Russia has also offered to repair or replace military equipment manufactured by it as long as the original purchase was made directly from that country. Such items will include armoured personnel carriers and AN 32 fixed-wing transport aircraft.
The month long commemoration has focused on providing housing and other facilities to troops. It began with a new Ranaviru flag being presented to President Rajapaksa at Temple Trees. Troops wounded during the war are being cared for under several welfare programmes. Air Force spokesperson Group Captain Andy Wijesuriya said yesterday that 30 aircraft, both fixed wing and choppers, will take part in a fly past on Saturday. According to military spokesperson Brigadier Ruwan Wanigasuriya, 398 Army officers, 4,628 other ranks and 148 military vehicles will be on parade. This is besides Navy (115 officers, 2,651 other ranks and 72 naval craft off the seas of Galle Face Green), Air Force (78 officers, 1,383 other ranks) and Police (61 officers and 963 police constables). According to Navy spokesperson Commander Kosala Warnakulasuriya, Off Shore Patrol Craft taking part in the sail past would be SLNS Sayura, SLNS Samudara, SLNS Suranimala, SLNS Nandimithra, SLNS Ranajaya and SLNS Shanthi. Twelve FACs (Fast Attack Craft) will also take part in the sail past.
In addition, 30 officers from the Civil Defence Force (CDF) and 115 disabled soldiers will also join in. Therefore, in all, there would be 682 officers and 10,587 other ranks involved in the nationally televised event. The preparations are proof that the government is keen to make sure that the military victory against Tiger guerrillas remains fresh in the minds of Sri Lankans despite the lapse of time. It will also try to, no doubt, mitigate, at least to some extent, the problems faced by the public due to skyrocketing prices of essential goods. It was only last week that the government raised the prices of LPG cooking gas, milk food and cement triggering a phenomenal increase in living costs of those in urban areas. With the rupee depreciating without stabilising vis-à-vis the US dollar, there was speculation of another fuel price hike. Already, the rupee's dip has pushed drug prices higher, in some instances by as much as 50 per cent. Hence, unlike free kiribath, sweetmeats and cheering on the streets on May 18 and 19 three years ago, things have rolled into a more austere note for the people.
And for those discerning Sri Lanka foreign policy watchers, next week's talks in Washington have become a focal point. A significant change in the Sri Lanka delegation to the US came this week. Parliamentarian Namal Rajapaksa, who is the son of President Mahinda Rajapaksa, will not be a member of the delegation. It was External Affairs Minister Peiris who had included him, perhaps in the belief that it would bolster his own position. However, the Sunday Times learnt that Presidential Secretary Lalith Weeratunga had successfully persuaded President Rajapaksa to exclude Namal. Besides Peiris, the team that will travel now will be his colleague, Environment Minister Anura Priyadarshana Yapa, chosen on the basis of a new benchmark -- he is President of the US-Sri Lanka Friendship Association. He has also been attending joint breakfast meetings between members of both houses in Washington. Others are Secretary Weeratunga, EAM's Monitoring MP Sajin Vass Gunawardena, EAM's Additional Secretary Kshenuka Seneviratne and Minister Peiris' Co-ordinating Secretary T.N. Gamlath.
Though engagements for the delegation are now being lined up, no meetings have still been set up with former presidential candidate and now Chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, John Kerry or Vice Chairman Richard :Lugar.
The Sri Lanka Caucus is hosting members of the House. The American Enterprise Institute and the Heritage Foundation are hosting a "private conversation" with Peiris. They are arranged by Sadanand Dhume and Lise Curtis respectively.
There has been heightened diplomatic activity both in Washington and Colombo ahead of the visit by Peiris and his entourage. In the US capital, Sri Lanka's Ambassador Jaliya Wickremesuriya has been liaising with Assistant Secretary for South and Central Asian Affairs, Robert Blake. In Colombo, the US Ambassador Patricia Butenis has been in periodic consultation with Peiris in what are very clearly efforts by both sides to "forget the past and begin a new era." Though seemingly easy, this is by no means a case of the US taking a few steps backwards on its initiatives on Sri Lanka. To the contrary, the US expects Sri Lanka to pay heed to all the provisions in the resolution it sponsored in Geneva in March and go beyond. Unbelievable but true, this is precisely what External Affairs Minister Peiris wants to do. To even the dumbest, the question that begs answer is why the adoption of such measures were not possible before the resolution was passed. This would have saved all the embarrassment for the government before the international community.
Today, the Sunday Times reveals the English text of the document Peiris handed over to constituent parties of the UPFA (United People's Freedom Alliance) for study and report. The idea was to determine which of the recommendations by the Lessons Learnt and Reconciliation Commission (LLRC) should be implemented. President Mahinda Rajapaksa wants to ensure unanimity by taking along with him the smaller partners of his government. In the document, Peiris makes his own observations (Published below with a = mark) wherever action has been or is being taken. Here is the document:
1. National Policy
(a) Consensual decision making on national issues
*Parliament Select Committee
Values of democracy, tolerance and power sharing
Collective effort by political leadership, civil society and individual citizens
Grievances of minority communities
Devolution of power
Empowerment of people and greater people's participation
(b) Interaction with Diaspora
- Diaspora activities division to be set up jointly by Ministries of External Affairs and Economic Development
- Meetings with Diaspora groups in host countries
- Networking between Sri Lankan Parliamentarians and Parliamentarians in relevant countries.
(c) Citizens' Grievances
- Strengthening functions of Ombudsman
- Formally structured Citizens' Committees at grass root level
- Strengthening capacity of National Human Rights Commission
- Expanding scope of Language Commission, decentralization to every province
(d) 'Hate speeches' and inflaming of passion
- Stronger legislation
- Greater effectiveness in law enforcement
(e) Time frame to challenge legislation before Supreme Court
- Extend time frame without prejudice to urgent bills
(f) Other LLRC recommendations
a) Delinking Police Department from institutions dealing with Armed forces
b) Implement permanent Police Commission
c) National Anthem to be sung in both languages
d) Apology by all political leaders for collective failure to prevent conflict
e) Separate event on National Day to express solidarity and empathy with all victims of conflict
2. Final Phase of Conflict
(a) Specific episodes of killing civilians reported to Commission
- Work in hand by A-G's Dept.
- Military Court of Inquiry
(b) Expeditious grant of appropriate redress
- Strengthening of REPPIA
- Other facilities (education, employment etc.)
(c) Further examination of issue of medical supplies and food
- Work of CCHA and Presidential Task Force to be highlighted
(d) Disappearances, Surrender, arrest
- A-G's Dept
(e) Legal Framework for Conflicts between States and Non state Groups
- Engagement with international community
- To take up issue in appropriate international forum
(f) Island wide household survey to Determine death, injury
- National Census
- Work already done by MOD
(g) Independent Inquiry into Channel 4 video
3. HR and Security Issues
(a) Implementation of recommendations by Past Commissions
- A-G to present list
(b) Immediate inquiry into allegations of disappearances, abductions, tracing of persons surrendered of arrested
(c) Publicity for new amendments to Registration of Death Act
(d) Strict adherence to legal requirements when making arrests
(e) Independent Advisory Committee to monitor and examine detention and arrest of persons under Public Security Ordinance
(f) Assist families regarding whereabouts of family members
- Family Tracing Unit maintained by Dept. of Probation and Child Services
(g) Centralized data base on detainees to give Information to next of kin
(h) Facilitating visits by next of kin
(i) Speedy disposal of cases relating to detainees
(j) Supervision of integration of those who have been rehabilitated
(k) Strengthening of security and confidence among resettled IDPs
(l) Attacks on journalists and media freedom
(m) Freedom of Information Act
(n) Religious observances
(o) Stop child recruitment by TMVP
(p) Rehabilitation of exchild combatants
= Supervision, training etc.
(q) Disarming of persons in possession of unauthorized weapons
(r) Killing of 600 persons by LTTE in the East
(s) Offences committed by persons connected to EPDP
(t) Setting up of Units of Attorney General's Dept. in the Provinces to advise Police Officers
(u) Bilingual competence on the part of the police officers .
4. Resettlement and Development
- Peace education programme
(b) Language policy
- Bridging communication gap though national language policy
- Each other's languages to be compulsory in schools
- Teacher training
- Training of Government officers
- Information technology
- Review of quota system
- Equitable distribution of facilities
- Mixed schools for ethnic groups
- Twinning of schools, student exchange programmes
- Universities to cater to all ethnic groups
- Inter provincial and national sports tournaments
- Deterrent action to prevent vandalizing religious places
- Unity of action among religious leaders
- Interfaith religious groups
- Early warning and early diffusing mechanism
(e) Arts and culture
- Creating greater awareness of linguistic and cultural affinities
- Translation of publications into Tamil and Sinhala
- Cinema, TV and stage drama
(f) People to people contact
- Business chambers
(g) Vulnerable Groups
- Families whose breadwinners are detained
- Appointment of Inter Agency Task Force to address issues relating to vulnerable groups
- Rehabilitated ex-child combatants
- Disabled and elderly
- 59,000 women headed households
(h) Land Issues
- Copies of title deeds destroyed
- Cancellation of illegal land transfers
- Depoliticization of this issue
- Speedy solutions (eg. Kachcheri system) allay fears: jurisdiction of courts no ousted
- Training of officers and community leaders involved in resolution of land disputes
- Disengagement of security forces from land restitution programme
- Community consulting meetings prior to implementation of LCG circular
- Issues regarding prescriptive title
- Priorities regarding allocation of land to those identified as landless
- Prevention of alienation of State lands to all except IDPs
- Penal sanctions against attorneys-at-law and notaries who violate this
- Review of current utilization of private land for security purposes
- District land use plans
- Establishment of National Land Commission
- Refugees from India
- Muslim IDPs
- Sinhala IDPs
- Long terms IDPs
It is clear from this document that a public declaration of its implementation ahead of the UNHRC sessions in Geneva could have easily averted the resolution. Colombo is now busy initiating measures needed to address Washington's concerns, a clear indication that the government has now realised the repercussions that would follow if provisions in the resolution are not heeded. Barring one, for the US, all the issues raised hinge on the recommendations of the LLRC. Though the report was tabled in Parliament by Leader of the House and minister Nimal Siripala de Silva, in December last year, no printed copies are available at the Government Publications Bureau. Only an English version is posted in a government website. No translations into either Sinhala or Tamil have been made except that of the executive summary.
Besides the LLRC recommendations, Clinton is now certain to raise what Washignton calls "accountability issues not addressed by the LLRC." The US is not in favour of the military investigating itself and holds the view that it "should be credibly investigated" by a "centralised mechanism." However, the US has not made clear what such a mechanism is. This is notwithstanding the visit to Colombo by Stephen J. Rapp, Ambassador-at-Large heading the Office of Global Criminal Justice in the U.S. Department of State. It is also in favour of cash payments for those affected though Washington is reluctant to call it "compensation."
The US position, articulated again this week, to External Affairs Ministry officials among others is that it is now time to talk about the LLRC recommendations. They have noted that even in his address to the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) in 2010, President Rajapaksa had referred to the LLRC. Secretary Clinton had then declared the Commission should be given time to look at issues. Pointing out that the LLRC came out of a government process; the US government holds the view that it was now time to enforce its recommendations. Among the plus points in government's favour, the US has noted, is the reduction of inmates to some 6,000 at transit camps, the rehabilitation of ex-combatants and the military's demining operations.
Another move towards the thaw in relations came when the US renewed further assistance for demining efforts in the former battle areas. Two weeks ago, visiting Colombo and the north was Maj. Gen. Walter D. Givhan, a onetime command pilot and now Deputy Assistant Secretary for Plans, Programs, and Operations, in the U.S. Department of State's Bureau of Political-Military Affairs. General Givhan oversees the Bureau's Offices of Plans, Policy and Analysis; Weapons Removal and Abatement; and International Security Operations. In this capacity, General Givhan is responsible for providing executive leadership, management, and guidance for U.S. government global security assistance programs and policies, such as Foreign Military Financing and the Global Peace Operations Initiative. He also oversees the Department of State's conventional weapons destruction efforts, handles State-DoD co-ordination on significant military exercises, and helps to manage State Department-Defence Department personnel exchange matters.
For External Affairs Minister Peiris, preparing a document which encompasses some of the salient recommendations of the LLRC, not all, is one thing. It is altogether another question whether he would be able to put together an Action Plan which would encompass most what he has selected. He will require the endorsement of other partners in the UPFA. What these parties would consent to and what they would not wish to be implemented becomes a critical issue.
As exclusively revealed in these columns last week, Peiris presented a "supplementary cabinet paper" at the weekly ministerial meeting on May 2 recommending the appointment of a Committee headed by Presidential Secretary Lalith Weeratunga "to decide which are appropriate for implementation." He noted in his memorandum that the work of the Committee, whose other members are to be named by Weeratunga, "requires extensive co-ordination." The Sunday Times has learnt that the appointment of the Committee came during diplomatic consultations with the US. This was after the need for a mode for implementation of recommendations arose. The Committee is to function from the Ministry of External Affairs.
A senior minister involved in the process, who did not wish to be identified since he is not authorised to speak to the media, detailed out to the Sunday Times how the proposed official Committee under Weeratunga will function. The source said, "at first it will only take up recommendations of the LLRC on which all constituent parties of the UPFA government are in accord." It is only thereafter, the source said, that the other recommendations "will be taken up, one by one. That is on the basis of consensus reached on each issue." Herein lay some key issues. In a broader sense, some of the recommendations made by the LLRC have been or are being implemented. One such case is the resettlement of those displaced by the war. Another is a recommendation to ensure a "trilingual (Sinhala, Tamil and English) fluency of future generations….." Such an initiative is already under way.
In the same broader sense, the other recommendations fall into two different categories. One is LLRC recommendations on which all constituent partners of the UPFA would agree without much dissent. One such case relates to the National Anthem. The LLRC recommended that "the practice of the National Anthem being sung simultaneously in two languages to the same tune must be maintained and supported. Any change in this practice at the present time would only create a major irritant which would not be conducive to fostering post-conflict resolution." In other words, the LLRC has called for the re-instatement of the practice that was in force. No constituent party in the government would oppose such a move.
However, not all in the UPFA including its main partner, the Sri Lanka Freedom Party are committed to one view on some major issues listed by Peiris from the many recommendations of the LLRC. For example, the Police Department, which is entrusted with law and order responsibilities. The LLRC recommendations, among other matters, noted that "The Police Department is a civilian institution which is entrusted with the maintenance of law and order. Therefore, it is desirable that the Police Department be de-linked from the institutions dealing with the armed forces which are responsible for the security of the State. The Commission is of the view that an independent Permanent Police Commission is a pre-requisite to guarantee the effective functioning of the Police and to generate public confidence. Such a Commission should be empowered to monitor the performance of the Police Service and ensure that all police officers act independently and maintain a high degree of professional conduct."
The 18th Amendment to the Constitution, passed in September 2010, severely curtailed the powers of the Public Service Commission to appoint, promote, transfer, have disciplinary control and dismissal of public officers. It is only empowered to entertain and investigate complaints from the public or any aggrieved person against a police officer or the police force. The Cabinet was empowered to determine all matters of policy relating to appointments, promotions, transfer, disciplinary control and dismissal.
Similarly, there are a number of other contentious areas. Space constraints prevent a detailed description of all the relevant recommendations by the LLRC.
A corollary of this dichotomous situation -- having recommendations on which constituent parties of the UPFA could easily agree upon and issues on which they are at variance -- will lead to one clear position. Only the "non-controversial, easily acceptable" recommendations of the LLRC will first find a place in the Action Plan of Peiris. It is these recommendations that a Committee under Lalith Weeratunga, entrenched in the Ministry of External Affairs, will first seek to implement. Thus, the billion dollar question is whether it would, at least in the long run, meet the expectations of US and its allies.
More so in the context of the resolution adopted in Geneva calling for the implementation of provisions in the resolution. Would a catalogue of "non-controversial" LLRC recommendations albeit some now under implementation satisfy them? This is when the core issues (set out in the resolution) would have to be addressed before the March 2013 sessions of the UN Human Rights Council. If indeed the constituent parties agree on those issues, it would be clear that the government has gone into action only after the US resolution was adopted in Geneva. The core of a bizarre foreign policy now followed by Sri Lanka is to let damage occur and then seek measures to rectify it. It has been pointed out many a time in these columns.
Another critical factor stems from the recent visit to India by Secretary of State Clinton. It is now confirmed that besides talking bi-lateral issues with Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, she also discussed issues related to Sri Lanka. This came when they talked of matters relating to the region. Diplomatic sources said yesterday Singh told Clinton India was disappointed that Sri Lanka had gone back on pledges made. The reference was to assurances given to New Delhi that the government would implement provisions of the 13th Amendment to the Constitution and move beyond it. This was the reason why New Delhi had backed the resolution in Geneva. Singh had also briefed Clinton about the visit to Sri Lanka by an Indian parliamentary delegation headed by Opposition Leader Sushma Swaraj. Washington's position is that it consults New Delhi regularly on issues in the region including matters on Sri Lanka.
The United States is certain to raise issue over this matter during Clinton's talks with Peiris. The government has taken up the position that the Tamil National Alliance (TNA) has not heeded its calls for talks to formulate a package to address Tamil grievances. It has also held the view that a Parliamentary Select Committee (PSC) cannot be constituted for the same matter since TNA has not consented to serve on it.
It is becoming increasingly clear from developments post-Geneva, that the blunders caused by the External Affairs Ministry are coming home to roost. At first, it was to challenge UN Human Rights Council's right to entertain such a resolution on Sri Lanka. The United States was publicly accused of infringing on Sri Lanka's sovereignty. An acting External Affairs Minister personally saw an effigy of President Barrack Obama being burnt in his electorate. Now, Sri Lanka is literally going on its knees to tell the United States and its allies that what they asked for is being done. Who are the wise men who caused those blunders? Like amoeba, Sri Lanka's foreign policy keeps changing every moment making the country a laughing stock in the eyes of the international community.
An insider’s critique of the MEA; Tamara's lament
Issues arising out of the US-backed resolution in Geneva, coupled with India's disappointment over what New Delhi calls assurances given to it not being implemented, are not the only woes in the Ministry of External Affairs.
That the Ministry is a battleground for intrigue and infighting was confirmed even further last week. Tamara Kunanayakam, Sri Lanka's Permanent Representative to the United Nations in Geneva, is to be moved out from Geneva to Havana (Cuba).
Ravinatha Ariyasinha, Sri Lanka's Ambassador to Brussels, has been named as her replacement. The transfer comes weeks after of the US-sponsored resolution on Sri Lanka being adopted at the UNHRC in Geneva in March. What has irked the Presidential Secretariat, the Sunday Times learnt was the alleged use of a website in Canada to air Kunanayakam's grievances and the release of a full text of a letter the envoy in Geneva sent to External Affairs Minister Peiris.
The Sunday Times has confirmed the letter is an exact copy forwarded to Peiris. A Presidential Secretariat source said her transfer had the "full concurrence" of President Rajapaksa and "it is wrong to discuss diplomatic conduct through the media." Here is her letter:
"1St May 2012
"I am writing in response to your telephone call on the morning of Saturday, 28th April, only a few hours after my return from UNCTAD XIII in Doha, to propose that I be transferred to either Brazil or Cuba.
I appreciate the recognition of what I have long been advocating, the importance of Latin America for our diplomacy. The proposal to move me there, however, comes as a surprise, since a reversion to a previous posting may give the wrong signals to the countries concerned. In addition, it was only last week, on 23 April that the Ministry of External Affairs, in a statement sent to the press affirmed that no decision has been made to change the posts of officials of the Ministry or Missions abroad, or to transfer them.
"On reflection, I feel that in the interests of the country I should reject the offer. There are several reasons for this, as given below.
"1. When l discussed the importance of Latin America with H.E. the President, he was of the view that l could eventually contribute to opening a new Embassy in Caracas to cover all countries of the Andean region. As for Cuba, he was of the firm opinion that a return to a previous posting would be interpreted as a demotion and was, therefore, out of the question. Assured that his appreciation of the situation in Geneva remained unchanged and needed active promotion, I carried out his instructions under your leadership. It is vital for the country that we continue to build on the foundations laid to cope with new threats that may emerge.
"2. Your proposal to move me out only 9 months after assuming duties as PR in Geneva, will suggest instability in our diplomacy and an ad hoc character, when, in a multilateral Mission, it is essential to display cohesion, unity and stability if we are not to be continuously on the defensive. lf l were to accept your proposal, Sri Lanka would be the only country to have had four Ambassadors in 3 years, which is normally the minimum period of postings for envoys of other countries.
"3. The haste to transfer me out of Geneva, coming in the wake of a public debate on responsibility for what has been presented in certain quarters as a national defeat at the 19th Session on the Human Rights Council, will be interpreted, and quite rightly, as a sanction. lt will convey the impression that those loyally carrying out instructions of the President and his Minister of External Affairs are penalised, precisely for this loyalty, whereas those responsible for compromising on principles, creating divisions, and undermining unity, are rewarded.
"4. What seems to be a campaign to have me ousted seems to be related to efforts to undermine my work from the moment I was posted here. Ever since my assuming duties in Geneva, every effort has been made to keep me in ignorance of information indispensable for the conduct of my Mission.
" You will recall that my instructions were to be in Geneva on time to handle the 18th Session of the Council in September 2011. However, vital information on a US initiative calling for an interactive dialogue on Sri Lanka was withheld from me. lt was only fortuitously, and only 5 weeks before the Session opened, that I discovered that this information had been communicated, as early as June 2011, to the private e-mail address of my predecessor in Geneva by the US Ambassador. After that, an e-mail exchange had taken place on the subject, unknown to the Ministry of External Affairs.
"Had this information remained a secret, we would not have had the time to counter the initiative and a resolution against Sri Lanka would have been inevitable, placing the country on the Council's agenda for me to deal with, along with its fall out, from almost Day One of my assuming duties in Geneva.
"In preparation for that 18th Session, no instructions were received by me nor guidelines provided on the strategy to be adopted, and no response was forthcoming on my own proposal. My urgent request for authorization to travel to Colombo for consultations on the matter was first verbally approved by you and then denied by the Ministry of External Affairs, leaving me with no other option but to travel without authorization, given the gravity. The question of strategy, however, remained unanswered and l had to wade my way through that Session.
"Similar strategies seemed to have been adopted once more at the 19th Session in an attempt to withhold information on crucial matters and to isolate me from my own staff at the Mission. You are aware of meetings on strategy and policy that were conducted by the Head of Delegation to which l was not invited, but certain Mission staff were. What I can only describe as a dangerous attempt to send Minister Douglas Devananda away from Geneva, without any consultation of myself, and in total ignorance of Swiss Law, is perhaps the most worrying example of strategies damaging to Sri Lanka.
"What was true for the 18th and 19th Sessions of the Council continues to be true for preparations for the forthcoming Session, and Sri Lanka's UPR in November 2012. "The objective of the orchestrated campaign targeting those who defend positions of principle, initially Ambassador Dayan Jayatìlleke and now encompassing others, may be viewed as an effort to put our diplomacy on the defensive.
5. l believe l have acted consistently with loyalty toward our people and our country, and that l have worked on the basis of principles rather than devious schemes and manoeuvres, pettiness, and mediocrity. Mine is not a personal agenda, and my motivations are not career, fame, nor fortune. I have carried out my duties conscientiously, with the best interests of the Sri Lankan people at heart and to the best of my abilities, placing at their service my long experience and knowledge of the UN System, more than 10 years of which was spent within the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights.
"I believe this has been much appreciated by many in Sri Lanka and in Geneva, where we have succeeded in winning new friends and allies.
"Barely a month after my arrival in Geneva, on 7 September 2011, l was elected Chairperson/Rapporteur of the Council's Intergovernmental Working Group on the Right to Development in recognition of my many years of experience in OHCHR as Secretary of the Commission on Human Rights Working Group on the Right to Development, as Secretary of the Commission's Working Group on Structural Adjustment Programmes and Policies, and as head of the Commission's economic, social and cultural rights mandates;
"A few days later, on 12th September 2011, and for the reasons outlined above, l was elected Vice-Chair of UNCTAD's governing body, the Trade and Development Board;
"Ten days ago, on 21st April 2012, l was elected Vice Chair of the thirteenth session of the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development in Doha, and member of the Bureau of the Conference;
"I have also gained much respect within the Like-Minded Group of more than 30 countries and have become its de facto expert and resource person on the functioning of the UN System, in particular of the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, and of the Council's special procedures mechanisms.
"6. Although I maintain that I am Sri Lankan and proud to be one, I am also Tamil, which makes clear the pluralistic nature of our country. Removing one of the very few Tamils heading diplomatic missions abroad will allow questioning of the bona fìdes of the Government's commitment to reconciliation, will reinforce extremist elements on all sides, and validate the argument that mine was only a token appointment.
"7. We have already paid a heavy price for the absence of cohesion and unity within our ranks, and a decision to remove me will only add to the already negative image we have acquired in Geneva and elsewhere. We are facing a serious challenge to our independence and sovereignty, and it is likely that the intensity of the battle will grow in the coming months. As we prepare ourselves for important appointments with the Human Rights Council, it is essential that we project an image of unity rather than discord. Our recent experience at the 19"' session of the Human Rights Council has demonstrated the damage that absence of cohesion and unity can cause to the image and credibility of a country.
"8. The proposal to remove me from Geneva will, inevitably, be interpreted as a sanction for having defended principles, sending a wrong signal to our friends and allies in Latin America, especially to our Cuban friends, who have consistently fought alongside us, and also to our African and Asian friends who, in various forms, have expressed their support and solidarity toward Sri Lanka. The sanction would be interpreted as a shift in policy that may cost Sri Lanka the dignity and self-respect gained at the recent Session. Under the present circumstances, it is unlikely that my transfer to Brazil or Cuba will be looked upon kindly by either Brasilia or Havana, which would not appreciate being viewed as punishment stations.
"9. l remain convinced that it is by defending Sri Lanka on the basis of principles that we will gain the respect of all, and, for my part, this line of conduct will guide my actions. l believe this volition should find approbation rather than censure and, it is in this spirit, that I reaffirm my availability to serve my country and its people to the best of my ability.
"In conclusion, Honourable Minister, I Wish to clarify that, contrary to certain media reports, it is not my intention to submit my resignation."
Now that she has declared she has no intention to submit her resignation, the question asked in the corridors of the Ministry of External Affairs is how she could serve after July 1. This is the date designated for Ariyasinha to assume duties. If Kunanayakam does not accept her posting to Cuba, EAM officials say, there would be no choice left for her except to relinquish appointment. She is not a career diplomatic officer.