Many years ago when TV was new to Sri Lanka, one of the programmes telecast was an obviously low-budget series called Ed the Talking Horse. On and off I used to watch this for want of anything better on TV. How was I to know that some decades later I would come across another talking [...]


Miliband’s views smack of blatant bias and hypocrisy


Many years ago when TV was new to Sri Lanka, one of the programmes telecast was an obviously low-budget series called Ed the Talking Horse. On and off I used to watch this for want of anything better on TV.

Britain's opposition Labour Party leader Ed Miliband greets supporters during a campaign visit to north London. Reuters

How was I to know that some decades later I would come across another talking horse though this one had less horse sense than the four-legged one on television? In point of fact today’s version might be more appropriately labelled Ed the Talking Ass.

British Labour leader Ed Miliband, struggling to make a name for himself after stabbing in the back (metaphorically speaking naturally) his elder brother David for the top job in the party, issued a greeting last week to wish the Tamil community for what he called the “Tamil New Year”.
Two explanations are possible as to why this greeting was addressed only to Britain’s Tamil community. Either he is ignorant of the fact the new year which falls in April each year, is celebrated by both the Sinhala and Tamil communities or his message was deliberately slanted to address only the Tamils for obvious political purposes.

If he was ignorant and had not been told by his advisers and researchers who reminded him of the occasion and possibly drafted the message itself, then it is time he got himself a more knowledgeable and perceptive lot than those employed now while educating himself in the process.
One might draw attention to the contrasting message of greetings issued by Conservative Party leader David Cameron which wished both the Sinhala and Tamil communities on their new year.

Now if it was possible for the Conservative Party to conclude that this was an occasion celebrated by the two main communities in Sri Lanka and the worldwide Sri Lankan diaspora, how is it that this fact escaped the attention of the Labour Party which has for years drawn political support from Britain’s minorities mainly those from the former British empire and had surely sent greetings previous in previous years.

The only valid conclusion one can draw from Labour leader Miliband’s misguided greeting was that it was not a sign of ignorance or an unfortunate faux pas but a conscious and deliberate attempt to ignore the Sinhala community while cultivating the Tamils which these political parties have been doing for long.

With Miliband and the Labour Party trailing behind in the polls this lacklustre leader is bending over backwards to pay tribute to the Tamil community just a few weeks before the general election.

If Miliband wants to go on his knees to try and secure votes for himself and his party that is entirely his business. But when he distorts fact and history and does so blatantly to the point of insulting another community, then it is appropriate that he is taken to task for his disgraceful conduct.

When Miliband claims with such genuflectory ardour that “we in the Labour Party know our responsibility to the Tamil community” and that his party “has always been a friend of the Tamil community and will continue to do so”, does this responsibility also extend to those who might have been in engaged terrorism one way or another, helped fund it by coercively collecting donations from other Tamils who did not want any part of it and were engaged in funding arms supplies?

Mr, Miliband must surely know that there are several of them living in this country having sought refuge under one pretext or another.

While the Labour leader goes out of his way to pledge his party’s responsibility to the Tamil community (which is what really?), why is he silent on the responsibility he and his party owe the entire populace of this country?

It was his party that led Britain into the illegal invasion of Iraq, a sovereign nation, some 13 years ago. As the Tony Blair government was preparing to join the US in this invasion millions of people marched along the streets of London in genuine protest as they did not want the country dragged into war to satisfy the ego of a prime minister.

In his controversial message Miliband reiterates the Labour Party policy demanding accountability for war crimes and other violations of international law allegedly committed by Sri Lanka in the war against the LTTE.

While seeking accountability from Sri Lanka he completely ignores the fact that it is his party that should be held accountable for the deaths of hundreds of thousands of Iraqi people, including nearly a million children, as a result of Britain’s invasion of that country.

Who, pray, has been held accountable in Britain for this crime against humanity? While accountability was demanded of Sri Lanka within months of the end of the war, to date both political and military leaders who sanctioned the invasion of another country and conducted the military operations are free.

It took the Labour government of prime minister Gordon Brown to set up an inquiry under Sir John Chilcot because of domestic pressure and because of the looming general elections. That committee was established in 2009- six years after the war.

Now six years after the Chilcot inquiry began the British public and indeed the international community are awaiting the report of that inquiry — which we are not likely to see until after the May 7 general election — to see who is held accountable.

Miliband might well say that he entered parliament after the invasion of Iraq and that had he been there he would have voted against the Labour Party decision to go to war on the basis of doctored evidence and in support of US warmongers that held sway in Washington.

Whether Miliband would have done so or not must remain in the realm of speculation. But this much is certain. The damage done to the social fabric of Iraq, the social divisiveness that has resulted with different ethnic groups at each other’s throats had rendered that country ungovernable for years.

Even if Miliband tries to wash his hands of that tragic disaster that led to the deaths of millions of innocent Iraqis, his party cannot absolve itself of responsibility and accountability it demands of others.

So each time Miliband climbs the moral high horse and pretends to strike a holier-than-thou note, the ghosts of the Iraq war will continue to haunt the Labour Party and its leader. The Labour government blithely led Britain to war against an Islamic state. How much this foreign policy blunder has contributed to the radicalisation of British born Islamic youth who are now fighting for ISIS and in Syria will increasingly haunt the Labour leadership.

Miliband and some of his Labour parliamentarians never tire of hectoring Sri Lanka about post-Eelam war reconciliation. One wonders whether Miliband’s one-sided new year greeting would in any way help further that process of reconciliation or resurrect old wounds.
Or perhaps the real purpose is to continue to keep Sri Lanka’s communities apart. After all divide et impera was an old British colonial policy. It appears that its practice has not disappeared all together.

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