Pope Francis felt the World War Three had started. Maybe not quite, but the indiscriminate attack on those enjoying a typical Friday night out in gay Paree last week brought the world to the brink of it. World War I began a century ago with a single shot fired in Sarajevo in the former Yugoslavia. [...]


Friday the 13th doublespeak


Pope Francis felt the World War Three had started. Maybe not quite, but the indiscriminate attack on those enjoying a typical Friday night out in gay Paree last week brought the world to the brink of it.

World War I began a century ago with a single shot fired in Sarajevo in the former Yugoslavia. France itself was at the centre of WW II. And now, its colonial legacy in predominantly Islamic West Asia and North Africa has begun to bite back — with a vengeance.

There was instant and widespread revulsion, and condemnation of the Friday the 13th attack in Paris, but it was not universal. When French President Francois Hollande said he was aghast that French soil was desecrated by plotters from overseas and did not stop to think what the French Air Force was doing dropping their munitions on foreign soil, did he not for moment think what is sauce for the goose is sauce for the gander. That was a common sentiment among those in the other half of the world who feel that France faced nothing but a blowback for its diplomatic and military operations far away from its own borders. The number of deaths – innocent deaths, from air raids by Western countries in recent years over Afghanistan, Iraq (France opposed the invasion of Iraq), Syria, Pakistan, Libya etc., is countless and does not receive the same attention in this unequal world order.

In Sri Lanka, France’s role during this country’s own ‘war on terror’ came in for sharp debate over the week. France allowing a so-called LTTE political office to function in Paris, lukewarm in its investigations into LTTE terrorist activities arguing they were not breaking French laws, and then that final pitch to save the lives of the terrorist leadership at the end of the military operations against the LTTE naturally resurfaced.

Long before the West turned its attention on global terrorism after the 9/11 attack on US soil, Sri Lanka’s then acclaimed Foreign Minister, Lakshman Kadirgamar, warned Western nations not to be passive onlookers when terrorists use one country to launch attacks on another. He told the UN General Assembly on September 18, 2000 – a year before 9/11; “a democratic state, because of its openness, its laws, traditions and practices, and its commitment to tolerance and dissent is especially vulnerable to the deployment of force against it”. He spoke of cross border terrorism and the need for democratic states to come to the aid of a state in peril.

If no one listened to the Foreign Minister of a small country then, 9/11 changed the modern world. Even so, there was bickering but just last month the President of Russia no less reminded the same UNGA that the countries that defeated Nazi Germany and formed the UN 70 years ago are today facing a similar threat of terrorism in another form and called for interaction among states to defeat that threat. Still, the West didn’t listen – until Friday the 13th happened.

European nations and the US have generally carved up the world in a manner in which the Defence Departments are assigned to bomb the daylights out of West Asia and throw out dictators, the State Departments are assigned countries of insignificance to them economically so that they can preach their ‘values’ such as human rights and democracy, and the Commerce Departments are assigned countries to do business with irrespective if they are dictatorships, or violate human rights and are hardly democratic as long as they are rich.

The resolution they sponsored against Sri Lanka at the UNHRC is a textbook example where the State Department is preaching ‘values’ and the Defence Department is dropping bombs over West Asia. No wonder then, that there is now an acceptance of the need for a recalibration of their foreign policy. They have begun to admit the invasion of Iraq was a huge mistake and the overthrow of the then Libyan leader was probably wrong too. They are now wondering if they need to readjust their policy towards the need to oust the Syrian President as they brace themselves for more attacks on their cities from those against whom they have unleashed war.

The US Ambassador to the UN is in Sri Lanka right now. One of those ‘bleeding-hearts’ who advocates human rights ‘values’ and argued passionately against the Sri Lankan military campaign against terrorists in this country, pushing for the UNHRC resolution, is deafeningly silent on the West’s bloody war in West Asia that has caused innumerable deaths and an influx of thousands of refugees to Europe. She is between a rock and a hard place as the Islamic State Jihadists are breathing down her country folks’ necks. It is time the West stopped running with the hare – and hunting with the hound.

The never ending wait
The Most Venerable Maduluwawe Sobitha Thera may not quite have said he was prepared to lay down his life for the abolition of the Executive Presidency in Sri Lanka, but he seems to have done just that to prod this Government to get a move on its election promise to do so.

Reiterating his oft-repeated pledge to do away with the Executive Presidency, this time by the bier of the Venerable Thera, President Maithripala Sirisena this week presented a Cabinet paper with this objective; however, from all accounts this will not happen until his own five year term of office ends – in 2020.

This was promised within 100 days of his victory on January 8, but not only has that promise flown out of the window but whatever Constitutional amendments are to be made, it will not happen till the President himself nearing his 70th year. Clearly, there is a political problem here. How can there be any power-sharing between the President and the Prime Minister, from two different parties, were the Executive Presidency to be abolished immediately? The President is not willing to say, “I have done my duty by the people – I have kept my solemn promise and abolished the Executive Presidency. I am going home”. Even if he wants to, there will be people clamoring for him to stay in office for their own sake.

On the other hand, the Prime Minister who will head the committee to study the Presidential Cabinet paper has long argued that after 37 years of the 1978 Constitution, and given the many amendments to it, particularly the 19th Amendment, its shelf life has expired and it is time for a brand new Constitution. Former President Chandrika Kumaratunga also promised to abolish the Executive Presidency. But when the people asked her a year later what happened they were clobbered on the head by her Presidential Guards near the Colombo Town Hall. Then, she introduced a ‘package’ which included some controversial provisions to give limited self-rule to the LTTE. It was a ruse to get the entire proposal defeated with an unwillingness to divorce the Executive Presidency issue from the rest of the ‘package’.

It seems history is repeating itself; and the people will have to wait, and wait – and wait, till 2020 to see even a ray of hope that was promised in 100 days. That is, if they ever see the light of day at all.

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